You may think you already understand what happens before, during, and after menopause, but some of its symptoms and side effects might surprise you. Until recently, I was convinced that I had made it through menopause without experiencing any symptoms, because I don’t think I ever had hot flashes in the way I’ve heard other women describe them.
But after some research, I’ve come to realize that I definitely experienced some of the other symptoms of menopause. (Apparently, only around 30% of women don’t experience a drastic negative impact from menopause symptoms, so I don’t take it for granted in the slightest!)
After learning so much about menopause that I didn’t know before, I wanted to share some of that knowledge with you today. So here are 10 things I didn’t know about menopause, and that you may not be aware of either!
10 Things You Might Not Know About Menopause
1. Your Bladder Might Start Acting Up
Do you pee a little when you do jumping jacks, jump on a trampoline, or when you cough or sneeze? Or maybe you just gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now? It’s likely due to stress urinary incontinence or urge urinary incontinence, both of which are common during “the change” and even well before that. As many as 1 in 3 women over the age of 18 experience bladder leaks.
Fortunately, there are a lot of options for dealing with leaks. Start by having an honest talk with your doctor to see what they suggest, and in the meantime, incontinence pads or underwear can help you avoid an embarrassing accident. (This is just my opinion, but Always Discreet Boutique pads and underwear are hard to beat if you want something that looks and feels like real fabric!)
2. Headaches May Become Migraines
Because I’ve been prone to headaches most of my life, I didn’t associate the migraines I started having with menopause. Apparently, hormonal fluctuations associated with menopause can cause migraines to start or worsen.
The good news, however, is that hormonal migraines usually stop or vastly improve after menopause, once your hormone levels are consistently low. In fact, only 5 percent of women suffer migraines after age 60, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
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3. You May Experience’Brain Fog’
Brain fog is another symptom I have definitely experienced, but didn’t necessarily attribute to menopause before now. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one experiencing “brain fog!” Studies show that around 60% of menopausal women report their memory being affected.
The most common memory problems that accompany brain fog are struggling to retain recently learned verbal information, as well as an overall struggle with concentration. But the good news is that memory tends to improve once menopause is done and over.
4. Your ‘Bad’ Cholesterol May Go Up
When my doctor told me my cholesterol was extremely high at my last physical, I was shocked and dismayed! I hadn’t changed anything about how I was eating, so I couldn’t figure out why my cholesterol had suddenly shot up.
It turns out that estrogen does a lot more than help regulate periods. It also keeps LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) low, and HDL cholesterol (the good kind) high. So, as estrogen decreases during menopause, LDL tends to rise and HDL stays the same. This was quite the eye-opener to me!
5. You’ll Want To Nap Like A Baby
I’ve never really enjoyed taking naps, because I hate how sluggish I feel after waking up from one. I generally prefer to do my sleeping at night, but in the last year or so, I‘ve found myself constantly fighting daytime sleepiness. This is yet another annoyance I can blame on menopause.
Those darn hormone fluctuations also make it harder to sleep at night, which can leave you feeling tired during the day. Many doctors recommend 20-minute power naps as an antidote, so give it a try!
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6. You May Feel Less Sociable
I’ve always considered myself an extrovert, so I was more than a little surprised that I suddenly felt like spending more time alone. At first I was worried about depression, but further research revealed that menopause is simply an introspective period of life for many women, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Prior to menopause, most women have put their kids, partner, parents, and other loved ones first. During menopause, many women start prioritizing themselves and start thinking about what they want to do next. My advice is to embrace the solitude—you’ve earned some peace and quiet. :-)
7. Anxiety Can Increase
During a hot flash, your body releases adrenaline that primes you for quick action, but can also lead to feelings of anxiety. The feeling should pass when the hot flash does, typically between 30 seconds and 10 minutes after onset.
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8. You May Have More ‘Bad Hair Days’
While pregnancy hormones tend to give women fuller, healthier hair, declining levels of hormones during menopause can do the opposite. After menopause, about 40% of women experience hair thinning, often in the form of a smaller ponytail, a wider part line, or excessive shedding during brushing and showering. But on the bright side, most menopause-related hair loss slows down over time.
Now that we’ve gotten all of the bad news out of the way, we can get to the good news as promised!
9. You May Have More Money In Your Wallet
Ever wondered how much money your period will set you back over your lifetime? Accounting for pads, tampons, pain relief, birth control, new underwear, and other related costs, the Huffington Post estimated the lifetime cost of menstruation at just under $23,000.
That’s about $50 a month that menopausal women will happily keep in our pockets!
10. Life Will Get Simpler
With no fear of pregnancy, no periods, and adult children who can care for themselves, menopause can be a time of newfound freedom! After menopause, your energy level will stabilize and the world will be your oyster.
There are a lot of things I never learned about life during and after menopause, but some of those things have been unexpectedly positive. Life after menopause has brought me more balance, creativity, and self-acceptance than I’d ever dreamed possible, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything!
Was there anything on this list that surprised you?