Finding Meaning in Menopause
Menopause is a term known by women of all ages, and yet, most would be hard pressed to define it correctly. From a medical point of view, it means going twelve consecutive months without a menstrual period (or any vaginal bleeding). A woman can go three months or more without a period, and then out of the blue, one comes along and she has to start the countdown all over again! Once all bleeding stops, the hard part is usually over. It is the years leading up to menopause that is generally fraught with all the problems!
What Is Peri-Menopause?
Who knew that the “synchronized unraveling” of the monthly rise and fall of hormones, known as the menstrual cycle, could take as long as ten years to play itself out? From a hormonal point of view, subtle changes begin to occur as early as a woman’s late 30’s…….an age when menopause is usually the furthest thing from a woman’s mind!
Thankfully, it isn’t until much later (usually late 40’s) that the first hot flash happens, and a woman’s short-term memory can suddenly be missing in action! In my own case, I was working at my desk one day when suddenly my glasses were all fogged up! Steam seemed to be coming off my upper body. Could I have just experienced my first hot flash? As it turns out, that was the beginning of my journey toward menopause. Not too long after that I was in an eye doctor’s office, waiting for an appointment I had never made! Tilt!! Where did my fantastic memory go?
What About Hormones?
Many women ask for their hormone levels to be tested when the first symptoms of peri-menopause appear, but there is little value in doing so. After ovulating during your reproductive years, the first major hormonal change to expect is that ovulation becomes unpredictable: you’ll ovulate in some cycles, and not in other months. The thing to understand here is that if ovulation occurs, then the body makes progesterone. If ovulation does not occur, no progesterone is made and the second half of the menstrual cycle is without the usual levels of progesterone to oppose and balance the effects of estrogen.
Thus, in terms of hormone levels, progesterone drops first and most dramatically. Estrogen levels can be erratic, and even high at times, until close to the end when all menstrual bleeding ceases.
Pathology Or Opportunity?
It is easy to pathologize menopause when discussing peri-menopausal symptoms, because who enjoys being suddenly overheated and covered in perspiration, feeling irritable and anxious, or exhausted from lack of sleep? However, having gone through the menopausal transition myself, and helped hundred’s of women to navigate their way through the transition, I honestly believe that menopause is one of the most powerful times in a woman’s life if she chooses to align herself with it as a rite of passage. And, with over half of the current population of North American women being post-menopausal, isn’t it time we use a different lens to understand this process?
The good news is that with hundreds of Baby Boomers entering menopause on a daily basis for the last two decades, stereotypes about aging are changing! Negative beliefs around the loss of youthfulness and sex appeal, as well as fears about physical and mental limitations, can be replaced with health building solutions. This is where naturopathic medicine has a great deal to offer. Whether a homeopathic remedy is prescribed to help shift an uncomfortable emotional state, botanicals are used to ease hot flashes, or acupuncture is employed for muscle or joint problems, effective remedies are available!
Special Learning Event with Dr. Cheryl:
“Mastering Menopause: Riding the Waves, Receiving the Benefits”
An evening with women’s health expert, Dr. Cheryl Proctor ND.
Tuesday, September 26, 6:30PM
Two Rivers Health, 55 Delhi Street, Main Floor, Guelph
Join Dr. Cheryl for an informative seminar where you’ll learn how to naturally align yourself with perimenopause and menopause – creating one of the most remarkable transformations of a lifetime.
Space is Limited! RSVP by phone (519)265-6963 or email us to reserve your space in this illuminating talk.
Registration is FREE when you RSVP in advance, or $25 at the door.
This post is the first in a 5-part series, Midlife Musings, featuring Dr. Proctor’s wisdom for conscious women seeking clarity, connection and contentment through the changes and challenges in their lives. Visit our blog for the latest articles by Dr. Cheryl Proctor ND or contact Dr. Cheryl for a personal consultation.