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"Menopause Symptoms"

Laurel asks: I want to talk about menopause with my clients. Can you explain why we should avoid saying "MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS?" What do we say instead?

My reply:

Thanks for writing! Yes! I sometimes get mis-quoted on this one so I appreciate the opportunity to clarify!

 

It's ok to say “symptoms”…and, I invite all members to stay CURIOUS in order to find out what is the root cause of those symptoms! (see page 25)

 

You see, when media, marketers and even the medical community refer to every possible adverse health experience a woman might have, we miss a GIGANTIC opportunity to help her find and treat the root cause. Tossing everything into a bucket and calling it “menopause symptoms” (when her experiences could be something else!) is not helping to further conversations about women's health, and women's health outcomes overall.


  • One key way we can change this is by learning the roles & responsibilities of our hormones when cycles are regular. This will allow us all to create a health plan for ourselves when they are not!

    • Then, instead of saying “menopause symptoms," we will be pinpointing the root cause OR highlighting something that DESERVES further investigation with our health team. 

    • Example: heavy bleeding is not a “menopause symptom,” but it could be a symptom of progesterone decline. Or, it could be something else: fibroids or something else that requires attention. Plus, people who have experienced heavy bleeding may also be experiencing symptoms of iron deficiency.

  • Another way to change the conversation is to stop referring to perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause as things that have “symptoms." {We do not do the same for puberty or andropause!} These are life phases; not ailments or diseases. Menopause is technically one day on the calendar marking the end of ovulation, reproduction and menstruation. Perimenopause is the life phase (marked by hormone fluctuations/progesterone decline) leading up to that day. And postmenopause (marked by further progesterone decline as well as a steep decline in estrogen) is every day after menopause for the rest of our lives.

  • By changing the conversation and how to talk about menopause, we have an incredible opportunity to ensure women can access the health care they need and deserve.

  • Example: If someone says “vulva and vaginal dryness is a symptom of estrogen decline," that is a true statement because we know that when cycles are regular, estrogen performs a “juicy” role; keeping our eyes, mouth, skin, vulvas, vaginas and urethras healthy. And in postmenopause, when estrogen declines, all women will experience dryness + some will be more susceptible to chronic UTIs, incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

  • But if someone says “I have menopause ankles” (I hear this one a LOT!)…the story the person is telling themselves is that their inflammation is “just part of menopause” and more likely: “I just have to suck it up; there is nothing I can do.” This {mis}interpretation could mean the person a) has inflammation b) won't seek proper care because she is “blaming menopause” and c) may miss the opportunity to address inflammation is a possible/early symptom of heart disease, which is the number one reason women die prematurely!

  • And finally--conversations that include “menopause symptoms” tend to imply that ALL-women-suffer-everything-on-the-list. It's not true. Do some suffer? Absolutely! And we are smart and savvy, and we can find easy, viable solutions when we are surrounded by quality health information and a health team to support our journey! 

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