Menopause. For some women, it’s hardly a blip on their radar. Without too many symptoms, they simply stop getting their periods and go on with their lives. For other women, though, the drop in hormone levels can literally be life-changing.
For most of us, menopause hits somewhere in the middle. Symptoms we are not comfortable with caused by physical changes we don’t quite understand. It doesn’t, however, have to be confusing, frightening, or mysterious. Menopause is, after all, a perfectly natural physical response to aging. Take this quick quiz and clear up some of the most common misconceptions about an incredibly common condition:
1. Which is NOT a stage of menopause:
Answer: A, epimenopause. Menopause starts with perimenopause. During this stage, a woman may start to experience symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. You’ll start missing periods, occasionally, as well. Post-menopause are the years after you’ve stopped having menstrual cycles. Menopause is when a woman has gone a full 12 months without a period. It’s also the umbrella phrase for the entire time between your first hot flash or missed period through to when you’ve gone those full 12 months without a period.
2. Which test has the best chance of indicating perimenopause?
B. Estrogen test
C. Follicle Stimulating Hormone test
Answer: C, Follicle Stimulating Hormone test. Although most people think that the blood test for hormone levels looks at estrogen, it actually tests for your follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH. This is the hormone that tells your body to produce eggs. As your body produces less of it, you produce fewer eggs and have fewer periods. Even this test isn’t 100% accurate though, as your hormone levels will fluctuate during perimenopause. If you get the blood test on a day when your hormones are fluctuating high, you could get a false reading.
3. But the only way to know you’re post-menopausal is with a blood test, right?
Answer: B, false. You can take the blood test if you really want to, but so long as there are no other reasons for your periods to have stopped (medications, surgeries, or other health concerns for example), women are considered post-menopausal once they’ve missed 12 consecutive periods.
4. Once you enter perimenopause, you can stop using birth control.
Answer: B, false. Women in perimenopause are still producing eggs, just fewer of them. Don’t think because you’ve missed a period or two (or even three) that you can’t get pregnant! Any ovulation could result in pregnancy if the timing is right, so continue to use birth control until you’re through the process and post-menopausal.
5. Women can lose up to how much bone density in the first five years of menopause?
A. Less than 1% annually
B. 1 to 2% annually
C. 3 to 5% annually
D. 5 to 7% annually
Answer: C, 3 to 5% annually. One of the most detrimental side effects to menopause is an increased risk of osteoporosis. Luckily, it’s also one of the best known and easily treated side effects. Continue to make sure you’re getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium, as well as plenty of exercise, to help counter this negative effect of the drop in hormone levels.
6. Post-menopausal women are more likely to experience:
B. Thyroid issues
D. Heart disease
E. All of the above
F. None of the above
Answer: D, all of the above. Most of the focus is on avoiding osteoporosis after menopause — and that is important — but it’s not the only condition you need to guard against. Changes in hormone levels can trigger other diseases and conditions as well. Talk to your doctor about a comprehensive list of medical conditions that could follow menopause and discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes that could prevent them.
Menopause isn’t something to be ashamed of, and it’s certainly not something you need to suffer through. Talk to your health care provider about these and any other questions you may have, because it’s time for the days of whispering and wondering to be long gone.