Menopause - Let's talk about it

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Are you a woman between the ages of 30 and 60? Let's talk, shall we?

Menopause .. we're all going to go through it, or are, or have. It's the natural progression of our bodies. First, a definition, from the authorities:

According to the Mayo Clinic ( http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/definition/con-20019726 ): "Menopause is the permanent end of menstruation and fertility, defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51 in the United States."

Perimenopause is the months or years that precede it. Oh .. well .. that's helpful, huh? Basically, it's when our hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone (yeah, we have it), start going wacky. It means we start experiencing a bunch of new health issues. At Healthlinedotcom, I found a list of 35 symptoms typical to women experiencing that lovely 2 to 12 years prior to menopause, not the least of which is:

Hot flashes and night sweats, etc
Irregular heart beat
Mood swings, sudden tears, major changes in emotional well-being
Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
Irregular periods and cycles
A number of other physical changes, including weight gain/loss
Disturbing memory lapses
Incontinence
Osteoporosis

The question, of course, is what can be done about it.

**You can go to your doctor, (again from the Mayo Clinic):

"In some cases further evaluation may be recommended.

Tests typically aren't needed to diagnose menopause. But under certain circumstances, your doctor may recommend blood tests to check your level of:

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen (estradiol), because your FSH levels increase and estradiol levels decrease as menopause occurs
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), because hypothyroidism can cause symptoms similar to those of menopause"

The problem there, is often they end up waiting until you're almost through the symptomatic stages. In my humble opinion, from my own experience and what I've researched, it's never too early to know about and expect any or many of the perimenopausal symptoms. They can be completely debilitating.

There are alternative resources:
* The Mayo Clinic site offers some alternative resources worth reviewing
* My personal experience (I'll say more about it in a separate post) derived from a book by Dr. John Lee, entitled 'What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause', published in 1996. It started a storm of controversy, since it flew in the face of traditional western medical practices. I can only suggest: read it for yourself and make an informed decision
* There are many alternative routes to relieving your symptoms.

You can't cure this, lol. It's part of the nature's process. We have a finite number of eggs and once we've dropped that last little life maker, our bodies change to accommodate it and we all experience it differently.

So ... let's talk: tell your story. What worked for you? What didn't? When did you first begin to suspect that you were 'going through the change?' Was it awful? or did you just sail through it? And, of course, how is it effecting your ability to caregive?

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My personal experience ...

On the last workday before Halloween, I showed up at work, dressed like a bag lady. I was having a blast acting the part and got the whole office in on it. I took a potty break and found I'd started my period, but ... hmmmmm ... that really doesn't look right. I had a minor moment of panic, thinking I was *actually* bleeding internally and took myself to the ER. Once they got over my garb, and the doc did the exam (made difficult by me, since I won't permit 'invasive procedures' according to my belief system), he suggested something that never occurred to me: I might be perimenopausal. Say what? I'm only 40??

Well .. yup .. the next eleven years were a roller coaster ride. The first thing I noticed were heart palpitations. I'd be lying there on the couch, and I thought I was having a heart attack. No pain, but that fluttering, wobbly feeling that came from inside my chest cavity, pounding rapidly against my rib cage. OMG .. what's THAT??? They went away, and were rare, but .. SCARY!!!

I've always had a bit of a tummy, but it was firm and my body fairly shapely. One day, I sat at my desk at the office and thought, looking down at my thighs .. what the heck is THAT? It was my tummy touching them. .... 0.o .... overnight, it seemed, my tummy and butt ... just 'fell'. Up to that point, if I wanted to lose a few pounds, all I had to do was increase my activity and it just seemed to melt off. Not any more. The activity had to triple AND I had to decrease my intake. Well. Pfffffft. That sucks.

Where did my memory go??? For most of my administrative career, I never kept a calendar or to do list, and didn't need a dang address book. It was all in my head. I'd wake up in the morning and a mental to-do list would scroll in my head. Unnervingly, that ability began to fade. As did the mental address book. Mrrph. I'd never developed the habit of writing things down and as the memory loss progressed over the next 11 years, I still didn't develop it. Now I keep everything critical on my laptop, and use a bunch of sticky notes. But, here's the good news. Once I hit menopause, it seemed to be somewhat self-reversing. Hallelujah for the small things.

