Menopause is a normal part of a woman's life. It means the end of her monthly periods and the end of her childbearing years. While some women may greet "the change" with relief and a sense of freedom, others may see it as a signal of old age.
Here are some of the common myths about menopause. Learning the facts might make you feel better. However, if you are having trouble coping, it is important to talk to your doctor.
Myth: Menopause is the beginning of the end. The average age for menopause is 51. That's far from the end of your life. By this stage of life, you may no longer have children living at home. You may have more freedom to travel, volunteer or pursue hobbies. Take advantage of the time. Look at it as a new beginning.
Staying healthy can help you feel good and put life in your years. Adults should aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity and two or more days a week of major muscle strengthening. This can include yoga or using weights, resistance bands or your body weight for resistance. Regular exercise may lighten your mood, give you more energy and make you feel good about your body.
Also, try to get enough sleep. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Spend time with friends.
Myth: I can't get pregnant once I start perimenopause. Perimenopause is the first stage of menopause, when the periods begin to change. They may become more or less frequent. There may be missed periods. Or they may be lighter or heavier. Also called the "menopausal transition," perimenopause can last for several months or years before a woman's periods end. Changing levels of hormones cause these changes. Just as your periods don't end all at once, your fertility doesn't end all at once either. Though most women are less likely to get pregnant after age 45, it is possible. As long as you are having any periods at all, you can still get pregnant. Be sure to use birth control if you don't want more children.
Myth: I will feel terrible during perimenopause. It is common to experience some changes in the time around menopause. Women may have hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, mood swings and/or vaginal dryness. For others, the only noticeable change is the end of their periods. Even if you do have symptoms, there are treatments available. Talk to your doctor about what can be done.
There is growing evidence that a good attitude can make you feel better physically. So think about what you are grateful for, and look for the positives in your life.
Myth: My sex life will go downhill after menopause. Sex may be different after menopause. Be open with your partner about any changes.
For some women, sex is more pleasurable without concern of getting pregnant. For other women, their sex drive may lessen. But there are ways to cope. Give yourself more time to become aroused. Avoid drugs and alcohol, which can dampen your body's responses.
Also, vaginal dryness can make sex uncomfortable. If this is an issue, water-based vaginal lubricants may help. Prescription estrogen creams may also be used. And the more often you have sex, the healthier your vaginal tissues will be.
Myth: Hormone therapy is too risky and should always be avoided. Hormone therapy is estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone. It may be prescribed to help reduce or eliminate some of the symptoms of menopause. A lot has been written about the downsides of the therapy. But the risks for some women are far fewer than for others.
Talk to your doctor about whether hormone therapy would be a wise choice for you. Your age and health are important factors to consider. And experts recommend that if you do choose the therapy, use it at the lowest dose and for the least amount of time possible.
Created on 06/09/1999
Updated on 02/11/2013
- Womenshealth.gov. Menopause and sexuality.
- Womenshealth.gov. Menopause and mental health.
- National Institute on Aging. Menopause.
- Womenshealth.gov. Menopause and menopause treatments fact sheet.