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Menopause Myths

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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.

Myth #2:  Weight gain is inevitable in menopause

Weight gain is an absolute in menopause but you don’t have to allow it! 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.

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.

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. 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 affect 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.

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:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular periods
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Cravings
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Low libido
  • Forgetfulness
  • Heavy menses
  • Loss of sexuality

 

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.

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.

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.

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. For most women, optimal nutrition and exercise all they need to feel fabulous again.

– Leslie

2 Comments

  • Lynn Lee says:

    I am 57 years old, started my cycle at 13 years old. I have been pregnant, and I have poly-cystic ovaries. I had a fairly large one removed about 17 years ago. I have no family left alive, my folks past away almost 40 years ago. My question is, when will my cycle stop???!!! It comes the same time every month. Is this normal? I am not taking any medications. HELP!!!!!!!

    • Leslie Taggart says:

      It sounds like you may need to consult with your healthcare provider to fully review your health history and concerns. Menopause and the time leading up to it can raise a lot of questions!

      -Leslie Taggart, APN

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