The silence is broken. We women are now talking and writing about the changes our bodies undergo. Puberty, menses, menopause and beyond.
I’ve been through them all. Very little of any stage was fun. The highs and lows of our menstrual periods coupled with the utter messiness and pain of the monthly cycle was certainly a downer. But at least our hormone factory worked for us, keeping our parts lubricated, our bones strong and our hearts pumping.
Then we get to suffer through perimenopause. The night sweats, the hot flashes, the loss of sleep and corresponding crankiness are just no fun at all. Once that last period comes, we usually breathe a sigh of relief, thinking – no more babies, no more messy periods, no more hormonal ups and downs and no more hot flashes.
Wrong. For me at least, and for my 90 year old Mother-in-law, hot flashes continue, and other disgusting changes are happening.
So what does happen after menopause? I can’t speak for every woman, because every woman is different. But here is what I am encountering (age 64 now) – 5 years or so after my last period.
All my adult life I had a bra size of 34C…. until the last 4 years. Granted, I have gained weight (another side effect of menopause), but my boobs have increased out of proportion to the gain in other areas of my body. Now I wear a 38 or 40 C! And I am not liking it! Doctors seem to think that our breasts shrink after we stop producing estrogen. Mine didn’t. They just got bigger and sagged. Great mental picture, right?
Maybe we won’t have any more babies, but that doesn’t mean sex is a lark in the park. We dry out! According to Womans Day article The Truth about Sex after Menopause:
“One of the realities of sex after menopause is vaginal dryness. It happens to almost every woman, says Sari Locker, a sex expert and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex. ‘For a healthy, comfortable sex life after menopause, lubrication is key.’ “
I use a vaginal lubricator my doctor recommended, called Replens.
Our metabolism slows down, we lose muscle and gain weight! Great combo, right? Little did we know how much our estrogen was doing for us! WEB MD, the site my doctor recommends for lay people looking up medical information says:
“In animal studies, estrogen appears to help regulate body weight. With lower estrogen levels, lab animals tend to eat more and be less physically active. Reduced estrogen may also lower metabolic rate, the rate at which the body converts stored energy into working energy. It is possible the same thing happens with women when estrogen levels decrease after menopause. In fact, some evidence suggests that estrogen hormone therapy increases a woman’s resting metabolic rate. This might help slow weight gain. Lack of estrogen may also cause the body to use starches and glucose less effectively (insulin resistance), thus increasing fat storage and making it more difficult to lose weight.”
It isn’t just our private parts that dry out. Our skin does too. Treating dry skin is a breeze, though, compared to trying to counteract the loss of collagen and hence the firmness of our skin.
In Menopause and Dry Skin: The Hormone Connection Wendy Fries says:
“Another thing estrogen does is stimulate the formation of skin-smoothing collagen and oils. That’s why, as menopause approaches and estrogen production diminishes, dry, itchy skin becomes very common.”
Flappy arms & saggy leg skin.
The first time I did a Yoga Down Dog and glanced at my thighs to see saggy ripples of flesh hanging down I was appalled (actually I still am every time I let myself look). What’s a girl to do besides cover up or botox (but then whole body botox would no doubt kill!). I’m sure the doctors will solve this eventually, but for now coverups and possible laser treatments to revitalize our collagen are inadequate solutions at hand.
My family has the history…. thin bones and osteoporosis. It can be a killer. It killed an aunt and my Mother. Just a few short months after my last period, I was diagnosed with it and went on the bone building regimen. What a bummer to not be able to skate or ski or other do other activities where I might fall! The bone building regimen helped though. My scans are now showing better bone and the doctors took me off the medicine. Once again, lack of estrogen is one of the culprits.
I wondered when my hot flashes would disappear. I’m still wondering. True they aren’t as frequent or bad (read that I no longer sweat during them), but they still come.
Web Mds menopause guide confirmed that I am not alone:
“Other women may have hot flashes — at least to some degree — for life. Generally, hot flashes are less severe as time passes. “
What are you experiencing in the years after your last period?