When I was of menstrual age, my periods were regular, and like clockwork. Every 23 days, for 3 days. Three days before, I'd get all moody and sh*t. The first full day of bleeding was agony with cramps, but my flow was so light it was barely noticeable. For about two years, between ages 46 and 49, I bled almost constantly, and there were days that the only thing to do was sit on an absorbent pad and try not to leak it all over the place. No cramps, thank the heavens. But certainly messy and annoying.

And, there were days when I didn't care if I lived. I exploded at the least of things, irrationally. My emotions were all over the planet.

That's about the time I found Dr. Lee's book. I remember the day I found it at the healthfood store. I stood there, reading the preface where he listed most of those 35 symptoms referenced above and just cried. "OMG!! That's me!! Thank GOD I'm not alone." I did use his suggested remedy, but only had to use it a few times a month, right around ovulation times. Saved my hide (and probably that of a few others, considering my emotional turmoil). I passed that book around to everyone I knew and nobody even considered it. It's too bad, since his evaluation and treatment suggestions have since been vindicated and are much more mainstream these days. I can only urge people to consider it as a viable course of treatment.
i read a lot about menopause when my marriage blew up 15 yrs ago. a study was done in a village that was far removed from mainstream society and its influences. the most interesting thing i read was that post menopausal women no longer stayed silent on tribal matters. they became rather outspoken and would refute the traditional authority at the drop of a hat. strangely enough this is what i was experiencing. the ex just jumped up one day and decided to run the ship that up until then i thought i had been at least on the command deck of.
jumping ahead a few months or years, she didnt have the ability to run anything but her yap. she snorted the house away and turned into biker party trash. female hormones can go awry at two different times in their lives. a few months after the birth of her first baby and again at midlife. hormonal imbalances are powerful enough to cause a mother to either fight a bear for, or eat her young.
this is not meant to sound hateful or sexist because i am neither. i just know that hormones play a big role in behavior and family dynamics.
hormonal changes , depression / dissatisfaction with life , substance abuse , bipolar , all interconnected so heavily that its not clear which triggers which.
i was an alcoholic control freak so im not placing blame on anyone.
marriages blow up at midlife. it could be as simple as two people who were poorly matched from the start but had child rearing in common for a few years.
Capt .. yep. And, here's MY thing: With the abundance of information available, the many alternatives for treatment, I think it's every adult's duty to comprehend what's going on, take responsibility for their own life and health and be in control. Who knows? It might save a marriage or a life.
Well, I just lost my post.... a long one... good thing I am done with menopause or I would have thrown my computer under a semi.... !!!! I'll try again later...
I took Aromasin preventive therapy at age 59 and I avoided replacement hormones. My sister did not, didn't want to look old before her time. She is 67, but our mother died of breast cancer at 37. So she took ERT and did mammograms every year. She's an RN and a smart woman.
This winter they found Invasive Lobular Carcinoma on her. She found out by the way, that it does not show up on a mammogram. Her double mastectomy was March 13th.
I knew I was menopausing when I saw I was growing sideburns and a mustache. I then looked at my armpits to see if I'm growing manly hairs there too. Nope. Just the facial hairs. Reading your list, I have had heart palpitations and just shrugged it off as being so stressed out. And lately, I've been waking up throughout the nights - which I shrugged off as my previous pattern of waking up throughout the night to suction bedridden mom when she was alive. No night sweats or hot flashes. I'm only recently experiencing the memory losses. Very scary, that.

Of all of those symptoms, I am so gungho in dealing with the facial hairs! I have plucked it (oh so painful!!!) Then I couldn't handle the pain after months of doing this. So, I bought a feminine shaver. Worse! It's so obvious that I'm shaving as the hair grows back out. So,I'm back to plucking using the flexible coil. The last time I used it, I took a Tylenol before I started plucking it. Helped a bit but I still ended with tears of pain. Now, I need to deal with the memory loss. I won't take any hormonal meds for this because it will feed my endometriosis. I have no intentions of having a 3rd surgery for this!

