Menopause, Menopause Symptoms

Hot Flashes and EmpowerHer: Part One

Hot Flash

A few months ago, EmpowerHer, a woman’s health site, invited me to write articles about hot flashes. I had fun figuring out how to give each article a creative slant, and I enjoyed the research. Citing sources brought me back to my university days!

My first assignment was:

Capture

I went to my friends at Midlife Boulevard, a women’s writing and blogging network. They sent me great responses:

  • “I used to think steam was coming out of my ears.”
  • “It’s like a furnace exploded in my core and is radiating to my extremities.”
  • “A hot flash is 100 degree heat paired with 100 percent humidity.”
  • “I feel like I’m getting my hair washed, and the water is way too hot!”

Read the rest of their responses here, a bit of my own experience, and the research I uncovered on the topic.

My second assignment for EmpowHer was:

Capture

Is there a difference? 

Read a story here from my very own bedroom and then my research on hot flashes and night sweats.

The final article I’ll include today addresses this question:

Capture

I got brave and talked about the Modess Starter Kit my mom ordered for me. I used this as a segue into menopause, which comes on a lot slower than the shock of that first period.

This article was a bit harder to put together research-wise than the first two. Read it here!

I’ll stop to give you a chance to read. More hot flash scoops to come! (And thanks to Stacia, who’s been editing my articles. I appreciate your light and encouraging hand.)

download

P.S. I dug deep through mighty Google, and I don’t think I had a Modess Starter Kit after all. I think the pamphlet I read was called “Very Personally Yours.” Here’s the cover!  Sound or look familiar to any of you?

verp61sm

Hot Flashes, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms

The Flower Cooler: A Hot Flash Remedy

Mae Lee in Flower Cooler

A post by florist Mae Lee Brizendine.

Everyone thinks that working in a florist is a heavenly job and it is most of the time.

But, when you work with four cold-natured women and you are going through menopause with all of the hot flashes that ensue, it can be a hellish experience.

On some occasions I have resorted to taking up residence in our flower cooler just to get a little cool air on my other-wise constantly steaming body.

My hot flashes are not exactly “flashes” but rather hot, sweaty, steamy “constants.”

I stay hot all the time while my co-workers shiver and turn up the heat.

I never wear sweaters anymore and the cute scarves everyone is wearing now send me over the edge.  This blazing heat in my body seems like it will go on forever.

However, my doctor tells me that this too shall end.  Ten years seems like a long time to walk through this hellish time in my life.

I guess it could be worse.

I could be freezing like my co-workers and friends, but at least they get to wear those cute scarves and sweaters, while I chill out in the cooler in my short sleeve cotton shirt.

So, the next time you’re thinking how much fun it would be to work in a florist, consider the flower cooler as a perk, if you’re going through menopause.

Flowers

Mae Lee Brizendine is a florist at the Flower Patch in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  Her husband Bob is the pastor of Hillsborough Presbyterian Church. They make a great team, especially for weddings and funerals!

Bob and Mae Lee Brizendine

Aging, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms

Light Bladder Leakage and Menopause


Handkerchiefs

A post from Marilyn Suttle, the Light Bladder Leakage blogger at Poise:

So, you’re having night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and on top of all that – you leak. Welcome to the transition toward menopause (sometimes called perimenopause.)

Perimenopause is that time in life when your periods diminish and eventually come to a stop. The transition affects every woman differently. Your passage may be smooth sailing, or you may experience any number of symptoms in varying degrees.

Menopause (the permanent end of menstruation and fertility) is typically reached once you experience 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.

During this transition, a decline in estrogen levels may result in weakening of the pelvic floor muscles that support bladder control, contributing to LBL (light bladder leakage.)

Though not all menopausal women experience LBL, it is common. One in three women experiences it.

We reached out to urologist, Jason Gilleran, MD at Beaumont Women’s Urology Center in Royal Oak, Michigan for his insights on ways to manage LBL during menopause.

“The sooner women address their bladder leakage, the better their results,” Dr. Gilleran said. By changing the habits that contribute to light bladder leakage during menopause, you may sidestep, reverse, or even eliminate those little leaks.

Seek out support

LBL can improve dramatically in some women by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises. However, telling a woman to do Kegels without instruction is a lot like sending someone to the gym without telling her how to use the equipment.

Dr. Gilleran recommends pelvic floor therapy as a first course of action. “I refer a lot of young women, who are perimenopausal and noticing early signs, to a pelvic floor physical therapist,” he said, “They can accelerate your ability to do Kegel exercises correctly and get results. They’re not as expensive as some of the other treatments, and there are no harmful side effects.”

If you aren’t getting the kind of support you’d like from your regular physician or gynecologist, be proactive and ask to be referred to someone with special training, like a pelvic floor physical therapist or urogynecologist.

