“Menopause: the phase of transition in every woman’s life. It is an invitation to start something new; even amidst the uncertainty and discomfort, it’s a time of new beginnings” – Dr. Anisha Potdar
WHAT – is menopause a good thing?
Comedians often talk about the dreaded menopause. However, you might be able to laugh once you have gone through the process. There are so many jokes and antidotes to share. When a room is full of people my age, we laugh so hard that we almost fall off our seats. I have been in audiences of comedians talking about menopause, and the 50 and up people are laughing, and the younger ones in the audience are sitting there wide-eyed in unbelief. One younger person said, “Now I know why my mom is so difficult.”
I started menopause in my mid-30s, which is early. It started with hot flashes. I will never forget what it felt like. I was out to dinner with my mom and aunt, and suddenly my toes began to get warm, and it quickly went up my body and felt like it came out of my head. My aunt asked if I was ok because my face had turned red, and I broke out in a sweat. I did not know what was going on. Menopause never entered my mind. Finally, my mom jokingly said that maybe it was menopause, and we all laughed.
Over the next few weeks, I started noticing other bothersome things. I would wake up sweaty, and my night clothes stuck to me, so I would change. Then the process would begin again.
I was one of those people who wore layered clothing and continually took my sweater on and off every few minutes! When I was younger, I would watch women taking on and off their sweaters, and it would drive me crazy. What was wrong with them? Didn’t they know whether they were hot or cold?
MENOPAUSE - SO MISUNDERSTOOD.
I wish that were all that happened, but there is more.
Overall, I am a nice person; even though menopause occurred during my years of depression, I was nice. However, I became VERY moody and lashed out at people. Unfortunately, my family took the brunt end of my wrath. I snapped at people, became quiet and glared, and had no patience with anyone.
One of the hardest things for me was the loss of memory. Unfortunately, that has carried on into my later years and has been exacerbated by COVID. How frustrating is it to look at someone you should know and find that you cannot come up with a name? I would walk into a room and forget why I was there. As you are reading this, you probably think that this is normal. It may be expected, but for me, this issue began with menopause.
Frustrating but livable was the weight gain and hair loss. I knew I could lose the weight again, and I prayed that my hair would get thick again. Unfortunately, I continue to be overweight, and my hair has stopped thinning but has not thickened.
Initially, I was concerned about my symptoms, so I went to my doctor. He looked at me and said that I was too young. He would not even talk to me about possible treatment options. One very different thing for me was that I stopped menstruating early in the process, so I did not have some of the problems my friends had.
Since some of my blogs are educational, I thought I would impart a little information to all of you that are young and have no idea what to expect.
Let’s look at the symptoms of menopause.
Easily recognizable perimenopause symptoms
1. Hot flushes or hot flashes are not fun and usually come at an inconvenient moment.
2. Irregular periods. This may be a change in the length and heaviness of your period and an increased or decreased frequency.
3. Reduced libido
4. Vaginal dryness. It is due to the reduction of estrogen and can make you sore or itchy and experience discomfort during sex. Also, there is an increased susceptibility to UTIs.
5. Loss of libido. A change in testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen can reduce your desire for sex.
6. Trouble sleeping. Not only can those hot flashes keep you awake, but low magnesium levels can make it harder to sleep and relax.
7. Mood swings. Sleep deprivation activates the parts of the brain which relate to processing emotions, and it’s been found that this pattern imitates the type of activity seen in those with anxiety disorders.
Less recognized symptoms
8. Tiredness/fatigue. Trouble sleeping will naturally leave you feeling tired the next day; in addition, low levels of estrogen can leave you feeling fatigued.
9. Anxiety and depression. A few factors are at play here; a rise in cortisol and sleep deprivation can affect your mood negatively, including anxiety and depression.
10. Hair loss. During perimenopause, your hair can become thinner and grow slower than previously experienced due to a decline in progesterone and estrogen.
11. Hair growth. The triggering of male hormones can mean that we start to grow hair in places associated with men, such as the face.
12. Memory lapses, brain fog, and being unable to concentrate. This symptom can easily be attributed to a busy or stressful lifestyle, so it can be missed. But equally, they can be a huge cause for worry as they are like those associated with dementia.
13. Weight gain. We often notice an increase in weight (often noticing it around the stomach area). This is because, during perimenopause, ovaries don’t secrete enough estrogen, so your body desperately tries to create estrogen elsewhere; it does this via your fat cells; therefore, your body will hold onto fat to enable this process to happen.
14. Headaches. Some of us may even experience migraines for the first time, or headaches associated with our period may become more frequent due to low estrogen levels.
15. Vertigo and dizziness. Again, low levels of estrogen are responsible here! A decline in estrogen levels can affect blood pressure, circulation, and the nervous system, resulting in dizziness and vertigo (feeling like the room is spinning).
16. Frequent urination. The urethra, vagina, and pelvic floor muscles weaken and lose elasticity. This can mean you need the toilet more often or cannot control your bladder like before.
17. Breast soreness. This may be in both breasts or just one and may feel different from the ‘usual’ discomfort associated with your period. The soreness can feel sharp or be a throbbing or burning sensation. If you have concerns about breast soreness or changes, get your doctor to check this out ASAP.
18. Itchy skin. Estrogen is to blame for this one too! A decline in estrogen levels can impact the production of your skin’s natural oils; a lack of natural oil can leave your skin dry and feeling itchy.
19. Acne. Increased testosterone and a decline in estrogen can be responsible for adult acne.
20. Joint pain. Joint inflammation can be caused by falling estrogen and progesterone levels. Ouch!
21. Brittle nails. When estrogen levels lower, the layers of keratin (which your nails are made up of) are weakened, and your nails can break or chip more easily.
22. Bloating and other digestive issues. Estrogen plays a part in your digestive system, with low levels causing several undesired symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, cramps, acid reflux, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.
There are many different things to try to deal with menopause, including hormone therapy, homeopathic medications, and more. I am not going to get into them in this blog.
Menopause does not mean that it is over. In fact, life is just beginning.