FYI, I did research on "natural" ways of dealing with meno and again, it would affect my endo. So, I won't use black cohash, Dong Quai, etc... I also did extensive research on the pros and cons of each of these herbals. No thank you. I got an allergic reaction to chamomile tea (bought from the store). I will wing it without meds.
im looking forward to the future of medicine. meds will be customized to the specific genetic " needs " of the individual. my gosh , the air farce is developing a drone that will land atop of electrical high tension lines to recharge itself. what a b**chin time to be alive. a drone chopper will be delivering auto parts and hookers to my back yard in the near future. the hepc meds im on will drop a viral load in the millions to zero in 4 weeks. incredible..
Facial hairs. Yep. I guess that would fall under "A number of other physical changes, including weight gain/loss", but IMHO it should have a line all it's own on that list. I've really been tempted to order one of those "No-No" gizmos....anybody know if those things really work? On the upside, I don't have to shave my legs any more.....how does THAT work?
I had my last period December 2003. I was just 52 but unlike the old classic perception of women entering this new stage of life I did not feel like it was "all over". I was actually kinda relieved not to have to deal with the monthly drudge any more. I also chose to "tough it out"....to be honest, the thought of hormone treatments scared the c**p out of me. I think I was fairly fortunate (maybe it was just good genes, idk) but I never really suffered bad night sweats, and the hot flashes were only bad for the first three to four years. I still get them occasionally but they come and go so quickly I hardly notice them any more. I think the biggest battle I've had with menopause has been the weight gain...I believe I now have the metabolism of a giant tortoise. I so much as look at a slice of cheesecake and WHOMP! - 10 pounds, all clustered around my hips and thighs. I don't think I really had any significant mood swings (although DH might beg to differ, idk) but I have found myself suddenly crying over the smallest, dumbest things.
All in all I don't think meno is the "end of everything" many women used to think it was. It's just another stage of life. I was fortunate enough to have been blessed with two wonderful, healthy children, so I'm ok with boxing up the baby-making machine. It's just as well because honestly, I would NOT like to find myself pregnant at 63.
hehehe .. ok .. I'll post the ~whole~ list .. these are, btw, the most common. I'm willing to bet there are more (from healthlinedotcom .. yanno: remove the dot with . and you'll have to look up the link, cuz they'll remove it, here):

35 Symptoms of Perimenopause

Hot flashes, hot flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
Irregular heart beat
Irritability
Mood swings, sudden tears
Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
Irregular periods; shorter, lighter periods; heavier periods, flooding; phantom periods, shorter cycles, longer cycles
Loss of libido
Vaginal dryness
Crashing fatigue
Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
Disturbing memory lapses
Incontinence, especially upon sneezing, laughing; urge incontinence
Itchy, crawly skin
Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
Increased tension in muscles
Breast tenderness
Headache change: increase or decrease
Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
Sudden bouts of bloat
Depression
Exacerbation of existing conditions
Increase in allergies
Weight gain
Hair loss or thinning, head, pubic, or whole body; increase in facial hair
Dizziness, vertigo, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
Changes in body odor
Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
Tingling in the extremities
Gum problems, increased bleeding
Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odor
Osteoporosis (after several years)
Changes in fingernails: softer, crack or break easier
Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, 'whooshing,' buzzing etc.
feelings of impending doom clearly fall into the extreme depression category. depression was the most outstanding symptom in my ex during perimenopause and the subsequent collapse of our marriage. its all good tho because the sharp tongued, bullheaded beast that emerged post menopause and i just would not get along. we live 5 miles apart now and on a calm night you can still feel the bad vibes in the air.. a power struggle that neither would win. im glad neither of us have artillery with any significant reach.
just kidding mostly. im wired on ribavirin and looking for mischief.

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