Starting early, we’re often fed mistruths about menopause that we take through our lives and share with others. No-one actively means to spread myths, in fact, many of us try to help others by passing on what little we’ve been told! Well, we’re here to bust open the long-standing menopause myths and get to the truth about “going through the change”.
Myth #1: I’m suffering symptoms in silence & there’s nothing I can do; I just have to tough it out
Menopause is a three-stage journey that typically lasts 8-10 years, which is an awfully long time to ‘grin and bear it’ if you’re struggling with symptoms! Thankfully, there are lots of options to help you cope physically, emotionally & mentally with a shortlist below.
- Self-education – learning more about menopause can help you understand what you’re going through and provide tips on how to manage symptoms. Check out these resources to start your self-education journey.
- Mind-body techniques – Menopause can be a stressful time for many women. Not understanding symptoms & feeling isolated can feed into a vicious cycle of worry, which can unfortunately exacerbate symptoms. There is no time like the present to start employing mindfulness tactics into your day-to-day. This could be in the form of breathing techniques (eg. box breaths), meditation (Calm offers free videos) or just generally allowing for downtime.
- Healthy lifestyle choices – We know that eating a balanced diet & moving more impacts our physical health, but its effects on mental health are lesser known. Eating nutritious food, drinking enough water and engaging in regular exercise are great ways to boost our general wellbeing and lower stress levels, both of which help tremendously during menopause.
- Healthcare professional guidance – Doctors, pharmacists, naturopaths and other healthcare professionals are well-versed in how to help women through menopause. They can provide tips from other women they see, and can also intervene with medications and other therapies when appropriate. If you don’t have a go-to practitioner, search for one you feel comfortable discussing your health needs with so can have open conversations about your journey through menopause.
- Medications & therapies – There are a host of general and complementary medicines to help relieve the symptoms of menopause, from hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) to plant-derived options like Estrovera. Speak with a qualified health professional to ensure medications are right for you.
- External support – Support from your social circle (friends, siblings, coworkers, etc) can help you feel less alone during this time, providing a boost to your morale. You may also find they have tips because they or someone close to them has had a similar experience. Reach out to your network or a social service such as Lifeline if you need additional support during this time.
Myth #2: I will experience menopause the same way mum and other women in my family have
Every woman’s journey through menopause is different. We often anecdotally hear that women go through “the change” at a similar age to that of their mother or experience similar symptoms. Research shows that if your mother or other close relatives experienced early or late menopause, you have a higher propensity to experience this too, as menopause is a highly heritable condition1.
Research also shows vast differences in how each woman experiences menopause, with roughly 20% of women experiencing no symptoms at all, and a further 20% experiencing symptoms that impact their functioning and daily life2. The remaining 60% will experience some level of symptoms, likely in milder expressions2.
Myth #3: Menopause is for “old ladies”. I don’t need to worry about it until I’m older
With changes in perceptions of what constitutes “old”, there is a misconception that menopause affects “old ladies” and people in their 40s or 50s needn’t concern themselves.
Perimenopause is the first stage of menopause, where your body starts to transition, and typically starts between 45 & 50 years old. Early-onset menopause can occur for many reasons including hereditary predisposition (i.e. your mother went through menopause early), surgical intervention (such as hysterectomy or oophorectomy) or when undergoing health treatments (such as chemotherapy).
When women reach their mid-40s and are confronted with typical symptoms (that are not as well-known as hot flushes) such as fatigue, muscle or joint aches, brain fog or irritability, these are often brushed off as being caused by the busy life they’re leading. Oftentimes, women do not discover they’re in perimenopause until discussing these symptoms with a healthcare professional or talking with their friends & family who have had a menopausal diagnosis.
Myth #4: I know menopause – it’s hot flushes & women becoming cranky & emotional
Menopause is complex and can manifest in a unique way for each & every woman. There are a range of symptoms other than hot flushes & mood swings commonly experienced through menopause. These include sleep issues, low libido, muscle aches & pains, fatigue, vaginal dryness and night sweats, along with other symptoms that are less common such as feeling faint, having itchy skin or needing to urinate more frequently. The Green Climacteric Scale, which is the tool most widely used by healthcare professionals for scoring menopause symptoms, identifies more than 20 symptoms that may be experienced during menopause3. We’ve outlined these symptoms in our ‘Own Your Conversation’ guide to help you kickstart a conversation with your trusted healthcare professional.
Myth #5: Perimenopause is just the trendy new term for menopause…
You may be hearing more about perimenopause these days, as the stigma surrounding menopause conversations begins to dissipate. This may have left you wondering, “what the heck is perimenopause?”. Menopause occurs in three stages, with perimenopause being the first stage and the one where you’re most likely to experience menopause symptoms. The second and third stages are menopause, and postmenopause. There has been a rise in perimenopausal conversations as this is the ‘intro to menopause’ phase, popularised in mainstream media by Mamamia, who created a “Very Peri” Perimenopause Resource Centre.
If you’re experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, you can use our Menopause Diary to track them to help provide your healthcare professional with data on your menopause journey. You may also find Estrovera helpful, as it provides support to perimenopausal women and relieves common symptoms you may be experiencing.