Myths surround menopause on pretty much every level. From what age it begins, to what a horrible life event it is, there are no shortage of myths surrounding the physical, emotional, hormonal, and mental changes women go through in our middle years as menopause starts to happen.
The Myths and the Facts of Menopause
It seems that every woman you talk to has a story about what to expect when menopause hits. You’ll feel horrible. You won’t feel bad at all. It starts in your 50s. It starts sooner. You’ll gain a lot of weight, or you won’t. I remember my own mother going through menopause and I also recall the myths even back then. I especially recall the ones about hot flashes. The scuttlebutt even then was that everyone knew someone whose hot flashes were so extreme that they remembered the day she couldn’t handle them anymore and she ran outside with summer clothing on when it was snowing, essentially hurling herself into a snowbank just to cool off. I’ve had some hot flashes and I have never done that. For those of you who recall and who have been here for a while reading this blog, you know that I had a hysterectomy in my 30s because of cysts and Crohn’s and scar tissue. Anyways, the myths abound. Let’s cut through some of the baloney and get to the truth.
Here’s some menopausal truth for all of us.
Menopause Begins in Your 50’s
While the average woman rolls into menopause at around 52, women can being the transition to menopause as early as their 30’s to as late as their 60’s. I say transition because technically, menopause is simply a 12 month period with no menstrual cycle. Women can feel symptoms while still having periods. In fact, the period known as perimenopause can last from a few months to upwards of 13 years before true menopause occurs.
MYTH: Your Weight Will Balloon During Menopause
One of the biggest menopause myths isn’t a myth per se, but it doesn’t have to be your reality. Women do become more prone to weight gain during perimenopause and menopause due to hormonal imbalances as our bodies move out of their childbearing years.
It’s actually the body’s way of helping regulate hormones. Fat helps to produce more estrogen, which helps a woman’s body level out its hormones. However, estrogen also helps to store fat. It’s a vicious cycle, but with a minor reduction in calories and increase in physical activity, it can be controlled. During menopause and after retirement my Mom developed a regular fitness routine heading to the gym three times a week. Her routine was much better than it ever was during her 30s or 40s when she worked and single parented two children. I know she was physically her healthiest after menopause. She put me to shame and she stayed fit and active. She never gained weight only muscle. I hope to follow that pattern and am trying hard to do this as well.
Myth: Menopause is Menopause
One of the myths I’ve heard off and on over the years is that menopause due to total or partial hysterectomies is just like regular menopause only faster. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The difference between natural menopause and surgically induced menopause is like the difference between walking down a flight of stairs and jumping down the stair well. There is no adjustment period for the body. It’s literally an overnight jump directly into menopause with any of the bodies months or years of natural preparation. I had surgically induced menopause in my 30s. I controlled some symptoms with hormones, exercise etc. If you want to learn more about controlling symptoms of menopause you can read this article about menopause.
Hot Flashes Are the First Sign of Menopause
Not true. By the time you’re having hot flashes, you’re more than likely well into perimenopause. The actual first signs of menopause are fatigue, irregular periods, irritability, mood swings, depression, weight gain, hair loss, forgetfulness, fuzzy thinking, and low libido.
Myths of Menopause Exposed
I know it sounds a little like a tabloid title, but that’s basically what this article was all about. There is no end to the amount of misinformation and myths surrounding menopause, and this article only covers some of those that I have heard over the years.
Perimenopause and menopause are major changes in our lives, but they don’t have to be scary. In fact, when you get beyond the myths, menopause isn’t so scary. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon that should be dealt with and acknowledged in the same manner we handle getting our periods. Your body changes. Women are strong and we can handle the changes that are happening with awareness and education. Menopause can be just another phase in your life.
See Part 1 of the series here: Perimenopause.
Stay tuned for Part 3. The final part of this series.
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