Being a woman isn’t easy. Our bodies go through tremendous changes throughout our entire lives. Many of those changes, from menstruation to pregnancy to menopause, have been tainted with negative misconceptions.
It’s easy enough to see why an innocent 12-year-old may believe that a girl can’t get pregnant during her period, or how a naïve 16-year-old could believe that a woman can’t get pregnant if she only “does it” once. But we hope that by our mid-40s we won’t be so easily fooled and are better able to separate fact from fiction.
Yet, misconceptions persist.
The best defense to ignorance and fear is education. So, as we pass into the “change of life,” it’s better to be prepared than it is to be scared.
What Is Menopause?
As women age past child-bearing years, they’ll experience a normal condition called menopause. Simply put, menopause occurs when a woman’s ovaries no longer release an egg every month and menstruation ceases to occur. It is a perfectly normal part of aging and generally takes place after the age of 40.
There are three stages to watch for:
- Perimenopause: When the ovaries gradually begin producing less estrogen, a woman is considered perimenopausal. Typical symptoms of perimenopause include worsening PMS, irregular periods, mood swings, and trouble sleeping. The average length of perimenopause is between four and ten years.
- Menopause: If a woman has not menstruated in a year, she is in menopause. Typical symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep difficulties, and irritability. This phase can last anywhere from ten months to four years.
- Postmenopause: At this point in a woman’s life, the inconvenient and uncomfortable menopausal symptoms begin to gradually decrease. The chances for conceiving and becoming pregnant now are nearly non-existent. Many women experience increased energy at this point in their lives.
Falsehoods & Myths About Menopause
Where do these falsehoods and myths about menopause come from? Sometimes from our own mothers or grandmothers who themselves were misinformed. Other times, simple lack of available educational resources. And we all know that the Internet can sometimes be a hotbed of outright lies and untruths. That’s why it’s so important to equip yourself with the truth so you can make critical decisions about your health and your body as you enter and pass through these phases.
Myth #1: “Your Body Stops Producing Hormones After Menopause.”
False. Hormones travel throughout our body all our lives, keeping complex processes in balance, such as growth, metabolism, and fertility. Although the ovaries stop producing estrogen during menopause, they continue to produce testosterone, which is converted into estrogen in body fat. And while the amount of estrogen production decreases, that actual amount varies from person to person.
Myth #2: “Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Dangerous.”
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is only dangerous when synthetic hormones are used, and the treatment itself is not properly managed by a medical professional. In fact, on-going research shows the positive impact of HRT, including relief from menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, and bone loss. In countries such as Australia and Japan, and throughout Europe, HRT is more widely used than in the US, with no increase in complications compared to the general population.
Myth #3: “Using Hormone Replacement Therapy Will Give Me Breast Cancer.”
A study done by The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) indicated that women who used oral conjugated estrogens (synthetic hormones) were at a higher risk for developing breast cancer. But a ten-year study of women on a regimen of hormone pellet therapy (bioidentical HRT using pellet implants) found that only 1 in 967 patients in the study developed breast cancer. The incidence of breast cancer for all women is 1 in 9.
Myth #4: “Menopausal Women Need the Lowest Amount of Hormones for the Shortest Possible Time.”
This advice is only applicable if a menopausal woman is prescribed synthetic hormones. It is a fact that women require healthy physiologic levels at every age and stage of their lives. For example, for women who experience menopause early (between ages 40-45) or prematurely (before age 40), HRT is prescribed not only to manage symptoms, but to replace the lost endocrine function of the ovaries.
Myth #5: “All Women in Menopause Get Hot Flashes and Night Sweats.”
This is simply not true. Symptoms of perimenopause and menopause vary from woman to woman and can include worsening PMS, irregular periods, mood swings, trouble sleeping, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep difficulties, and irritability. However, many women don’t experience any of these symptoms, or if they do, they are so light as to be barely noticeable.
Myth #6: “You Are Automatically in Menopause When Your Menstrual Periods Suddenly Stop.”
False. For four to ten years prior to menopause, women will experience perimenopause. This phase is characterized by worsening PMS, irregular periods, mood swings, and trouble sleeping. Menopause then occurs when a woman’s ovaries no longer release an egg every month and menstruation ceases to occur.
Myth #7: “Menopause Is Something That All Women Should Fear.”
False. It’s unfortunate that in our culture, there is so much false, fear-inducing information when it comes to menopause. Menopause is simply a phase of life women pass through, not unlike menstruation, pregnancy, and perimenopause. Some women feel wonderful during menopause, enjoying many freedoms that they didn’t experience when they were younger. And while other women may suffer with perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms, there are effective solutions available to offer them relief.
Don’t Let Menopausal Misconceptions Keep You From Seeking Treatment
Menopause can be the beginning of an exciting and wonderful new phase in a woman’s life. There’s simply no reason for any woman to suffer from menopausal symptoms when there are so many healthy and effective solutions for relief.
As medical specialists at Balance Hormone Center, we can provide you with treatments that can help you make the most of this phase of your life. Call 480-718-9960 or schedule your appointment online today.