Most women consider menopause one of their lives most frightening and traumatic phases. Such feelings may have also been aroused because of the different tell-tales and Old Wives’ Tales doing the rounds. Menopause starts at 45-55 years, though 51 is the average age. A woman is officially known to have entered the menopause phase when she hasn’t had periods for twelve months.
However, you won’t wake up to menopause one fine morning. It is a slow and gradual process and will happen over 7-8 years. When you transition into menopause at 40-44 years on average, that time is referred to as the perimenopause or menopause transition phase. So, let’s read on to know all the myths associated with menopause. We’ll even look at the logic and sense behind all the myths.
8 of the Common Myths About Menopause You Need to Know
You may have heard several things about menopause before transitioning into it. From what you heard, it may have compelled you to perceive menopause as a scary affair. Let’s look into the myths and debunk each one of them.
1. Menopause Begins When One Grows Old
It’s a preconceived notion that when a woman ages, she begins experiencing menopause. The average age for menopause in women is 45-55.
The average for menopause in the United States is 51. However, that isn’t the ending line. Women could experience menopause before 45, which is known as early menopause. They could even fall under the radar of premature menopause and get it when they are below 40.
Statistically, around 1% of the female population in the United States go through premature menopause, while 5% undergo early menopause. An analysis in 2014 by compiling 46 studies in 24 countries deduced the mean age for menopause to be 48.8 years.
It has even been studied that menopausal ages vary per age, ethnic group, and region. However, many other factors also play a significant role in deciding upon a woman’s menopausal age. These include genetic factors, overall health, socioeconomic conditions, etc., influencing menopause age.
So, the thought that menopause comes late in life isn’t a correct assumption. It could be delayed and preponed too.
2. Menopause Begins When Your Menstrual Cycle Ends
This statement isn’t entirely untrue but must be explained in detail. No periods for twelve consecutive months means that you are in the menopause stage. However, menopause doesn’t begin or happen just like that.
You will transition into it over a while. Before menopause, you will go through perimenopause, which is even called the time around menopause. Your estrogen levels start decreasing, and you begin encountering many symptoms associated with menopause, like vaginal dryness, sleep problems, hot flashes, etc.
The more you near menopause, the more intense your symptoms become. This is because the estrogen levels reduce drastically by then. Your periods will also become more irregular when you are closer to menopause.
So, menopause starts when your menstrual cycle ends, but that will happen over a long period and not suddenly.
3. Menopause Makes You Forgetful
Women’s symptoms in menopause are due to declining estrogen levels. The estrogens are not just reproductive hormones but control other body functions, including the brain.
No wonder when there is a decline in estrogen levels, there are chances of having a problem concentrating, paying attention, and remembering things. Around 60% of women experience decreased cognitive functioning during menopause.
But that doesn’t mean menopause is bound to make you forgetful. When you exercise regularly and practice mindfulness and meditation, you can overcome forgetfulness to a greater extent. So, the fact that menopause always means forgetfulness might not hold good for those who have found ways to manage the same.
4. Menopause Means An End of Your Sex Life
Many women feel menopause means bidding goodbye to their sex life. When estrogen levels are high, it increases the lubrication of the vagina and heightens sex drive. But, when estrogen levels decline, it results in vaginal dryness and reduced sex drive. But that doesn’t mean your sex life will go for a toss completely. The spark you felt in your 20s or 30s might not be present. Yet, you could reignite the missing spark with your and your partner’s efforts.
For vaginal dryness, lubricants and moisturizers will work well. Give more importance to foreplay. When you are aroused fully, it helps to increase vaginal lubrication naturally. Pelvic floor exercises help to strengthen your vaginal muscles and improve sex. If you still find discomfort in sex, you could speak to the doctor for alternatives like medications or HRT (Hormone replacement therapy).
5. Menopause is Equivalent to Weight Gain
Well, the fact that menopause results in weight gain isn’t untrue. It’s all because of the fluctuating hormone levels. Most of the extra weight will accumulate in the abdominal area rather than the thighs and hips. But how many extra pounds you put in depends on how healthy you stay.
As you reach 40 and are nearing 50, if you don’t change your diet and exercise to the minimum, then weight gain is inevitable. So, instead of saying menopause means weight gain, it is better to state that menopause can trigger weight gain if you are not conscious about your lifestyle.
6. Menopause Means Misery
Well, all of it depends on one’s thought process. The mention of menopause sends chills down our spine, right? Is it all because of the troubling symptoms that we have to face? Or could it be because our menstrual cycles and reproductive years end? Well, if you think it the other way, it could relieve you from the stress.
In fact, with menopause, all of the premenstrual syndrome that troubled you each month ends. It also means bidding goodbye to periods and the associated products. You’ll also be freed from the worries of an unplanned pregnancy. So, whether menopause means misery or freedom will depend on how you think it to be.
7. Menopause is Incomplete Without Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
The low estrogen levels are accountable for the hot flashes and night sweats one faces in menopause. During an episode of a hot flash, one will feel a sudden warmth in the areas surrounding their chest, face, and neck. It’s an unpleasant experience and often lasts for one or two minutes or sometimes as much as five minutes. Hot flashes at night culminate into night sweats.
But it is not that one is bound to have hot flashes in menopause or during the transition phase. It varies from one woman to another. In some, it will barely be noticeable. In contrast, a certain section of the female population may be troubled with regular hot flashes. When you maintain a healthy lifestyle with a proper diet and adequate exercise, you are likely to have lesser incidence and frequency of hot flashes.
8. You’ll Experience Menopause At A Time When Your Mom Had it
Genetics plays a role in the menopausal age, but that isn’t the ultimate factor. It is often said that when your mom or other close relatives have their menopause early, you will also follow suit. The same goes for late menopause. But other factors also come into play, like your lifestyle, overall health, etc.
Smokers experience menopause two years earlier than those who do not smoke. Menopause is also said to come early in underweight women and late in obese women. Moreover, women with very high estrogen levels all life could go through late menopause.
Well, there isn’t any proof to validate this fact. Instead, it is often said that when a woman begins her menstrual cycle late, she could have her menopause early.
Many believe that surgical menopause and natural menopause are the same. This isn’t true. Surgical menopause mainly occurs early or prematurely due to an emergency. If the uterus, fallopian tube, ovaries, and cervix have been removed, it could drastically affect your hormone levels. But, in the case of natural menopause, the hormonal levels drop gradually.
No, menopause doesn’t mean that hormone replacement therapy is a mandate. HRT is one of the several measures to opt for to lessen and manage specific menopausal symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, etc.
Men experience a fall in their testosterone levels when they age. The term often used to depict their condition is ‘manopause .’They could experience symptoms that are not as intense as women have in their menopause.
So here we have menopause debunked and demystified. It is not as scary as one thinks. It’s a natural process. When you stay healthy, keep yourself rejuvenated, and maintain a proper diet, you’ll be able to manage most of the symptoms of menopause well. Bid farewell to bad habits and welcome pleasant habits. Your life will be a lot easier.