In keeping with Dorian's "10 things" theme for the new decade, I thought I would mention 10 things I have learned about menopause over the past 10 years.
1. Menopause doesn't last forever. It begins way before you notice it (your estrogen levels start declining long before your periods stop). Once the hot flashes and other annoying symptoms begin, you may be halfway through! Those hot flashes and mood swings are not a lifelong sentence.
2. Don't believe everything your friends tell you about the horrors of menopause. The fear-mongering at the office and among my friends did me no good as I approached menopause. It was not nearly as bad as my friends and office mates had made it out to be. Everyone is different. You may or many NOT have hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings etc. Fewer than half of menopausal women report they are bothered by hot flashes and night sweats.
3. DO seek out others who are going through menopause because they can be a great source of advice and laughter. It's important to be able to laugh during this phase of your life. If all your support group does is complain, find another support group.
4. It's a great time to get your life together and think about what you really want out of the next phase of your life. Read a self-help book or two. Indulge in some early evenings in your jammies and a good cup of tea and a book. I recommend "Write It Down, Make It Happen" by Henriette Ann Klauser and I also like "Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life" by Karen Rauch Carter.
5. Though menopause isn't a medical condition, it signals a time when you need to start paying attention to some potentially serious medical conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and weight gain. If you haven't been getting an annual checkup, start.
6. Your sex life will likely change; not go away, but change. About half of menopausal women report decreased interest in sex and some report painful sex because the lining of the vagina begins to atrophy from lack of estrogen. Don't ignore this important part of being a woman. Talk to your partner about it, and talk to your health care provider about it too.
7. The change in your desire may bring with it some relationship challenges. As noted above, communication with your partner is key.
8. Know the language. Doctors will talk about perimenopause, post menopause, estrogen, testosterone, and other big words. If you don't know what he/she is talking about, ask. The "Menopause Basics" section of this site is excellent. Look under "Find" and click on it.
9. I hate this part: Weight gain. I know I don't eat any more than I used to and I've put on 15 pounds over the past five years. I've tried portion control, Weight Watchers, and other ways to lose weight. The key, alas, is exercise. I know it and I still don't do enough of it. Shame on me.
10. Get in touch with your hormones. Just as when you were young and had those huge hormonal swings when you began menstruating (and if you were ever pregnant, remember those hormonal shifts?), menopause causes huge changes in your hormones and the result affects just about every organ system in your body. Estrogen is the big one, and during your reproductive years your body makes less and less of it. During menopause you're may get angry over nothing, forget things, cry, become depressed at times for a reason you can't identify, and may temporarily loose your zest for life. You are not alone-there are millions of us going through the same thing. Reach out (feel free to put your feelings on this site). It helps to get it out and let it go.
Published On: January 31, 2010