Changing How We Talk About "The Change"
Peri/menopause affects every woman, and yet so many of us approach it with shame, fear, misinformation and confusion. For far too long, women have suffered in silence instead of getting the information and support they deserve. The stigma surrounding the topic of menopause needs to be replaced with more open and honest conversation around this transformative time in our lives, for ourselves and future generations.
To shed some light on why women experience so much stress during peri/menopause (which can lead to mood swings, anxiety and depression) and how talking about it really helps, we sat down with Dr. Maggie Ney, licensed board-certified naturopathic doctor and co-director of the Women's Clinic at Akasha.
The conversation around peri/menopause is changing and empowering us all
Dr. Maggie Ney, ND: I've been focused on perimenopause and menopause since 2006, and the conversation really has really changed. In the beginning, I saw a lot of women in tears when they come into the office and they just let it out. Women didn't know what was going on with their bodies. They would come in and they'd be in their mid forties, maybe early fifties, and just not feeling like themselves and not knowing why they were experiencing these symptoms.
That conversation is different now. I would say overall, most of the time, women are coming in and they know what's going on. They might say, “I'm more irritable. I'm not sleeping well. I'm in perimenopause. What can you do to help me?” Basically there’s a lot more knowledge and more empowerment.
A new awareness around peri/menopause is being driven by women, for women
Awareness is not coming from the medical establishment unfortunately. I think it's coming from us — the women. We're spreading the word, we're spreading the message and we're all empowering each other to speak up and talk about it more and learn about it and the tools we use to feel better. We have changed so much with regards to what we know about menopause, perimenopause, hormones and what women are capable of during this time. I think this is such an incredible time when we can really step into our superpower. Thanks to social media, this is also the first generation that can connect with so many other women going through perimenopause and menopause. No matter what your symptoms are, know you're not alone.
Just like peri/menopause symptoms, peri/menopause treatment is unique to every woman
Knowledge and awareness aren't just key for emotional and psychological reasons — it's essential to getting good treatment. A treatment plan begins by getting a really good detailed health history, so I ask about the acute symptoms that are bringing them in. A lot of times people forget what symptoms they are experiencing or might not realize that they are related. For example, they get headaches or wake up every morning with a stuffy nose or are bloated and gassy, but don't think of those as peri/menopause symptoms.
Sleep, stress, diet, movement, hydration, environment and any potential toxicities, medications and supplements being taken, home environment along with any past traumas and things that bring joy — it's important to take note of all of these things. When a doctor gets all of this information and combines the history with the physical exam and the blood work, that’s when they can really pinpoint where treatment needs to start.
Keep talking to our mothers, daughters and friends
A decade or more ago, I was seeing more people get depressed and anxious in midlife, and not knowing why. Today there's a greater appreciation that it's related to midlife and hormonal changes. You may feel alone in your symptoms but you're not. And your symptoms may be different than your friend's symptoms, but everyone is going through this. Everyone has a story. And we need to start sharing it and talking about it, because that normalizes it.
We need to share with our daughters what to expect in midlife, because when I take a family history, I always ask, “How was your mom's or grandmother's experience with perimenopause and menopause?” And no one knows. They're like, “Oh well, that was the time no one talked about stuff like that.” Even my mother didn’t really talk about the menopause with me. I remember her saying she was having some hot flashes, but that was it. We have to change that. We should know, our daughters should know, and we should be prepared.
To hear the entire conversation with Dr. Maggie click here