9 Menopause & Hot Flash Myths You Shouldn’t Believe
What do you think or feel when you hear the word menopause? If you’re like many women, the idea of this life phase can bring about mixed feelings, from dread to fear to some more positive thoughts about no longer having a monthly period.
While there’s no reason to stress about this natural process, it’s definitely a good idea to educate yourself about the process of menopause since there is unfortunately a lot of misinformation floating around. This includes knowing fact from fiction. Unfortunately, there are plenty of myths surrounding menopause and hot flashes that are prevalent to this day.
Here are 9 menopause myths you shouldn’t believe!
1) Menopause is the Same for Everyone
When most people think about menopause, they tend to assume it is the same process experienced by all women in the same way. However, there are actually three different types of menopause!
This is probably what most people think of when they think of menopause. Natural menopause is the ending of menstruation when it’s not caused by disease or intervention. Most North American women now live at least ⅓ of their live after going through menopause.
Believe it or not, sometimes menopause occurs before age 40! The cause of premature menopause remains unknown in nearly 40% of cases. 30% of cases are autoimmune, with antibodies destroying ovarian egg cells. If you underwent premature menopause, it’s a good idea to get tested for:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
In rare cases, premature menopause can be caused by genetics and chromosomal abnormalities. Premature menopause is also sometimes referred to as premature ovarian failure (POF) or premature ovarian insufficiency
As the name suggests, surgical menopause happens after a bilateral oophorectomy (when both ovaries are removed). Surgical menopause will not occur after a hysterectomy (when the uterus is removed) if the ovaries are left in place– even though menses will obviously stop. However, women who have had a hysterectomy start menopause an average of 2 or 3 years before women who haven’t had one. Other medical procedures that might cause a woman to have an earlier menopause include chemotherapy and pelvic radiation. However, in some of these cases, their periods will start back up after awhile.
2) Hot Flashes Only Happen During Menopause
Most people assume menopause and hot flashes go together like peanut butter and jelly. However, the two aren’t as predictably linked as we think. Women can experience hot flashes at almost any age, since they can occur a full 10-20 years before and after menopause. It is possible to have a hot flash any time from your early 20s all the way into your 70s.
3) Hot Flashes Go Hand-in-Hand with Night Sweats
Hot flashes and night sweats are symptoms that most believe go hand-in-hand. But some women who have hot flashes may never wake up in soaked sheets, and some women who experience night sweats may never feel that burn from within. The reason that some women experience night sweats but not hot flashes is that estrogen levels become low throughout the day but get even lower at night.
That being said, daytime hot flashes are statistically more common. This is because various triggers for hot flashes occur during the day, for example:
- Caffeine in the morning
- Stress at work
- Stress when your alarm clock goes off in the morning
Of course, there can also be nighttime triggers like having dessert in the evening, but there are simply more potential things one can eat/drink/experience during waking hours.
4) Hot Flashes Are Solely Hormonal
This myth is grounded in some truth, since the main cause of hot flashes during menopause is indeed hormonal imbalance, in particular the major drop in estrogen. However, there are other factors that can cause a hot flash. Women who smoke or drink excessively have been known to have hot flashes at any point in their lives. Additionally, individuals with nutrient deficiencies can have especially severe and long-lasting hot flashes.
5) Aunt Flo Will Suddenly Stop Visiting
For some ladies this myth is a reality, since it does happen this way for a minority of women. However, the majority of individuals will experience some menopausal transition before her period stops entirely. In the 3-5 years before menses stop completely, your ovaries will likely fluctuate between overworking and underworking. Don’t be alarmed if your periods are any of the following:
- Too heavy
- Too light
- Too close together
- Too far apart
Most women experience periods that sputter before finally coming to a halt. The average age for this halt–your last period!–is 51.
6) Menopause Will Put a Damper on Your Sex Drive
This is another generalization that is true for some women, but the widespread assumption also prevents other women from realizing a different issue at play. For many women, it’s not actually a dip in libido but vaginal dryness that causes the aversion to sex. The drop in estrogen causes this dryness, which makes intercourse painful.
Using a lubricant can help, or you can even use coconut oil. However, only try the latter if you’re not using condoms, since oil can break a condom down. If these over-the-counter/grocery store options aren’t cutting it, ask your gynecologist if he or she is willing to prescribe vaginal estrogen in the form of a:
- Or cream
7) You Will Have Hot Flashes for the Rest of Your Life
If you experience bad night sweats and hot flashes, you may sometimes feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But rest assured that light does exist! As mentioned earlier, some women get their first hot flashes long before menopause; in fact, some even get them in their 20s as part of their PMS symptoms. Most women just experience hot flashes for 2-3 years. Even if yours last a little longer, they WILL stop one day.
8) There Isn’t Much You Can Do
There are plenty of things you can do to deal with hot flashes and other unpleasant symptoms of menopause!
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy, perhaps the best-known treatment for menopause symptoms, can be an incredibly effective choice for some women. However, it does have potential side effects, including:
Hormone replacement therapy has even been found to be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Also, don’t fall into the false belief that hormones from a compounding pharmacy are risk-free. These treatments, often advertised as “natural” or “bioidentical” because they are synthesized to be molecularly identical to certain human hormones, can still have all the same side effects as FDA-approved treatments. If you want to try hormone replacement therapy, it’s best to go with the FDA-approved option so you’re guaranteed to be getting a safe, effective amount of hormones.
We don’t mean to scare you off by all the talk of risks and side effects! For some women, hormone replacement therapy does a world of good. The best thing to do is have an open and informative talk with your doctor or healthcare provider.
Natural Treatment Solutions
Many women choose to go a more natural route. Perhaps their menopause symptoms aren’t that bad, or maybe they simply don’t want to take on the potential health risks associated with hormone replacement therapy.
Some of these natural solutions include:
- Black cohosh, which can help restore estrogen levels and regulate body temperature
- Other herbs or foods containing phytoestrogens, such as:
- Red clover
- Activities that reduce stress, which is a trigger for hot flashes:
- Deep breathing
- Cardio (without overworking yourself to the point of stress)
Regardless of what you are or aren’t taking, it’s important to remember that menopause symptoms will pass. Getting frustrated will only induce more stress and make it worse!
9) Menopause is a Dread-Worthy Occurrence
Speaking of stress, don’t stress yourself out about menopause in general! It truly isn’t something you need to dread.
This is just another phase of life like puberty or childbearing years (if you had kids!). It’s not the end of something, but the beginning of another part of life. And hey, not having a period anymore is hardly a bad thing, right?!
As a final note, we’d like to let our readers know that we do conduct hot flash clinical trials in DeLand. If you live nearby and are interested in participating, please give us a call or (386) 785-2400 fill out the contact form in the upper right hand corner.