What Aging Changes Can I Expect During Menopause?

Aging changes are no joke! But, if the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, then you’re in great shape. I mean, you experienced the (quite literal) ups and downs of puberty and you’re now able to look back and laugh. You made it through the reproductive years, either birthing babies, parenting them, and/or being an example to the next generation like a champ. Now, you’re only left with one more milestone to go on your developmental journey: The Big M. Why wouldn’t you knock this one out of the park like all those that came before? 

Many of the signposts of your previous journeys have been visible on the outside. Just take one look at your junior high school pictures and you can probably pinpoint just when puberty burst onto your scene. Hello, acne, body hair, and Aunt Flo! Then, the baby-making phase arrived for some of us and it was all about the bumps: bigger boobs, bigger hips, bigger bum, bigger belly bump. Let’s look back and love on those curves. Many of our beautiful bodies created and/or cared for new human life! 

Now, menopause is hitting and in addition to external shifts, you may start to notice a lot of changes on the inside, too. Sure, the red river isn’t flowing as much as it used to (or at all). But, some aging changes happen entirely internally. Knowing what to expect when you’re not expecting will empower you during menopause.

The Most Common Aging Changes to Expect During Menopause

While we could sugarcoat the NBP that is menopause, real education is really empowering. So, grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite cocktail/mocktail) and get comfy while we boost some facts and bust some taboos. 

Cosmetic Aging Changes, AKA “Let’s Keep Things Skinteresting”

Heads up, because things are about to get hairy. Often, when people think of aging, they think of things like unwanted body hair, weight gain, reluctant weight loss, wrinkles, hair, nails, skin/complexion, etc. Ya know, all that fun stuff. But, hold the phone … we’re actually talking about the stuff that we want to talk about but are supposed to pretend doesn’t exist? We sure are! 

It’s like an entirely new verse of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”: 🎶aging spots, skin tags, acne, under eye bags / Oily skin, thinning hair, hair that grows under there / Some falls out, wrinkles form, brittle nails is now the norm / WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE 🎶

The media does a great job of keeping us focused on our looks by bombarding us with middle-aged models who don’t look like middle-aged people. They invest billions in creating and selling us anti-wrinkle, anti-aging, anti-weight gain, anti-look-like-everything-but-yourself products. Blah, blah, bleh 🤮 Well, we are going to kick those blahs to the curb. Are you ready?

Wrap your arms around your beautiful changing body, give yourself a big hug, and tell yourself the following: “I am beautiful, I am strong, I am amazing. Even when things suck, I’ve still got this. And, I’m not alone. I’ve got millions of other beautiful, amazing, strong, menopausal team members right alongside me.”

We can (nay, shall) love our bodies during all stages of our reproductive journey—from puberty to post-menopause. 

Physical Aging Changes, AKA 🎶Everybody Leak Now🎶

When it comes to physical aging changes, the big one is that you’ll no longer menstruate. But, that’s not the only physical change that you may  encounter during  menopause. Here are some others to 🎶note🎶:

  • Ovarian Changes: The ovaries will stop making the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
  • Pregnancy Changes: The ovaries no longer stop releasing eggs. In other words, you can no longer become pregnant. But, you can still get STDs. So, you should still practice safe sex. And at our age, we’ve had enough *practice* to *perfect* it! 
  • Vaginal and Bladder Problems: According to the Mayo Clinic, “When estrogen levels diminish, your vaginal tissues may lose lubrication and elasticity, making intercourse painful. Low estrogen may also leave you more vulnerable to urinary or vaginal infections. Loss of tissue tone may contribute to urinary incontinence.”
  • Hot Flashes: A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat in your body. Your face and neck may  become flushed. Red blotches may appear on your chest, back, and arms. One minute you’re feeling fine, the next you’re on fire from the inside out (cue Billy Joel again!).
  • Bone Loss: Your declining estrogen levels will make it so that you lose bone more quickly than you replace it. In other words, your bones will become more fragile, increasing your risk of a new Big O: osteoporosis.
  • Sexual Changes: Speaking of “The Big O,” with everything your body is going through and/or preparing to go through, you might realize a difference in your sexual arousal and desires, including a decreased sex drive. This is  totally normal. Vaginal walls may  become thinner, dryer, less elastic, and possibly irritated. These changes may make sex painful.

