Happy World Menopause Awareness Day
Yes! World Menopause Awareness Day is really a thing! And to be honest friend, it's a super important "thing!"
I chose this image for this blog post specifically because my goal is to empower other women through education.
Knowledge is power and the more you know about what's going on in your body the more YOU can be in charge! Not your hormones, not your doctor, but YOU!! Yes, YOU have a say so in how midlife is going to unfold.
This journey can be beautiful and eye opening. Enlightening and empowering. Or it can be miserable, daughtening, and absolutely exhaughesting. It's totally up to YOU! The first step in THRIVING after 40 is become educated.
Here’s what I can tell you . . . about 9 months ago I was having issues with my sleep, my gut, my joints ,I was gaining weight at an alarming speed and noticing a decrease in muscle, I was bloated all the time, my endurance and sex drive were both none existent, heck even my eyes were different!! Basically my overall health was changing. The more research I did about perimenopause, menopause, and midlife, the more I realized I was entering a new phase, a new transition - that’s right . . . your girl was starting her journey toward . . . “The Change.”
Let’s take a step back. First let’s define what perimenopause is. Basically Perimenopause marks the beginning of the female “change of life”, the natural biological process that occurs as we begin to wrap up our reproductive years and head toward menopause. I don’t think a lot of women understand that (1) there is a pre menopausal period, hence perimenopause, and (2) that you can be here for 3-10 years!! That’s a long time to be uncomfortable!!
And that is exactly why I made it my mission to make women’s health, specifically perimenopause, an open topic. I want to open the dialogue because this time in a woman's life is a BIG DEAL and no one, I mean no one is talking about it!!
So what do you need to know?
Well sis, let me start by saying that there is A LOT that you need to know!! And the more you know, the easier this transition is going to be. That’s exactly why I created my 7 week signature course, Thriving in Midlife: Navigating Perimenopause and Beyond, because not only can you survive this time, you can totally THRIVE, but you have to know your body to do it!
Right now, let’s just get into the basics. Let’s take a look at the most common questions women have about this time, including signs, symptoms, and tips for preparing for a smoother transition as well as symptom relief.
Again this is just scratching the surface, we’ll get together soon and dive deeper into the subject matter at a later date.
The four phases of this amazing journey are Premenopause, perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Premenopause is the time from puberty when you started menstrual periods through your 20s and 30s. Most women still have regular periods. You may have hormonal fluctuations, but for the most part, they are not noticeable. A small percentage of women experience menopause symptoms in their mid to late 30’s. However, it isn’t until their early to mid 40’s that most women start to notice symptoms of perimenopause. Symptoms you may experience include: irregular periods, mood swings, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, hot flashes and night sweats, low libido, sleep disturbance, weight gain, and changes in cognition and memory. *** If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to consult your physician to rule out causes other than menopause and to discuss treatment options.
Perimenopause starts in your 40s, or possibly as early as 35. You start to experience menstrual cycle changes and symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbances or mood swings, but it’s not too disrupting. Perimenopause, or the start of the menopause transition, usually begins about four to eight years before reaching menopause for most women. This period is when your body is not ovulating as predictably or precisely as it has in the past due to less consistent progesterone production and less estrogen. Despite these changes and your age, it’s important to realize that you can still get pregnant and should continue to take precautions to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. This is a great time to talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing. Any changes in your menstrual cycle should be reported, especially if you have heavy bleeding.
Many people make reference to the entire process as “menopause.” Actually Menopause is one amazing milestone. It’s the 365th conductive day without a period!! That’s right. Menopause is literally one day, not the entire journey! The average age of reaching menopause naturally in the United States is 51 years old, with most women achieving this milestone between the ages of 45-55. About 6% reach menopause earlier due to cancer treatment, surgical removal of the ovaries, and other health and lifestyle factors, and about 5% reach menopause after the age of 55.
Postmenopause is the stage after reaching menopause. Hello day 366, you are officially considered postmenopausal. But the fun is not over on day 366 - you may actually continue to experience symptoms for another 5-7 year. Hot flashes and night sweats are still quite common in this stage.
One of the best ways to predict when your menopause journey may begin for you is to look into your family history. Find out when your mother, sister, or other biological female relatives started to experience the change. Yes!! I highly encourage YOU to be the conversation starter!!
Being open and honest is a great way to help you prepare and be able to better identify some of the first signs of changing hormones in your own body. But please keep in mind that just like any other journey (career, weight loss, parenthood) it’s not going to look like or feel exactly like anyone else's! Take notes, share, be open, but don’t compare!
So what are some of the most common symptoms that women experience?
Hot flashes, interrupted sleep, vaginal dryness, and mood swings, which are caused by estrogen fluctuations in your body, are the most common reported symptoms.
