Something funny has been coming out of recent research about menopause: the more you talk about it, the more comfortable you’ll be during it.
That’s a simplified version of the idea. Of course, uncomfortable symptoms—like hot flashes, joint pain, or night sweats—can’t just be “thought” away. But when women are given information about menopause ahead of time, they experience “more positive attitudes, less discomfort, and greater engagement in healthy habits” during menopause.
But the benefits don’t just stop with informing women about the experience: the more we all talk about menopause, the less it impacts women’s confidence levels, self-image, and even job standing while they’re going through it.
So, let’s open up the conversation!
What is menopause?
Most people use the word “menopause” to refer to a period of years in a woman’s life when she is having her last menstrual cycles. (The technical definition of menopause is the one year mark after your final period, but that’s not a particularly important moment as far as the symptoms are concerned.)
Dr. Jen Gunter describes menopause as “puberty in reverse” in her 5-minute TED Talk (definitely worth a watch!). Just like puberty, this process is natural and will be different for every person, so it’s impossible to say what your experience will be.
Also just like puberty, these years will be hormonally chaotic—but that doesn’t have to define you! When you think back on being a teenager, you probably remember some difficulty with puberty symptoms, but you were also able to have fun times, enjoy your friends, apply yourself to projects and goals, and all the other things your life involved.
What is menopause not?
Let’s be clear: menopause is not a medical problem that must be treated. Some women may pursue treatments that are safe for them—and we as your doctors can help you learn about those options and decide whether to try them. But it is absolutely not necessary for menopausal women to take hormone supplements or any other medication during this time.
Menopause is also not a sign that your worth in the world has changed at all—women continue to contribute to their workplaces, families, social circles, and society at large long after menopause.
What does menopause feel like?
The most common menopause symptoms are hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and mood changes.
Some women won’t experience any of these, and others will experience any of a wide range of other symptoms, such as:
- Heavy, irregular periods
- Low sex drive
- Pain during sex
- Vaginal pain or dryness
- General aches & pains
- Bladder control issues
- Brain fog
- Dry eyes
- Dry hair & skin
- Heart palpitations
Some of your symptoms can be addressed by simple, safe treatments like eye drops or painkillers. Your doctors are here to help you assess your symptoms, learn about the risks and benefits of different treatments, and make a plan for them.
You can also learn more about all of these symptoms through My Menoplan, which is worth clicking around for more information about ways to navigate your experience of menopause as it unfolds.
What can I do to make menopause easier?
If you are not a woman and you’ve gotten this far in this blog—congratulations! You can make menopause easier on the women in your life by reading articles like this one and approaching their experience with kindness. Now that you know menopause is a natural process, with a wide range of symptoms, that does not make a woman any less valuable in her home or at work, you can make those environments kinder and more open to menopausal women.
If you are a woman who is approaching menopause, try these changes:
- If you’re a smoker, try to quit; your experience will be much more uncomfortable while smoking.
- Reduce stress and increase sleep as much as possible.
- Make sure you are eating a healthy diet that includes a lot of calcium and Vitamin D (for bone strength).
- Build at least 150 minutes of physical activity into your weekly schedule. Great options are hiking, dancing, or jogging, which are all “weight-bearing exercises.” Again, these exercises are helpful because they help build strength in your bones, which menopause can cause to be more fragile.
What are the upsides of menopause?
You might be thinking, “hold on, there are upsides to menopause?” Yes, there are! And looking forward to them is a major way to make the process more comfortable.
The biggest upside of them all: no more periods. That means no more cramps, tampons, pads, cups, or ruined underwear. It also means no more blood-stained shorts, skirts, and dresses you love and no more plans canceled or shifted because of horrible cramps or self-consciousness about bloating.
It can actually be helpful to think back on all the times your period caused a bit of upset or frustration and remember that you get to say goodbye to those times!
Additionally, the actual moment of menopause—that 12-month mark after the last period—generally indicates that a woman can no longer get pregnant. Many women with male partners find that to be a nice upside, too.
There is a lot of information out there about menopause, and resources like this are just one way to prepare yourself for the experience or, if you’re already in it, make it a bit smoother. Feel free to give us a call at (681) 282-5591 or book an appointment online to talk to us about your experience with menopause.