Menopause is a natural event that almost every woman will experience at some point in their lives. It is a time of both physical and emotional changes, some of which can be extremely challenging. As such, it is important to understand the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to the menopause and its symptoms.
To provide insight and guidance, we have put together a list of the top five myths about the menopause and how to relieve the symptoms should you experience them.
1. 40 is too young to start the menopause
The idea that 40 is too young to start the menopause is a common myth that simply is not true. While most women will experience symptoms between 45 and 55 years old, with the average age being around 51, menopause can occur before the age of 40.
This is known as premature menopause, early menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency. It can be triggered by smoking, as well as certain medications or treatments including chemotherapy, although it can also happen naturally.
2. The perimenopause can only be diagnosed by symptoms
Perimenopause, also known as menopause transition, refers to the time when a woman’s body gradually makes the transition to menopause. This begins several years before menopause (around the age of 40) and is characterized by the often drastic drop in estrogen levels, a female sex hormone important for reproductive development.
Perimenopause can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms including irregular periods, hot flashes, and decreased fertility. The problem is that these symptoms can be caused by a variety of health conditions, so a blood test may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.
3. The menopause lasts a few years
While some women only experience symptoms of the menopause for a few years, others can endure them for over a decade. On average, most menopause symptoms last around four years from your very last period, with around 1 in 10 women experiencing them for up to 12 years.
These lasting symptoms may include hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other emotional changes. Be that as it may, symptoms of menopause will typically decrease in both intensity and frequency as time goes by. If you experience severe symptoms, we recommend speaking with a specialist.
4. You cannot get pregnant
During perimenopause, your menstrual cycle may shorten, lengthen or become irregular, but that does not mean you cannot get pregnant. As long as you are ovulating, you can still become pregnant and should therefore use contraception if you do not want to conceive.
Whether it be condoms, birth control pills, an implant or other type of contraceptive device, you should continue to use contraception until you have reached menopause and your period comes to an end. At this point, you will not be able to get pregnant without assistance from a fertility doctor.
5. HRT presents too dangerous a risk to women
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is highly effective and can be extremely beneficial to women during menopause. Both combined HRT (estrogen and progesterone) and estrogen-only HRT can relieve most common symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats.
However, like any medication, the hormones used in HRT can cause negative side effects that should not be overlooked. If you experience severe side effects after hormone replacement therapy, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Menopause is something that most women will experience in their lives and can cause sudden, dramatic, and often unpredictable shifts in your body. As such, it is important to recognize the symptoms so that you can prepare yourself for the changes to come.
One of the very first signs of menopause is a change in your menstrual cycle. This can include irregular or missed periods, though there are some other common symptoms that can significantly impact your life. These include:
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Increased anxiety or irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Reduced libido
- Headaches or migraines
Symptoms of menopause typically begin a few months (or a few years) before perimenopause and can drastically change from one month to another. If you are finding your symptoms difficult to cope with or you are experiencing some unusual symptoms, promptly consult your doctor or a menopause specialist for advice.
Manage your symptoms
Generally speaking, the menopause requires no medical treatment whatsoever and can usually be managed through simple yet effective lifestyle changes. During menopause, you will need to keep both your mind and body as healthy as possible, so it is vital that you maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
Some women even turn to natural remedies and supplements such as probiotics and prebiotics to manage the symptoms of menopause. However, it is not yet clear how safe or effective they actually are, which is why they are not widely recommended for treating menopause symptoms.
Always seek medical advice from your doctor if your symptoms cause you severe discomfort.
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