By: Rebecca Meyer

Ladies, this post is for you. Let’s talk about menopause. There, I said it. Menopause, menopause, menopause. This natural process in a woman’s life is not often spoken about.  Because of this, there is a lot of confusion about what is happening to a woman when she is going through this stage of her life. I have seen several clients who are entering this time in their life and feel confused and unsure of where to begin getting answers and support. One client reported that menopause feels like a “big dark secret”, frustrated with all the secrecy and lack of knowledge of what to expect.  Some have reported that their doctors have explained the physical symptoms they may be feeling, but do not share the possible psychological symptoms that are often very present during menopause. It is my hope that this post will shed some light on menopause in order to help normalize some of the experiences that you may be encountering. I would also like women to feel more connected and grounded in the experiences that come with this life stage. First, let’s define what menopause is. Next, let’s discuss common symptoms that women experience both physically and emotionally during this time. Finally, I want to leave you with steps on how to become educated, empowered, and supported while you traverse this significant phase of your life.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her reproductive abilities come to an end and her menstruation has ceased for 12 months consecutively. This happens to women most commonly in their 40s and 50s.  The period in a woman’s life that leads up to this event is perimenopause, meaning “around menopause”. Perimenopause can last anywhere from two to ten years in a woman’s life.  This menopause transition can begin as early as a woman in her 30s, and some as late as their 50s.  It is important to know that as your body enters this phase, your fertility is declining – but it is still possible to become pregnant. Perimenopause is the time when your hormones are fluctuating. The decreasing levels of estrogen can create physiological symptoms that many women notably struggle with.

Signs and Symptoms

“I was laughing, but before I knew it, I was crying”. “I felt an extreme anger coursing through my body”, “I don’t know what’s happening with my emotions, they feel out of control”. When I hear these things from my female clients of a certain age I often wonder whether they may be experiencing perimenopause. Mood swings are common during this transitionary period. Due to hormones in the body fluctuating, many feel like they can not regulate their emotions. Some women also feel like they have brain fog and trouble concentrating.  This can feel scary and make many women hesitate to report these symptoms due to the stigma surrounding mental health. Physical symptoms of perimenopause include night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, thinning hair, and sleep disturbance. What I want you to know is that although it may be scary to feel these symptoms, there are steps you can take to feel more empowered as you navigate this time in your life.

Action Steps

  1. Begin to track your symptoms. It is helpful to create a journal to log the patterns you notice. Since we are all different, we can experience a variety of symptoms or we may not experience any at all. A few clients have felt it helpful to track their sleep disturbances and when they are having their periods. During this time, it feels better to have more information.
  2. Speak to your gynecologist. Share with them ALL the symptoms you are experiencing that feel out of the norm for you. It is especially empowering to go to your doctor with the journal you recorded the patterns you noticed. You can ask your doctor to check and see if you are in perimenopause. They will do a blood test to check your hormone levels. Depending on what birth control you take, your doctor may ask you to stop using birth control in order to get more accurate results.
  3. Talk about menopause. Share what you are going through with a therapist, and/or trusted loved ones.  This period of a woman’s life can feel isolating and uncertain, so it is important to feel supported and understood. As women, we will all go through the cessation of our fertility at some point.  Although it is a fact of life, this chapter end can feel like a significant loss. Do not traverse this time alone; if you are struggling during this time, reach out to a therapist. I, for one, would love to walk with you on this journey.

References

Menopause basics. Menopause basics | Office on Women’s Health. (2021, February 22). Retrieved May 5, 2022, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics

Perimenopause: Rocky road to Menopause. Harvard Health. (2020, April 14). Retrieved May 5, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/perimenopause-rocky-road-to-menopause

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