Matt Galloway is the new host of The Current and on his first day on the job he interviewed Ada Calhoun author of the new book “Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis”. I’m not discussing the book here because I haven’t read it yet, but I am personally and professionally very pleased that Ada identified the hormonal changes of midlife, perimenopause, as one of the causes of Gen X women’s struggles. Yes, Gen Xers struggle with perimenopause.

For me it is refreshing to hear people talking about menopause on the radio because it is still a taboo subject, hardly spoken about in private, much less in public (radio)!  I appreciate that Ada researched the subject and explained how some women experience symptoms akin to those of mental illness—anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, and much stress—during this natural phase of life.  And now we’re seeing Gen Xers struggle with perimenopause.

Perimenopause can start for some women in their late 30s or early 40s and just because it is natural and all women go through it, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. This can be a challenging phase for some women and affect their quality of life, relationships, and work.

Most women in their 40s aren’t aware that the fluctuation and decline of estrogen in midlife can cause physical, cognitive, and emotional changes, and they don’t associate the menopause transition with what their minds and bodies are going through. Unfortunately, most women aren’t aware of menopause and it catches them by surprise. It may even scare some into thinking they are experiencing some physical or mental illness. Furthermore, menopause not only affects the woman but also those around her:  her partner, children, family, friends, and co-workers.

Ada writes in her book that “in the middle of the night, I wake up feeling warm. I open the window and pull my hair back into a ponytail and drink some water. Then I glance at my phone, delete a few things, and see some spam. I hit unsubscribe and go back to bed. Then I lie there thinking, What if by opening that spam email I got myself hacked? What if I just sent everyone in my contact list a Burger King ad at two in the morning? Now wide awake, I move on to other concerns: my parents’ health, my stepson’s college tuition, pending deadlines”…

As someone who helps women navigate the change, I’ve heard countless times about nights like Ada’s. Nights like these happen to many women in midlife.

Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, NCMP, executive director of the North American Menopause Society says:

“The unique confluence of stressors and hormonal shifts poses a sort of chicken-or-egg problem for Gen X women: the symptoms of hormonal fluctuation (like sleeplessness) are exacerbated by stress, while those symptoms (like not sleeping) in turn raise stress levels”. “How well your ovary functions depends on your cycle and your mental and emotional state. It’s all tied together”.

Women who need support navigating the change can’t find it easily, especially not from the medical community. The majority of physicians have very little menopause training in school and therefore aren’t very comfortable with or up-to-date on how to help women in menopause and how to provide individualized and customized care. Moreover, the way our healthcare system limits the amount of time one is allowed at the doctor’s office at each visit doesn’t even give a woman time to explain what she’s feeling and going through.

I’m hearing more and more that Gen Xers struggle with perimenopause. I don’t want to medicalize menopause, but as a pharmacist and a NAMS* Certified Menopause Practitioner I know how hard it is for women to find appropriate support and how much women appreciate being listened to.  Women want to be taken seriously and to hear that “what you are telling me is not just in your head” and “you are not alone, millions of women worldwide are going through similar challenges during this phase of life” and “this is normal and I can help you”.

I founded MenopausED to educate and support women in midlife, especially during the menopause transition, to raise awareness about menopause, and to break the menopause taboo.  I offer a range of services:

 

*NAMS, the North American Menopause Society, is North America’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to promoting women’s health and quality of life through the understanding of menopause and healthy aging.

Do you know what stage of the menopause transition you are in - perimenopause, menopause, or postmenopause?

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