Menopause, like so many other aspects of women's health, is stigmatized. And if you’re approaching your mid to late 40s, there’s a good chance that menopause is on your mind. Since we all know it’s going to happen at some point, isn’t it a good idea to get the facts straight? Because let’s face it, when it comes to menopause, there are so many myths that need to go away now.
Myth: You’re too young for menopause
Fact: We hate to break it to you, but menopause can start at any age (within reason). “While it typically occurs from ages 44 to 48, it can also start in your 30s and early 40s,” Dr. Prudence Hall, founder of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SheKnows.
According to Hall, there are a variety of reasons menopause can start early. She says stress, viruses and birth control pills can all cause hormonal interruptions leading to an earlier menopause.
Myth: After menopause, say goodbye to your sex life
Fact: “Wrong,” says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, an OB-GYN at Yale University. Sure, many women experience vaginal dryness after menopause, but Minkin tells SheKnows you can get vaginal moisturizer therapy, which is quite effective for most women, over the counter at your pharmacy.
And if you have issues that do not respond to the moisturizer, Minkin recommends checking in with your health care provider for other safe and effective medications. Your doctor can also help if you’re having problems with libido even after you fix the dryness problem.
Myth: You need antidepressants
Fact: Hall says the depression and anxiety you feel during menopause is due to depleted hormones, and by replacing your hormones with bioidentical hormones, your depression and anxiety will decrease much more effectively than with antidepressants.
That said, if you have a diagnosis, you need to talk with your doctor about any medications you’re taking for depression or anxiety and how bioidentical hormones can work with your current treatment plan.
Myth: You’re stuck sweating it out, day in & day out
Fact: There are tons of remedies that help with hot flashes and night sweats. Minkin says the simplest thing to do, believe it or not, is to wear layered clothing. That way, when it gets hot, you can take off your sweater, but leave your base layer on.
She also suggests keeping your bedroom cool at night. If your bed partner is freezing cold, consider investing in a dual-control electric blanket. It’s also a good idea to avoid known triggers for your hot flashes, which includes hot drinks, caffeine, spicy food and alcohol, particularly red wine.
Minkin says there are several over-the-counter remedies you can try, including products like Remifemin (German black cohosh) and Relizen (Swedish pollen extract). And if you’re still uncomfortable, consult with your health care provider.
Myth: What’s the big deal about menopause? Isn’t it just a loss of ovarian function & hormones?
Fact: Menopause is so much more than just a loss of ovarian hormones. “The adrenal glands also begin to fail, thyroid hormones become imbalanced, and insulin no longer acts effectively to handle sugar,” says Hall. When you look at it that way, menopause is actually a full-body systemic decline of your body’s core endocrine glands.
Myth: When menopause is done, you’ll feel much better
Fact: Oh, how we wish this were true. But the truth is, once you’re in menopause it doesn’t end.
“You stay in it for the rest of your life, feeling the same bad symptoms,” says Hall. And when you use bioidentical hormones to replace your menopausal hormonal deficiencies, Hall says you’re actually taken out of menopause, and the symptoms diminish or completely disappear. “Women tell me every day that they feel more healthy, vital and sexy with their hormones replaced than at any other time in their lives,” she adds.
This list is of myths is just the beginning. The bottom line is this: If you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms, the most important thing you can do is listen to your body and talk to your health care provider. Together, you can design a treatment plan that works best for your individual needs.