The thought of menopause usually calls to mind an array of unwelcome symptoms—hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, thinning hair, sleep disturbances. The list is long and disheartening. But menopause can have a positive impact on your life as well; for one thing, not all physical changes caused by reduced female hormone levels are negative. For another, many of the emotional and social changes can actually be energising.
No more periods
Menopause marks the end of the menstrual cycle, which for many women is a cause for celebration in itself. It means no more fussing with tampons or pads, no more worry about leakage, and no more menstrual cramping. And after the perimenopausal years, when periods often become irregular and bleeding may be heavy, it puts an end to the guessing game of when your period is going to start or stop.
Goodbye to PMS
In the week or two before your period, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can cause a host of physical and emotional symptoms, ranging from breast tenderness and headache pain to food cravings and irritability. PMS is very common. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, at least 85 per cent of all menstruating women experience one symptom or more each month. In perimenopause, PMS can temporarily worsen as estrogen levels rise and fall. All the better, then, to have PMS disappear after menopause.
Sex without pregnancy worries
Women in menopause can enjoy sex without having to think about a possible pregnancy. This makes a big difference, according to the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, a multisite, longitudinal study of the physical and psychosocial changes women experience in midlife, including menopause.
“Among American women of different ethnic groups, sex without thinking about pregnancy was frequently cited as one of the benefits of menopause,” says Nanette Santoro, MD, professor and director of Reproductive Endocrinology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Some women even find that, because they no longer have to worry about the unanticipated outcome of sex, they can actually enjoy it more once they reach menopause.
The end of hormonal headaches
Women are affected by migraines three times more often than men, according to the National Headache Foundation. About 70 per cent of these women have menstrual migraines, headaches that coincide with ovulation and menstruation. Like other migraines, these headaches cause throbbing pain on one side of the head, sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and light-or sound-sensitivity. In a normal menstrual cycle, fluctuating levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can trigger menstrual migraines. But after menopause, levels of estrogen and progesterone fall, and often the number of hormonal headaches declines too.
Uterine fibroids shrink
Many women approaching their 50s develop fibroids, uterine tumors that are almost always benign. Fibroids grow when estrogen levels in the body are high—during pregnancy, when levels of estrogen and progesterone increase, and in perimenopause, when estrogen levels can swing from low to high. If fibroid symptoms, including pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, and pressure on the bladder are severe, doctors may recommend surgery. Fortunately, fibroids often stop growing or shrink when women reach menopause and estrogen levels decline. “For women who have been charting fibroid growth hoping to avoid surgery, or for those who have heavy periods due to fibroids, menopause is welcome,” says Marcie Richardson, MD, director of the Harvard Vanguard Menopause Consultation Service in Boston, Massachusetts.
“For women who have fibroids sitting on their bladder, menopause gives them a break!” Greater self-assurance It’s not uncommon for postmenopausal women to report feeling empowered, partly because of the biological changes that take place in menopause and partly because of the point in life at which menopause occurs. After 50-plus years of life experience, including the ups and downs of relationships, child-rearing, and careers, women are more likely to go after what they want with a greater sense of confidence that they can handle whatever comes their way. (everydayhealth.com)