Don’t believe anything good can come from hot flashes? In 2011 a Northwestern Study found that women who have them are actually at a lower risk for heart disease and stroke. That might be the only upside though!
So, what is perimenopause? Anywhere between 2 – 10 years before menopause our ovaries begin to produce less estrogen and it’s those fluctuations that lead to hot flashes and night sweats. These estrogen swings seem to disrupt a woman’s brain, specifically the hypothalamus which regulates body temperature. Other symptoms are mood swings, vaginal dryness and irregular periods. Many women I talk to who are experiencing perimenopause also report mental fogginess and memory glitches, especially word finding. I find name recollection and key-finding a challenge myself.
Anyway, we officially hit menopause when we haven’t had a period for 12 months but before you give a sigh a relief about no longer needing birth control (and according to my grandmother, stop having hormonal migraines) be warned. You may still get hot flashes for a few more years yet due to residual hormones in your body. The brain fogginess may also still continue and you may experience a lower sex drive. Not everyone does though. The Massachusetts Women’s Health Study, a longitudinal study of 2,565 women, showed that many women feel either relieved or neutral about the end of menstruation and feel no major impact to their health or behavior.
There is a large proportion of women that are effected though and help is available. During therapy we can:
- Develop strategies to manage symptoms and emotional reactions to them.
- Reframe the physical changes that accompany perimenopause and menopause, such as weight gain.
- See menopause as an appropriate stage of adult development which means accepting who they are and tapping in to the positive aspects of their lives.
- Challenge negative beliefs about symptoms and use cognitive therapy techniques to improve mood.
- Develop stress-reduction techniques and encourage healthy lifestyle changes.