Menopause: What’s a woman (and the person she lives with) to do?

Menopause time creeps up on people and few can decipher what symptoms are physiological or psychological. What they do know is something is very different.

For so many women and the men they live with, Menopause is a complex time of transition. This is not true for everyone, but it is for most. Suddenly they are unpredictably crabby, depressed, on edge, hot, cold, needy or simply different. Spouses and significant others who have comfortably settled into a solid night’s sleep with their partner, now are awakened with covers on, covers off, blankets and sweaters strewn around a bed or even a home or office. Previously hot-blooded partners may find that sex is the last thing in the word that interests them. And if you don’t know what’s happening, feeling of rejection can easily set in.

Menopause is not a disease. For women, it’s a normal life transition and the more she (and her partner) knows about what is happening in her body, the easier this transition can be. Very simply, knowledge is power.

By definition:

Menopause is the period in a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing egg cells and begin to make smaller amounts of the two main female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Eventually, this results in the end of menstrual periods. Women who have their ovaries removed by surgery (oophorectomy) or whose ovaries stop functioning for other reasons also go through menopause, although not as gradually.

Lowered hormone levels cause the symptoms that are often associated with menopause – hot flashes, dryness and thinning of vaginal tissues, and mood swings. Low estrogen levels also increase a woman’s risk of other health problems, such as osteoporosis.

Consider what it would feel like to go through a drug withdrawal and its resulting symptoms. That’s what menopause is like.

The big question is what does one do to make this transition easier rather than more difficult? The latest studies on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), an often-considered approach, appear to indicate that susceptibility to certain types of cancer is and remains higher for those who have had the procedure done. For those not willing to take such a risk, there are also alternative aids that may help. Foods such as yams and Tofu, high in hormones, are known to relieve symptoms in some women. Sometimes alternative compounds, not always the ones purchased over the counter, but prescribed by an alternative health medical practitioner, can help. In some cases, acupuncture has also been shown to help balance chaotic energy. One thing is sure: Exercise keeps those hormones flowing and a healthy diet also helps. A loving and understanding partner is another great asset – so consider this a couple’s challenge.

If you’re a woman approaching or already knee-deep in Menopause, take charge of your life. Get the information you need, talk to professionals and friends and reach out for support and connection. And laugh. Good funny movies get those hormones going. Believe it or not, these old-fashioned remedies still can work wonders.

And most importantly, remember, this is only a change. And with change, new opportunities become available. Sexual desire as you once knew it may ultimately increase or decrease, but physical contact, loving relationships and a sense of community are known to keep people living healthier, happier and longer, no matter your life stage.

Previously Published in 2008