A lot of women will chalk these symptoms up to things like stress or a busy lifestyle, and may not even realize that they have started the journey, mainly because their periods are still regular.
Note that as you progress to the later stage of perimenopause, you can expect to start having irregularity in your periods. They may become closer or farther apart, heavier, lighter, or just spotting. You might have a period, then skip a period for a few months, and then return to a monthly cycle for a while before your period completely subsides.
Some of the other symptoms that may sneak up on you as progress through perimenopause and continue into postmenopause include night sweats, chills, depression, anxiety, weight gain, headaches, dry skin, and thinning hair - all are a result of changing hormones.
Some women also report changes in sexuality, specifically sexual desire, the frequency of sexual activity, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse. Unfortunately, more than 50% of women don’t report vaginal dryness to their healthcare providers, and less than 4% of affected women are actively using any of the many therapies available.
It’s important to know that these changes are not inevitable or irreversible and may affect women differently. Changes in sexuality are common during this time in your life. To find out more about managing symptoms, including pain during sex, vaginal dryness, and urinary incontinence make sure you join my next 7 week course, we have a whole BONUS module on sexual wellness!! (Keep a lookout for early registration coming soon!!)
Since Perimenopausal symptoms may last for months or years and some menopausal symptoms can persist for up to 10 years after your final period it’s important that you are paying attention and find ways to minimize those symptoms sooner rather than later!! The last thing you want to do is suffer for the next 10 years when you really don’t need to!
Many women self-diagnose when perimenopause is reached, but to be sure, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor, especially before age 45. If there is any question, certain tests can be done to help confirm that signs and symptoms are indicative of reaching menopause and not another condition.
Your doctor may check your levels of estradiol (a type of estrogen). Additionally, they may test your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), or thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms to menopause. If you haven’t yet checked out my FREE PDF The Beginner’s Guide to Perimenopause and Beyond, make sure you do so. That will give you a ton of information about the tests and what questions to ask your doctor at your next visit.
There are different strategies for managing symptoms, including various FDA-approved pharmaceutical options, lifestyle modifications, and a combination of the two.
Alright sister, it’s time we get into the good stuff - especially how can you make this experience a little more pleasant or at least manageable!
Like I said the best thing you can do for yourself is GET EDUCATED!! The more you know the better you do!
But let’s talk about some strategies you can implement today!!
Most physicians recommend that you try making lifestyle adjustments for six months to see what impact they have on your symptoms. Many symptoms respond well to changes in diet, exercise, and mind-body strategies like meditation and yoga.
One of the most effective ways to improve your overall experience and help with symptom relief is to choose healthy lifestyle behaviors as early as possible.
The sooner you incorporate healthy lifestyle behaviors into your life the higher your chances that your peri/menopause transition will be easier and occur naturally.
Diets that incorporate whole plant based foods, which are rich in isoflavones, have been shown to offer relief for certain symptoms, like hot flashes, for some women.
Eating more plant foods and fewer animal products have been associated with fewer uncomfortable menopausal symptoms.
Although research is mixed when it comes to whether exercise improves certain menopausal symptoms for women, regular physical activity has been linked to better mental health, sleep patterns, the overall quality of midlife, and healthy aging.
Having a positive attitude about the changes in your body and life as well as taking charge of your symptoms will go a long way to improving your journey and help manage the impact of menopause. Embrace your journey and celebrate the start of something great!
The new transition should be viewed as a very special (and important) stage in life. One that every woman will experience and that lasts about one-third of our lives! It shouldn’t be brushed under the rug or shunned when talked about.
This time could be the most liberating and rewarding time of your life!!
Use this time to find freedom, feel empowered, be creative. You are wiser and smarter and you possess so some many unleashed superpowers.
And while we can't predict how this is going to affect any us, knowledge is power, and with power comes control. Taking a positive view of this new found journey and approaching this life transition with confidence, optimism, and enthusiasm can make a major difference in your physical and mental wellbeing.
Whether you’re just starting to feel the signs that perimenopause is coming or you are knee deep in it like myself, or just simply looking for some guidance on what to expect in the coming years, I’M HERE FOR YOU!!
It’s important to recognize that you don’t need to suffer in silence or shame, particularly if you are experiencing depression, anxiety, mood swings, or other mental health issues. Depression and anxiety are common during menopause, and many women are under-diagnosed. Please seek help from a qualified physician or therapist to help you deal with these issues.
To stay up to date on all things related to Perimenopause and Beyond, make sure you are on my emailing list. And don’t forget to join my FREE Facebook Group, Opening the Dialogue to Women’s Health and Wellness where no topic is off the table!!
In the meantime, Here's to bringing awareness to Health. Happy World Menopause Awareness Day!!