If you are or you know someone who is dealing with menopause, raise your hand.
I get asked a lot about menopause symptoms and I pretty much give the same answer: There are three ways to handle it. Enjoy it, ease it with nonhormonal remedies, or go for the big guns.
1. First of all I want to remind you all that menopause is NOT a disease. A woman’s ovaries are SUPPOSED to go on permanent vacation at about age 51. Face it, they’ve worked nonstop for the last 35-40 years, producing hormones and eggs and we-don’t-even-know-what-else! They deserve a little R&R. Just because YOU’RE addicted to estrogen isn’t their fault!
Seriously folks, remembering that menopause is normal and natural and generally doesn’t cause problematic symptoms for the rest of a woman’s life often goes a long way toward making it more bearable. Being afraid of it or worrying about it can make it worse.
I generally encourage women to look on the bright side and work to find the positive in any situation. The obvious (and often-quoted) statement that getting older beats the alternative comes to mind.
Here are 3 reasons why it’s awesome to reach menopause:
- No more periods! Hooray! All you women who are approaching menopause and upset about not getting your period anymore, raise your hands. **cricket, cricket** Nope. Didn’t think so.
- No more birth control! Double hooray! Now sex comes without the scramble for condoms or two weeks of wondering if you might be pregnant.
- You’re not exactly in the “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple” category but age does have some benefits. By the time a woman reaches menopause she has generally gathered experiences to help her put things in perspective. And it’s fun not to care so much what others think of us!
There are some behavioral approaches to managing menopause symptoms that can be very effective. Avoiding hot-flash triggers like heat, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, smoking and stress can help. Keeping your bedroom cool can decrease the sleep trouble and night sweats. Exercise decreases symptoms too, possibly by helping decrease stress. Eating soy foods may be helpful.
2. There are a number of nonhormonal therapies that can reduce the symptoms of menopause. Many antidepressants like paroxetine decrease the hot flashes, insomnia and irritability that can come with menopause. There is some evidence that black cohosh helps with hot flashes. Soy isoflavones can help as well.
3. If you are miserable and behavioral techniques and supplements aren’t helping, you should talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). There are various forms (creams, patches and pills) and the right one for you would depend on exactly what symptoms are most bothersome for you. Be prepared though: a good and careful doctor will want to put you on the lowest dose that makes your worst symptoms tolerable, then get you off HRT as soon as possible. This is because HRT increases the risk of blood clots, heart disease, stroke and breast cancer. Only you and your doctor can decide if the risks of HRT are worth the benefit of reducing your menopause symptoms.
After all, you want to be able to enjoy this time of your life. Grown kids and/or grandkids, hopefully a growing retirement portfolio and more financial freedom, and the opportunity to explore new interests shouldn’t have to take a backseat to poor sleep, irritability and embarrassing hot flashes. I hope some of the suggestions here are helpful!
“It is not good to cross the bridge before you get to it.” Judi Dench
“Being me right now is sort of amazing.” Helen Mirren
Question: What is the one thing about menopause that you LEAST expected to have to deal with?