Just as it is important to know what to expect when you are expecting, it is equally important to know what to expect when you hit the transition point in your life. Menopause, commonly referred to as a time of renewal, the change or the start of the next half of your life, is defined by the absence of a menstrual period for one year.
Most women begin to experience perimenopause sometime in their 40’s and full-blown menopause by their mid 50’s. It is at this time that the actual transition to menopause begins. The ovaries are producing fewer hormones and you may begin to experience symptoms commonly associated with menopause such as hot flashes. You might have an irregular menstrual cycle at this time as well.
The average age of menopause is 51 and is thought to be genetically determined. Other things such smoking, exposure to toxins and chemotherapy can impact ovary decline that results in an earlier menopause.
One of the best things a woman can do is to prepare herself emotionally and physically for menopause. If you know what to expect it will make the transition much easier.
Here are some things that every woman should know about menopause.
1. Your walk through the change will not be the same as everyone else’s:
Sometimes we make the mistake of talking to friends and family members and comparing menopausal symptoms. The experience of perimenopause and menopause is very personal and some women can cruise into this change of life with very little discomfort while others are very burdened by physical, emotional and mental symptoms.
2. You might still struggle with PMS:
Many women anticipate that PMS will be a thing of the past once they reach menopause. Truth is, the absence of a period does not always guarantee this to be the case. Shifting hormones can make menopause like one big “pre-period week” that repeats itself over and over. Talk to your family and those close to you and explain what you are experiencing – this will help them better understand how to help you cope with your swinging moods. Take plenty of time for yourself and learn what helps you deflate and do it often.
3. You will no longer need birth control:
If you have been using birth control you will no longer need to after you have been without a period for one year straight. Keep in mind that you will have irregular menstruation during perimenopause and could miss several periods in a row. Don’t stop birth control at this time as you could still become pregnant. To be sure, have your physician do a blood test to confirm that you no longer require birth control.
4. You may experience hot flashes:
Hot flashes seem to be the most talked about symptom of menopause. Although not all women experience hot flashes, it is reported that more than two-thirds of North American women experience this uncomfortable symptom. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat that overcomes the body and is generally accompanied by a red and flushed face as well as sweating.
Although it is not known exactly why hot flashes occur, it is thought that it is due to changes in circulation. A hot flash starts when blood vessels near the skin’s surface widen to cool off, causing you to sweat. Some women even experience a rapid heart rate and chills with a hot flash.
Hot flash triggers – the following are triggers that could be causing hot flashes:
- Drinking alcohol
- Consuming caffeine
- Being in a hot room
- Feeling anxious or stressed
- Wearing tight clothing
- Eating spicy foods
- Bending over
To understand your triggers, keep a journal of when you have a hot flash and write down what you were eating, drinking, doing, feeling and wearing when the hot flash started. Keep the journal for several weeks and you may see a pattern that will help you avoid certain triggers.
Preventing hot flashes – Once you figure out your triggers, you may find great relief from your hot flashes. It is hard to avoid them all together and no treatment is guaranteed but here are a few natural things you can do to reduce their number and severity.
- Dress in layers – this way you can take things off when you experience a hot flash
- Sip on ice water
- Drink licorice tea
- Wear cotton night clothes
- Use cotton sheets
- Keep a cold pack by your bedside
- Use a fan in your bedroom
- Try herbal supplements – ask your doctor about herbal supplements that may be right for you
- Eat more organic soy
- Try acupuncture
- Eat a well balanced, organic diet with plenty of healthy fat and veggies
- Exercise daily – try yoga, many women report this helps a great deal
5. You may gain weight:
The hormone changes that trigger menopause can also contribute to weight gain, especially around your midsection. However, aging also contributes to weight gain. It is important to get a handle on any extra weight you might be carrying, it can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions. Here are a few tips to maintain a healthy weight:
- Eat plenty of healthy fat including coconut oil, avocado oil, nuts, veggies and healthy protein
- Exercise daily – walking is a great option and be sure to include strength training
- Avoid refined sugar, refined oil, fast food and foods high in sodium
- Drink half your weight in ounces of water daily
- Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages
6. You have an increased risk of heart disease:
Estrogen levels drop during menopause. This may cause heart-related conditions such as dizziness and cardiac palpitations. Blood flow may also be impacted when arteries become less flexible. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and not smoking will reduce the chance of developing heart conditions.
7. You may experience vaginal dryness:
Many women report vulvar atrophy during menopause. This happens when the skin and tissues in and around the vagina become less elastic, dryer and thinner. Because of this, intercourse may become painful. There are, however, a number of treatment options.
8. You might become anxious or depressed:
Hormonal fluctuations, hot flashes, weight gain and the emotional impact of menopause can all cause an increase in anxiety and even depression. It is critical that you develop a solid plan to deal with anxiety as you age. Clear out a quiet space for yourself where you can relax and escape. Practice daily meditation/prayer, journal, exercise and learn various other techniques to help keep your emotions balanced. Remember, it is ok to feel sad and confused and a little bit irritable during the change of life.
