An expert helps answer the questions about menopause you didn’t even know you had
Before girls go through puberty, they usually take a class at school on what to expect, talk to their mothers about the impending transition, and even compare experiences with friends. So when it comes to menopause, why are so many women left to figure it out themselves? With the help of Kindra, a female-led company that makes estrogen-free menopause essentials, we asked women what they wish they’d known before menopause. Then we teamed up with Kindra’s health expert Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz to help us navigate these responses in order to understand how to best prepare for the transition both physically and mentally.
Wake Up Call: One woman says, “I just wish I knew where to go for information— my doctor only told me, ‘Yep, you’re in perimenopause,’ but provided no further resources.” When should women start asking questions about menopause, and what are the best resources for women to learn the basics?
Dr. Suzanne: When I bring menopause up with my patients, a lot of them seem devastated that I brought it up, like it’s a death sentence. Until we remove the stigma around menopause, women are going to continue reacting like that. So when women come in and they grimace, I ask them to try to reframe their thinking. This is a blessing! You need to know that you are going to continue to thrive. Don’t buy into the false narrative that your best days are behind you.
I think that women in their thirties should start educating themselves about menopause. Not in a fear-based way, but in an embracing way. In a few decades you’ll embark on a new chapter of your life, and it’s going to be awesome. Your creativity, your wisdom, and all sorts of things may start to blossom for you during this period. That’s something to look forward to.
In terms of resources, Kindra offers a menopause quiz to help you prepare for, manage, and embrace your menopause journey. Then there’s the North American Menopause Society. They’re an international society for the study of women’s sexual health issues, and they have a ton of resources on menopause. These sources offer a modern take on menopause, which we need more of.
Look at how many amazing, famous women who are killing it at any age: Katie Couric! Oprah! Michelle Obama! They’re wise, sexy, and awesome.
Another woman says: “I wish I was better prepared for this lack of energy and onset of fatigue.” Is lack of energy caused ONLY because of interrupted sleep, or is it something else? Is there anything women can do about this?
I think it’s both. We know energy decreases as we age, and that can definitely be related to hormones. There are some natural ways to boost energy, like with Kindra’s energy boosting supplement which uses green tea extract, which people have reported can help with focus. They also have a core supplement made with ashwagandha, which is an adaptogenic herb that may help with mental clarity.
If your sleep is a mess, you have to deal with your sleep first, potentially by trying a sleep enhancing supplement. But even if you feel like you’re sleeping fine, you might just generally feel fatigued. Working out can really help with this. Push yourself to work out, even if it’s just getting out and walking more. Move your body. Blood flow is very important. If you’re super sedentary, the smallest amount of exercise can have a massive benefit in increasing blood flow to your muscles and to your brain. Regular exercise will decrease your risk of dementia, heart disease, and osteoporosis, which are three of the biggest problems for women later in life.
This woman tells us: “ I wish I knew what all the potential symptoms were so I could be better prepared.” We all know the classic symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and brain fog, but are there any lesser known side effects that women should be aware of?
Absolutely, but remember that symptoms will vary greatly from woman to woman.
Some women experience inflammatory issues, along with skin changes, like rashes or eczema. This isn’t very common, but some women develop more allergies. Then joint pain and stiffness is a big one. If this is something that’s an issue for you, you can’t get away with being lazy about warmups or stretching before you exercise. Even in your forties— frozen shoulder is something to look out for. There isn’t concrete data but I believe that it’s related to perimenopause.
I really encourage people to do more weight bearing activity— I’m a huge weightlifting advocate.
I’ll stress that you should do this with assistance and coaching or you could really hurt yourself. But it’s something I think all women should start incorporating into their exercise routines starting in their late thirties and forties. It’ll help prevent future falls, and will also help boost mood.
Hair loss is another issue that people don’t talk about enough… and that includes pubic hair loss. Unfortunately there’s no magic bullet for this one— even on hormone replacement therapy, it may not get better. But there’s nothing to lose in trying nutritional supplements like biotin.
This woman says: “I wish I knew I would experience severe vaginal dryness.” Is this one of the more common symptoms? Does it come on suddenly, or slowly, and when should you start using a product like vaginal lotion?
For most people it is a slow transition, and a lot of times it really will precede menopause itself. The most severe vaginal dryness I see tends to come once you’re pretty much done with menopause, but people will slowly notice they never needed to use lube in their life before and now they feel like they need it, or there’s one little spot that really hurts after sex or during sex, and that never happened before. So my experience clinically is that it tends to be more of a subtle transition. As soon as you notice it, instead of being freaked out and scared, start using a product that will give you daily relief, like Kindra’s Daily Vaginal Lotion. It will keep the tissue healthy and moist in order to prolong comfort without adding hormones.
Our final comment is: “I wish I knew that my anxiety levels would go off the charts.” Is this a common symptom, and is there anything women can do to combat this?
We talk so much about mood symptoms associated with PMS, but these also come with menopause. Things like irritability, hair-trigger responses to things that might not have bothered you before, or getting annoyed more easily. Anxiety is also a big one. All of a sudden women may start experiencing anxiety or panic attacks.
There is definitely an uptick in mood disorders in perimenopause, but If you’re feeling new or worsening anxiety or depression, don’t shrug it off as a symptom you just have to live with. Often, these issues might have been underlying and can be unmasked by perimenopause, as often happens to women postpartum. It could also be a combination of hormonal changes, stress, and lack of sleep. Everyone is going to have ups and downs, that’s part of being human, but I urge anyone feeling like things are “off” mentally to seek therapy— there are so many options for therapy these days, whether it’s in person or via telehealth.