Menopause. You're either dreading it or welcoming it, depending on how you look at it. On one hand, you're terrified of those hot flashes and night sweats you saw your mother suffer from. On the other hand, you're looking forward to tossing out the birth control and the tampons.
But what you think you know about "the change" could be quite off from the truth. In fact, people have been getting things wrong on the topic for years. In the 1950s, they suggested radiation and mild sedatives to help women cope with the side effects of "the menopause" (yep, that's what they called it). And there are proponents on both sides of the great, never-ending HRT debate.
Here are some of the biggest menopause myths, debunked.
Menopause happens overnight.
No, we're not talking about night sweats. Menopause is a transition. According to the National Institutes of Health, menopause is defined as having gone for 12 whole months without getting your period. It starts with the ovaries stopping production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. It's that change in hormones that brings on a slew of the side effects experienced by many women, including changes in mood, changes in sleeping patterns, and vaginal dryness.
Menopause hits at 50.
If you're dreading the big 5-0 because you think Mother Nature will gift you with menopause, think again. There's no one magic number. It's true the average age of a woman having her last period is 51, but it varies from woman to woman. Some women can experience menopause in their 40s while others don't experience it until their late 50s. Don't forget, perimenopause, the time before you have your last period but still experience menopause symptoms, can last for four to five years. But if you're wondering when it'll happen for you, look to your mother. Experts say genetics are the best indicator. You'll likely go through the changes around the same age as your mother did.
There are, however, many other factors involved. Smoking and chemotherapy can lower the age of onset. Certain ethnic groups like blacks and hispanics typically also reach menopause a bit sooner than whites.
Your sex life is over once you hit menopause.
It's true the hormonal changes that result from menopause may lower your sex drive and make arousal more difficult. But some postmenopausal women actually report having a greater sex drive, which can be chalked up to a more relaxed approach to sex, with less fear of becoming pregnant. Also, with the kids out of the house, some women report less stress -- leading to greater intimacy with their partner.
There are ways to deal with the side effects of menopause, which effect your sex life, including vaginal dryness. Hormone replacement therapies may work, but results are unproven, but using vaginal moisturizers and lubricants can help also.
In fact, a survey of over 46,000 women between ages 50 and 79 found that over half had been sexually active in the past year, and of those, over three-quarters said they were satisfied with their sex lives.
Menopause symptoms are all physical.
Yes, when you think of menopause, you think of a woman of a certain age fanning herself and sweating buckets, while everyone shivers around her. But menopause symptoms are more than skin deep. With a changing body, stress, aging, and sexual changes, your hormonal changes can cause "the menopause blues." See, it's not all in your head.
According to the North American Menopause Society, menopause can effect your mood due to hormonal changes, and also because you might not be sleeping as well at night. If you have a history of depression, you might be more susceptible to depressive symptoms during menopause. Make sure you don't suffer in silence. Talk to you doctor about changes in your mood and also make sure to adopt healthy lifestyle choices like a balanced diet and exercise to help.