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Five Myths About Menopause and Five Next Steps

This phase of life doesn’t have to be confusing. Here is what you can do to take charge of your menopausal experience.


Myth 1: Menopause never starts before age 50

There are a few paths to menopause, including when your reproductive hormones naturally decline with age, known as natural menopause. Other people experience surgical menopause after having their ovaries removed. In the U.S., 51 is the average age people go through menopause. But just as the age you start having your period can vary, the same is true for when it will stop.

 

Some people become menopausal between ages 40 and 45, which is considered early menopause. Premature menopause is when you become menopausal before you turn 40. Premature and early menopause can happen following a surgery, inexplicably, or if you smoke, have a family history of early menopause, have had cancer treatment, or have an autoimmune disease.

 

Myth 2: Menopause is just hot flashes, or hot flashes are the first sign of menopause

Up to 80% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. But there are many other symptoms you might experience as your first sign of menopause or during menopause including:

 

  • Fatigue

  • Weight gain

  • Low libido

  • Hair loss

  • Food cravings

  • Fuzzy thinking/forgetfulness

  • Irritability, mood swings, depression and/or anxiety

  • Irregular periods

  • Adult acne

  • Sleep difficulties

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Joint discomfort/stiffness

  • Digestive discomfort

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • PMS-like symptoms, including stronger cramps, bloating, breast tenderness or headaches

 

These symptoms can start before you are officially menopausal, during perimenopause. You may experience one or many, and each symptom can range dramatically in severity and frequency. A primary symptom of perimenopause is irregular periods that change in duration and frequency before you stop menstruating altogether. When you aren’t expecting or considering menopause, these symptoms can be confusing and surprising.

 

Myth 3: Nothing can be done to manage symptoms – you just have to suffer

While menopause itself is a natural condition, perimenopause and menopause symptoms can be challenging. However, there are treatments available. A conversation with your healthcare team can help determine the best options to treat your individual experience with menopause. Medical treatment might include medications such as hormone therapy to treat hot flashes and other symptoms. Remember, you don’t have to suffer. Solutions and relief exist, both medical and natural remedies.

 

Myth 4: Hormone therapy is dangerous

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) includes taking estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone, which are hormones that your body essentially stops making after menopause. here does this myth come from? In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) released study results that linked the use of combination (estrogen and progestin) hormone therapy with increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease. The study findings have been reconsidered and debated in the years since — sometimes even reported out of context.

 

The truth is that menopausal hormone therapy is very effective for some symptoms of menopause and a good choice for many women. Today, several hormone therapy products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the symptoms of menopause.


Myth 5: Menopause is unmanageable in the office & my career is over

While menopause can bring about various symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and fatigue, research shows that menopause itself does not necessarily affect job performance. There is however, a strong link between the severity of symptoms and reduced engagement and satisfaction with work. Some women may experience a higher intention to quit work due to the challenges posed by menopausal symptoms. If you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms that affect your work, consider discussing them with your employer or HR department. Seek emotional support from colleagues, friends, or family members and explore workplace policies related to accommodations for health conditions.

 

 

The transition to menopause can take many years. However, it doesn’t necessarily kill your sex life, sentence you to a life of night sweats and no sleep, or make you old. It’s time to put these misconceptions to rest.

 

Menopause doesn’t always require treatment. But if symptoms are interfering with your life, you’re not obligated to grin and bear it. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor and ask about treatment options that can help improve your quality of life.


If the above resonated with you, now you are armed with factual information. Here are five next steps to support you on your own journey or to help you support someone you know as they move through this phase of life:

 

Step 1: Educate yourself

Learn about perimenopause, its symptoms, and hormonal changes. Understanding what’s happening in your body empowers you to make informed decisions.

 

Step 2: Consult your healthcare provider

Regular check-ups are essential. Discuss your symptoms, concerns, and any health risks. Your doctor can guide you based on your unique needs. Feel like your doctor is not listening to you or do you feel dismissed by a provider? Get a new one. Advocate for yourself and don’t stop until you and your health are taken seriously.

 

Step 3: Focus on a healthy lifestyle

Focus on a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Adequate calcium and vitamin D are crucial for bone health. Regular exercise helps manage weight, reduces stress, and supports overall well-being. Aim for a mix of cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Hydrate! Prioritize quality sleep and manage stress. Practice relaxation techniques, meditation, or yoga. Stress impacts hormonal balance, so finding healthy coping mechanisms is vital.

 

Step 4: Compassion and advocacy for yourself and others

Be kind to yourself. Perimenopause can be challenging but remember that you’re not alone. Seek support from friends, family, or support groups. Chances are you have friends and coworkers experiencing the same thing you are. Be the one to reach out and in doing so, you help yourself and others. Health issues can feel so isolating when we keep secrets.

 

Step 5: Talk to your employer

Nearly eight out of 10 women go through menopause while they are still at work. Most will experience its onset between the ages of 40 and 58, with perimenopause lasting up to eight years. Your employer may be willing to incorporate menopause-specific benefits and support that may include specialist care, paid leave and HRT covered by group health plans.


Menopause is only the end of your menstrual period--the rest is up to you. Knowledge is power. Ultimately, despite the misconceptions, life can still feel fun, healthy, and fulfilling during menopause.



Five Myths About Menopause and Five Next Steps © 2024 by Trinity Lefler is licensed under CC BY 4.0


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