What We Wish Our Mothers Had Told Us about Menopause
Historically speaking, very little has been discussed about the female body. As women, we’ve had to fight to get essential coverage of the menstrual cycle included in sex education in schools. If few women learn what they need to know about the menstrual cycle, how many women have learned what they need to know about menopause?
Why didn’t someone warn us that hot flashes would give us night sweats? How many women experience drastic changes to their sex lives? What can women do to get a good night’s sleep when menopausal insomnia strikes? It’s perfectly normal to feel frustrated about not knowing enough because, as a society, we don’t talk about it enough.
Our founders, Vanessa Ford and Danielle Jacobs, thought long and hard about this before they started MenoLabs. They both expressed a great deal of frustration that they never got the chance to really talk about menopausal symptoms and health with their mothers.
“My mother’s menopause was brought on by a hysterectomy sometime during her thirties. She told me about the procedure, and that it meant she would stop having periods, but that’s the only instance I can remember her talking about it,” says Vanessa in a conversation about her journey in gaining knowledge about menopause.
“My mom shared very little with me growing up. I would have loved for my mom to be more open about the female body. The only things I remember learning about it were from sex-ed classes in middle school, and there was so much more I needed to know and understand,” adds Danielle in discussing her frustrations with the lack of knowledgable resources she had available to her.
Of the many changes that menopause brings, there are some common issues that menopausal women often have the most difficulty confronting.
That Our Bodies Would Revolt Against Us
As a woman, you may have had some idea of what menopausal symptoms we might feel, like the common hot flashes and mood swings. Yet, there is a laundry list of other symptoms that any woman can experience. Fluctuating weight and rapid weight gain is an everyday reality for some women. Others may experience drastic changes to their bone health. Some women may have sudden spikes in blood pressure.
For many women about to enter menopause, this idea of not knowing what kind of symptoms you will experience can be a frightening thought. So how can you go about resolving that uncertainty? Think back to the experiences your mother had. If you can, speak with her about the kind of symptoms she had, the better. Think about your own personal health problems and ask your doctor about how those may impact or be impacted by menopause.
Above all, seek out information from credible sources. Clicking on the first result in a google search may not always be the best source of information. Look for websites with information that has been edited and/or approved by licensed healthcare professionals, like Healthline, or go to accredited research study databases like the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
Both Vanessa and Danielle have taken strides to educate themselves and those around them about menopausal symptoms and how much a woman’s body can change during menopause.
“I was pretty floored when I started getting periods that lasted three weeks,” says Vanessa with a laugh. “I had no idea that was a sign I was starting perimenopause. My mother never went through it, and none of the other women in my family said that they had experienced that.”
That Our Sex Lives Would Change
One of the biggest changes for a woman during menopause is the shift in her sex life. It doesn’t matter if you’re sexually active often or rarely, menopause will have an impact on your sexual health. Your sex drive will lower. You may find it challenging to become aroused. You might experience pain during sex.
Many women in menopause report feeling embarrassed when talking about their sexual discomforts, especially with their sexual partners and their doctors. The inability to become aroused easily is often accompanied by feelings of shame or a lowered sense of self-worth within a relationship. However, these feelings should not prevent you from enjoying your sex life, nor should they make you feel that you are any less of a woman. That is entirely untrue.
You are not undesirable. You deserve to have a healthy and active sex life. Talk to your doctor about the steps you can take to ensure that your sex life remains happy, healthy, and safe.
That Our Relationships Will Change
“One of the things I really wish I had talked about with my mom is that it’s okay to share things,” says Danielle. “It’s okay to share what you’re going through with the people around you, whether it’s your friend, your spouse, your mother, or just with anyone you trust. I didn’t understand the importance of a support network, and I’m not sure my mother had that kind of support network herself.”
Relationships often go through strain and tension in menopause. Whether it's your relationship with your partner/spouse, your children, or your work colleagues, your menopausal journey will impact them just as much as it will impact you.
This may seem like a strange side effect of menopause, but it is one of the most difficult areas to navigate for many women. Human beings need support networks. Having people in our lives who can provide us comfort and support is crucial to our mental health.
Yet, for many women, receiving support from friends and family can be difficult. Mood swings may be seen by others as intentional anger or cruelty. Feeling fatigued at the end of the day may seem like an act to friends who feel neglected. Lowered libido and less sexual activity may create tension between you and your partner.
No matter how your relationships may shift, the important thing to remember is this: They won't understand what you're experiencing unless you talk to them about it.
That It’s Okay To Feel Overwhelmed
It's one thing to feel alone in the fight to manage your menopausal health; it's another thing to feel overwhelmed by it. With the number of changes that your body can go through, how do you find ways to manage feelings of stress and self-doubt?
Having a strong support network can go a long way to help you feel less overwhelmed. Surround yourself with people who can provide you emotional support and resources to help you cope with your symptoms. Family and friends can be a big help, but don't limit your support network to just those circles. Seek out help from other women in menopause. They can give you some additional perspective.
Remember that above all else, it is perfectly okay to feel overwhelmed. What you need to do now is take charge of how you manage those feelings. You are the only one who can implement those changes, so don't be afraid to step up to the task.
That We Can Make Things Easier For Ourselves
“My approach to menopause has been to learn all I can,” says Vanessa. “‘I’ve been very proactive when it comes to sharing my experiences with my husband and, especially my daughter so that in 20 or 30 years time, she won’t feel overwhelmed when she goes through menopause. I’m trying to do what I’ve always done as a parent, which is to lead by example, to encourage her to ask questions, and to help explain these issues to her even if they might seem embarrassing.”
“I’m definitely going to be sharing my experiences with my daughter so that I can ensure that she takes charge of her health in menopause and during her life in general,” adds Danielle.
Whether we may realize it or not, our mothers, grandmothers and their grandmothers before them all had ways to deal with their menopause. They may not have figured it out at first, but they found ways to implement coping mechanisms in their lives. They worked on their relationships. They worked with their doctors to determine what was best for their health.
We can do the same for ourselves. We can make things easier for ourselves as we go through our respective journeys. How? By following the three C's, communication, compassion, and care. Communicate emotions, health concerns, and personal needs to people with whom you have important relationships. Express these topics honestly and listen to what they have to say in return.
Have compassion for your friends, family, colleagues, and for yourself. Negativity and disinterest are the two most harmful elements that can affect a relationship. It's important to be understanding of the people around you and how they may or may not be affected by this transition, too.
Most of all, remember to take care of yourself. The menopausal experience is individual to every woman, which means you may not experience your symptoms the same way another woman will. Take note of what's affecting you the most, make an effort to address those concerns, and be proactive about taking care of your health. Have routine checkups with your doctor, maintain an active lifestyle, and find ways to build your support network.
For the women out there who are going through their menopausal journeys and are feeling overwhelmed, remember that you're not alone. There are millions of other women in the world who go through menopause every year. Talk to your friends about it. Talk to your partners or spouses about it. Talk to your children about it. The best way to eliminate uncertainty is to spread awareness.