Taboo No More
Let's Talk About Menopause
Each day, approximately 6,000 women reach the menopausal phase of life. For most women, this can mean up to 10 years of hot flashes, mood swings and sleepless nights. Yet, it’s difficult to access consistent and accurate information about symptoms and treatments. It also can be difficult to ask friends and partners for support and understanding.
Like many women’s health topics, the subject of menopause has been taboo. The physical and emotional symptoms of menopause are typically suffered in private. And in the absence of conversation is a void of information. Women going through menopause may feel embarrassment or shame, other people may believe in harmful stereotypes, and friends and partners won’t know how to support their loved ones going through menopause.
When a woman isn't educated about how her body is changing, she won't know her options for relieving symptoms, and most frustrating of all, she may not realize that a new fulfilling version of life can be waiting on the other side of menopause.
It's All About the Ovaries
During a woman’s reproductive phase of life, the ovaries store eggs and produce the hormones, estrogen and progesterone to control the release of the egg each month. This is the process of ovulation and menstruation. As menopause nears, the ovaries inconsistently produce the hormones and fewer eggs mature. It’s the decline in estrogen and progesterone that cause many of the infamous symptoms of menopause. Factors that can cause premature menopause include genetics, autoimmune disorders, illness, chemotherapy, radiation, surgical removal of the ovaries, smoking, or higher body mass index.
3 Stages of Menopause
When talking about the physical, mental and emotional symptoms of menopause, we’re actually referring to the menopausal phase of life. This is a gradual three-stage process that can last up to 10-15 years and lies between the ages of 40 and 65 for most women.*
Perimenopause - This is the beginning stage of menopause. Estrogen and progesterone are slowly declining. Fewer eggs are maturing in the ovaries. Ovulation becomes less predictable and fertility declines. This stage often lasts 4-5 years.
Menopause - The ovaries have stopped producing eggs and most of their estrogen. You’re in menopause when you’ve not had a period for 12 months.
Post Menopause - 4-5 years after the last period, symptoms start to ease for many women.
Survive the Symptoms
No one experiences the menopausal phase of life in the exact same way, but chances are that your symptoms are completely normal. The most common symptoms are simply your body’s response to the fluctuation and ultimate decrease in hormones. There’s no denying that these symptoms can be disruptive to your life and happiness. But the good news is that the lifestyle changes that contribute to a long and healthy life also can help relieve many of the symptoms of menopause.
Relieve Menopause Symptoms With These Fantastic 4 Lifestyle Hacks
Be active. Do aerobic and low-impact exercise.
Eat a healthy diet. The Mediterranean Diet is great. Also, maintain healthy calcium and vitamin D levels.
Cope with stress. Yoga and meditation help can relieve stress. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking.
Talk about it. Tell others what you’re going through. The people who count on you need to support you.
The Most Common Menopause Symptoms and Treatments
Symptom: Hot flashes - hot face and neck, flushing, sweating, cold chills, rapid heartbeat.
Treatment: Fantastic 4 Lifestyle Hacks, keep cool, wear loose clothing, relax and breathe.
Symptom: Mood swings or brain fog - anger, depression, moodiness, poor focus or memory.
Treatment: Fantastic 4 Lifestyle Hacks, limit screen time, and try to get better sleep.
Symptom: Changes in libido (desire for sex) - increased or decreased desire for sex.
Treatment: Fantastic 4 Lifestyle Hacks, talk with your partner about intimacy in your relationship.
Symptom: Irregular bleeding - irregular periods, spotting, heavy bleeding, excessive clotting, longer or shorter cycles.
Treatment: Check with your doctor to rule out other issues, and understand your options for medical interventions.
Symptom: Bladder issues - the urgency to urinate, leakage when you sneeze or laugh, painful urination.
Treatment: Do Kegel exercises. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do it 3 times a day.
Symptom: Vaginal dryness - vaginal tissue feels irritated, dry, itchy, or painful during intercourse.
Treatment: Fantastic 4 Lifestyle Hacks, use vaginal lubricants and moisturizers.
Symptom: Sleepiness or sleeplessness - general tiredness, poor sleep.
Treatment: Fantastic 4 Lifestyle Hacks, a nighttime routine, keep bedroom cool, no screens before bed.
Symptom: Aches and pains - achy joints, muscle fatigue, headaches.
Treatment: Fantastic 4 Lifestyle Hacks, use over-the-counter pain relievers in moderation.
Watch for These Increased Health Risks
Changes in your body in the years around menopause may raise your risk for certain health problems. The TOP 4 lifestyle hacks can help lower those risks.
