A natural biological event experienced by all cisgender women, menopause frequently elicits feelings of concern and confusion from those who have yet to begin this part of life. That's largely because societal norms and pop culture stigmas prevent women from openly discussing their menopausal journeys with their friends and relatives — or even with their daughters.
While sitting your preteen daughter down to chat about puberty feels completely acceptable and expected, having a conversation with her about menopause and what she can anticipate when she experiences it proves a less-common occurrence. Part of this divergence happens because of age differences; your pre-pubescent daughter is far off from being getting to know menopause firsthand, after all. You may not feel there's a need to discuss it with her until she’s an adult. However, this line of thinking is partly what contributes to the persisting reality that menopause is an undertaking many women maneuver silently, and on their own.
However, having more information about our own bodies always proves valuable. So, we’re suggesting a few pieces of menopause-related intel that deserve to be shared now with younger generations — regardless of how close they are to experiencing menopause themselves.
TV and movies would have us believe that menopausal symptoms start occurring for all women sometime around their 50th birthdays. However, the time period during which the onset of menopause can begin is, in actuality, far broader. While WebMD states that the typical age for an American woman to start menopause is 51, many women begin this experience during the 10 years before or after this average. Some women- about 1% of the U.S. female population, according to The National Library of Medicine- begin menopause before age 40, which can occur as a result of family history, lifestyle choices (for example, smokers have a greater likelihood of premature menopause), and certain medication regimens or past surgical procedures.
Symptoms of menopause vary from woman to woman, but a few common examples include sleep disruptions, sudden rises in body temperature (popularly known as “hot flashes”), mood alterations, vaginal dryness, and irregular periods during the perimenopause period. If these effects become disruptive, medical options like hormone therapy and prescription pills and patches do exist and can alleviate symptoms. Consult your doctor for guidance on these possibilities. Aside from medication, lifestyle-related changes can also lessen menopause symptoms, such as quitting smoking, incorporating over-the-counter lubricants into your sex life, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Paying attention to vitamin intake should happen throughout our lives, but in the years directly before and after the onset of menopause, our bones need extra fortification. Vitamin supplements like Vitamin K and Vitamin D can help provide necessary bone support, as can adding more calcium to our diets.
UCLA psychiatrist and anxiety expert Dr. Jason Eric Schiffman told Healthy Women that there’s an undeniable link between the hormone changes present during menopause and an increase in stress and anxiety. However, there are multiple ways to mitigate this issue and keep you level both mentally and physically, like staying hydrated, eating regularly to keep blood sugar levels in check, reducing caffeine consumption, focusing on deep breathing, journaling, participating in soothing physical activities like long walks or yoga, and consulting with a therapist.
The key lesson to communicate to the younger generation about menopause is a simple one: shame and secrecy aren’t at all necessary when it comes to this event. The media and pop culture promote the idea that a woman’s worth is connected to her youth (even celebrities like Charlize Theron aren’t immune to this harmful perception), but that’s a misogynistic and patriarchal perspective that has no place in today’s society. If you’re a cis woman, you will experience menopause at some point in your life, and if we can speak openly and candidly about the realities of this time, we’ll help raise an enlightened, grounded, and prepared future generation of women.