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Myths About Menopause

Myths, misinformation, and misconceptions about menopause abound.  The most common is that menopause is "the beginning of the end."  Yet the opposite myth is almost as common-- that it just isn't a big deal.  Some women face menopause with the attitude of longing saying, "I wish I could get out of having my periods!" Yet menopause is about much more than losing your periods. For many women, the end of fertility may be welcome, but in some women, the end of fertility represents a major loss.  The good news is that just because you've "lost" your fertility doesn't mean you're losing your sexuality. 

With menopause, many women struggle with the emotional burden of suddenly feeling "old". The numerous physical and emotional symptoms can be overwhelming and confusing, especially in the perimenopausal years preceding menopause.

Another myth is that menopause is associated with "empty nest syndrome" and causes depression. Research has shown that depression in women actually peaks in the 30's; many women in their 50's experience what Margaret Mead termed "postmenopausal zest". Menopause is a risk factor for depression in some women: women who have had a previous history of depression (including postpartum depression), women with any other psychiatric illness, women with a family history of depression, and women with a history of premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMS.

The most harmful myth is that because menopause is "natural", it doesn't have any serious consequences or need to be treated. This may apply to some women, but not to the majority. Losing estrogen puts menopausal women at increased risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, Alzheimer's disease, tooth loss, impaired vision, vaginal and urethral atrophy, Parkinson's disease, and diabetes. The longer women go without the protection of their own estrogen, the greater their risk for the health consequences from these conditions. Likewise, just because menopause is "natural" doesn't mean there aren't interventions that improve quality of life- many of the consequences of menopause can be successfully treated and managed. The good news about menopause is that with prompt intervention and proper management, many of the long-term consequences can be prevented, reduced in frequency, or delayed.

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Created: 3/8/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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