Osteoporosis and bone loss. Weak bones and higher risk for fracture
Cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure, higher risk for heart attack and stroke
Urinary problems. Incontinence and urinary tract infections (UTI).
How to Think About Your Health Care
After decades of learning about our bodies during puberty, on birth control, while pregnant and giving birth, medical support and education seem to end there. If menopausal symptoms interfere with your daily life, talk to your doctor. And if you’re not satisfied with the advice or treatment you receive, don’t be afraid to talk to another health care professional or seek out a menopause specialist. It’s more than treating menopause — your entire health profile is changing.
When menopause is properly managed, particularly from the beginning, women may lower their risk for many of the common, life-threatening diseases that can mark their next quarter-century of life.
A Yale University study estimates that nearly three-quarters of women with “significant menopausal symptoms” are not properly treated or educated by their doctors.
An AARP survey reveals that just 20 percent of ob-gyn residency programs provide menopause training. Mostly, the courses are elective. And nearly 80 percent of medical residents admit that they feel “barely comfortable” discussing or treating menopause.
Conversation Starters for Your Doctor
Could my symptoms be due to perimenopause, menopause or another condition? (keep a diary of your symptoms)
What are my options for hormone therapy, and the pros and cons of each? What are the side effects, and how does my health and family history affect my decision?
If I choose a non-hormonal prescription medication that is not FDA-approved for menopause symptoms (such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), what is the scientific evidence that it works? What are the side effects?
What are the herbal and/or food supplement remedies that women commonly buy to treat menopause symptoms? Are any suggested to be effective by reliable scientific trials? What are the side effects or prescription interactions?
Don’t Underestimate a Positive Mindset
It wasn’t until 1908 that a woman’s life expectancy topped 51, the average age of menopause. Today, American women can spend a third or more of their lives as post-menopausal. We’re not accustomed to celebrating this next phase of life.
This is your time. You’re free to define what this stage of life means for you. Many women thrive in the years after menopause.
96% of women care more about their health.
72% of women feel happier
69% of women feel more confident
64% of women have more disposable income
57% of women feel more physically strong
54% of women feel in control of their career
The symptoms of menopause can take a toll on your physical, mental and emotional health. You’ll feel stronger and better equipped when you aim for a positive mindset.
Keep a daily gratitude journal, practice Mindfulness Meditation or yoga.
Ask for help and support from your partner, friends and colleagues.
Share your experience with other women. Book club, brunch or Zumba, get together with women who are in the same phase of life.
The 8 Best Ways Friends and Partners Can Help
If you’re living, working, or friends with someone who’s going through menopause, this may be what she wishes you understood.
Learn the symptoms. Perimenopause is unpredictable and that’s frustrating. Recognize a mood swing for what it is can help you help her rather than becoming a point of friction.
Communicate. Listen. Sympathize. Be patient. Do your best to understand this experience you may not truly understand. Some women may not want to talk about it but knowing you’re there and supportive can make a huge difference.
Adjust expectations. Lovers, be patient. Be open to new ways of showing affection. Focus more on intimacy than sex. Don’t take her disinterest in sex personally. The good news is, for many women, libido returns once menopause is complete. And being free of the fear of pregnancy can make things even sexier.
Don’t call attention to her symptoms. Some women aren’t comfortable sharing information about their health or bodies publicly. Just support her in any way you can.
Boost her self-confidence. Our society is obsessed with the beauty of youth. So a woman’s self-confidence can take a hit when she’s suffering the symptoms of aging and menopause. Remind her that she’s as fabulous as ever. Compliment her as often as possible. Remind her that she is just as vibrant but now with more experience.
Limit guilt. The menopausal phase of life can come with a lot of guilt and anxiety. Getting through work challenges can seem more difficult than usual. She may lose her temper more easily at home. She may avoid some of the social activities she used to enjoy. And she probably feels awful that she’s less available in the bedroom. Try to avoid adding to the guilt she’s already feeling. If she doesn’t make time for you, let her know you miss her but give her space to work through her issues in her own way.
Don’t doubt or diminish her experience. The symptoms of menopause are very real, including the emotional ones of depression and anxiety. Do not be one of the people that tell her it’s all in her head or suck it up. Make sure you have her back, provide a safe space, know she’s doing the best she can, and help her continue to be the best she can be.
Get the support you need, too. It’s tough being where you are too – on the sharp end of a mood swing, in a freezing cold office or bedroom, helpless but armed with tissues during a good cry. Don’t minimize your struggles either. Find ways to take care of you so you can be there for her.