The Menopause Expert - Rebecca Hulem

Help! I Think I’m in Menopause. Aren’t I Too Young?

By: Rebecca Hulem 


With all the talk in the news lately about menopause; Menopause Awareness month, and World Menopause Day, my daughter’s friends are frantically calling me wondering if the physical changes they’re experiencing could mean they’re in menopause too. Keep in mind my daughter and her friends are in their late thirties, early forties and the average age for perimenopause/menopause is late forties, early fifties.

So are these young women totally off base for wondering if menopause could be happening to them too?  Not at all, and I applaud them for paying attention and having the courage to “check it out” with a reputable source. Chances are the physical symptoms they’re experiencing are probably normal physical changes expected at their age that precede menopause; compounded by a hectic lifestyle and stress. But unless you check it out, the imagination will go wild, and we’ve all experienced how that feels.


Common Physical Changes that Occur Prior to “The Change”

There are many physical changes that occur naturally as a woman completes her 30th decade and moves into her forties. They are:

  • Changes in menstrual periods –shorter cycles, skipped periods, heavier than usual bleeding and cramping
  • Mood swings, irritability
  • Disruption in sleep patterns

All these changes are normal and are caused by a decrease in ovulation, which also causes a decrease in hormone production. We expect ovulation cycles to decline in our late thirties/early forties. This is just the way our bodies are programmed.  When ovulation declines the hormone most responsible for the changes discussed above is progesterone. Progesterone regulates menstrual periods, balances our moods and puts us to sleep at night. Estrogen, which declines at menopause, regulates body temperature, and is responsible for the dreaded hot flashes everyone has heard about.

Tips for coping with the physical changes that occur prior to menopause

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms there are many things you can do to cope with these changes. Here are some suggestions:

Menstrual changes – Talk to your doctor. There are many ways to manage cramping and increased bleeding. You don’t have to suffer

Mood swings/irritability – Regular aerobic exercise 4-5 times a week will ease moodiness. Vitamin B-6, 50-100mg daily reduces irritability by calming the nervous system. This is particularly important for women who suffer from PMS. A healthy diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, plant based proteins, high fiber and low fat is essential for overall health but also important in reducing mood swings, anxiety and irritability. Practicing yoga and meditation calm the mind, clear the mind, and reduce the stress response in the body.

Regulating sleep patterns – sleep is vital to a healthy body, mind and spirit. Studies have shown that people who skimp on sleep are prone to more accidents, poor work performance, relationship difficulties, weight gain and difficulty losing weight. To improve sleep patterns caused from fluctuating hormones try the following: turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep.  Have a cup of chamomile tea; it helps to relax the body and mind. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Avoid watching the news before going to sleep. Good sleep hygiene, as the sleep experts call it, will help prepare you to sleep better when menopause finally arrives.

Menopause Facts

Menopause that occurs naturally brings its own set of physical symptoms. The most common symptoms are: hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleep disturbances, decreased libido and vaginal dryness. These symptoms usually come on gradually over a period of 2 to 10 years starting in the mid to late forties. Most women will complete the menopause transition by the age of 53. However, every woman is different. Some women will be done earlier and some later. When you have gone one full year with no menstrual period or menstrual spotting then you are considered to have completed the menopause transition.

How to Prepare for Menopause

The best way to prepare for menopause is to gather as much information as you can about what to expect before, during and after this major life transition. Ask questions, and talk to other women who have gone through it. What was their experience? How did they cope with the symptoms? Most of us had the “first” talk about puberty from our mothers, which helped us to feel somewhat prepared for all the changes our bodies would be going through. But until recently there was no one we could rely on to have the “second” talk. Now Poise, the maker of products for light bladder leakage and more recently products to ease hot flashes during menopause, is providing the “second” talk at their website www.the2ndtalk.com. Check it out and get involved with the conversations going on. Even if your body is not quite there yet you’ll be there eventually, I guarantee it.

Strategies for Managing Menopause Symptoms

Managing menopause symptoms can be divided into three categories.

Healthy lifestyle choices –  This is a must: regular exercise, healthy diet, stress reduction practices: i.e. yoga, meditation

Manage individual symptoms with OTC products: Herbs, vitamins, soy isoflavones, hot flash cooling wipes (Poise)

Hormone therapy – discuss benefits/risks with your doctor. Not every woman will need hormones

If you are in your late thirties, early forties this is the time to start gathering information about what to expect when menopause shows up in your life. This way you will be fully prepared when physical changes occur. And instead of responding “oh no what do I do”?, you can calmly say: “ah, I’ve been expecting you”.

 
 
 
 
 
    
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