As an obstetrician-gynecologist, Christiane Northrup, MD, of Yarmouth, Maine, has spent years caring for women when something went wrong with their bodies.
These days, she doesn't see patients anymore, devoting her time instead to speaking and writing. At midlife, she has a new plan and a new mission: teach women everything that can go right with their bodies when they reach midlife.
Menopause simply means the end of menstruation for one year. As a woman ages, there is a gradual decline in the function of her ovaries and the production of estrogen. Around the time a woman turns 40, this process speeds up. This transition is known as perimenopause.
Women typically menstruate for the last time at about 50 years of age. A few stop menstruating as young as 40, and a very small percentage as late as 60. Women who smoke tend to go through menopause a few years earlier than nonsmokers...
What she is proposing may seem nonsensical to some and like a breath of fresh air to others. She wants midlife women to discover the secret pleasures of menopause. She's convinced that menopause -- traditionally viewed as the signal a woman is washed up and over the hill -- is overdue for a brand new spin.
"The truth is that women over 50 are just hitting their stride," she writes in the introduction of her new book, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause, published this month.
The new book is meant to be "fluffy," she says, much less serious than her previous books, including The Wisdom of Menopause and Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom.
Northrup is well aware that women going through menopause often focus on hot flashes, hormonal and mood swings, and viewing themselves as washed up.
She actually had to do a bit of talking to herself along those lines, as she admits in the book.
Slowly but surely, she came to view the transition as a good thing -- to see and appreciate the secret pleasures of menopause.
Look at the benefits of menopause, she suggests. "You become far more intuitive, you are no longer satisfied with the status quo, and you find your voice in a different way," she says.
The Nitric Oxide Connection
One of the points of Northrup's chatty new tome is getting women to say yes to pleasure.
"You can turn yourself on," she tells women approaching midlife. "You can rewire your brain and your body to feel more pleasure. The brain is the biggest sex organ in the body."
Getting to all this pleasure, she says, depends on paying attention to your nitric oxide levels, which she'll bet are probably too low.