The menopause is defined as being when a woman has had no periods for 12 consecutive months. The time leading up to that 12 month mark is actually called the peri-menopause – this is the time when the symptoms we associate with the menopause are kicking in.
But it’s not all doom and gloom…
Myth 1: women don’t want sex after the menopause.
FACT: Many women actually find that they feel sexier and freer at this time in their lives. There are a lot of reasons for this including:
- After the menopause there no danger of pregnancy, so this worry is removed. (Remember though, that until you’ve had no periods for 12 straight months, you can still get pregnant. Read this article for more on contraception through the menopause.)
- If you’ve had children, they have probably left home and you have more time to yourself with your partner. This means you can re-kindle special moments that might have been forgotten in the child-rearing years.
- Your body may not be as taught as a twenty-year-old’s, but it’s still pretty amazing to have got you this far in life. Many women feel more ‘comfortable in their own skin’ as they get older, and don’t have the body image insecurities they had when they were young.
Myth 2: you gain a lot of weight at the menopause.
FACT: Science is divided on this issue. Some studies have shown weight gain in women during the peri-menopause and menopause and others have shown this not to be the case.
It’s likely that there is some change in body composition, with a change in muscle-to-fat ratios but this doesn’t need to lead to a weight gain.
A healthy diet and exercise regimen means that you shouldn’t gain weight, and will add years to your life as well as life to your years at the time of the peri-menopause and menopause.
Myth 3: you can still get pregnant after the menopause.
FACT: If you’re still having periods, no matter how infrequent or light, you can still get pregnant because the hormone levels are still high enough to make you fertile.
Read this article about contraception during the peri-menopausal time.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if you have had 12 months without a period and then find you are having some bleeding, including bleeding after sex, then it’s very important to see your medical practitioner.
Myth 4: you’ll need to take HRT.
FACT: Many women don’t need HRT because their peri-menopausal symptoms are mild.
Even if there are more severe menopausal symptoms, taking HRT (if you’re suitable for it) really is your choice. There are alternative ways of managing the symptoms and you can read about them here.
Read about HRT in this article.
Myth 5: menopause symptoms are awful.
As we mentioned above, the severity of peri-menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms varies from woman to woman.
If your mother’s had a natural menopause (ie she didn’t have her ovaries surgically removed) and her symptoms were less severe, then yours may be also. The same is often true for women whose mothers had more severe symptoms.
However, even if your mother had a difficult time at the menopause, HRT is safer now than it would have been when she was your age.
Discuss your symptoms with your doctor because you do not have to suffer them in silence.
Treating your middle years as a time for new beginnings and looking at it with a positive mental attitude is the best way to approach them. Not only will life be easier and more enjoyable, but you will be as irresistible to the people around you as you were when you were younger.
More about the menopause in these articles from Everyday Health.