Busting menopause myths

Usually experienced between the ages of 45 and 60, in simple terms, menopause is defined as the time when a woman has her last period. While there is little that can prepare for this stage of life, being informed may help women to keep calm and carry on through any adverse symptoms – and to avoid unnecessary worry over unhelpful myths.

For many women, the menopause is equally a cause of celebration (no more periods!) and a time of physical turmoil as the body adjusts to new hormonal levels. Symptoms will vary from mild discomfort or manageable (yet annoying) mood swings to debilitating hot flushes, sleep disturbances and depression.

Menopause is only diagnosed in retrospect 12 months after the last period occurred – until then, a woman is said to be in perimenopause as her body goes through this process. Signs of perimenopause are irregular periods, hot flashes, sleep disturbances and mood swings, all of which can be attributed to changing levels of estrogen.

What symptoms can I expect with menopause?

  • Hot flashes: a sudden feeling of heat that spreads from the centre of the body and flushes the face and neck red
  • Night sweats: similar to hot flashes, women may find themselves waking in the night due to excess inner heat
  • Muscle and joint pains: unexplained bodily pain, similar to that experienced after a hard workout
  • Vaginal issues: Lower estrogen levels may make the vaginal walls thinner and dryer, causing pain during intercourse and/ or discharge
  • Urinary issues: Women may need to pee more frequently than usual
  • Psychological changes: Menopausal women may experience mood swings, forgetfulness and indecisiveness

Myth 1: There’s no reason to see a doctor

There are in fact many reasons to see a doctor during the menopause. Some women suffer greatly from depression and anxiety during this time, due in part to the hormonal changes but also by the fact that they are moving into a more mature stage in their life. For some women, this causes a drop in self esteem, which can lead to feeling down in the dumps. There is no shame in seeking help for these symptoms.

Myth 2: Hot flashes are just life now

They don’t have to be. Aside from managing these symptoms by dressing in layers, having cold drinks handy and moving to cooler spaces, you can also see a doctor about the possibility of menopausal hormone therapy. This therapy replaces the hormones previously created by the uterus, easing the occurrence of hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms. It can also reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis after menopause.

Myth 3: Your sex life is over

While some women experience vaginal dryness or a lack of desire during or after this time, there are still many good years left for enjoying sex. Vaginal dryness can be overcome with lubricants, and many women find their sexual desire returns once the fluctuating hormone levels have settled down. Keeping on top of self esteem through work and exercise, or trying meditation or yoga to help keep the mind calm, may also help to boost your libido over this time.

Myth 4: Your body is bye bye

Muscle mass does decrease at this time of your life, making it important to keep up strength training exercises. This can also help to protect you against brittle bones from osteoporosis. However, despite these changes, your menopausal body is still yours to enjoy as you please. Help reduce health issues and weight gain, if this is a problem, by eating more vegetables and healthy fats, limiting alcohol and caffeine and reducing sugar and processed food. But even if your body looks different from how it did in your youth, it’s important to remember the power it still wields – be kind to yourself!

Who can I see regarding menopausal symptoms?

Dr Geeta Singh
Obstetrician, Gynaecologist​
Dr. Angela Beard​
Obstetrician, Gynaecologist, Fertility Specialist
Dr. Greg Phillipson
Gynaecologist, Fertility Specialist
Dr Pip Shirley
Obstetrician, Gynaecologist​