Menopause is an inevitable part of being a woman. Here are 6 common myths about menopause and what you should know instead.
Menopause is a natural condition that occurs when a woman stops menstruating and it marks the end of her reproductive period. In general, menopause has a bad reputation and many women dread this inevitable and natural phase of womanhood.
Some of the aspects of menopause that have women cringing include the idea that they will have to deal with intolerable hot flushes, a severely decreased libido and that the kilos will pile on. Due to these commonly held beliefs about menopause, many women end up with a very negative perception of it.
While these symptoms are not entirely false, there is a lot of misconception that creates unnecessary stress and even panic. Urban Health clears the air by debunking six common myths about menopause.
MYTH 1: I’ll only experience symptoms when I’m older
FACT: There is no specific age or proven method to predict when a woman will hit menopause. Generally, menopause occurs when a woman is in her 40s or 50s. According to the United States National Institute on Aging, the average age for women to experience symptoms of menopause is 51 but it can occur earlier or later.
Some women can experience menopausal symptoms early in their 30s and this is called ‘menopause transition’ or ‘perimenopause’. Perimenopause is often confused with menopause itself. Perimenopause begins several years before menopause and according to WebMD, the average timeframe is about four years. During perimenopause, your ovaries will gradually produce less estrogen and this eventually leads to menopause. Some of the possible symptoms of perimenopause include hot flashes and mood swings.
Menopause on the other hand is defined as the time of your last menstrual period. Menopause is confirmed when you do not have your period for 12 consecutive months.
MYTH 2: Menopause will ruin my sex life
FACT: With the decrease of estrogen hormones in a woman’s body, there will be some physical changes such as vaginal dryness. However, it is believe that this symptom has been amplified and women may not be as affected as they think they will be.
A study reported by TIME magazine, which was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that menopause isn’t a major contributor to sexual issues. The four-year study conducted by a Professor of Epidemiology at King’s College, London, Dr. Tim Spector, involved women who provided information about their sexual health before as well as after menopause. Results showed that the rate of sexual dysfunction throughout the study remained the same — at about 22 to 23 percent — for both pre and post-menopausal women.
MYTH 3: I can still conceive even when I’m much older
FACT: Countless Hollywood celebrities are getting pregnant over the age of 40 (and some even close to their 50s). In 2014, Kelly Preston announced she was pregnant with her third child with John Travolta, at the age of 47. From Jennifer Lopez to Mariah Carey and Salma Hayek, celebrities make it seem so easy to conceive despite their age but it’s not that simple.
The truth is, while it is still physically possible to get pregnant during the perimenopause phase the chances of a woman conceiving naturally decreases tremendously. The reason is that during perimenopause, hormone levels change and affect your fertility. Although you may experience occasional menstrual bleeding, ovulation may or may not occur. When you have reached menopause, it means that ovulation has stopped altogether and you will not fall pregnant.
MYTH 4: Menopausal symptoms will affect my quality of life
FACT: Although possible symptoms of menopause include uncomfortable hot flashes, mood swings and difficulty sleeping, not all women will experience them. Menopause affects every woman differently and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. In fact, some women may only realise that they’ve reached menopause when their period stops.
For women experiencing severe symptoms of menopause, treatment is available. Do not sweep the issue under the carpet and speak to an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, who will suggest the best treatment option for you.
Myth 5: Menopause will cause me to gain weight
FACT: A common misconception is that weight gain is inevitable as you go through menopause. While, the decrease of estrogen levels in your body can affect your metabolic rate which can gradually lead to weight gain, this does not mean that this is inevitable.
Hormone therapy may help to increase your metabolic rate and can help to slow down weight gain. Besides that, exercise and a balanced diet are part of the recipe for healthy weight and will certainly help any woman avoid weight gain during this time.
Exercises such as those that involve light weight dumbbells, yoga or even aerobics are a few you should consider. Exercise also helps to lower your risk of osteoporosis and heart diseases. For a healthy a balanced diet, use the Malaysian Food Pyramid as a guide.
MYTH 6: My body will stop producing hormones
FACT: Although the levels of reproductive hormones (estrogen and progestogen) decrease, this doesn’t mean that your body stops producing them entirely. Your adrenal glands (the endocrine glands) produce these hormones as well and after menopause, most of your hormone production comes from here.
Hormones are still needed by your body as it contributes to your overall well-being. This is why, some women may require hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which can also help to manage menopausal symptoms.
Menopause is a natural part of being a woman. At times, it may feel like you’re undergoing this phase alone but remember, every woman goes through it and it is important not to be shy about it. Speak to your doctor if menopausal symptoms are affecting your quality of life. Remember, many of the menopausal symptoms are temporary and there are proven, helpful steps you can take to prevent or manage them.
What to look out for…
In the period leading to menopause, which is also known as perimenopause, you might experience some menopausal symptoms including:
- Hot flashes
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
Speak to a medical professional to understand and manage these symptoms.
Home remedies for menopausal women
Here are some steps you can take at home to relieve or prevent menopausal symptoms:
- Cool it down – If you are experiencing hot flashes, cool down by wearing comfortable clothing such as cotton garments and try to spend your time in cooler places such as the mall or other air-conditioned places. You can also try to identify factors that trigger your hot flashes such as spicy food or stress. This way, you can take steps to avoid them.
- Relax – Relaxation and de-stressing is essential during this time. Listen to calming music or pamper yourself with a relaxing massage.
- Get some rest – If hot flashes or any other menopausal symptom is affecting your sleep, try to find methods that will help you unwind before you head to bed such as meditating or lighting a calming scented candle. You should also avoid caffeine or excessive amounts of alcohol which can disturb your sleep patterns.