What else can you do to prevent, reverse or eliminate LBL in menopause?

Dr. Gilleran suggests the following:

Stop smoking. Smoking is a contributing factor for bladder leakage during menopause.

Minimize weight gain. Women tend to gain weight during menopause. A noted research study showed that women with an average weight of about 200 pounds who lost 10% of their body weight, had a 70% reduction in leakage.

Treat chronic coughs and allergies. A chronic cough causes ongoing pressure on the pelvic floor and, over time, can weaken it. Get pulmonary issues like persistent coughing and sneezing under control.

Go to the gym. There are many benefits to exercising. It can even improve your mood and outlook. Some patients have told Dr. Gilleran, “I don’t let LBL stop me from exercising. I wear a pad and get on with things.” Others say they don’t want to go to the gym because they’re self-conscious about leaking. “High impact exercise may not be the best thing for the pelvic floor,” Dr. Gilleran said. “Doing core strengthening exercise like Pilates or yoga is better from that stand point.”

Be gentle with yourself

While some factors contributing to LBL are within your control, others are not. “Childbirth or a family history that predisposes you to issues, like prolapse, can contribute to a weakened pelvic floor,” Dr. Gilleran said. “If you’re predisposed then you’re more likely to experience some level of leakage after menopause.”

Remember, you are not alone. One in three women experiences LBL, and there are ways both surgical and non-surgical to manage it.

“Once a woman has gone through menopause completely, LBL is a factor of what has happened to the pelvic floor tissue,” said Dr. Gilleran. “Some women come in with signs that they have changes in their vaginal tissues, while other women’s tissues are still in pre-menopausal shape. After menopause, women, in their mid-50’s or 60’s, who have intact muscles in their pelvic floor, tend to have better results with a pelvic floor physical therapy.”

When women experience bladder leakage and wait too long to see a pelvic floor physical therapist, it’s more likely that muscle loss may have taken place. The earlier you intervene, the better results you’ll have long term.

When to consider surgery

The reason some women are likely to opt for surgery is that they’ve tried conservative treatments, like pelvic floor therapy, and it failed. The surgery for LBL has changed over the years. “It used to be a fairly invasive surgery involving a bladder lift or bladder suspension, which would be done sometimes through a cut in the abdomen,” Dr. Gilleran said, “Now, most everything, is done through three small incisions in the vagina, sometimes only one. The most common type is called a sling surgery.”

The goal of the sling surgery is to place a type of backboard under the urethra. It acts as a mechanism to stabilize the tissues so that with exercise, coughing, and sneezing, the urethra itself doesn’t fall down. “It’s not designed to lift it up like we did in the past, but keep it from falling down,” Dr. Gilleran said, “To better understand it, picture yourself trying to sit down and you have no chair. What we’re doing is putting a chair there.”

Sometimes Dr. Gillleran has patients use a tampon. A tampon can actually act to stabilize, a bit like what a sling does except they use it externally. When women use a tampon and they don’t leak as much, it’s a good sign sling surgery will help them.”

Controversy over hormone replacement

Some women wonder if hormone replacement is the answer to eliminating LBL during menopause. “From a risk/benefit standpoint, it’s not something I use as an everyday practice for LBL alone,” said Dr. Gilleran, “I tend to avoid it because of the concerns with breast cancer, uterine cancer, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke – those things that have been associated with it. Hormone replacement is a very controversial issue.”

You are not alone

Dealing with menopause can be challenging, especially when it includes light bladder leakage.

If you find yourself feeling down, resist the urge to withdraw and isolate yourself.

You are not alone. One out of every three women experiences LBL – that’s about 40 million women! This is a time to reach out to your close friends and family. Many of them may be going through it too.

When you start the conversation about LBL, you will find support and camaraderie with the women in your life. It’s possible to manage LBL, and move on to living your life to the fullest.

Choose to be your most vibrant self, and enjoy your mid-life adventure.

marilyn

Marilyn Suttle is a women’s success coach and the Poise LBL blogger. You can learn more about Marilyn and the Poise products for feminine wellness at www.poise.com.

 

Poise Product Pic

Top Photo:  Since Light Bladder Leakage often makes its first appearance during a sneeze, I offer you my handkerchief collection POISED (pun slightly intended) on old handkerchief box.

Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, Perimenopause, Periods

I Didn’t Pause for Menopause

When blogger Ruth Crates told me that she flew through menopause, I asked her to write us a post to present that side of  the story.  Take it away, Ruth!

Menopause?

I think I was so busy I missed it.

Since I am now 62, and I haven’t had a period in a while, I am pretty sure it happened.

