Life's Lessons on Menopause

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My mother was 37; I was a pre-adolescent. She had not yet talked to me about boys, much less menopause. But over the next 30 years I would hear all about it.

Stand up to Menopause!

Ever had one of those conversations with your doctor that marked your transition into another stage of life?

My BFF had that conversation with her doctor, once. Hers was the cancer conversation (can you hear the whisper?). As my friend stood there, in her early 40’s, face-to-face with her own mortality, a switch was flipped. It was like one of those huge power shifts in a Frankenstein movie, with volts of electricity shooting in all directions. As a result, she was able to accomplish what she had been unable to do for decades: she quit smoking, cold turkey. Amazing.

For me, it was less of a toggle and more of a dimmer switch. As the doctor turned up the lights, I was able to see clearly: I am middle-aged.

Now, I’m sure that is not such a shocker to my teenage children, and my nieces and nephews would roll their eyes in disbelief at my naïveté. To be honest, it’s not exactly news to me. I figured it out, initially, when I got excited at the arrival of the Chico’s discount coupon in the mail.

Somehow, though, when the conversation started with my physician, it changed the nature of things from a casual acquaintance with my middle-age, to a face-to-face confrontation. As I saw it, I had three choices. I could run (enter: more doctors in the garb of plastic surgeons). I could hide (enter: a shopping spree at Abercrombie & Fitch and a short, spiky haircut). Or I could embrace. You can probably guess what I chose.

So I set out to find a female urologist. No offense, guys, but I figure a woman will better understand my problems “down there.” It was difficult, frankly, to talk about things like “vaginal dryness,” “perineal pressure,” constipation and increasing urinary tract and yeast infections. EVEN for me, and I was once a sexual health educator telling college kids that grape jelly is a “non-method” (weren’t the ‘80’s a fascinating time!).

My new doctor confirmed peri-menopause, and told me that, for women of a ‘certain maturity,’ some of these things are just inevitable. She prescribed treatments, and I credit her with the fact that some of them did NOT require a little doctor’s note to the pharmacist. Still, I left somewhat dejected. Enter: “Premarin,” cranberry tablets and Miralax.

Of course, since we know just enough about the causes of breast cancer to be dangerous, I took my perscription for Premarin (topical hormones) to my GP for the next discussion. She confirmed my middle-aged-woman’s malaise, and approved of the minimal doses of estrogren. I bought a year-long supply of intensive cranberry capsules, and settled in for the long haul.

I was only in my mid-forties: was managing my perineum REALLY going to define the rest of my life?

I would have hobbled on for decades with slight improvement, I suspect, were it not for a wonderful massage therapist who suggested I try physical therapy for the Pelvic Floor. No joke – they have physical therapy for that, too!

Cautiously, I searched Google and was amazed to discover someone was already in my sphere of reference. I mustered all my confidence and made an appointment. Unwilling to surrender to the ravages of pre-menopause, I wasn’t going down without a fight.

Blair Green’s therapy was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Professional and very smart, she assured me that I do not have to live with what I’d come to believe was faulty anatomy. There was something I could do. And…she was absolutely right.

So, I’m face-to-face with the onset of menopause. My sleeves and fuse are getting shorter and the days a little longer. But managing the physical discomfort takes the pressure off (no pun intended), and that makes a huge difference in my ability to accept my current status in life with grace and good humor.

So, here’s what I know:

1. While the gradual shut-down of the woman’s reproductive system (i.e. menopause) leads to problems “down there,” we do not necessarily have to tolerate living with ongoing discomfort. Step outside the box for alternate solutions.

2. Drinking cranberry juice is not enough to maintain a healthy vaginal flora. Daily cranberry supplements are much stronger, and quite effective at limiting the incident of urinary tract infections. Take with food.

3. Start your day with a long drink of water – really long. Whenever you think of it, take several gulps, not sips!

4. When you curb your sugar intake, you get fewer yeast problems. For me, supplements like oil of oregano and grapefruit seed extract help a lot, and I only need a day or two to cut back the white stuff. Consult a nutritionist if you crave sugar a lot.

5. Vaginal dryness can feel like a yeast infection. Who knew?!

6. Doing a daily intestinal massage and drinking lots of water are an amazing combination to keep you ‘regular.’

7. You can take the pressure off of your perineum with a yoga bridge pose. Use pillows, and watch TV or read with your hips propped up for a while.

8. There’s often a “natural” solution that we ignore in favor of a “medicinal cure.”

Think prevention before you get to cure.

Elaine Taylor-Klaus is a Life, Leadership and Parenting Coach and the founder of Touchstone Coaching and ImpactADHD™. She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus

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