Half of the population has experienced, is experiencing, or will experience peri/menopause, yet menopause continues to be shrouded in confusion, shadows, and myths. It’s not just men who are underinformed, but women, too, and many medical professionals who should know more.
If you’re an underinformed woman, it’s not your fault. Menopause is not part of the conversation and each one of us is left on our own to learn about it. It’s no wonder so many myths persist.
Today I’m going to share six myths about menopause I commonly hear in my practice, Tula Wellness, and why they’re wrong.
Myth 1: “Menopause is the stage of life after your period stops.”
Reality: Technically, no. It’s officially menopause after twelve months without menstruating, and after that, you’re post-menopausal. Menopause also does not mean the transition from menstruating to not menstruating, which is the way the word is used in common speech; that is actually perimenopause, the stage that precedes menopause.
Myth 2: “You’re too young to be perimenopausal in your forties. Menopause symptoms start in your fifties.”
Reality: Perimenopause begins several years before menopause, and is common in women in their 40s. It’s not uncommon for it to start in the mid-30s or, occasionally, even earlier. Many women are already in full swing of perimenopause in their 40s without realizing it, unaware that their experiences of decreased libido, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse are symptoms of perimenopause.
Myth 3: “Gynecologists are trained and prepared to discuss menopause and sexual health with patients.”
Reality: If only! Conventional education in gynecology mostly focuses on reproductive health of women and is severely lacking in training around peri/menopause, not just the medical aspects, but the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of a woman’s journey in midlife, too.
Myth 4: “Decreasing estrogen is the main cause of peri/menopausal symptoms.”
Reality: It’s actually low progesterone, another sex hormone, that’s the main culprit here. Inconsistent ovulation leads to erratic cycles which leads to lowered progesterone. Lower levels of progesterone are responsible for increased PMS, anxiety, insomnia, and irritability.
Myth 5: “Taking estrogen during perimenopause/early menopause will increase my risk of breast cancer.”
Reality: Women who take hormone replacement therapy within 10 years of menopause and who are under 60 are at the lowest risk of developing breast cancer, according to The North American Menopause Society. The safest time to take it is during perimenopause and for the shortest amount of time possible, between 5-8 years.
Myth 6: “Menopause is the beginning of the end.”
Reality: Menopause is not the beginning of the end, it’s simply the beginning of a new stage of life. I’d argue it’s the most powerful and transformative stage of life, when many women finally come into their own.
Learning the Truth About Menopause
There are many more myths about menopause to dispel, and much more to learn about what women go through in midlife. You can read more about it in my book, The Menopause Myth, which is everything you wish you’d been told about menopause. Check it out.