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 Menopausal Facts: What will I experience?

by Barbara C. Phillips, NP

The topic of menopause is everywhere today. It's in the magazines, on television, in books, in display ads on busses, and even has been made into a musical. With all this exposure, menopause continues to be shroud in mystery. How can that be? The simple explanation is that it's still an unknown in terms of "what will I experience?"

That simple, single question has no simple, single answer. A woman's reaction to perimenopause and menopause is multi-factorial meaning that there are many factors that will influence her reaction. These range from her state of health, nutritional status, level of fitness, and any unhealthy habits such as smoking, drugging or excessive alcohol use.

Another very important factor includes attitude and culture. We now know our thought processes have a major impact not only on our reaction to menopause, but our entire state of health and well being.

Listed here are some facts and common experiences of menopause. As you go through the list of symptoms, keep in mind that each woman's experience is unique. It will vary both with the symptoms experienced as well their intensity. Fact: Women "normally" go through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 with the average age being 51.

Fact: Peri-menopause (that period of time before menopause) can start as early as age 35 and last a few months to a few years. You really cannot predict how long it will last.

Fact: Menopause is defined retrospectively or after the fact. You are menopausal after you have not had a period for 12 months (assuming there is no other cause for this).

While many women will report some degree of the following symptoms, many women report no such symptoms at all. (Note: this list is not inclusive.)

--A change in cycles. You may find that the time between your periods, as well as the degree of flow, changes from month to month.

--Abnormal bleeding or "spotting" is not uncommon. However if you experience this after you have stopped bleeding for 12 months (in a row), it's called post menopausal bleeding and can be a sign up uterine cancer. See your health care provider.

--Hot Flashes/Hot Flushes/Power Surges. It has many names, but the result is the get warm/hot and flushed in the neck, face and chest. Some of us feel this over the entire body and even experience chills at the same time.

--Night sweats and sleeping problems. Again, not uncommon. It can cause you to feeling tired, stressed and tense.

--Vaginal Changes. The tissues of the vagina may become dry and thin. You may find sexual intercourse or a vaginal exam to be painful.

--Mood changes. This may include mood swings, depression, and irritability.

--Urinary problems. Some women experience leaking (when sneezing, coughing, laughing) or a heightened sense of urgency ("have to go RIGHT now").

--Problems with concentration or memory. Some women call it fuzzy thinking, brain-pause, holes in the brain, etc. Rest passes!

--Diminished libido. This means less interest in sex. Then again, some women tell me they actually have a heightened libido...again, individual responses.

--A thicker waist. The body redistributes body fat to the waist. You may see this even though you don't gain a pound.

--Weight gain is generally a result of a slowing metabolism. We may or may not have changed our eating habits and probably don't exercise as much. Think "calories in - calories out".

--Hair thinning and loss. This occurs both on your head and in the pubic region.

While all these potentially negative sounding changes can happen, it's worth noting again, that they do not occur universally. Indeed, many women report some wonderful things happening at this time of their lives such as freedom to once again (or for the first time) be themselves. They now have a heightened sense of creativity, more confidence and find themselves experiencing more piece of mind than at any other time of their lives.

So what can you do about all of this? Well...that's a topic for another time. For now, realize that the time of menopause is something you pass through - just like you passed through puberty. The rest of your life is waiting on the other side!

About the Author, Barbara Phillips

2005, Barbara C. Phillips, NP is the founder of OlderWiserWomen(tm) where women are inspired to embrace the freedom, magic and wisdom of Successful Aging. Visit for your copy of "Celebrating You: 50 Tips for Vibrant Living".

FreeWebSubmission Jayde Online, Inc. Copyright 2005, All Rights Reserved.

Having hot flashes?  Are your moods like a rollercoaster ride?  These could be signs of menopause.  Did you know that menopause effects both males and females.  Make sure you check out your health resources to understand and recognize the symptoms. 


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