The symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and loss of libido, are still the same, but today's women are taking a modern approach to menopause. Forget the embarrassment -- they're heading in droves to see Menopause: The Musical and joining the Red Hot Mamas. And they're approaching life during and after menopause with optimism and determination.
After menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often prescribed to resupply the body with the hormones it no longer produces. Discuss this with your doctor. As with any medication, there are risks and benefits, and each woman should decide if HRT is the right choice for her.
HRT typically consists of an estrogen/progestin supplement -- usually given orally or through a skin patch. Estrogen is the component that treats hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis...
"Women are becoming more accepting of the physical and emotional challenges that are associated with menopause and accepting them as natural transitional changes," says Karen Giblin, founder and president of Red Hot Mamas. "They're focusing on feeling good and looking at menopause more positively."
And by uniting with one another, talking about what they've learned, women are now sharing their wisdom of menopause, from coping with symptoms to changing their lives.
Those Famous Menopause Symptoms
Menopause: Technically it means the absence of a menstrual period for one year. But the term is often used to describe the changes taking place in a woman's body as she approaches the end of her reproductive years. Every woman goes through menopause differently. Experts estimate that roughly 75% of the female population reports experiencing some symptoms of menopause and 20% to 25% of women ultimately seek medical treatment for those symptoms.
Yet signs of menopause often begin far sooner, during perimenopause, a phase preceding menopause that can last for up to 10 years.
"For many women, perimenopause is much harder than menopause," says JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, medical director of the Midlife Health Center and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. "Because it is not well described, people are not expecting it. And symptoms vary from month to month, so it's hard to get a handle on it."
Due to the fluctuations of estrogen and testosterone taking place during perimenopause and menopause, women may experience a wide range of symptoms, including:
Worsening premenstrual syndrome
Loss of libido
Over time, lower circulating levels of estrogen in the body also can have negative effects on the cardiovascular system and bone density.
Managing Menopause Symptoms: Lifestyle Changes
"Most women are caretaking for other people, including teenagers and aging parents, and they may be working from home or the office," Pinkerton tells WebMD. "They stop putting themselves first. They're not exercising, they're stress eating, and they're not getting adequate amounts of sleep, all of which make it more difficult to go through this process."
But here's the good news: There are many things you can do to improve symptoms -- during and after menopause -- including exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep.
For example, regular, weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise, such as walking and jogging, can protect your cardiovascular and bone health. Add some strength training to regular aerobic exercise and get an even greater boost in bone protection. Exercising in the morning and engaging in stress-reduction activities like yoga and Pilates may help you sleep better, too.