Written by: Lorraine Miano, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
One of the most uncomfortable and least anticipated moments in a parent’s life has to be "the talk."
We’ve all heard of, if not, in fact, experienced "the talk" during our adolescent years. Puberty rolls around, and our parents start becoming uncomfortable, maybe even avoiding eye contact with us. They shift awkwardly in their seats. They pray that we might have already heard “the talk” in our health class, leaving them off the hook. However, ultimately, they knew it was one of the important, necessary yet often unenjoyable parental duties that faced them as we slid hormonally into our teen years.
Things haven’t changed much.
Conversations surrounding sex and our reproductive years often started embarrassing and avoided, and so it’s no surprise, once menopause rolls around, the dismissal and avoidance continue. This even extends to conversations we should be having with our healthcare providers. Why are we so uncomfortable talking about sex and our bodies?
As menopausal women, we should be educating our families about what is happening to us, particularly if we are experiencing uncomfortable or debilitating symptoms that can affect our daily lives and those around us. Quite often, our partners and children may not know or understand why we are throwing our clothes off, sweating profusely, wandering the house in the middle of the night, or why they may be on the receiving end of our sudden mood swings. This even extends to the workplace. The sad truth is, many women aren’t even aware of what is happening to them.
In a recent survey I did of 100 women, over 80% did not know anything about menopause before entering this phase of their lives. As well, the same number said they received no help or guidance from their healthcare providers. Many of them were not aware that some of the physical and emotional changes they experienced were indeed signs that perimenopause was upon them. So, before we women can educate our families, we must first educate ourselves.
Many divorces could possibly be avoided if only menopause was talked about more openly in our culture. Unfortunately, it is often made light of, made fun of, and women are often left feeling as though they must hide what they are experiencing. Add to that the fact that most doctors are not educated about menopause (they actually receive fewer than 3 hours of education) and often dismiss what women are experiencing as purely anxiety or depression.
Quite often, the first course of medical attention these women receive is a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug. There has been a long history (in fact centuries) of medical misogyny surrounding women’s health, and unfortunately, it continues to this day. Thankfully the conversation has started to turn. More and more women are speaking up, including many celebrities. Books are being written, and alternative health options are becoming available in the way of functional medicine doctors, health coaches, and menopause specialists. Resources and support are becoming more available.
Another reason to consider having “the 2nd talk” about perimenopause/menopause now is that quite frequently, women may begin their menopausal journey at about the same time their daughter(s) may be going through puberty. There are multiple similarities with both of these natural phases of our reproductive lives, including fluctuating hormones, mood swings, and more. It is the perfect opportunity to share our experiences and educate our daughters about what they are currently experiencing as they go through puberty and how they can prepare and better experience their menopause years with a healthy mind and body.
We can begin by sharing the three stages of menopause. This refers to the natural progression of menopause and does not take into consideration premature, chemically, or surgically induced menopause. Perimenopause is the time before a woman reaches menopause. The perimenopause years are the time when the ovaries are shutting down and hormones are fluctuating. This is usually when uncomfortable hormone imbalance symptoms begin to occur, such as anxiety, hot flashes, irregular periods, insomnia, weight gain, low libido, and fatigue. The average age a woman begins perimenopause is around 46 and can last anywhere from 2 and up to 15 years.
Once a woman has gone 12 months without a period, she has reached menopause, which is actually just one day: the 12 month anniversary of when menses cease. The average age that a woman in the US reaches menopause is 51. Once a woman has reached menopause, the very next day, she is considered post-menopausal and will be for the rest of her life. This can be at least 30% and up to 50% or more of her lifetime. This is why it is so very critical for us to live our lives in preparation for these years and encourage our daughters to do the same from a young age.
To avoid the health concerns women of previous generations have experienced, we must take the steps now to educate our young daughters about menopause. We must educate them on how their lifestyle choices, including food, movement, and stress, can affect how they will ultimately experience their perimenopause and post-menopause years. We must enlighten them and dispel the many myths and misconceptions surrounding menopause and encourage them to approach their perimenopause years with positivity and even a celebratory mindset. These absolutely can be the very best years of their lives. Ultimately, we must cultivate in them a desire to love and nourish their bodies during each cycle of their reproductive years, from puberty through post-menopause.
If our daughters treat their bodies well through each stage of life, they are almost guaranteed to experience minimal health concerns. This could include prevention of auto-immune diseases, infertility, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), Thyroid disease, insulin resistance, leptin resistance, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (the #1 killer of women), osteoporosis, anxiety, and depression. Not to mention the common (although not normal) symptoms of hormone imbalance that surround perimenopause and menopause: weight gain, hot flashes, insomnia, low libido, dry vagina, thinning hair, fatigue, and more.
Our daughters need to understand that there are multiple options for them if and when they experience uncomfortable hormone imbalance symptoms. These include not only hormone therapy but holistic lifestyle options as well. They must be allowed to choose the option that they feel is best for them, without feeling judgment or guilt for the choices they make. They may want to seek a healthcare professional specializing in menopause to help guide them with this important decision.
Ultimately, our daughters should understand that this is a natural progression of life. One hundred percent of women will experience menopause in one form or another if they live long enough. As mothers, we always want the very best of everything for our daughters, including a long, healthy, and happy lifespan. The 2nd talk may just help make that a reality.
Lorraine Miano, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
As a certified health and hormone coach as well as a post-menopausal woman herself, Lorraine Miano discovered her passion of offering menopause advocacy, support and resources to women in all phases of menopause through health coaching, proper nutrition and preventive lifestyle choices. She received her certifications as a Health Coach and hormone health expert from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Lorraine has been able to help even more women by writing and publishing her first book, The Magic of Menopause: A Holistic Guide to Get Your Happy Back! The book helps guide women through the struggles they face as they begin menopause and helps tackle the daily changes such as balancing hormones holistically, getting a better night’s sleep and reducing or eliminating hot flashes, to name a few. It has been named one of the Top Ten books on Menopause by The London Evening Standard and has reached #1 on Amazon’s Best Seller’s List.
Lorraine loves to encourage women with her mantra “Menopause is NOT an ending! IT IS a new beginning!”