Emotional Health Aging Changes

Ah, yes, the various rollercoasters of menopause. Buckle in, because the rides are nothing if not interesting. Sure, you may notice the hot flashes, irregular periods (or a complete loss thereof), and sexual changes. But, what about the emotional changes you might experience?

This rollercoaster ride should be named “The Mountain of Mood Changes.” Mood changes are just like feeling nauseous after riding The Beast at Kings Island: completely normal. Mood swings, irritability, lack of motivation, or increased risk of depression and anxiety may happen, especially during perimenopause as estrogen levels are on the decline. Here are a few emotional aging changes that are part of The Mountain:

  • Short Term Memory Changes
  • Feeling of Sadness
  • Tension
  • Aggressiveness
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Fatigue

According to the professionals, irritability and sadness are the most common emotional symptoms of menopause. The good news is that they can be managed through lifestyle changes, such as learning ways to relax and reduce stress. Of course, this is easier said than done, right? Hey, we said menopause would be interesting, not easy. 

If you experience drastic mood swings outside of irritability and sadness (more than what you would consider to be normal hormonal shifts), you are not alone. Treatment options are available. Consult with a doctor, a nurse practitioner, or a licensed therapist for a proper diagnosis and treatment options. There’s no need to feel ashamed; even mood swings outside the *normal* range of hormonal shifts are still, well, normal.

One of the most important things you can do is to track your changes. Menopausal symptoms creep up and they are easy to explain away. When combined, they paint a picture of what’s really going on with you healthwise—a picture that can be screaming: “Helllllooooo, you are going through the stages of menopause!” 

Regular daily tracking will help you do the following:

  • Create a baseline that will help you know what to expect on your menopausal journey.
  • See patterns in your symptoms that paint a bigger picture of what you’re experiencing.
  • Identify which stage of menopause you are in based on how your symptoms progress.
  • Understand what might be causing the symptoms.
  • Teach yourself how to best manage the symptoms.
  • Figure out ways to set yourself up for success so that you can overcome the symptoms.
  • Establish awareness so that you can be in control of your body.

Can These Aging Changes Be Treated?

The good news? Not all women go through all of these aging changes. For those who do experience aging changes and have menopause symptoms that negatively impact their lifestyle, many types of treatment are available, including:

  • Mindset (for example, accepting that you are your best resource, embracing body positivity, etc.)
  • Preventative Maintenance / Self-Care (e.g., exercise, eating healthy, social connections, education, gratitude journaling, volunteering or serving others, etc.). 
  • Hormone therapy
  • Non-hormonal treatments
  • Prescribed Treatment (e.g., medication like antidepressants or anxiety medications, birth control, hormone therapy, etc.)
  • Non-Prescription Treatment (e.g., nutritional supplements, gels, lubricants, bio-identical treatments [things that mimic estrogen as just one example], lotion for dry skin, or other products to help aid with things [brittle nails, etc.])
  • Alternative Treatment (e.g., yoga, meditation, deep breathing, etc., especially for pain management)
  • Professional Treatment (e.g., talk therapy, pelvic floor specialist [to help with vaginal exercises or painful sex], intuitive eating coach, etc.)

And, as I’m sure you’ve heard all of your life—whether or not you’re going through menopause—getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods, and staying involved in activities with friends and loved ones can help the aging process go more smoothly.

It’s a Wrap!

Everyone experiences menopause in unique ways. Your aging changes and symptoms may be subtle or come on gradually, while others may come crashing in like a chorus of Kool Aid Men(opause). Some might hit you at different times, some might not ever happen, and some might come on stronger than others. Regardless, your aging changes and symptoms might be connected to the umbrella issue of menopause. Be in 🎶tune🎶 with your body and connect the notes whenever  possible.

Remember: No two menopause stories are the same. If you’re struggling to overcome these changes or you find that some of them are drastically impacting your everyday life, talk to your healthcare provider. Be sure to create a treatment plan that works for you and your lifestyle. Because while 🎶you didn’t start the fire,🎶 there are ways to bring it from a raging inferno to a tepid, flickering candle. Of course, Mr. Joel would have a harder time writing a song about that.

Sources

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