by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Menopause often starts with hot flashes. Or does it? When you reach menopause, you’ll gain weight, won’t you? A lot of people agree that menopause changes a woman’s life in some rather unwanted ways. But menopause doesn’t have to be a time of confusion and anxiety. It may be a time in your life to experience fantastic wellness and a great deal of happiness. You don’t have to believe the un-truths that have circulated for years.
Are menopause myths affecting your health? With so many negative stories being told, it isn’t surprising that women begin to feel anxious about menopause, sometimes even before they’ve had any symptoms. We also see women make choices based on their belief in these un-truths, which often oversimplify symptoms and treatment options.
The truth is that menopause does have challenges. But these challenges are not insurmountable, when women understand their body and the hormonal changes that occur during menopause. Distressing symptoms don’t have to be the norm; you can feel your best!
At Women to Women, we’ve helped thousands of women make choices that complement their individual health. We want to help you understand the truth about menopause with our informative articles.
Myth #1: Menopause begins at 50
Menopause begins at 50…or at 42…or 36…or 61. The average woman begins menopause at 52, but you may start your transition anywhere from your 30’s to your 60’s. Menopause is technically defined as the absence of a menstruation for a period of one year. Women sometimes say they didn’t know they could start having symptoms many months before the onset of menopause. You may even still be having periods when you start to experience unusual fatigue, hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, and weight gain. If you are having these symptoms, you might be in perimenopause, the shift leading up to menopause. Perimenopause can last from a few months to up to 13 years prior to menopause. Some women experience more symptoms during perimenopause than during menopause itself. This is because your sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone naturally fluctuate more during this time. And these hormones are very sensitive to abnormal adrenal function which occurs with ongoing stress. You can learn more by looking at our articles on perimenopause.
Myth #2: Weight gain is inevitable in menopause
Weight-gain is an absolute in menopause but you don’t have to allow it! After gaining over 100 pounds in perimenopause, Jenny started a program and lost 20 pounds. Weight-gain becomes more complex during menopause, that may be true and is no longer simply “calories in, calories out.” As you transition into perimenopause and menopause, your ovaries make fewer sex hormones, and you might experience hormonal imbalance. Your body may respond by trying to protect itself. Its preferred method of protection is to store fat, especially around the waist, hips, and thighs. Fat stored in these areas also produces more estrogen, which in turn, leads to more fat production. The more estrogen deficient you are the more it seems that the fat continues to accumulate around the hips and thighs.
However, despite these changes taking place in your body, you can still achieve a healthy weight. One of the best things you can do to help yourself is eat! We’ve seen many times how excellent nutrition and lowered carbohydrates helps women balance their hormones and heal naturally. Jenny told us, “I no longer feel hungry all the time, I’m almost down 20 pounds from my all-time high! I have more energy, can exercise more and the weight is coming off faster. I feel better than I have in 15 years!” What can you do to achieve or to maintain your healthy weight in menopause? Learn more in our articles about perimenopause and weight gain.
Myth #3: There’s no difference between natural menopause and “surgical” menopause
It’s critical for women to know that natural menopause and surgical menopause are indeed very different. When a woman undergoes a total surgical hysterectomy, she experiences an immediate and significant change in hormonal balance, literally overnight instead of the slower transition of natural menopause. Removing the uterus and cervix, along with the ovaries and fallopian tubes, significantly alters blood flow and hormonal production. For example, women who have had their ovaries removed have twice the risk of low testosterone, which affects their sexual desire and enjoyment. With a partial hysterectomy, when only the uterus is removed, changes may be less severe, but are unpredictable. It is not at all unusual for a women to just have her uterus removed to find herself very quickly beginning menopausal symptoms, even though the ovaries remain, some women experience extreme menopausal symptoms right away, some notice only a few minor symptoms, while other women feel much improvement.. We know women have many questions about surgical menopause, both before and after surgery. You can find answers to many of them with frequently asked questions on hysterectomy and hormonal balance in women.
Myth #4: Sex drive will decrease with menopause
Sex can be enjoyable and healthy at any age! But we hear from women that they’ve been instructed, even by their doctors, that a decrease in libido is a “normal” part of aging. In my practice it is a major concern for many women. As women in our 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s — that doesn’t sound normal to us! Decreased interest in sexual activity is often a sign of hormonal imbalance, which can cause both physical and emotional symptoms that have an effect on your sex life. This does not have to happen as it can greatly affects the intimacy of the relationship.