Let’s back up just a little bit…

menarche

When I reached the age where periods were probable, my mom sat down with me (briefly) and we had a talk.

What I remember most about the talk was the fact that my grandmother never told my mother about the entire process.  Some subjects were just taboo in the 1930’s; this was one of them.  When her first period came, she seriously thought she was going to die and was afraid to tell anyone.   Luckily, her older sister intervened.

Even though Mom didn’t really give me a lot of information during the talk, she at least wanted to spare me the fear of the unknown.

She  gave me a little book created by Kotex  called “Now You Are 10”.  It explained everything very nicely and even had a diagram explaining how to use the little belts we had to wear to hold the sanitary napkins in place.   I never did get the hang of that!

now you are 10

Girls are always at some hormonal point in their lives.  I figure we get 10 years of no worries.

Then you have:  Premenstrual, Menstrual, Postmenstrual,  Pregnancy, Post pregnancy, Perimenopause. Menopause, and Post Menopause.  It’s the never-ending story!

I have gone through all those stages (some of them several times).

Unfortunately, now I have reached the stage which I have taken the liberty of calling “Oldness.”

I may be done with all of the above afflictions, but now there are new things  like memory-loss, confusion, arthritis, joint-replacement, and the ever popular incontinence.

As for the menopause thing, I had a pretty easy time of it.

My periods were never  regular except for a brief time in the 70’s when I was on “The Pill”.  So I can easily dismiss that symptom.

I don’t recall a single hot flash.

I did have night sweats for a long time…. maybe even as long as 10 years, but I blamed it on my mattress.

Since my periods were irregular, they were sometimes “super-heavy” and unpredictable.  I bought a rubberized bed cover to protect the mattress.  I always thought that the rubber discouraged air flow and  resulted in the sweats.  Maybe it was actually … menopause!

This I am sure of:  paranoia is a direct result of menopause.

When I turned 57, I had not had a period in several months and I began to have thoughts about being pregnant. It could happen.  These thoughts took on a life of their own and I began to obsess about it.

I had several mini-panic  attacks thinking I was pregnant.

I actually went to the doctor and had a pregnancy test done.   My doctor, thank goodness, is a woman, so I think she sensed how disturbed my thoughts were and wanted to put these fears to rest.

Of course, the results were negative, and I was quite relieved. I guess the funniest part about this obsession is that my husband had  a vasectomy 20 years earlier…. I mean, really, what were the odds!

I have always thought that obsessive and unrealistic thoughts were a side effect of menopause, at least in my case, because usually I am pretty sane.

Every woman’s menopause is different.

We should be careful not to compare our experience with others too closely. Experiencing an uneventful menopause is definitely preferable to having a difficult one.

Taking your menopausal symptoms seriously is sound procedure.

Visiting your doctor on a regular basis is just good sense.  The better your doctor knows you, the better chance you both have of being able to figure out what is going on with your body.  That is something we all need to be aware of no matter what time of life we are in.

Regardless of how you deal with the stages of your life… they are your Life.

Enjoy the changes and embrace each stage because there is always another one on the way!

Ruth profile

Ruth Crates was born and raised on a Midwest grain and livestock farm and has  lived her entire life within a 30 mile radius.  She’s  been married to a grain and livestock farmer for 41 years, and they have three children (An attorney, a carpenter, and a librarian) and three grandchildren. Ruth taught for 35 years. She’s now retired and loving it! She started blogging to record stories for her children and grandchildren. Check out her  blog at Retiredruth: Life in the 50’s and Beyond.
Aging, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms

Her Waist Is Gone!


Close Up Waist

Not the lovely lady in the above picture.

She’s got a waist.

But I don’t.

My waistline is gone.

Or at least gone missing.

I made this startling discovery while shopping for  a rehearsal dinner dress for Laura’s fastly approaching wedding.

“You need to show off your waist,” the bride-to-be announced.

This is her standard line, no matter the occasion.

While they admire the spirit of the sixties, Laura’s generation seems to live in fear of anything that shouts baggy or comfortable.

Daughter Kath is wont to add, when I’m with her, “That dress needs a belt.”

Bu the other day in the dressing room, anything with a waist was an immediate two thumbs down.

I looked like a teddy bear in a party dress.

Teddy Bear

I’ve put on a few pounds, but this feels different.

My wedding rings now twirl on my finger. My chin is still pointy.

It’s all migrated to my middle.

Weight gain about the midsection.

How many times have I read that?

Dr. Oz says it’s related to the drop in estrogen.  There goes the E word, again.

Another woe of menopause.

Can a missing waist be found?

I’m in need of encouraging words!

Photos:  The lovely painting is from the cover of The Women’s Home Companion, November, 1929. My bear is wearing a vintage Shirley Temple doll dress. She wants the blogosphere to know that she is very happy with her waist (or lack thereof) and has no body issues or concerns about menopause.

