There’s a lot of information out there about menopause and — fortunately — a lot of it isn’t true.
Here are three common menopause myths, along with the actual (much less alarming) facts.
1. I’ll have all the symptoms of menopause, from hot flashes to mood swings
The truth is that each woman’s path to menopause is unique. Some go through with hardly a blip, and others have more noticeable symptoms. Most of us will see a few changes — experts estimate that 85 percent of women who’ve been through menopause have had at least one menopause-related symptom.
One of the first signs of perimenopause for most women is irregular periods. This is common and lasts until periods stop. (Once you’ve gone a full year without a period, you’ve reached menopause.)
Hot flashes are another relatively common symptom — about 75 percent of women have them, and they can vary anywhere from short (10 seconds) and mild to longer (up to 10 minutes) and more intense. For 80 percent of women, the hot-flash phase lasts for just two years or less.
About 23 percent of women experience mood changes during menopause. Some women also report disrupted sleep (sometimes hot flashes are the culprit, but the life stressors around midlife can also be a factor). Vaginal dryness, bladder changes, and weight gain can also happen with perimenopause.
There’s no sure way to predict what symptoms you’ll have. But there is one sure thing to know: there are lots of ways to reduce or eliminate symptoms — you don’t have to just gut it out.
Some approaches are simple, like using an over-the-counter lubricant for vaginal dryness or wearing layers and sleeping with a fan to help with hot flashes.
Lifestyle changes, including eating well, exercising, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep, can also go a long way toward reducing symptoms and helping you feel well through perimenopause.
There are natural remedies (check with your doctor to find proven, safe ones) and hormone therapy that can make a big difference, too.
If you have symptoms that bother you, talk to your healthcare provider to find the treatments that are right for you.
2. Menopause is the end of my sex life.
While it’s true that, in general, libido decreases for both men and women as we age, menopause certainly doesn’t have to be the end of your sex life. In fact, some women report an increase in sexual desire. After all, once you’re through menopause, you don’t have to worry about unwanted pregnancy anymore. And it’s a time of life that might feel freer in general, with fewer obligations to care for others or prove yourself to the world. If you have kids who’ve left home, the new privacy may feel like a real boost for your sex life, too.
But more than a third of women report some libido challenges, from lack of interest in sex to having a harder time reaching orgasm. This is often related to hormonal changes, including the decrease of estrogen in our bodies. Talk to your doctor about treatments, such as estrogen replacement or testosterone therapy. If you have vaginal dryness that’s making sex uncomfortable, try a vaginal lubricant (available at most drug stores and grocery stores).
Sometimes, decreased desire has as much to do with relationship strain as physical changes. If you’re in a relationship that could use some support, consider couples therapy to help rekindle intimacy and desire.
And keep in mind that, since some change in libido is normal for everyone, now is a good time to talk with your partner. You might find that you are both evolving when it comes to your needs, desires, and what fulfilling intimacy means for you.
3. Menopause brain fog is my new reality.
It’s true that some women report cognitive changes during perimenopause, such as being forgetful or easily distracted. This “brain fog” can have a lot of causes, from hormonal ups and downs, to disrupted sleep, and the high levels of stress many women experience around midlife.
If you’re noticing mild symptoms, it’s probably not anything to worry about. And it’s temporary — studies show that cognitive function rebounds after menopause.
In the meantime, a few lifestyle changes — such as reducing stress, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep — may help your brain function its best.
If cognitive changes worry you, come on suddenly, or put your safety at risk, talk with your healthcare provider about possible causes and treatments.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “Introduction to Menopause.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/introduction-to-menopause.
- Sussman, M., Trocio, J., Best, C., Mirkin, S., Bushmakin, A. G., Yood, R., Friedman, M., Menzin, J., & Louie, M. (2015). Prevalence of menopausal symptoms among mid-life women: findings from electronic medical records. BMC women’s health, 15, 58. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-015-0217-y.
- “Depression, Mood Swings, Anxiety.” North American Menopause Society. North American Menopause Society. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/causes-of-sexual-problems/depression-mood-swings-anxiety.
- “Decreased Desire.” North American Menopause Society. North American Menopause Society. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/sexual-problems-at-midlife/decreased-desire.
- Leventhal J. L. (2000). Management of Libido Problems in Menopause. The Permanente Journal, 4(3), 29–34.
- “How Sex Changes After Menopause.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/how-sex-changes-after-menopause.
- Kelly Bilodeau. “Sleep, stress, or hormones? Brain fog during perimenopause.” Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. April 9, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sleep-stress-or-hormones-brain-fog-during-perimenopause-202104092429.
- Greendale, G. A., Huang, M. H., Wight, R. G., Seeman, T., Luetters, C., Avis, N. E., Johnston, J., & Karlamangla, A. S. (2009). Effects of the menopause transition and hormone use on cognitive performance in midlife women. Neurology, 72(21), 1850–1857. https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181a71193.