Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

I can see clearly now.

The weird thing about menopause is how much it effects your mind. When you first start hitting peri-menopause in your forties, you just don't have a clue about how much you're going to forget, and how much confusion your brain is in. It's a constant shock. You grow slightly aphasic, your word-finding capabilities go down the drain, and you look like a complete moron because you can't think more than 10 minutes in advance or in the immediate past. It's sad, really.

But that's just one symptom, and ladies, if you're not investigating what will happen to your body, you better get right on the stick because this is one part of life nobody wants to discuss with you. Except for maybe Robin McGraw, and I'm not that woman's biggest fan.

So let's go through the symptoms. I'll tell you my experience. It won't be like yours, but if you get enough people talking about their symptoms, you'll eventually get a decent picture of what to expect.

Everyone's favorite, Hot Flashes. Now, when I heard about them, I thought they lasted a few minutes and you got over them. I was dead wrong. Hot flashes occur totally out of the blue. One second you're feeling just fine, the next second you feel your face glowing red, your body is sweating bullets, and you're sure it's about 95 degrees right around you.

What to do: Strip down to the least possible amount of clothing you can. Take everything off if you're able to. Open the windows wide, turn on a fan, and stand in front of it. You will feel that your skin is freezing, but you are still hot. This is the joy of the hot flash. If it's winter, go outside in t-shirts and shorts. Stand on your porch or stoop and wait until your toes are frozen. Chances are good that you still have a hot flash going on, but at least you can breath nice fresh cold air. My average hot flash lasts about an hour to two hours and nothing, but NOTHING makes me totally cool down. Fans are my best advice. Get a lot of them and use them. In new studies, Flax Seed is supposed to help with hot flashes. I have no experience with this, myself.

Night Sweats: The nightime version of the hot flash, you go to bed, fall asleep, and wake up in a pool of sweat. You are burning up, your sheets are disgusting, your PJs need to come right off, and the area around your neck is on fire.

What to do: Sleep with a fan directly on your body. Point it at your face and neck. It will keep the worst of the night sweats at bay. When you awaken, turn the fan on high, open the windows, drink a glass of water, get up and rinse off your face and next, and wet a hand towel with cold water which you wrap around your neck. That will cool you off fairly quickly. Sleep with a large beach towel so you don't have to change your sheets in the middle of the night.

Vaginal dryness: Just when you think sex is going to be unfettered by birth control, you lose your desire and your vajayjay dries up like a prune.

What to do: Astroglide. Use some type of vaginal lubricant to keep you moist during sex. You can use various medications that will help with vaginal dryness, but I don't support using estrogen supplements when simple applications of various vaginal lubricants or moisturizers will do the trick. There are three different kinds of estrogen medications: vaginal creme, vaginal estrogen ring, and vaginal pill. I've never used any of them so I can't really comment on the efficacy.

My personal fave: Increased abdominal fat. Oh yes indeedy, just when you feel like crap, your body goes and makes a nice fat belly so you look like crap, too.

What to do: I don't really have to tell you that getting rid of belly fat means diet changes and exercise, do I? I think you can deal with this one on your own.

Thinning hair: Remember that time, about 3 months post partum when your hair started falling out in clumps. Well, that's menopause hair loss in a nutshell. My experience is that you lose about half the hair on top of your head, all the hair on your legs, arms, and underarms, and grow an amount equal to or greater on your chin and upper lip.

What to do: Friends of mine who lost a LOT of hair swear by rogaine for women, which has made their hair fuller and thicker than it ever was. It is amazing. But... one friend's hair grew in with corkscrew curls when she used the rogaine, so she has much curlier hair in front than in the back. But she has hair! My hair was so ridiculously thick in my younger days that even with the loss of about half my hair, it still is thick. So this one didn't really bother me because I have to admit to LOVING the loss of hair on my arms and legs. I haven't had to shave anything in years! The facial hair sucks, and I'm a big believer in the wax.

Loss of breast fullness: You think you're floppy now? Ha! You haven't a clue how floppy and deflated you can get. I have gone from a double D pre-pregnancy to an H when nursing, down to a D post nursing, and now I'm a C. Getting a mammogram is no longer much of an issue because my boobs are so flat anyhow. I know, it's just delightful.

What to do: If it bother's you, get implants. If it doesn't, buy yourself some good bras that fit well and remember those days of yore when your boobs were perky.

Heavy vaginal bleeding: Your periods are supposed to be slowing down, but the truth is, as they become more irregular, you're going to experience the joys of flooding. Nothing out of the ordinary, just some of those very heavy bleeding days where leaving the house proves to be a big mistake. Trust me on that.

What to do: To relieve heavy periods, your doctor may suggest taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen during your period. NSAIDs have the added benefit of relieving painful menstrual cramps. Birth control pills can lighten heavy periods, too. If you have severe bleeding that doesn't respond to medication and maintaining your fertility isn't a concern, treatment options may include: the use of a progestin-containing IUD,
scraping the lining of the uterus aka a D&C, removing the lining of the uterus and removing the uterus. The last two are obviously last resorts.

Now, doesn't menopause sound like fun? Actually, it's not bad for many women, and really bad for others. I'm pretty much in the middle, where I've had many of the symptoms, but most haven't really bothered me.

What has surprised me is that even though I'm technically menopausal because I've not had a period in well over a year (go me!), I still get the hot flashes and night sweats. I really thought that I'd be over them, but nope.... still get them. In fact, a friend called me today and asked what I was doing and I reported that I was laying in front of the fan in my underwear. At 4 pm in the afternoon. Yup, and I'm not afraid to admit that, either.

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Blogger menopause_tracker said...

Apart from the symptoms related to your periods, all other symptoms for menopause are just that - for menopause. They may start prior to your last period but achieving that milestone does not mean it is over. Not by a long shot. I recently read of one woman having symptoms for 19 years!

21/3/09 10:55 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

MT: I started peri about 12 years ago, and have had symptoms ever since. I don't think I'm even close to done, either!

I really enjoy being a woman.

21/3/09 11:31 PM  
Blogger Anita M. said...

I would say that the hot flashes and night sweats are the worst part about menopause. Other that that, I enjoy this stage of my life

24/3/09 2:42 AM  

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