Many previously taboo subjects — like menopause — are more openly talked about today. But instead of discussing the real experience of menopause, it’s often used as a punchline — like jokes about hot flashes. Myths about this stage of a woman’s life abound, making it hard to sort fact from fiction.
Here are some popular menopause myths best laid to rest — even if there’s a grain of truth to some of them.
Myth #1: Hot flashes and mood swings are the only symptoms
Many other symptoms are experienced during perimenopause and menopause. Though easy to dismiss as unrelated, each of the following are common menopause symptoms. (Thankfully, most of them are temporary.)
Fatigue — Sleeplessness and night sweats, due to your body’s decline in estrogen, may add to your overall feeling of tiredness.
Brain fog — If you’re having trouble remembering things or concentrating during the day, you’re not going crazy, and it’s not necessarily just a sign of aging.
Weight gain — While some weight gain may be due to the fact that your metabolism is slowing down, it can also be due in part to hormonal changes your body is going through.
Thinning hair and dryer skin — It’s not your imagination. Changes in your estrogen levels can affect the look and feel of your skin and hair.
Myth #2: It’s all about the hot flashes
Popular belief is that every woman experiences hot flashes. While it’s true that hot flashes are experienced by about 75% of women, not everyone has them — and not all at the same point during the menopause journey. And they’re not exactly a laughing matter, as anyone who has experienced them knows. Hot flashes at night also cause night sweats, which can be seriously disruptive to your sleep.
Myth #3: Your experience will be just like your mom’s
Your experience of menopause may be completely different from your mother’s, your sister’s — or anyone else’s. While it’s helpful to compare notes and learn from other women, don’t expect your symptoms to be identical — and there’s nothing wrong with you if they’re not.
Myth #4: One day you just stop menstruating
The truth is, perimenopause can last years, with a variety of symptoms as your body changes. Your menstrual cycle may become less regular gradually or change drastically, but it is a process rather than a specific date on the calendar. If you haven’t been menstruating for months and you experience bleeding, however, see your doctor to make certain it’s just a normal part of your menopause journey.
Myth #5: There’s nothing you can do about mood swings
It’s easy to believe that your hormones dictate your wild mood swings from irritability and anger to anxiety or weepiness, and that it’s just a part of what happens as your estrogen levels decline. If you do experience unpredictable mood swings, you’re not alone — nearly 1 in 4 women in perimenopause have experienced them, but there are steps you can take:
Amp up self-care: Take time to de-stress and pursue activities that help you feel better.
Boost your health: Catch up on wellness exams, focus on nutrition and get more exercise.
Myth #6: Decline in your sex life is inevitable
Many assume that with menopause comes less interest in and enjoyment of sex. While it is true some women experience a decreased libido, along with vaginal dryness that can make intercourse uncomfortable, it does not mean your sex life is over. You can improve how you feel with vaginal lubes, which leave sensitive vaginal skin feeling soothed and comfortable.
For any symptoms causing concern, it’s always best to talk to your doctor.