Menopause is a biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. While it’s a natural and normal stage of life, it’s also one that’s surrounded by numerous misconceptions.
“Menopause is often shrouded in myths, stereotypes and misinformation, which can lead to confusion, and unnecessary anxiety for women who are approaching this life transition,” said Dr. Kira Halak, a board-certified naturopathic doctor. “It’s important to get the facts straight about this life stage for women, and through awareness, preparation and helpful solutions, we can feel more empowered to thrive during menopause.”
Halak shares some of the most common menopause misconceptions and provides accurate information to help dispel these myths and empower women to better understand and navigate this important stage of life.
Misconception: Menopause means constant hot flashes
Facts: Yes, hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause, affecting approximately 85% of menopausal women. However, this doesn’t mean you have to suffer through regular discomfort. By making simple lifestyle adjustments, you can turn down the heat before it creeps up on you.
First, it’s important to avoid triggers such as smoking, wearing tight and restrictive clothing, using heavy blankets on your bed, and excessive stress. Next, adjusting some everyday habits can help prevent hot flashes altogether, including: establish a calming or de-stress routine (especially before bedtime), exercise during the day, dress in layers to more easily remove or add clothing based on your body temperature, use a bedside fan, turn the thermostat down, and maintain a healthy weight. A symptoms journal can also help you narrow down your hot flash triggers and determine which lifestyle adjustments help the most.
Misconception: Menopause doesn’t happen until your 50s
Facts: “This is one of the biggest myths I hear,” Halak says. “The truth is menopause symptoms can start occurring as early as a woman’s mid-30s, so being more aware about symptoms can better equip women to seek out helpful solutions.”
There are several stages of the menopause transition. Perimenopause happens first, when periods start to become irregular and initial symptoms start to appear. Menopause is officially marked by the absence of menstruation for 12 months. After this point a woman is considered to be in post-menopause, which marks the end of reproductive years.
When you understand what’s happening and why, you have a far better opportunity to manage your health in the way that you choose. You’ll also be better equipped to talk to your health care provider from a position of knowledge and power, further helping him or her focus on addressing your concerns.
Misconception: You need to take hormones to manage your symptoms
Facts: Hormone replacement therapy and prescription medication are options women can use to deal with menopause symptoms, but they are not the only options available. Alternatively, a healthy diet made up of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high quality lean proteins, along with stress relief techniques and certain dietary supplements, can be extremely helpful in alleviating menopause symptoms.
When it comes to supplements, the key is to look for products with ingredients that are backed by science. For example, there are numerous clinical trials supporting the safety and efficacy of rhapontic rhubarb extract to address menopause symptoms.
Misconception: Exercise doesn’t help menopause symptoms
Facts: Exercise has an overall positive impact on your physical and mental well-being, and many women find that yoga, in particular, can help alleviate menopause symptoms, likely due to its capacity to lower stress, encourage a healthy lifestyle, foster a happy outlook, help regulate sleep and lower blood pressure.
Several studies have found practicing yoga consistently offers benefits that go beyond the mat. Regular practice may provide relief for several symptoms and has an overall positive effect on both the mind and body. There are different styles of yoga for every fitness level, making it an excellent choice for beginners.
Misconception: Menopause is the same for most women
Facts: There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to menopause and symptoms women experience will vary. Many women assume they will experience all of the worst symptoms of menopause, but many women can sail smoothly through this phase of their lives, and it’s important to know there are a wide range of options available to help women thrive through this journey.
Menopause is just another life stage just like experiencing puberty or adolescence — you can cope with the changes leading up to it and enter this new chapter confidently. You may find that you’ll try a few different options until you find what works best for you, and you may find that sometimes you need to seek the help of others to get you through. Getting together with your closest friends for some much needed bonding, or joining a support group online or in your community, can be great mood boosters and sources of support as you navigate through this journey.
“There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding menopause that can be confusing,” said Halak. “But knowledge is power, and by seeking out accurate information and support, women can navigate the menopausal journey with greater confidence and ease, empowering themselves to lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. The more that women talk openly and educate themselves, the more we can shift the mindset from women suffering with menopause — or avoiding their symptoms altogether — to women thriving with menopause.”