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A Woman's Exploration of Menopause and Self-Discovery

It has been highlighted time and again about the lack of awareness of several women of the various symptoms of menopause. In this regard, I would like to share excerpts from a finding I recently came across with you. 

A study was conducted on women aged 40-45 years. Out of them, around 52% had reached menopause, of which approximately 56% weren’t aware of the symptoms. The majority of the women mentioned a lack of periods, irritability, and hot flashes as the significant menopausal symptoms. 

Moreover, around 7/10th of the women participating in the study didn’t make any effort to relieve themselves of the troublesome symptoms. Another interesting finding was that those who were educated and hailed from a nuclear setting seemed more aware of menopause and the associated symptoms. 

So, it is pretty clear that when it comes to knowing menopause and its symptoms, many women are still lagging. Before I go further with my discussion, let me introduce myself. This is Dr. Karen Pike. Besides working in the medical field for a long time, my aim has also been to reach a maximum number of women worldwide to increase their awareness of menopause. While treating in the ER, I noticed that about 9 of 10 women didn’t know even the basics of menopause. 

I have touched upon various menopause-related topics on my website, Simply Menopause. You can find many articles written by me there. So, let’s get started. 

Understanding the Basics of Menopause 

When you have to create awareness in women about menopause, what is essential is to acquaint them with accurate facts. I first mentioned to my patients that you won’t wake up to menopause one fine morning. It’s a gradual process, and you will transition into it in 7-14 years. 

The mean menopausal age in the United States is 51, with the age bracket between 45 and 55. However, the transition phase, technically termed perimenopause, begins way earlier, at 40-44. There are exceptions where perimenopause can start as early as the 30s or as late as the 50s. 

When you have had no periods for twelve months at a stretch, that means you have entered into menopause. 

Another fact to understand is that menopause won’t be the same for every woman. If you saw your mother struggling through menopause, the same may not apply to you. The symptoms haven’t changed, but the treatment procedures have. True that awareness is still lacking, yet it has become better than what it was in the previous generation. 

In a study that had 27 black women as participants, with a mean age of 54, it was seen that most of them were keen to obtain information on menopause and improve their overall health. 

I was reviewing the results of another study published in the Post Reproductive Health. It was a compilation of an online survey conducted in May 2021, which had 829 women who had reached the postmenopause phase as participants. 

The findings weren’t satisfying, as around 49% mentioned the lack of adequate information about menopause. Approximately 62.7% of women found their experience of menopause as “awful,” as bad as a nightmare. 

When women are made more aware of menopause and presented with proper facts rather than myths, it will help them explore menopause better. 

Importance of Knowing the Symptoms Well 

The study I mentioned in the above section also stated that many women thought hot flashes and night sweats were the only symptoms of menopause. This is true for most of the women. 9 of the 10 female patients I checked had similar notions. This is a myth and should be debunked right away to increase awareness. 

Hot flashes are the commonest, experienced by around 75-80% of women. However, they aren’t the only symptoms. There are a lot of them, more than you can imagine. Let’s take a look at the symptoms of menopause. The list here includes the common and uncommon ones as well. 

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats 
  • Vaginal dryness (affecting around 50% of women, mainly in the postmenopause phase) 
  • Irregular periods (an indicator that menopause has begun; the span between the cycles could be longer or shorter; the flow could vary from heavy to light; you could even go without periods for some months) 
  • Weight gain (about 20% of women gain about 10 pounds of weight while transitioning into menopause) 
  • Sleep issues (affecting 39-47% of women in perimenopause and 35-60% of women in postmenopause)
  • Stress, mood swings, anxiety ( four of ten women have menopausal mood swings) 
  • Reduced metabolism 
  • Sore breasts or changes in size (changes in breast size are experienced in around 20% of women in postmenopause) 
  • Dry, itchy, and saggy skin (affects nearly 50% of females during and after menopause) 
  • Hair thinning and hair loss (observed in more than 50% of women who have crossed 50) 
  • Weakened bones and bone loss (about 10% of bone mass is lost in the initial five years after menopause( 
  • Digestive disorders (leading to bloating, irregular bowel movements, and gassiness) 
  • Brain fog (affecting around 40-66% of females in menopause) 



If I were to mention some of the symptoms you couldn’t even imagine existed, then here are some of them. 

  • Burning mouth and tongue 
  • Pin-and-needle sensation
  • Loss of sensation
  • Burning hands and feet 
  • Brittle nails 
  • Body odor changes 
  • Electric shock sensations 
  • Changes in hearing 
  • Dental problems 
  • Dizziness
  • Joint pains 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Irregular heartbeats 
  • Allergic reactions
  • Increased fatigue 

So, knowing and understanding the symptoms of menopause will help you manage them effectively. 

Tips to Instill Self-Discovery In Women During Menopause 

When a woman can embrace menopause with a positive mindset in a better way, it will make things a lot easier for her and the people around her. Here are some tips that you may follow: 

  • Self-care is of immense importance during menopause. You can say that it is the key to sailing through menopause smoothly and effectively. You should make a conscious effort to eat healthy. Go green by including plenty of veggies and fresh fruits. Also, include whole grains, high proteins, and healthy fats. Simultaneously, you must also avoid trigger foods like caffeinated beverages, alcohol, salty foods, and spicy foods, as they could make your hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms worse. 
  • Exercising regularly is another vital aspect to keep in mind. You could do anything from walking daily for around 20-30 minutes to intense running or jogging. Other exercises that would keep you healthy in menopause include swimming, dancing, etc. Activities like mowing your lawn and climbing stairs are good cardios and also help to strengthen your muscles. Besides the hardcore cardio, relaxation techniques would also help you release stress and manage other menopausal symptoms. 
  • What’s more important is to keep yourself rejuvenated and happy. Do anything that gives you pleasure. It could be exploring a new hobby, trying a skill, hiking with friends, etc. Above all, practice gratitude. Look at the good things in life and try to appreciate them. It will help to develop positive vibes, preparing you for any challenge. 

Common Misconceptions About Menopause 

If I were to discuss the misconceptions about menopause, there would be no end to it. Yet, I would like to discuss some common ones I often encounter. 

  • You Can Delay Menopause -  I have had many patients come to me and ask how to delay menopause. My answer is that you cannot delay menopause. Still, by practicing healthy living, you can minimize the triggers that could cause menopause to set in early. Women also ask if birth control pills can help delay menopause. The answer is a NO. The combination pills containing estrogen and progesterone may mask the symptoms but cannot delay menopause. 
  1. Menopause Is About Hot Flashes - As mentioned, hot flashes are one of the common symptoms, but not the only one. There are a lot many on the list. 
  1. Menopause Means Weight Gain - The hormones might lead to additional pounds, mainly in the abdominal area. But that isn’t the only reason. There is age-related muscle loss also. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to say that menopause isn't rocket science. When you are aware of it and the associated symptoms, it makes things easier. It is always important to talk about your woes rather than suppressing them. This will make things better.

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