TEMPLE, Texas — According to the National Center for Biotechnology, roughly 1.3 million women in the U.S. become menopausal each year. It's a time in a woman's life that can be full of mystery, stress and a little fear. Because of that, 6 News Anchor Leslie Draffin asked women on Facebook to send in their questions about menopause.
In this week's "Your Best Life," Leslieraffin spoke with a menopause advocate and coach who explained what menopause really is, common things to expect and ways you can have a more 'Magical' menopause.
Menopause is something most people have heard about, but few really know much about it. Cue Lorraine Miano. She's a menopause advocate, coach and author who makes it her business to help educate women about this time of their lives.
"Western culture, kind of, embraces youth. So when you think of the word menopause many people think of old age and there's kind of a negative connotation with that they think of menopause as being the end of fertility and sexuality, where it definitely is not," Miano said.
Many 6 News viewers asked, "What is menopause and when does it start?"
Miano said menopause is actually just one day. It occurs on the one-year anniversary of a woman's last period. Perimenopause happens first.
"When the ovaries start to shut down is when perimenopause starts, and that can last anywhere from two to 15 years for some women, Miano explained.
According to Miano, "Women don't even realize anxiety can be the first symptom. If they've never experienced anxiety before or if it becomes elevated, and then they go on to have irregular periods, insomnia, fatigue, low libido, tenderness of their breasts, dry mouth, eyes, vagina. So many symptoms start to happen. And for some women, they can be debilitating. And that's at a point where they may want to see their doctor."
The biggest question viewers asked was, “How can I lessen those symptoms naturally?”
Miano said first, cut all the crud from your diet.
"A lot of the big things to do are nutrition, so if you can concentrate on eliminating processed foods and sugars, alcohol, caffeine, those kinds of things or even reduce it can help a lot with the symptoms that you're having," he said.
Next, find ways to tackle stress and then consider taking holistic supplements.
"Adaptogenic herbs are fantastic and there are two that I recommend all the time, Maca root and ashwagandha. What they do is they help your body to adjust to stress levels, they lower cortisol, they'll help you balance hormones, they're very good for increasing energy, libido, reducing hot flashes,” Miano said.
When it comes to hot flashes, many viewers wanted to know how to keep those at bay. Miano said keep the temperature lower in your home and keep a food journal, which often gives clues about foods that might trigger things like hot flashes.
"For many women, it's the perception of menopause that will determine their experience with it. If you can have a more positive perception of it, you'll definitely have a better menopause experience," she said.
So, what about sexual intercourse during perimenopause? It was a question many viewers asked and Miano said it’s something she often works with clients on.
"I want women to know it is not the end of life as you know it. Sex can still be good, life can still be good. For many women, they'll have at least 30 to 50 percent of their life ahead of them, plenty of time to pursue your passions, purpose. Remember to stay positive at this time of your life. You will be guaranteed to have a magical menopause," she said.
Miano writes about what she calls “A magical menopause” in her book The Magic of Menopause: A Holistic Guide to get your happy back!
"Yes, you can most definitely enjoy sex. Because hormones are fluctuating and sometimes testosterone levels are dropping, women may have low libido or lower libido," Miano said.
Miano said hormone creams prescribed by a doctor can help boost libido. If vaginal dryness is a problem, she suggested using a vaginal moisturizer, “Which is different than a lubricant. So, it's a moisturizer just like you would moisturize your face.”
But when it comes to sex, Miano said the most important thing is not to stress about it.
"Women need to be stress-free to have sex and men usually use it as a stress reducer. So keeping those stress levels low will definitely help you with your sex life," she said.
Miano said during perimenopause when you're still having a bleed but it might be irregular, you actually can still get pregnant.
"Yes, you can. So, even though you're less fertile until you reach that 12-month anniversary of when your menses cease, you can still get pregnant," Miano said.
So what should spouses do to support their wives through this changing time? Miano offered these tips:
- Don't make jokes or inappropriate comments about menopause.
- Be patient
- Be accommodating: If your wife needs the thermostat turned down a few degrees at night, do that for her and put on a blanket or sweater if you're cold.
- Read as much as you can about perimenopause and menopause.
- Consider going to your wife's doctor or health coach appointments so you can become as educated as possible about this time in her life.
Speaking of the doctor, Miano said when you see your doctor first ask if they specialize in menopause, "Because many doctors don't get any education in menopause, very little. And so they're not even familiar with a lot of what women should be doing."
If your doctor isn't well-educated in that area, there are other options like functional medicine doctors or health coaches. These professionals can often help balance your hormones through holistic approaches. If that doesn't work, Miano said hormone replacement therapy can help. But first, ask your doctor if you're a good candidate. Some women who have a history of female cancers, like breast, uterine or ovarian, might not be a good candidate.
Miano said next, make sure you discuss the possible side effects of hormone replacement therapy. She said one of the big reasons there's so much mystery surrounding menopause is that people don't talk about it enough, and she wants that to change.
"I want women to talk to their daughters. A lot of them asked me, 'When should I talk to my daughter about menopause?' Now! You can now, because if they do all the things that they need to do, all the good things for their body from a very early age, they'll have a much better menopause, " Miano said. "And there are many other places in the world where this type of a woman's life is actually embraced and held in high regard. So I think if we could change the perception, for many women it's the perception of menopause that will determine their experience with it. If you can have a more positive perception of it, you'll definitely have a better menopause experience."
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