Let’s talk about menopause. Again. Perhaps forever. You’ll see.
It may only directly affect women but indirectly, it has an impact on everyone. That short-tempered lady in the grocery store might be having a hot flash. And perimenopause – the stage before menopause – comes with brain fog and other delights. These phases are overwhelming to the inner life of a woman. And we’re supposed to endure it but not talk about it.
“In the next few years, the global number of postmenopausal women is expected to surpass one billion.”Nature, How Menopause Reshapes the Brain
Recently, at a potluck in friends’ back yard, a woman mentioned hot flashes. One by one, other women chimed in with their experiences while the men kept their eyes fixed on their plates. Menopause needs to come out into the light of day. Not to make men uncomfortable, but to inspire their empathy.
Every woman you know who is fighting this battle – and it IS a battle – has different advice. A couple of friends are paying out of pocket for hormone pellets that replenish the hormones they’ve lost. They feel amazing now and don’t experience the typical symptoms. Some of us go on HRT – hormone replacement therapy. In my case, I had to stop after five years because of a family history of cancer. (Some also say that’s outdated medical advice.)
Others use herbal supplements but effectiveness varies from woman to woman. I tried one called Promensil which is basically a plant-based hormone from Red Clover. It worked like a charm until my doctor made me stop. Estrogen is estrogen and I’m just not allowed because it’s too risky. Some women can’t take them because of prescription medications they’re on. And some simply suffer through the whole ordeal without seeking any outside help.
Related reading: Naomi Watts went through menopause at age 36.
Science needs to put more attention on menopause relief. We need to lobby the world’s billionaire women to spearhead this effort. Although they don’t waste time blowing up rockets and ruining Twitter, they need to do more for other women. Like opening massive research labs devoted to finding safe ways to ease our symptoms.
Hot Flash Point
In medical terms, a hot flash is called a hot flush. No matter what you call it, it’s unnerving to have your body temp suddenly spike from normal to pizza oven. And it doesn’t care where you are or what you’re doing. I’ve started just telling people what’s going on if they notice I’m drenched in sweat despite being in air conditioning. Not whiny or complaining, just saying, hey, I’m obviously all wet and have resting bitch face due to a hot flash. And then we move on.
It’s my way of trying to make it natural to discuss it. I first wrote about getting hot flashes in 2014. And I’m still getting them! When she was in her mid-80s, my Aunt was STILL getting them. That doesn’t bode well for my future. They’re far less frequent now but they still arrive unannounced and unwelcome.
Here’s what I learned from the article in Nature, quoted above. The uterus accepts that its baby-making days are over. But the ovaries aren’t as easily convinced. They don’t simply shut down and close for business. It’s a two-steps-forward and three-steps-back situation. That’s where fluctuating hormones come into play. Gee, thanks, ovaries.
Imagine my surprise to only now discover that having trouble falling asleep is a common menopause symptom. I should have guessed. But I’ve had so many challenges with sleep that I thought this was just one more. Mood swings are also common during menopause. And there are other issues that some women experience. Like incontinence. And pain during sex or total loss of libido. Again: Shhhhhh.
So, how can you help a woman with menopause? You can’t, unless you’re willing to fan her. Just be empathetic and take her at her word. But we women could also be more honest with those around us and say we’re sorry if we’ve been in a snappy mood. Or we ate the last of the cookies – all four boxes. Or if we peed ourselves. I used to smile at ads for pee-pads and pee-panties. Now I sometimes feel like I’m one big laugh or sneeze away from ordering them in bulk.