Let’s talk menopause. Yes, that topic we all avoid because, let’s face it, we think, I have plenty of time! I don’t need to worry about that right now. But this topic is more relevant to young women than we realize.
For most women, symptoms of menopause begin to appear around age 50 but in some cases, can start as early as your 20s or 30s. Think about the women in your life who are just starting or have already gone through menopause. Have you spoken to them about it or dared to educate yourself? The effects of menopause are all around us, whether we choose to see them or not.
Most women understand that they will reach an age where their period will end, but menopause has many more potential symptoms than that—rapid weight gain, insomnia, fatigue, hot flashes, forgetfulness, hair loss, vaginal dryness, anxiety, depression, and irritability, to name the most common. These changes to the body can affect both personal and work life and can be scary, simply because we don’t have a good understanding of menopause and what it will bring.
Menopause is yet another topic women are expected to keep quiet about. Any mention of the word is an open confession to the truth that we’re getting older. Society will tell us that old age is associated with a lesser standard of beauty and value—especially for women.
In a 2013 survey, Allure Magazine asked 2,000 men and women nationwide questions about aging, plastic surgery, and their own feelings concerning the issue. For example, participants were asked what they associated with gray hair. While women with gray hair were more associated with being “old,” men with gray hair were called “distinguished.” In another question, 84 percent of the men and 91 percent of the women admitted that women face more pressure to look young.
No matter what beauty standards involve, the reality is, everyone ages. These stigmas hurt both the young and the old and feed into women’s avoidance of topics like menopause and preparing for it.
In an article for the Daily Mail, journalist Hilary Freeman asks the question, “Should we be preparing for the menopause at 30?” Discussing the topic with two women’s health experts, she comes to the conclusion, “Many of the problems we encounter during this change in our bodies can be avoided if we start preparing for it in our 30s. We may not be able to prevent the menopause, but we can certainly ease our way through it.”
Here are four ways to consider preparing for menopause now, so you can have an easier transition later:
1. Get Your Hormone Levels Tested
Women’s health resource, EmpowHER suggest that young women look into getting blood work to find out the baseline readings for their hormone levels, including estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid. Knowing what your levels are at the peak of your health can help identify changes in your body as you get older. EmpowHER also reminds you to ask for a copy of the lab results to keep for your own records.
2. Begin To Learn About Menopause
With research not starting until the 1960s, there is still much that experts and women have yet to learn about menopause. Challenge yourself to learn something you didn’t know before. Start simple. Look up the definition of menopause, then the symptoms, the stages, options for treatment, helpful resources (blogs, books, podcasts), factors affecting those of your ethnicity, and new research. The topic may seem overwhelming, but the knowledge you gain will leave you feeling more informed and prepared to take positive action. Here are a few resources to start with:
- Recording of “Straight Talk On Menopause” from NPR’s Tell Me More
- Ellen Dolgen’s website on all things menopause
- North American Menopause Society
- A lighthearted read on the troubles of menopause: Grumpy Old Menopause (2013)
3.Talk To The Older Women In Your Life
An NPR article notes that with second-wave feminists—leaders of the 1960s sexual revolution—now entering their later years, we have women who have paved the way for more awareness, encouraging us to “research, question, and press for answers.”
However, because talking about menopause is still considered “taboo,” it may feel awkward at first, and the women you ask may feel caught off guard or defensive. Explain to them why you want to learn more and that you are genuinely interested in their thoughts. Ask them if they have started or gone through menopause and what their experience has been and what they wish they had known earlier. One woman’s positive or negative experience can offer insight for the next generation.
4. Practice A Healthy Lifestyle
This last one may seem obvious, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle makes for an easier transition into your later years. Experts across the board will tell you diet, exercise, and stress levels all impact menopause and, when kept in check, can decrease or even erase your symptoms. EmpowHER offers other great information, pointing out that women’s natural drop in estrogen makes them more prone to osteoporosis, and sites like Everyday Health share foods and vitamins for the optimal Menopause diet. Learning to live a healthy life now will help women continue to nourish and care for their bodies when the menopausal symptoms begin to kick in.
Let’s all say it together: Menopause! It is a natural process that the female body goes through. We should not fear it, and avoiding the topic does not make it go away. The more we know, the more we can love our bodies and support the women around us as we go through this change.