Cover

Still Alice Giveaway:  Congrats to Sally, who won the copy of Still Alice.  Thanks again to Susan for her post that  focuses on early Alzheimer’s Disease.

Aging, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, No More Periods, Periods

Menopause: Save the Sisters!

Menopause + Definition

Although the subtitle of this blog is “Encouraging Words for the Menopause Roller Coaster,” I must give you a

Whine Alert!

I thought the great day would come when we’d stop having periods.

No cramps.

No worrying about going sailing for six hours at that time of the month.

No birth control.

Just free wheeling.

I figured the definition above, which I snipped from a Google search of “menopause,” was an honest one.

Not!

 Menopause is so much more.

No cramps slips into other concerns: achy feet, insomnia, extra dry skin, weight gain, bloating, and on and on….

No birth control remains a blessing, but one’s enthusiasm can wane when vaginal dryness and atrophy appear.

I was tricked!

No one warned me, really.

Or maybe they did, but I missed it.

Menopause, physically, is not simply the cessation of periods and the end to the possibility of pregnancy.

I cry NOT to the definition above. Or perhaps that should be “THAT’S NOT ALL!”

Do I wish I had known?

Yes!

I’m of the forewarned is best persuasion.

The Girl Scout motto “Be prepared” stuck with me.

What about  you?

There’s plenty to celebrate with The Great Pause.

Liberation from some of the “shoulds” and “musts.”

A willingness to toss out what’s not working.

The courage and confidence to find new hobbies, activities, travels, relationships, and even careers.

The mind-changing stuff rocks.

But to the physical stuff I say

Yikes and Yuck.

So what are the encouraging words?

Point one is that there are remedies, at least in part, for some of the ailments.

Point two is that the mind-changing stuff is cool.

Point three is that I think it’s time we

Save the Sisters!

Just like an older sister informs a younger one about periods, we should let those who come after us know what lies ahead.

I wish I’d been warned.

I would have appreciated my youth more.

And not been so shocked by the changes to my body.

So it’s time, with encouraging but honest words, to clue in the sisters.

Agree?

Disagree?

Memory, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms

Still Alice: Early-onset Alzheimer’s (and a Book Giveaway!)

images (2)

A  post by my friend and book club devotee Susan Bellinger:

One of the most aggravating symptoms of menopause is memory loss, or at least it is for me.  But I know I’m not the only one who worries that I’m “losing it” or that Alzheimer’s Disease is creeping up.

My book club recently read Lisa Genova’s Still AliceAlice is 50 years old,  the mother of 3 grown children, a loving wife, and a well respected professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard.  Alice seemingly has it all.

However, her life is becoming increasingly disrupted by forgetfulness and occasional disorientation.

Alice becomes very worried by her symptoms but clings to the hope that they are caused by menopause because the alternatives are too disturbing to even think about.

Alice’s world is shattered when she visits her family doctor:

        “Can estrogen replacement help with the memory problems?”

        “…  I don’t think your memory problems are due to menopause.”

       The blood rushed from Alice’s head.  Precisely the words she’d dreaded and only recently dared to      consider.  With that one, professionally uttered opinion, her tidy and safe explanation shattered.  Something was wrong with her, and she wasn’t sure that she was ready to hear what it was. She fought the impulses growing louder insider her, begging her to either lie down or get the hell out of that examining room immediately.

Genova’s best-selling novel takes the reader through the diagnostic process, and we see how Alice and her family deal with her early-onset Alzheimer’s and its progress.

What makes this book unique is that it’s told by Alice herself, the first book that lets a reader enter the mind of a person who has the disease.

The author, who has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard, spent over a year researching the disease and talking in depth to Alzheimer’s patients.

When I led the discussion of Still Alice during book club, I was shocked that the majority of our club had someone close to them who had the disease or some form of dementia.

But I shouldn’t have been surprised because, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 8 older American have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

I highly recommend Still Alice. It’s a first rate page-turner, a warm and loving story of a family coming to grips with the unexpected, and ends on a hopeful note.

And, as a bonus, it gives us valuable, up to date information on the disease and treatments.

Listen to the author, Lisa Genova, tell how the novel began:

Giveaway:  To win a copy of Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, leave a comment by April 2 saying you’d like to be the winner.

Susan Bellinger and  her husband Dwight live in Hillsborough, NC and both have mothers with memory problems.  Their two daughters have grown up and are now living in Vermont and Prague, Czech Republic.

Photo Below:  Susan’s mom read to her when she was a child and continued the tradition with Susan’s daughters.  Here she reads to her granddaughter, Gwen, now 22.

Jean and Gwen copy