I love the North Carolina State Fair. From the onion rings to the cows and chickens to the hand-stitched quilt display to the Ferris wheel, I love it all. But one year, when I was in the thick of menopause, we were walking through the midway when my husband proclaimed, “That’s you!” I looked up. He was pointing to an enormous spider woman on a sign over a funhouse. She had eight furry legs, breasts, and a sneer that could scare Godzilla. “Am I really that nasty?” I asked him. “Lately, yes,” he said. I’m generally an upbeat person. What was the source of that unpleasantness? I knew – the changing hormones of menopause.
Dr. Margery Gass, board member and a former executive director of the North American Menopause Society, explains, “during the reproductive years, most women become accustomed to their own hormonal rhythm. During perimenopause, this rhythm changes, and the erratic hormonal ups and downs—although normal—can create a sense of loss of control that can be upsetting.” WebMD reports these symptoms may include irritability, feelings of sadness, lack of motivation, anxiety, aggressiveness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, mood changes, and tension. Not only are the symptoms troublesome to the woman experiencing them, but they can upset her family, too.
If you’re in a relationship, your partner will be probably be affected more than anyone else. Although I had no difficulty discussing my physical symptoms such as poor sleep and night sweats with my husband, I felt shy discussing the emotional ones. Dr. Rebecca Brightman, a professor of medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, warns in Everyday Health: “If your partner is unaware of what’s going on, it’s difficult to be understanding and empathetic while trying not to take any of it personally.” Be brave! Speak up. Ask for your partner’s support so you can go through this transition as a team. Remember your partner cannot read your mind. You’ve got to take the lead.
Sex is often the issue that causes the most discord, confusion, and hurt feelings. Lower estrogen levels can wreak havoc on the tissues of the vagina, often making intercourse painful. The North American Menopause Society reports: “The discomfort can range from a feeling of dryness to a feeling of vaginal ‘tightness’ to severe pain during sex.” Be open about any discomfort or pain. This way, your partner can be your advocate as you work to find medications and lubricants that solve the problem.
Unfortunately, many women experience a significant drop in libido as menopause sets in. Low libido can be difficult to admit, but if you don’t 'fess up, your partner may take your lack of interest in sex personally. Setting a date for lovemaking is a good plan since a menopausal woman’s sex drive usually returns once foreplay begins. Keeping it creative and romantic will help stoke the flames. After a woman and her partner figure out how to foil her lowered libido, their sex life is often better than ever.
Menopause can affect your relationships with other family members, too. You might snap at little ones, argue with teens, act distant toward a sibling, or lose patience with a parent. Once again, be honest. I know a woman who was too shy to tell her relatives face-to-face about her menopausal moods. She sent them an email, and each one sent her an encouraging reply back. Another friend began to announce on a moody day, “I’m in a grump, but I love you all.” That gently clued her family in that she was in a menopausal funk, and they ended up being extra kind to her on those days - an added plus.
My husband and I are headed back to the fair this week. I plan to look up at that giant spider woman and shout “thank you.” She sparked helpful discussions about my negative mood, and I’m grateful. And after I thank the spider, I’m marching straight to the onion rings. Why not? The fair only comes once a year!
Does Menopause Cause Moodiness and Depression. The North American Menopause Society. Retrieved October 15, 2015. http://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopause-take-time-to-think-about-it/-in-category/categories/depression
The Emotional Roller Coaster of Menopause. WebMD. Retrieved October 15, 2015. http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/emotional-roller-coaster
Dr. Brightman quoted in Talking To Your Partner About Menopause. Everyday Health. Retrieved October 15, 2015. http://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/menopause-resource-center/talking-to-your-partner/
Pain with Penetration. The North American Menopause Society. Retrieved October 18, 2015. http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/sexual-problems-at-midlife/pain-with-penetration
Reviewed October 26, 2015 by Michele Blacksberg RNRead more in Your Guide for Menopause & Hot Flash Treatment Options