9. Getting enough sleep can be hard:
Almost 60% of women in perimenopause and menopause report disturbed sleep. This is mainly due to a decline in progesterone. To help with sleep try these things:
- Put down all electronics including phones and computer at least an hour before bed and keep your bedroom free from electronics
- Turn the thermostat down in your bedroom
- Take a warm bath with lavender essential oil and Epsom salt before bed
- Sip chamomile tea before bed
- Try melatonin (a natural sleep aid)
- Try valerian (a natural root)
- Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day
10. Increased joint pain is common:
Although the reasons are not clear, almost 40% of women near or in menopause experience joint pain. This is most likely due to an increase in inflammation. Here are a few tips to reduce inflammation:
- Eliminate refined foods, especially sugar, foods containing gluten and fast food
- Move more – even walking daily helps
- Consume anti-inflammatory foods such as green vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, grapes and dark chocolate
- Drink plenty of water
- Learn how to unwind and manage stress
- Take a high-quality omega 3 supplement
11. Some women notice that they have a decreased sex drive:
Less estrogen often translates into a lowered sex drive. This coupled with changes in body shape and body image may make intimacy more difficult. According to experts reducing stress may be a key factor in increasing your sex drive.
In addition, exercising one hour before sex may also help you get more in touch with your body and increases confidence in the bedroom. Natural vaginal lubricants and aromatherapy with essential oils such as peppermint and ylang-ylang, jasmine and rose are reported to help boost libido. Most of all, be kind to yourself. If you have an understanding partner it is helpful also. Menopause can be a difficult time for women and the more your partner understands and supports you the better. Try this stress-busting oil infused blend with libido-boosting oils:
Libido Boosting Pulse Point Blend
- 1 drop sweet orange essential oil
- 1 drop jasmine essential oil
- 1 drop ylang-ylang essential oil
- Fractionated coconut oil
To make a pulse point oil blend, add one drop of each of these oils in a 10ml roller bottle and fill the rest of the bottle with the fractionated coconut oil. Roll on pulse points.
12. You might forget where you put your keys, a lot:
According to scientists, brain fog, forgetfulness or a fuzzy head is a common complaint of perimenopausal and menopausal women. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston all say that a new study reveals the truth behind the fog. As women’s estrogen levels drop between the ages of 45 and 55, their performance on certain memory tasks decline. So, no, you are not crazy – your inability to remember certain things or that fuzzy feeling is fueled by your hormones.
Regular exercise is an amazing way to reduce bring fog. When you work out your blood vessels open up, blood flows and oxygen levels increase. This allows better physical and mental performance. Stress and lack of sleep can also increase brain fog and lead to cloudy thinking and slow cognitive performance. Be sure that you are getting plenty of sleep and doing things to reduce the stress in your life.
13. Bad cholesterol can rise:
Estrogen not only regulates periods but it also keeps LDL, or bad cholesterol low and HDL, good cholesterol, high. As estrogen drops during menopause bad cholesterol may rise while HDL cholesterol remains the same. Being as healthy as you can when you approach menopause will help prevent fluctuations in cholesterol. Eating a clean diet, including plenty of olive oil, fatty fish, flax, nuts, chia seeds, avocado, soy and red wine. Eliminate refined food and exercise to keep your cholesterol in check.
14. You may no longer be the life of the party:
This symptom of menopause catches many women off guard. Many women who reach menopause start to think about putting themselves first. After raising children, being super social and involved in all sorts of groups and activities, increasing age and menopause offer women a chance to reflect and do more for themselves. Don’t confuse this feeling with being depressed, it’s simply a chance to look inward and giving yourself this time will help you stay healthy and grounded during the change of life.
15. It’s important to live clean and detox:
If ever there was a time you should be highly concerned about toxic chemicals it is during menopause. Research has uncovered some chemicals you may be exposed to on a daily basis as well as pesticides in food that contain hormone-disrupting compounds. Reducing exposure to these chemicals will help keep hormones more level. Stay away from any products that contain parabens, phthalates and BPA’s to start with. Eat organic as much as possible and use only natural, non-toxic laundry, cleaning and personal care products. Detoxing should be a regular thing when you are in perimenopause and menopause. This will help keep chemicals from building up in your body.
16. Your great hair days may be a thing of the past:
Menopause doesn’t spare the hair. You may find that both your hair and skin become more dry and brittle. Fluctuating hormones can also cause hair to thin and fall out. Be sure to use a mild organic shampoo and treat your hair to an organic hydrating mask once a week. To keep your skin hydrated and balanced, switch to an all organic moisturizer.
17. Exhaustion may become the norm:
For menopausal women one of the best words in the dictionary is N-A-P. Don’t be alarmed when you find yourself utterly exhausted – even in the early morning hours just after waking. Menopause is hard on the body and the more time you can rest the better. Even taking a twenty-minute power nap can do wonders to refresh and re-energize you. Don’t overbook your schedule and slow the pace a bit to give your body the energy it needs to move you through the change of life.
18. Your attitude matters:
This could possibly be the most important thing that women should know about menopause. Keeping a joyful and hopeful attitude will help you stay balanced even on your worst days. Learn to love your body and embrace the change of life with excitement and optimism and always find something to be grateful for each day. There is nothing about menopause that is easy but you don’t have to let it steal your joy or dictate who you are!