Menopause. Say the word and it instantly conjures images of hot flashes, zero amounts of sex, and a general feeling of why is this happening to me? But don't lose your cool just yet—it's not all downhill from here on out. Here's everything you never knew about menopause (you know, that time in a woman's life—usually around age 51/52—when her ovaries stop producing estrogen), including a few upsides.
"A lot of women come into my office and say they're gaining weight in their midsection, can't lose it, and they don't know why," says Keri Peterson, MD, a physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City who works with ZocDoc. "What they don't realize is that when their hormones change as drastically as they can in menopause, their body changes—and so their fitness routines need to as well." So, if you're someone who's always been a cardio queen and skimped on the weight training, now's the time to finally give that boot camp class (or these dumbbell exercises) a whirl. Not only will it help slim down your shape, but Dr. Peterson says it'll help build bone mass, which is increasingly important for women as they age.
This is a common complaint associated with menopause, but we're here to tell you that your sexual pleasure meter is not doomed from here on out. Yes, it's possible for sex to be painful—that's because when you hit menopause, the estrogen levels in your body drop dramatically. "Estrogen fills the epithelium, or your vaginal lining, so when estrogen decreases, that vaginal lining thins out," says Wulf Utian, MD, founder and medical director for the North American Menopause Society. "When intercourse happens, those surface cells that are very thin get wiped off, and the nerve endings become exposed and can cause pain."
But here's the good news: it's a "use it or lose it" situation, explains Dr. Utian. "If the woman is in an active sexual relationship, and continues that way, that often causes the vaginal lining to protect itself because you're using it and it's being stimulated," he says. "It's like when a callus develops on your hand when you play tennis—the skin builds up a protective barrier because you're using it."
That said, if you're having sex regularly and still experiencing pain (and didn't have a long hiatus), Dr. Utian says you may just need an extra dose of estrogen to help alleviate the problem, so schedule a visit with your OB/GYN to chat about your options.
Okay, so you can't get pregnant once you've hit menopause—which is technically not until the time when you haven't had a menstrual cycle for 12 months, marking the end of fertility—but it's possible during perimenopause. Perimenopause happens right before menopause, and while it's still extremely difficult to get pregnant then, Tara Allmen, MD, a National Certified Menopause Practitioner in New York City, says you're not out of the child-bearing woods until you've reached the full menopausal stage (when ovaries stop releasing eggs). So, if you're not there quite yet, and don't want any(more) children, make sure you're using protection.
Some women breeze through pregnancy and peri-menopause without experiencing any type of bladder weakness. But then menopause hits and these women find that their oversized handbag is now stocked with an assortment of pads and extra underwear. With INNOVO®, these women now have the option to treat the root cause of bladder leaks, and not just the symptoms. It only takes 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 3 months.