Just as our bodies become fertile as we grow older, women will eventually become less fertile over time, which leads towards the menopause. The menopause can be a difficult time for women both physically and emotionally, as it is a large and sometimes sudden transition. The menopause can affect women in many different ways. What’s more, there are plenty of myths out there regarding the menopause which can prove harmful. Take a look below for 30 interesting and curious facts about menopause.
1. Women may start experiencing menopause at different ages. For some women, it may occur during their 40s, while others may not start to experience it until they are in their late 50s. However, there have been cases where women have been able to conceive into their 60s, though this is known to be very rare. On average, the age for menopause to start tends to be around 50 to 51.
2. Menopause is defined generally by a slowing down of ovarian production. It can lead to a decrease of progesterone and oestrogen in your body. It is generally seen as a transition from fertility into non fertility as women get older. This will also mean that women can stop experiencing periods.
3. This transition can be uncomfortable for many women. It may result in some side effects such as vaginal inflammation and dryness. It may also make sexual intercourse painful for many women.
4. Before medicine evolved fully to understand the process of menopause, doctors would previously treat women with cannabis and herbal remedies. Things have certainly moved on since the 18th century, to say the very least!
5. Common symptoms associated with the menopause can include weight gain and hot flashing. However, different women will experience this transition in different ways. Hot flashes are generally seen to be the most common symptom of menopause, with it largely affecting three out of four women.
6. Hot flashes are feelings of extreme heat and blotchiness of the skin. This will generally affect the upper portion of the body and may even make you feel dizzy or tired. Flashes can occur without warning and may happen multiple times a day. There is no general consensus over how long hot flashes persist for over time, as some women will continue to experience them for months.
7. Is there such thing as a male menopause? Not in any literal sense, though researchers believe that a phenomenon referred to as the andropause may affect men who are experiencing lower levels of testosterone and androgen as they approach their 50s. Schools of thought on this phenomenon posit that symptoms exhibited by men during this time may relate to the ageing process rather than any kind of menopausal variant.
8. The menopause is, on the whole, thought to be related to genetics. However, there are a few factors regarding lifestyle and environment which may bring on the transition sooner. For example, heavy substance abuse may adversely affect ovaries. Even regular smoking may help to bring menopause on earlier than expected.
9. There is a period of time before the menopause called the perimenopause. This is where your hormone production will start to slow down, and when most women will start to experience some of the most common symptoms associated with the transition. It is likely that many women experiencing what they believe to be the menopause itself are actually in a perimenopausal state, or transition.
10. It’s actually recommended that sexually active women continue to use contraception for up to a year after they last experienced a period. However, this will largely apply to women over 50 years old, and who are therefore more likely to be perimenopausal. If under the age of 50, women will likely benefit from taking contraceptives for up to two years after their last period.
11. It should also be noted that women should continue to practice safe sex with new partners – in the form of using condoms – even during and after the menopause, for the simple fact that they will still be at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.
12. Thank goodness for modern medicine and ideals – long before we understood more about our bodies and gender differences, some medical schools of thought believed that women going through the menopause were approaching what was referred to as the ‘male ideal’ – in that they eventually ‘lose their femininity’. Thankfully, we live in more enlightened times.
13. Natural relief methods for the menopause have, thankfully, improved hugely since the dark ages, too. It seems that people used to prescribe leeches to women who were entering the menopause – and without going into any gory details, you may well be able to guess where on the body they were applied!
14. It was also once thought that women would be able to ‘sweat’ out the menopause – in the sense that they were encouraged to perspire more to find relief. Considering many women already find hot flashes uncomfortable enough, it’s hard to understand why this was ever considered a worthwhile option!
15. It’s a common myth that the menopause will never require any kind of medical treatment or intervention. In fact, some women will need support from doctors and nurses depending on their individual experiences. For example, those women who experience the menopause early – such as those who enter transition before the age of 50 – may need additional care. There are some medications, such as those prescribed for epilepsy and high blood pressure, which may be able to help relieve symptoms and strains.
