Menopause: What the Heck Is Wrong With Me?

Any woman between 45 and 55 will tell you, there?s only one thing worse than having your period. And that?s NOT having it.

Because for many of us who came of age in the ?60s and ?70s, the unthinkable is happening. Menopause is upon us. The endless youth we?ve been enjoying ? helped along by our attitudes and modern science — is finally coming to an end.

According to the ancients, there are three stages in a woman?s life: Maiden, Mother and Crone. Menopause marks a woman?s transition from Motherhood to Crone-dom. And how much fun can that be? The upside of being saddled with this far-from-flattering title is supposed to be the gaining of wisdom. Sadly, the most wisdom many of us have gained is to remember to wear cotton nighties, use a fan and keep a spritz bottle of water by the side of the bed. menopause

So for those of you who are feeling confused, afraid or just very hot, allow me to share the wisdom of some actual experts to help make this time go by a little more easily.

Before you are officially menopausal, you will likely be ?perimenopausal.? In a medical sense, this is when the ovaries begin their normal, steady decline as a woman ages, resulting in a decrease in estrogen and progesterone. This phase is often marked by the onset of ?hot flashes,? and may last for years prior to menopause.

Menopause itself occurs when the ovaries stop producing estrogen altogether. It is officially defined as the end of menses ? recognized at the point when a woman goes twelve months without menstruating. Of course, these symptoms can?t be counted on to follow any sort of convenient schedule, and knowing whether one is menopausal, perimenopausal or just insane can be tricky.. Many women have given birth to ?change in life babies,? conceived when they thought they were menopausal and any chance of becoming pregnant were long behind them.

So how can you tell if you?re in menopause? Look for these common symptoms:

  1. Hot flashes: The most famous of all menopause symptoms, hot flashes affect a whopping 75% of menopausal women. ? ? ? So if you?re feeling extra steamy, you?re in good company. For those who haven?t yet ?felt the heat,? a hot flash is essentially what it sounds like ? a sudden sensation of warmth, often partnered with sweating or clamminess for an extra measure of excitement. Some women also experience palpitations, dizziness or lightheadness during a hot flash.
  2. Insomnia: Those not lucky enough to sleep through their hot flashes find themselves sleeping a lot less. Others wake up feeling sweaty or clammy.
  3. Vaginal dryness: Bought on by lack of estrogen and dryness and thinning of the vaginal walls, this may result in irritation and problems with lubrication. ? ? ? There are over the counter remedies available to help with the lubrication problem.
  4. Stress incontinence: Estrogen also affects the bladder, and a drop in estrogen can result in stress incontinence. Bladder may also leave postmenopausal women prone to bladder (UTI = urinary tract infections) infections. According to the AMA, a daily glass of cranberry juice can help with this.

The bad news is, none of this is a whole lot of fun. The good news? It?s normal?and there are plenty of ways to cope with menopause.