Menopause Myths

Beyond the jokes and the “Menopausal women are hotter” coffee mugs, today’s women are serious about understanding menopause.

Female baby boomers—the nearly 40 million women born in 1946 through 1964—are in their early 40s to 60s. And they’re armed with better knowledge than ever and empowered about their healthcare, says Margery Gass, M.D., professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cincinnati.

Still, the landscape of hormones, herbs and hot flashes can be hard to navigate. Below, an expert debunks the myths:

RUMOR: I am in perimenopause. I can stop using contraceptives.
Not so fast: In perimenopause—meaning “around menopause,” a transitional time when estrogen levels erratically decline—your pregnancy chances are low but do exist. Your ovaries are releasing eggs, albeit irregularly.

RUMOR: For my hot flashes, I can use herbs that contain natural estrogen.

The truth: Scientific support is lacking for estrogen-like substances in soy foods and supplements and herbs such as black cohosh. If a woman takes multiple natural products, the substances can add up to dangerous levels, warns Wulf Utian, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of the North American Menopause Society. If a woman wants to try one product, it is probably safe, Utian says, though, nothing more than a placebo effect likely will occur.

RUMOR: Hormone therapy isn’t safe. I don’t want anything to do with it.
Hold on: “For most menopausal women, benefits of estrogen therapy and estrogen-plus-progestogen therapy at low doses are remarkably safe,” Utian says. But confusion and fear linger after the big headlines of 2002 and 2004 when the Women’s Health Initiative halted two hormone therapy trials, citing breast cancer and stroke risks. Those small risks don’t apply to most women in perimenopause who use the hormones for one to three years, Utian says.

RUMOR: It hurts to have sex. Maybe I should give up on it.

There is some truth to this: As estrogen declines, the walls of the vagina become thin. But the treatment, local vaginal estrogen, is so simple that it’s a shame more women don’t bring it up with their doctor, Utian says.

If you have questions about menopause, please call 678-312-5000 for a physician referral to speak with one of board-certified OB/GYNs who are here to help you and address your questions and concerns.


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