MS And Menopause: Arm Yourself With The Facts
Menopause is defined as a natural biological process that happens 12 months after your last period, typically between the ages of 45-55, and is the end of fertility.
Some women fare well during menopause, while others experience annoying symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, general irritability, disruption of sleep, anxiety, sadness or feelings of loneliness.
Ah, yes, it’s wonderful to be a girl.
Prior to menopause (called perimenopause1) you may also experience:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain
- Slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
According to The Mayo Clinic, it is a good idea to make sure you have regular checkups during perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause for preventive health care. Tests such a colonoscopy, mammography, lipid screening, thyroid testing and breast/pelvic exams are important during this time of physical change.
It is important to see your physician if you have any bleeding after menopause.
Now that I have lived through menopause, I can report that I survived fully intact. I experienced hot flashes, mood swings, irritability and feelings of sadness. They were annoying but tolerable. Yet, with the combination of:
- Alternative therapies such as black cohosh and yoga2
- An understanding husband, and good friends to share our common journey
- An incredible gynecologist who is a good listener.
I am here to tell you that you, too, can survive fully intact.
Similar to the way MS manifests differently in all of us, our menopausal symptoms are different for each of us. One woman may sail through with no symptoms, while another may sweat through every piece of clothing she owns.
Before bracing for the worst, do some research. Here are a few sites I recommend for you to learn more about menopause:
Ellen Dolgen/Menopause Matters: My friend Ellen Dolgen is a maven about menopause. As a speaker, author and health advocate, she’s appeared on The TODAY Show, The Katie Show, NBC Nightly News, and many other equally important media outlets. Take a look at her website. It's filled with important information. You’ll feel confident and self-assured learning that menopause is not a beast. As Ellen says, “Suffering in silence is OUT. Reaching OUT is IN!”
Here are some scholarly articles from PubMed about menopause and MS.
Kim Dolce is always engaging and informative as a contributor for MultipleSclerosis.net. Her post, “Moving Into Menopause with MS: Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun” is no exception. Take a look at Kim’s experience with menopause, and learn a little about hormone replacement as well.
Dr. Christiane Northrup offers sound advice about women’s bodies and menopause. Her books, “The Wisdom of Menopause” and “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” have been my go-to books for years. My girlfriends and I purchased them at the same time, discussing how empowered and comforted we felt after reading them.
Here is one study I found on The National Multiple Sclerosis website about estrogen replacement that may help postmenopausal women. More research needs to be done, so take it for what it’s worth.
When I was investigating hormones replacement, I wanted to read all sides of this often-controversial topic. I read Suzanne Somers book, “Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones.” In the end I decided against using any hormones, but I thought Ms. Somers made a good case about using bioidenticals in her book.
NOTE: I am not endorsing using, or not using, any type of hormones. It’s important for you to read as much credible information as possible to be able to make the best decision for you and your MS. As always, consult with your doctor before making any decisions.
As Dr. Northrup says, menopause is a natural progression of the way our bodies work. Don’t fight it! Try to work with it by empowering yourself with knowledge and communicating with others.
Do you celebrate your MS Anniversary?