16. Menopause, and the perimenopause, can affect the quality of your sleep. Medical professionals will generally advise that women experiencing insomnia at this time make sure to take regular exercise, and to limit their alcohol consumption. Living as healthy a life as possible, generally, can help in this regard.
17. Many women who experience the menopause will find that their moods may swing and change over time. This is in line with hormonal imbalance, which can be readily treated. In some cases, women may need to approach a medical professional for advice regarding direct hormone treatments. Alternatively, they may find that regular counselling is just as important if they are starting to feel stressed or anxious.
18. Stress is perhaps more common during menopause than many people imagine. This can sometimes be called brain fog, at least colloquially. Physical changes and emotional responses to menopause can build up and cause additional stress. It is therefore often encouraged by medical professionals that women find ways to keep their minds active and happy.
19. Many people see the menopause as the start of a new stage in their lives. While many women will find the process upsetting and even frightening, it is a natural stage in their lives, and hormonal changes, on the whole, shouldn’t impact on life expectancy.
20. A common myth is that, after menopause, your body will stop producing hormones altogether. While the body will slow down in its production of oestrogen, this doesn’t mean it will stop altogether. What will occur is that when the ovaries stop producing the hormone, the adrenal glands will take up the role instead.
21. Weight gain is a common problem that many women going through menopause may face. It is thought that, on average, women are likely to gain around five pounds after transition. However, this will vary from person to person, lifestyle to lifestyle, and also environmental factors. However, women are encouraged to try and adopt healthier habits and to keep active. It’s thought that changes in metabolism, and an increase in hunger, may offset this issue.
22. In some cases, women may experience memory loss. This can be a common symptom of the menopause and may often relate to the ‘brain fog’ phenomenon mentioned above.
23. Perimenopause can start at various points in life and may actually start occurring up to eight years before the menopause actually takes place. Over this time, fertility will start to decrease, meaning that it is not always as sudden as many people believe.
24. It’s thought that it is now perfectly possible to conceive after the menopause. However, this will normally be a procedure through which a woman accepts donor eggs, similar to IVF. This is not a procedure which is taken lightly, however, as a woman in question may be at high risk of miscarriage. It’s a process which must always be undertaken carefully with a medical professional.
25. There are a few triggers for hot flashes which women will likely want to avoid. Believe it or not, caffeine can help to bring on flashes more so than normal, and alcohol is also considered a major trigger. Medical professionals will generally advise to avoid liquid stimulants as much as possible during this time.
26. While menopause is thought to be genetic to some extent, this does not mean that women in the same family will experience the same time frames for symptoms, nor will they even experience the same symptoms at all. All bodies are different, which is why it is always important to discuss your own experiences with a medical professional if you feel you need to. It is a myth that all women go through the exact same process, though there are symptoms which run common across the transition.
27. It’s thought that many women may experience an increase in libido during the menopause. In fact, there are some statistics which show that STIs among people over 50 are on the rise. Therefore, it is always important to continue being as safe as possible if you are sexually active even during the menopause.
28. In olden times, many doctors would diagnose menopause in women as a result of ‘hysteria’, or even ‘kleptomania’. Shockingly, some menopausal women were even institutionalised, long before we developed a clearer understanding of what the process actually entailed. Again, we thankfully live in a day and age where such knee-jerk reactions are no longer commonplace.
29. The menopause may not be a subject that many people like to talk about openly, but it has appeared in a variety of literature over the years. In particular, To The Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway author Virginia Woolf was fascinated by the process. It was actually depicted through metaphor in Mrs Dalloway, where Woolf depicted wilting flowers. At the time of publication, society was still of the belief that menopause was an ‘end to femininity’, reflected in the sadness of Woolf’s writings.
30. A study from a few decades ago found that Japanese women actually reported fewer symptoms during menopause than those from other nations elsewhere in the world. Exact reasons for this aren’t clearly known, but it’s assumed that their diet – often containing lots of soy – may have helped to lessen symptoms and difficulties.