It seems that every time I’m around a group of women and they find out I’m an OB-Gyn doctor the subject of menopause and hormones comes up. Some women look forward to the end of periods, birth control, and related concerns. Others dread the coming hormonal changes because of their own previous problems with hormones or the stories they’ve heard from their mothers and older sisters.
If you’re a woman over 30 you may have had symptoms that make you wonder if you’re going through menopause too early. And if you’re over 40 you’ve certainly thought about menopause. This doesn’t have to be a traumatic transition, and you don’t have to become a victim to your hormones during this time. Preparing for menopause before it comes isn’t an idea many people think about, but it can be helpful.
Here are some things you can do in advance that will make menopause much more manageable:
- Find out about your family history. There are many variables that determine when a woman goes through menopause, and what symptoms she may or may not have.
If you can, talk with your mother, older sisters, or aunts – older women who are blood relatives. Find out when they went through menopause, and what it was like for them. It may not be the same for you, but when it happens and what symptoms you have is likely to be similar.
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco is toxic to eggs. Your ovaries will cease functioning earlier if you smoke, and smoking is likely to make menopausal symptoms worse for some women. Quitting now has the possibility of delaying and lessening the symptoms of menopause.
- Develop a regular exercise program. Women who exercise regularly have a better quality of life during menopause than those who are inactive. Specifically, sedentary women have more anxiety and depression, more vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes), more memory and concentration problems, and generally feel less well. Exercise is also important for the benefits of estrogen on the vascular system if you choose to take hormones.
- Practice a positive attitude. You could look at menopause as the loss of fertility, a sign of aging, or the harbinger of a host of physical and mental symptoms. OR, you could choose to look at menopause as freedom – from periods, from pregnancy, from birth control, and more. Your perspective makes a huge difference.
- Gather your support team. The hormone changes during the menopause transition may make it more challenging for you to handle the other stresses coming during this season of life. Invest in quality friendships with other healthy women. Make sure you’re established with a women’s health doctor that you can relate to. If you’re carrying old emotional baggage find a support group or Christian counselor to help you face those issues now.
- Pursue your purpose. To the degree you are aware of it, increase the focus of your life’s energies on moving forward in the purpose for which God put you here. The after-50 years are likely to be the most productive of your entire life. The degree of wisdom you’ve developed and the increased freedom you may have now that any children have grown up provides a great opportunity to move forward in an outward direction.
- Become a wise steward of your resources. Physical energy, relationships with family and friends, job or business experience, material or financial resources – learn to value what you have, spend it wisely, and invest in what’s most important in every area. Once lost, physical health or important connections with people, especially, may be difficult or impossible to regain.
- Have a spiritual checkup. Review with God, and perhaps with a trusted Christian friend, where you are now on a spiritual maturity scale. God will never stop growing you as long as you allow Him to keep working on you. But this is a good time to specifically get His input on what He may most want to do with you. Does He want to help you get rid of a bad habit? Display a healthier attitude toward other people? Develop a brand-new set of skills? Become intimate with Him at a deeper level?
Yes, menopause means the end to some things, and the possibility of physical or emotional challenges going forward. Choose to focus on the possibilities this stage in life makes possible. If symptoms develop, make a pact with yourself to get some help. The rest of your life can be the best years you’ve ever had!
And hot flashes? I choose to think of them as power surges instead!
Your Turn: Are you approaching menopause faster than you might wish? Have you ever thought of preparing for menopause? Leave a comment below.
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