Menopause Myths

The HealthCentral Editorial Team | Oct 19th 2011

Reviewed by Peter J. Chen, MD, FACOG

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When it comes to menopause, separating fact from fiction can be tough. Once you tell your friends that you think you’re in menopause, you’ll hear tons of advice and old wives’ tales. Here’s the truth about some common myths about menopause.

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MYTH: Menopause symptoms begin when a woman approaches age 50

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Hormonal changes can start earlier than age 50. They usually begin around age 40 but can also start before. Perimenopause, the beginning stage of menopause, starts when a woman misses periods due to hormonal changes. Perimenopause can last between two and eight years. Menopause technically begins only after a woman has missed her monthly periods for a year.

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MYTH: Menopause causes women to be cranky

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Changing hormones can cause mood swings. These changes affect part of the brain that can trigger anger, but it doesn’t always. The chemical reactions in your body bring out these changing emotions. Your mood swings won’t last forever.

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MYTH: A drop in a woman's testosterone level is the reason behind her low libido

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All women have testosterone. Testosterone levels usually drop in women and men as they age, creating a low sex drive, but in some women, sex drive actually increases during menopause. If you are concerned about changes in your libido, visit the doctor and have your hormone levels tested.

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MYTH: Going through "artificial" menopause is tougher than natural menopause

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Periods can stop abruptly for women undergoing chemotherapy, surgery on their reproductive system, or medication for a serious illness. Going through unexpected menopause at an earlier age can be stressful and magnify symptoms. Women with early menopause go on supplemental hormone therapy to adjust to their bodies’ changes.

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MYTH: The risks of hormone replacement therapy outweigh the benefits

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Thirty years ago, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was touted as the fountain of youth and then later as the road to almost certain heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer. Neither is totally true. Recent studies have shown that the age at which you begin HRT has an impact on whether it is heart-protective or a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

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MYTH: Menopause causes depression

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No study has linked menopause alone to depression. Menopause is a signal to our brains and our bodies that life is changing. Denial can lead to some serious consequences, including depression. We have to take calcium supplements for our bones, medicine for our cholesterol. It’s no wonder women are at risk for depression.

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MYTH: Menopause is nature's way of ensuring that women don't have kids when they're "too old"

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The first signs that lead to menopause can begin in a woman’s 30s, while she is of child bearing age. She can get pregnant while going through menopause. Fertility officially ends when a woman has stopped having periods for 12 months in a row, when she’s unable to produce an egg capable of being fertilized.