Why Don't We Talk More About Menopause?
While there is more conversation about menstruation than ever currently, one aspect of menstruation often gets left out of the conversation: menopause. When we hear the word menopause, we often think of hot flashes and changes in the menstrual cycle. However, while these symptoms are often referred to as menopause, it is called menopausal transition, or perimenopause. Menopause is actually the cycle of time 12 months after a woman’s last period, which is usually free of any hot flashes or other symptoms.
The menopausal transition occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 in menstruating individuals and can last anywhere between 7 to 14 years. Production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the body also starts to deplete, leading to bone density becoming weaker and making individuals more prone to fractures, and sometimes even osteoporosis. On top of that, the way the body uses fat cells can change and lead to weight gain.
The phase after perimenopause and menopause is called post-menopause. Individuals in this phase are unable to get pregnant and are more prone to heart disease and psychological issues. Healthcare professionals advise those in this phase to live a more active lifestyle and eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of calcium. While it is more likely to develop a psychological issue such as depression during the perimenopausal stage than post-menopausal, seeking professional psychological help during and after perimenopause and menopause is still recommended.
There are also risks of cognitive dysfunction and sexual dysfunction in perimenopausal and postmenopausal phases. Some studies suggest that the change in hormones has a direct effect on the cognitive ability of certain individuals, causing memory and attention problems, and a lower learning capacity. Hormonal changes are also to blame for a lower sex drive and lessened ability to enjoy sexual activity.
The female body undergoes significant changes -so, why are we not talking more about menopause? In an article on Forbes, Dr. Jen Gunter, OB/GYN and author of The Vagina Bible and the new book the Menopause Manifesto explains, “Everybody is sold the image of the woman going crazy during menopause, right? And so we have this deep-rooted history of losing your femininity [and] losing your relevance, so there’s all these like awful layers. Like who wants to admit that they're no longer culturally relevant, which is awful... If you feel like your last menstrual period is your graduation to sort of being irrelevant in society that is going to change how you feel about it, right?” This is why we believe, as a menstrual equity organization, menopause is a topic that should be brought to the forefront of menstruating individual’s issues.
Aging is inevitable, and menopause is part of that aging process for those of us who menstruate. The sooner we can start this conversation and raise awareness, the sooner we can put more research into menopause and potentially work towards making it a more comfortable process. Or, at the very least, make it a less taboo topic.