Menopause; the time of a woman’s life when she stops having a monthly menstrual cycle. For many women, this is a good time of life, when the worries about becoming pregnant, disappear and those messy, painful days of the month become history.
While many people, men included, think that menopause is like the stopping and starting of a car, it’s anything but. Menopause happens gradually, for many women symptoms begin in their mid to late 40’s and continue for 10 years.
If your mother or grandmother didn’t clue you in on what to expect, we want to clear things up by talking about the top 10 things about menopause that most people never hear.
Men – this article is for you as well! What happens to a woman during this time can affect your relationship. It can help you understand why your partner is acting differently during this time of her life.
- It Hits You Like a Truck
Sometimes, this is one of the best ways to tell that a symptom you are feeling is simply menopause and not something else. Although menopause will sneak up on you at first, with a twice a month night sweat or a 2 minute hot flash, once you are really into the change of life, most symptoms feel like you were hit by a truck. One friend describes headaches that literally feel as if someone hit her in the back of a head with a baseball bat. Hot flashes literally feel as if someone is pouring extremely hot water over your head, and you can literally feel fine one minute and completely wiped out the next minute. If a symptom hits you hard and fast, you can almost guarantee your body dropped a hormone somewhere.
- You Will Hate Everyone
We aren’t kidding. There will be times where you simply hate everyone for no reason. Yes, even your kids and loving husband will suddenly feel intrusive and all you can think about are ways to avoid everyone. If you find yourself looking at pictures of deserted islands or tree houses and thinking “I could live there”, you know that menopause has a serious grip on you.
The good news is that this passes. You should take each feeling as they come and do your best to deal with them in a way that makes you feel better. These feelings are temporary, although they might not see, that way.
- Your Heart Feels Like It’s Doing the Macarena
Almost all women will experience some type of heart palpations before, during, or after menopause. They can be scary, but for most women, they last only about 2 or 3 minutes. If they last longer than 5 minutes, or if you feel short of breath or have pain in your arm, back, or chest, see a doctor. Even if the duration is short, you might want to double check with your doctor that all you are feeling is your heart doing the menopause flip flop, thereby ruling out other heart problems.
- Your Skin Feels Like Tree Bark
This doesn’t happen to all women, but many will tell you that their skin suddenly becomes dry and flaky during menopause. Think of this as a time to upgrade your moisturizer! The face moisturizer (and body moisturizer) you have used for the past 10 or more years might not be enough for you now. Look for words like “oil based” or “for mature skin” on your facial moisturizers, or consult with your dermatologist.
- Hot Flashes are NOT over in a Flash
Hot flashes will hit you from the waist up and they can be so intense that you literally have to change your clothes. They won’t magically end with your period, either. Hot flashes and night sweats generally start in your mid to late 40’s and continue through your 50’s. Yes, 10 years of hot flashes are perfectly normal. So think cool and think layers!
- Every day is a Bad Hair Day
Hair loss, hair breakage, or thinning hair is a normal symptom of menopause. Due to the wild fluctuations in hormones, your hair can become super dry and brittle. This would be a good time to think natural. Forget about curling irons, straightening irons, and chemical perms or relaxers. These will only make things worse. Use lots of conditioning treatments and gentle shampoos to help keep your locks beautiful and avoid further damage.
- Your Sleep Patterns Go Completely Haywire
You will find that your sleep patterns become crazy, which can make you feel crazy. You might wake up every night at 3AM unable to sleep, fall asleep in the middle of the day, then go to bed at midnight because you can’t sleep. Other people say that although they are sleeping 8 hours at night, they simply cannot function without a nap in the afternoon.
Many, many women complain of insomnia. Night sweats wake you up and keep you up. Don’t rely on sleeping pills, however, as these only make things worse. Try some chamomile tea or warm milk. If all else fails, take up a new (quiet, indoor) hobby!
- You Will Cry and Be Angry for No Reason
Our hormones have a lot to do with our feelings, so is it any surprise that a fluctuation in hormones means crazy feelings? Almost all women report feeling sad and crying for no reason at all, while others say that they feel angry all the time, but don’t know why. Still, other women will tell you that they start off crying, then screaming, before wondering what the heck they were so upset about. Be prepared for those wild feelings and don’t feel badly about it. Feelings happen. These crazy emotions will also pass.
- Your Sex Drive Will Be Different
Sex usually becomes a case of feast or famine. Women seem to go to extremes in this area. Some women end up pushing away their husbands, don’t want him anywhere near them because they are going through hot flash heaven, and never give sex a second thought.
On the other hand, many women report that they become sex crazy, feeling desire like they haven’t enjoyed since their 20’s.
There are lots of women in between these two extremes, so no matter where you fall, it’s probably normal. If you are concerned, however, about your sex life, or lack of it, please talk to your OBGYN.
- You Are Not Everyone Else
It seems as if there are almost as many different menopause symptoms as there are women in the world. What happens to one woman may not happen to another. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to menopause, only that your periods will stop. This list talks about the most common experiences, but if these aren’t happening to you, thank your lucky stars! Chances are that you will simply experience something else, and that’s OK.
We should add that some women go through menopause with very few “side effects”. This, too, is also considered normal. There is one thing that is true of all women; they are strong and resilient. You can get through this. Really, you can!