Menopause can be intimidating. Your body changes in many (kinda scary, mostly unwanted) ways, and it’s certainly no walk in the park. The truth is hard enough, but the myths circulating around menopause are enough to cause sky-high anxiety, so let’s get to the truth about what actually happens during menopause.
Here are 7 common myths about menopause, and the way these things actually go down:
1. Weight Gain is Inevitable
Menopause itself doesn’t cause weight gain, but I won’t lie and say that weight loss is a breeze during menopause – or at any age, for that matter! Hormone fluctuations during menopause cause your metabolism to slow, making it tough to keep the pounds off. Tough doesn’t mean impossible, though. Choosing a balanced diet, paying close attention to portions, and staying active are all important steps you can take to maintain a healthy weight during “the change,” regardless of your hormones.
2. Menopause Happens at Age 50
On average, menopause begins around age 52, but every woman is different; your transition may begin anywhere between your 30’s to your 60’s. In addition, menopause isn’t something that just “happens.” It’s a process that can stretch out over years, so don’t assume that once you hit 50 you’re post-menopausal. You can experience hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, and more for years before you’re actually “in menopause,” and for years after. Remember that everyone’s body works in different ways.
3. One Day, Your Period Will Just Disappear
Menopause is technically defined as the absence of menstruation for 12 months. But before that, hormonal swings leading up to menopause can cause your period to be all over the place. Cycles might be irregularly close together, far apart, lighter, heavier, or spotty before they’re actually gone. There’s no way to tell how long that irregularity will last, but once the changes in your ovary function reach a point where you are not menstruating for 12 months, you can call yourself “post-menopausal.”
4. You Know It’s Real When You Get a Hot Flash
Hot flashes are common symptoms of menopause, but they aren’t necessarily the only ones or the first symptom of menopause. You might experience sleep issues, fatigue, anxiety, irregular periods, irritability, mood swings, fuzzy thinking, and more before you experience a hot flash. That being said, not having hot flashes doesn’t mean your menopause isn’t real and getting hot flashes doesn’t mean it’s all over.
5. You’ll Never Want to Have Sex
This myth is easy to believe because a drop in estrogen production combined with moodiness means you’re totally uninterested in sex, right? Not quite. While your estrogen levels do drop, this drop has been found to have far less of an impact on sexual desire than once thought. Oftentimes a low sex drive after menopause can be attributed to moodiness, depression and physical changes that can make sex uncomfortable. The good news is that both of these side effects are treatable. Moreover, if you’ve never had problems with low sex drive, you’re much less likely to develop problems out of the blue after menopause.
6. Your Body Stops Producing Reproductive Hormones
It’s true that your ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone than they did before, however, hormone production isn’t just cut off! Your ovaries still produce some estrogen, as do your fat cells. Estrogen and progesterone are still important for bodily functions other than reproducing, so your body never stops making them.
7. Menopause Makes Your Bones Weak
Low estrogen levels are related to lower bone mass, but you are in more control of your bone health than you might think! If you’re nearing menopause, you’ve already hit peak bone mass, but you can prevent excess loss of bone mass and the development of osteoporosis by consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D (Cal-EZ can help with that) and exercising regularly.