"Is it hot in here?" Yes, I have heard that from a lot of my friends, and it's not the temperature. It's a hot flash! I have found that most women don't want to admit it, but we all know it's a sign of menopause. Every woman goes through it, and it can be no fun. I talked to Samantha Sinclair, MD, from The Christ Hospital Physicians - Obstetrics & Gynecology, to help clarify some things about changes that go on in a women's body during this stage of life.
Are there more signs of menopause than just hot flashes?
We all hear about hot flashes being the major sign that you are going through menopause, but according to Dr. Sinclair, you can experience quite a few different symptoms like night sweats, hair loss, mood changes, weight gain and decreasing libido. She also says, "Menopause is defined as no menstrual periods for 12 months. The average age of menopause is 51.4 years. However, there is a perimenopausal transition that generally lasts years as a woman's ovarian reserve begins to wane."
What are things that contribute to early menopause?
I have a friend who had a hysterectomy at the age of 36. She told me that it didn't seem like long after that she started experiencing what she felt were signs of menopause. Dr. Sinclair explains, "Early or premature menopause is defined as ovarian insufficiency occurring in a woman who is less than 40 years old. This can be caused by surgery (if the ovaries are removed), chemotherapy, genetic abnormalities (like Fragile X premutation) or even autoimmune disorders."
What are some unexpected things women can experience during menopause?
Women talk about some aspects of menopause, like night sweats and hot flashes, but those seem to be the only thing commonly discussed. Dr. Sinclair says you can also experience depression and anxiety, and she says the menopause transition is something that's not widely talked about. She went on to say, "Many women feel alone as they begin to experience changes in their moods and memory."
Menopause belly…is that a thing?
According to Dr. Sinclair, yes, it is! Ugh! She told me this: "As a woman transitions into menopause, her body will experience changes in metabolism, increase in fat mass and decrease in lean muscle mass. A menopausal woman will also tend to gain weight in an "apple" distribution rather than the "pear" distribution she may have had premenopausal." The bad news is, she says it's going to take work to get rid of it. "Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to preventing this, but staying active and living a healthy lifestyle can absolutely help you achieve your desired results."
Cooling the hot flashes!
I have heard not only from my friends, but also older female family members, that hot flashes are the biggest problem with menopause. So, what can you do about it? Dr. Sinclair tells me there is hope. There are treatments like hormone replacement therapy, but the big thing is to simply dress in layers so you can peel a layer off if need be, and have a fan close by. I know of a bunch of women who have to sleep with a fan, and they tell me it helps so much. But she also says if hot flashes are impacting your quality of life, you need to talk to your doctor.
Getting through menopause can be tough! I have heard so many different stories from the women I know. Everyone wants to know how to get through it and how to feel better. Dr. Sinclair warned me that while menopause might be a normal part of a women's life, it may not always be easy. She recommends talking to a healthcare provider to understand what you are going through and to help find you the best options for treatments. Also, try to understand your body and what is YOUR normal.
Need help managing menopause symptoms? Find a women's health expert near your or schedule an appointment online.