Menopause, long surrounded by misconception and myth, is actually just one of the major transitions in a woman’s life. Most women go through menopause, whether it is secondary to surgery, a specific medical condition, or as part of the natural course of a woman’s life.
Many women dread the thought of menopause—the night sweats, the hot flashes, the weight gain, the mood changes. However, though menopause may mean a few more graying hairs and wrinkles, it is decidedly not a ticket to emotional problems or physical old age. Many women, in fact, find perimenopause and menopause only mildly problematic, and others discover that their symptoms can often be controlled or alleviated.
Though menopause has often been regarded as a medical illness, it is more accurately described as a life change—one that is often accompanied by a complex set of physical and emotional responses. There are health risks that increase after a woman reaches menopause, such as the risk for heart disease and cancer, but these can be cut drastically by preventive medication, diet, or lifestyle.
Menopause can also be a time of new freedom, new beginnings, and second chances. It’s often a time when women begin to reevaluate their lives. Some may decide to embark on bold new paths in their work or personal lives, while others may rededicate themselves to the lives they have already built.
There are many kinds of treatment available to help with perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, from hormone replacement therapy to nutritional supplements. Physicians can discuss options with their patients, and together they can decide what course would suit them best. An increasing amount of research is available on this phase of life, and better drugs and treatment for menopausal symptoms continue to be discovered.
At one time, menopause was simply referred to as “the change,” a time of life to be dreaded. With an average life expectancy of 79 years of age, most women have at least one third and probably more of their lives ahead of them by the time they reach menopause. And those remaining years are free of menstrual periods, the possibility of pregnancy, and, in most cases, childcare responsibilities.
The “change” can actually be a positive time in a woman’s life. It’s a time when a woman and her partner can recreate their life together, or she can pursue new dreams, and decide how she wants to spend the second half of her life. On the job front, too, it is an ideal time to look at what has been accomplished, and evaluate whether making any changes is desirable. It’s a time to think about where a woman‘s journey in life has taken her, and decide how she wants to spend the years ahead.