Menopause has been happening for as long as women have had ovaries - so it’s surprising that there are still so many menopause myths out there. It’s often such a taboo subject that women can reach their menopause and have no idea what to expect. Or you might even have some ideas about menopause that are actually totally and utterly false!
The lack of discussion around menopause can lead to a lot of misplaced anxiety and worry for women approaching or experiencing it. So let’s break down five of the big menopause myths out there and clear things up once and for all.
Menopause Myth #1: Your sex life is over
This just isn’t true at all - if you want to, you can continue to have a fun, fulfilling sex life right up into your nineties! However, the hormonal changes that happen during menopause might take a little adjusting to. You might experience some changes in libido, or you might have some vaginal dryness. By communicating with your partner openly and honestly about how you’re feeling, you can find solutions that work for both of you.
These might include thinking differently about intimacy, or doing more activities together to feel close and intimate. If you’re having vaginal dryness, you could also try some lubricant or vaginal moisturiser - they can be a godsend if you’re having difficulties during sex, as well as providing relief from the everyday discomfort of vaginal dryness or atrophy.
Menopause Myth #2: The hot flushes will be terrible
Hot flushes are the most commonly discussed aspect of the menopause - perhaps because people get squeamish about the more ‘intimate’ ones - but they don’t actually happen to everyone in the same way. If you do get hot flushes (and around 3% of women don’t!), they might feel completely different for you than they do for other people. Many women only experience moderate hotness - but even if you do really suffer with them, remember they don’t last forever.
Menopause Myth #3: Menopause happens in your 50s
Though the average age for a woman’s period to stop is 51, that’s just an average! In reality menopause is most common in the wider time period between ages 45 and 55, but can also occur as early as a woman’s 30s, or as late as her 60s. There are also a range of medical conditions that can lead to early menopause, such as having a hysterectomy, or going through chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Menopause Myth #4: HRT is dangerous and risky
Using HRT for menopause management has long been associated with the idea that it increases your risk for certain cancers. However, these risks have been the subject of intense research in recent years, and multiple studies have concluded that the risks are minimal, and are massively outweighed by the benefits. HRT can help to reduce hot flushes and vaginal dryness, improve your sex drive, and even protect against osteoporosis-related bone fractures. Most doctors now agree that the cancer risks associated with HRT are hugely over-emphasised compared to the much more significant risk factors of say, being overweight or drinking alcohol.
Menopause Myth #5: Menopause is just a physical condition
When it comes to menopausal symptoms, hot flushes are just the tip of the iceberg. The impact of changing hormones can also lead to equally serious emotional and mental symptoms. These can go far beyond ‘mood swings’, and shouldn’t be dismissed or underestimated. For many women, the menopause is a period of enormous change, signifying a new phase in their life and an adjustment to their identity.
If you’re experiencing symptoms consistent with anxiety or depression, don’t just put it down to the menopause and suffer in silence. Trying new approaches like mindfulness or talking to your GP could be the key to feeling better. Often for menopausal women, a prescription of HRT or similar will be as effective as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.