- What is menopause?
- What are some common menopause myths?
- Should you see a doctor about your menopausal symptoms?
Many women wonder when menopause will hit and how uncomfortable it will be. They wonder if they’ll have hot flashes or insomnia, if they’ll be irritable, or what other physical or emotional changes they may experience. The truth is, they may or may not experience any of these symptoms. Some women transition from having a period to not having one with none of the classic signs. So, what are the most common myths and misconceptions about menopause?
Let’s start by first explaining menopause.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is the stopping point of your body’s fertility. Every woman is born with the potential to produce eggs; menopause is when the ovaries are no longer producing. You’ll notice because your periods will stop. Once your periods stop, you can no longer have children.
It can happen in your 40s or 50s, although some women experience early menopause. During this time, your body stops producing eggs and your body produces far less estrogen and progesterone. Menopause should not be considered a disease; it is a natural body condition that transitions you physically away from your childbearing years. However, when it arrives and what you experience varies.
Clinically, you’re in menopause about 12-months after your last regular period. The months leading up to menopause is called perimenopause. During this time, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes or night sweats
- Irregular, infrequent, or no periods
- Joint or muscle pain
- Mood swings
- Problems sleeping
- Tender breasts
- Thinning hair and/or dry skin
- Urinary leaking
- Weight gain and metabolism slow down
These symptoms typically abate during menopause. The third phase of menopause is postmenopause, the time period where all of your symptoms have abated and the chances of conceiving are done.
What are Some Common Menopause Myths?
Myth #1 Perimenopause lasts about a year so I should just put up with the symptoms.
Some people believe that the transition to menopause, or perimenopause, lasts about a year. In fact, perimenopause can last, on average, about four years before your final menstrual period! Here’s another strange fact about menopause; one study showed that hot flashes, the symptom of perimenopause can last up to 14-years! This is very rare, however. One thing we do know; if you’re suffering from symptoms during this time, you should talk with your doctor about ways to ease your condition.
Myth #2 Menopause is going to be awful.
Another myth is that menopause is awful, painful, embarrassing, or even noticeable. If you have menopause symptoms, they may crop up suddenly and be harsh. Or, they may come on gradually and have very few symptoms. Some symptoms may be very mild and grow more intense later on. Your menstrual periods may be less regular for months or they may cut off altogether. They may even start and then stop erratically.
Myth #3 If my periods are erratic, I can’t get pregnant.
It’s a big misconception that you can’t get pregnant during the transition to menopause. You should continue to use birth control if you don’t want to have children, even if your periods are erratic. Just like any other time, if you have sex, you are at risk of sexually transmitted infections so remain cautious and stay protected.
Myth #4 My sex life will disappear.
Another myth is that your sex life is over if your baby-producing years are over. That absolutely isn’t true—unless you want it to be. Some women experience vaginal dryness which makes intercourse painful. Others don’t have this at all. Some women’s interest in sex decline, but some women have the best sex of their lives. It’s a big myth that your sex life ends in your 40s or 50s or when you’ve gone into menopause.
It’s important to know that there are treatment options if you have desire for sex but are experiencing vaginal dryness. There are also options if you lack desire. A lot of women may not want to talk about this, but your doctor can help establish a treatment plan so your life isn’t disrupted.
Myth #5 My body will stop producing hormones during menopause.
Actually, although estrogen and progesterone decline as you age. However, hormones travel throughout the body during the course of your life. HRT doesn’t necessarily mean you will contract breast cancer or some other side effect. Talk to your doctor to find out more.
Myth #6 Hormone replacement therapy is dangerous.
HRT, or hormone replacement therapy seeks to supplement the declining hormones in your body. HRT is only dangerous when synthetic hormones are used and the administration of these medications are not managed by a properly trained clinical provider.
Myth #6 When your periods stop you are in menopause.
This assumption completely skips perimenopause, which is the transitional period just before full-blown menopause occurs.
Myth #7 I should be afraid of menopause.
There is a lot of fear-inducing misinformation out there! Get the facts about menopause before assuming you should fear this change coming over your body. Menopause is one of life’s benchmarks, like getting your first period or having a baby. Some women experience no discomfort during menopause at all. It’s often a time when children have left the nest and retirement is imminent. So, for many women, menopause marks a new era of freedom in their life where they can travel or take on new goals.
Should You See A Doctor About Your Menopausal Symptoms?
Menopause could be the next evolution in your life, an exciting time to try new challenges or seek new opportunities. Don’t believe the bad things you hear about menopause; every woman goes through a different experience.
If you have questions about any changes happening in your body, it is important to speak with your doctor. Advanced Obstetrics & Gynecology of Lake County is devoted to serving all of our patients at every stage of their lives. From pregnancy and obstetrics to menopause, our experienced clinical team is here to help. Contact us today to schedule your next appointment.