For example, approximately 50% of post-menopausal women will experience vaginal dryness which can make sex painful. Then of course many women are no longer interested in sex. And if intercourse hurts, you’ll likely see a drop in your sexual desire, too. But this doesn’t have to happen! Changes in your hormonal health can be difficult to discuss. The information in our articles about hormonal imbalance and low libido can help you get started.
Myth #5: The first sign of menopause is hot flashes
Hot flashes are an inevitable part of menopause. Correct? Sometimes. Despite the fact that menopause and hot flashes are almost synonymous in the media, your first sign of menopause could be any of these symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Fuzzy thinking
- Low libido
- Heavy menses
- Loss of sexuality
With such a wide variety of symptoms, it’s no wonder women may not connect them to perimenopausal hormonal imbalance. We see people in our office and hear from them online desperate to find answers to their symptoms. It takes searching the internet for “anything that was a clue” to help them find some answers. You can find relief too, starting with Menopause symptoms? Get relief — naturally.
Myth #7: After menopause, your body doesn’t produce hormones
No matter how far past menopause you are, know that you still have hormones! Most of the production is from the adrenal glands. In fact, in menopause 50% of the estrogen and progesterone are produced by the adrenals. Some reproductive hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, do decrease once your reproductive cycle ends because they’re needed less. But that doesn’t mean they’re not needed at all! Your body still produces them, but in smaller amounts. For some women, the symptoms of hormonal imbalance disappear or decrease post-menopause. For others, symptoms continue and include vaginal dryness, hot flashes, urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections and weight gain. All women can benefit from knowing that the risks for osteoporosis and heart disease increase greatly after menopause. However, by taking care of yourself, you can enjoy a long and healthy life. Learn more about your hormones and what changes occur throughout your lifetime with our informational articles on perimenopause, menopause, and menopausal symptoms.
Myth #8: The older you are when you get your period, the older you’ll be when you go through menopause
For many women, just the opposite is true. If you started menstruating later than usual, you may begin menopause earlier. Predicting the age you’ll begin menopause is very difficult , but here are some questions for you to think about:
- What was your mother’s age at menopause? When she began the changes is a good indicator of when you’ll stop too.
- Do you smoke? Smoking may mean earlier menopause.
- Do you drink daily. Drinking alcohol may mean later menopause.
- Have you been pregnant? More pregnancies suggest later menopause.
Whether you are weeks, months or several years away from the changes, there are things that you can do that will help greatly with the transition. Find out what support you need with our free Hormonal Health Assessment.
Myth #9: Menopause only causes physical symptoms
Have you been feeling down or blue? Could you describe yourself as a “raving maniac” at times? Are you more irritable and anxious? You’re not alone. Many women experience unnerving changes in their emotions, memory, and concentration during perimenopause and menopause due to sudden shifts in hormones. Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels may cause mood swings. Drops in progesterone may cause increased irritability and moodiness.
Also, be mindful that menopause is a developmental milestone in women’s life.. It’s sometimes referred to as adolescence in reverse. Many women begin to reflect on who they are and what they want to do with the rest of their life. Learn more about how to cope effectively with physical and emotional symptoms of hormonal imbalance with what’s hormonal imbalance got to do with it?
Myth #10: The best way to get through menopause is to take hormones
It’s important to remember that you always have choices when it comes to your body and to your health. Being aware of your options is especially crucial when considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because of the potential risks and side effects. Consider starting with the natural approach. Our experience shows the most effective and lasting way to manage the symptoms of hormonal imbalance is to listen to your body and begin to make dietary and lifestyle changes to build a strong foundation. You may also benefit from pharmaceutical grade nutritional supplements and phytotherapy. For most women, optimal nutrition and herbal remedies area all they need to feel fabulous again. Others may benefit by adding bioidentical hormones under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.We want to inspire you and also encourage you to explore your options!
We’re available to help you make the best choice for your individual health. You now know more of the truth about menopause, as well as some natural options for feeling better. Want more information about menopause or other health issues that are important to women? Our website gives you free access hundreds of articles. You’ve seen how your symptoms – if listened to – are your bodies way of getting your attention and asking for help — and we’re here to support you with our information and guidance that has worked for thousands of women just like you. See what some of these women have to say. Want to get started now? To assess your symptoms, take our on-line Hormonal Health Assessment.