sperms swimming away from an ovary

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 (Some also say that’s outdated medical advice.)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.

11 thoughts on “The Ovaries Have It”

  1. Great blog! And so true. Other women need to support other women. Just because you have no symptoms and breezed through it all, doesn’t mean everyone women does. Having said that , I also have experienced women blaming their lack of work ethic on menopause.
    We need to talk about it without shame, as it is part of our life cycle. My boys experienced watching me crying at the drop of a hat, for no reason. Rivers of tears. I hope that this experience will help them to give their wives good support during their time.
    As for the leak pads/underwear, why doesn’t our health care provide pelvic floor therapists? Oh right, it spends money, not make money.
    Well said Lisa, and may the hot flashes stop.

  2. Claire Cascone

    You’re right, Lisa, it does need to be talked about, for everyone’s sake. I was the first in my circle of friends to go through it, so no advice to seek from them. As for my sisters, they were like my Mom…things of this nature were taboo topics.
    One important thing I wish is that doctors would prepare female patients at the perimenopause stage. So many of us start to go through symptoms but have no idea what is “wrong” with us. I mean, who even thinks that mood swings, sudden panic attacks, sleep problems, etc., have anything to do with menopause? I surely didn’t, besides, I was wayyy too young (smirking here) to even think of the word menopause, let alone apply it to my daily life. It wasn’t until my husband just happened to see something on tv that had him put two and two together. He went, (no, he RAN) to the library and came home with a stack of books. They were very helpful in putting my mind at ease. Now that I knew what I was dealing with, I could start working on a solution. Long story even longer, I did not take any medication, but I did work on striving for a healthier lifestyle. Ice packs were my best friends, and I admit to suddenly filling that extra large swear jar at great speeds.

    1. You’re so right, Claire. I linked to a story about actress Naomi Watts starting menopause at 36 – I can’t imagine! It’s true that we have to know what we’re dealing with before we can feel better.

  3. I started having hot flashes when I was 33, then had a hysterectomy 37, still had hot flashes…fast forward to 2017 was diagnosed with ovarian cancer..still having hot flashes can’t take anything at all nothing natural or prescribed..and I still suffer with them, and night sweats…I’m happy to suffer through them because it means I am still here!!! My hubby also get hot flashes..so at least he understands what we women go through!!

  4. Pauline Couroux

    I started menopause at 50, my doctor said in a few years things will level off, NOT, I am 77 and still get hot flashes especially in the summer, winter is not so bad.

    Male Doctors are not very sympathetic. Some days I think I will go quite mad, I have tried all the OTC remedies, nothing works.

    I bought a fan you wear around your neck, it helps.

    I feel if this was a male problem more would have been done to manage it.

    Thank for listening, Pauline Couroux.

  5. Thank you for bringing to light what so many of us are managing – and for most of us at the busiest times in our careers where we are meant to be most productive and innovative.

    Knix underwear have become my new best friend. Never leave home without them. Jokingly refer to them as my pee pee panties now. At least those embarrassing situations are now avoided.

    Here’s to hoping that this too shall pass. Sooner than later.

  6. Very interesting subject Lisa and so inspiring.
    I have one comment… hate to be a downer however I had to remove my ovaries and tubes bc I had the gene for cancer, anyways what I’d like to point out is… I still get brutal hot flashes!!!
    So really us women can’t get away with anything lol

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