There are a number of myths which have sprung up around the menopause. The problem with these is that they further increase the stigmatisation of menopause which is unhelpful for all women.
If you are a woman currently experiencing the menopause then you do not need to be told how difficult this can be but it is possible to remain positive during this time. The menopause is a normal part of life and must be treated as such.
Many of these myths are shared by men as well as women. So if you wonder why your partner appears to be avoiding you or is less affectionate to you then these misconceptions may be to blame.
So what are these myths?
Here is a list of commonly held misconceptions about the menopause and the reality:
Myth 1: The menopause is an illness
Fact 1: Wrong. The menopause is a natural stage in every woman’s life when she goes through a change in reproductive status. It is seen as an end to her reproductive capabilities and is a normal part of the ageing process.
Where this myth may have arisen is in the fact that some women have a harder time during the menopause than others. The menopause is characterised by a series of biological changes which manifest themselves as physical and emotional symptoms.
Some women experience these symptoms to a greater extent than others and seek treatment for them which is why this is viewed as an illness.
Myth 2: Women put on weight during the menopause
Fact 2: Many women do gain weight during the menopause but this is usually for a variety of reasons. These include a sedentary lifestyle and consuming more calories than they expend.
The metabolism does slow down as we age and there is a change in body composition. This means that fat is stored around the abdomen rather than the hips, thighs and buttocks.
But it is possible to avoid putting on weight by following a healthy diet and exercise on a regular basis.
Myth 3: Women are no longer attractive after the menopause
Fact 3: Women may feel less than sexy during the menopause but this is usually due to symptoms such as vaginal dryness and/or incontinence.
The muscles of the vagina become thinner, drier and less elastic as a result which can mean painful sexual intercourse.
But there is treatment for vaginal dryness which will relieve this problem and enable a woman to resume normal relations.
Many women find that their sex life improves after the menopause as they no longer have the worry of menstruation or pregnancy.
Myth 4: Women are mentally unstable during the menopause
Fact 4: There is a stereotype of the crazy, angst-ridden menopausal woman who frightens everyone who approaches her. But the reality is somewhat different.
Whilst it is true that the menopause does cause mood swings these can be controlled and will ease over time. If you have a temperamental nature then you are more likely to experience roller coaster emotions but they are manageable.
Myth 5: The menopause is a sign of old age
Fact 5: Not necessarily. The menopause is a transition from youth to middle age but that is hardly old age. Going through the menopause does not mean that you suddenly become an old woman.
What it does mean is that you are no longer fertile and have reached the end of your childbearing years.
Life expectancy has increased for both men and women over the years which mean that you can expect to live for several decades afterwards.
You can remain fit, healthy and mentally sharp during the post menopause.
This depends upon your outlook and your lifestyle. If you lead a healthy lifestyle, keep mentally alert and interact with others then the menopause and the years following it are likely to be positive ones.
Myth 6: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is unsafe
Fact 6: Many women have used HRT successfully and without any problems.
Whilst it is certainly true that HRT is not suitable for every woman there are others who have found it useful at easing the symptoms of the menopause.
Evidence suggests that there are risks associated with long term use but short term use appears to be fine.
Your GP will determine your suitability for HRT. He/she will look at your medical history and your present state of health before making a decision. He or she will prescribe a suitable and safe form of HRT for you depending upon your symptoms and medical history.
Every woman is different when it comes to the menopause so an individual assessment will be made.
Your GP will discuss the risks as well as the benefits with you.
Myth 7: The menopause always starts at the age of 50
Fact 7: This is incorrect. The age at which you enter the menopause varies from one woman to the next. Some women start the menopause in their mid forties whereas others do not start until they reach their fifties.
If you start the menopause before the age of 40 then this is known as a premature menopause.
The average age of the menopause in the UK is 52.
Myth 8: Women experience memory loss during the menopause
Fact 8: This is incorrect. Women experience mood swings which can cause them to be forgetful as a result. Plus there is the fact that they have other symptoms to deal with not to mention their normal daily lives which can be stressful.
It is easy to become forgetful when stressed.
The memory is not as sharp as you get older which is due to falling oestrogen levels which affect cognitive processing. But it does not mean that you will lose your memory.
There are women who find that their memory becomes poor as they get older but this is a normal part of the ageing process.
Myth 9: Women become depressed during the menopause
Fact 9: There are women who find that they feel depressed or suffer symptoms of depression during the menopause. This is due to a realisation that they are no longer fertile or the thought of growing old.
But this is not classed as clinical depression.
Mood swings and periods of being down in the dumps are common during the menopause but do not automatically mean that you are depressed.
Myth 10: Every woman experiences symptoms during the menopause
Fact 10: Most women experience symptoms during the menopause and the extent of these varies between individuals. Some women have most of the symptoms whereas others only develop a few mild symptoms.
Hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and mood swings are just a few of these symptoms.
But there are a small percentage of women who do not experience any symptoms at all apart from the stopping of their menstrual periods.
- Guide to Menopause
- What is the menopause?
- Female hormones and menopause
- Premature menopause
- Menopause signs
- Menopause symptoms
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Urinary changes
- Vaginal changes
- Weight gain
- Lack of interest in sex
- Aches and pains
- Skin changes
- Emotional changes
- Health risks of the menopause
- Heart disease
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Menopause treatment
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Benefits of hormone replacement therapy
- Risks of hormone replacement therapy
- Alternatives to hormone replacement therapy
- Vaginal lubricants
- Menopause self help
- Nutritional supplements
- Complimentary therapies
- Botanical products
- How to survive the menopause
- Menopause myths
- Menopause FAQs