It’s hard not to worry about menopause, even if you don’t want to. Night sweats, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, physical changes—they don’t sound like fun.
But some anxiety about menopause may come from the many myths and misconceptions about this time of life. The antidote? Information. So we asked two MultiCare experts—Laura Sporl, MD, and Moritz Bartels, MD—to share some of the menopause misconceptions they hear from women.
Myth: Menopause means a woman is old.
“The average age of menopause is 51,” says Dr. Bartels, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the Women’s Health and Wellness Center at MultiCare Gig Harbor Medical Park. “Given the current life expectancy—it’s around 80 years—women still live a large portion of their lives after menopause.”
Myth: Libido changes at menopause.
At midlife, women may be stressed from jobs, raising teenagers and helping elderly relatives. It’s the demands of everyday life that are often at the root of sexual problems, says Dr. Sporl, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the MultiCare Women’s Center, Northshore Clinic.
But hormonal changes at menopause can cause physical changes that can affect your sex life. A good, honest, open discussion with your doctor can reveal some solutions, such as using lubricants for vaginal dryness or hormones to help with night sweats, according to Dr. Sporl.
Myth: Since menopause is natural and normal, no extra precautions are needed.
“Menopause is a normal occurrence and should be considered as such,” Dr. Bartels says. “However, osteoporosis and other conditions are more likely to happen during or after menopause.”
Although these health concerns exist, talking to their health care providers can help women protect themselves during these years.
Myth: Hormone therapy (HT) is bad.
“Yes and no,” Dr. Bartels says. “HT is associated with a minimally increased risk of stroke and breast cancer; however, the study that describes this has some fl aws. Generally HT is still suggested for hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and prevention of osteoporosis—as long as women use the lowest dose for the shortest period of time.”
Myth: Menopause causes weight gain.
Wrong, says Dr. Bartels. “Diet and lack of exercise are the main reasons for weight gain and obesity.”
Menopause is a good time to recalibrate your diet, Dr. Sporl says. Metabolism starts to slow as we age. “We just can’t continue to eat like we’re 20-year-olds,” she says. Also, some nutritional needs change. For example, women need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day before menopause and 1,500 milligrams a day after menopause, according to the National Women’s Health Information Center.
Take the menopause pause
In fact, because menopause is a time of change, it’s also a good time to re-evaluate many things in life, Dr. Sporl says. “Start an exercise program. Work on stress. Get enough sleep. Work on relationships,” she advises. “Examine your life, adjust what you need to and embrace what’s ahead.”
Learn how to manage your hot flashes by visiting multicare.org/hotflash.