What are the upsides to menopause?
September 29, 2016 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm right on the border of perimenopause/menopause, and all I seem to ever hear about are the negatives of menopause: hot flashes, it's harder to lose weight, loss of muscle tone, lots of pimples, body hair going wacky (more hair where I don't want it; less hair where I do), vaginal dryness, etc. But one upside I've noticed: my hair, which has always been that sort of vaguely wavy/frizzy "Jew-Fro" has over the last 9 months gotten very straight. It's beautiful. It makes me happy. What are some of the other upsides of menopause changes that I can expect to experience?

Obviously I no longer have to deal with the mess, fuss or expense of my period. But what else is there? I know I've heard some people talking about "You're entering the wise years" and the "Celebrate your cronehood" thing but I'm talking more about concrete changes that accompany menopause.

(What I really want is an "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret" for menopause, so if such a thing exists please point me to it.)

To be clear: I don't mean this as chatfilter. I would like to understand the actual physical stuff going on my body. My gyno and GP are useless in this scenario -- they have just assessed that my negative symptoms (mainly medium-level hot flashes) are not overwhelming and thus do not require any medical intervention.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
...body hair going wacky (more hair where I don't want it; less hair where I do)

Well there's this concrete change I have noticed: the hair on my legs is getting more sparse -- so less hair where I don't want it.
posted by Lescha at 1:23 PM on September 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

As someone approaching Peri Menopause I found the research into the cultural difference of Menopause perception & symptoms not only interesting but strangely reassuring. There also seems to be some suggestion that a lot of things doctors write off as symptoms of menopause aren't in fact related to it but just culturally assumed to be. Pretty much why I suspect your gyno & GP are useless in this scenario, there is no set medical list of symptoms you'll go through, so they'll just treat the ones that you present. There is a reasonable amount of info out there about this if you google & a surprising amount of research on it.

I also found the "Grandmother Hypothesis" resonated with me, which is basically a theory that Humans (& 2 species of whale) are the only animals to go through menopause. It is a trait to ensure the continuation of their genes their energy is best put into helping their children's children survive than to continue the rather high risk activity of continual reproduction. This is sort of the opposite of many species like wolves where the parents remain breeding while the young help them raise children, but as human children take so long to mature such a method would not work for humans.

Anyway I found it reassuring as to me it said this is happening for a reason, an important reason. This evolved so grandmothers could play a a specific role in the continuing of the species. Though Grandfathers have their roles too of course, their baby making activities are rarely as life threatening as birth is to a woman.
posted by wwax at 1:57 PM on September 29, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm in (cancer-treatment induced) menopause and my skin is effortlessly clear. I have never had clear, soft skin like this in my life. I use no products and barely even wash my face. So the pimples thing is not necessarily true.
posted by something something at 2:09 PM on September 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Supposedly, after a year with zero vaginal bleeding (periods, spotting), you can assume you are no longer capable of conceiving. As someone who cannot take hormonal birth control any more and seems to get pregnant at the drop of a hat (plus other REASONS), I am looking forward to hitting that milestone. No longer having to worry about accidental pregnancy/birth control will be a huge load off my mind. I am counting the days.
posted by Michele in California at 2:13 PM on September 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

From an anonymous Mefite:
If your hot-flashes or any other symptoms are bothering you (or if they start getting worse), I strongly recommend finding a practitioner who specializes in menopause -- which most GPs and OB/GYNs simply don't. After I went through early menopause due to medical treatment, my own doctors were vaguely well-meaning but ultimately useless in helping me deal with the array of symptoms, too. I finally found a menopause specialist (http://www.menopause.org/for-women/find-a-menopause-practitioner), and her treatment approach allowed me to feel at home in my body (and brain) again for the first time in years. Even if you have to pay out of pocket to see someone (I originally did, but my insurance covers it now) I think it would be worth it. Good luck.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:19 PM on September 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

The positives I've seen: decreased acne, increased libido, no need for birth control.
posted by Redstart at 2:30 PM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

A friend found that her migraines went away, a few years after menopause. Not surprising given that estrogen swings are a major trigger for migraines. I am very much looking forward to the possibility that the same might happen for me.

Another potential benefit is having uterine fibroids go away without having to have a hysterectomy.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 3:03 PM on September 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm in perimenopause (no period for 4 months, longest ever for me, at age 54-3/4), and I've noticed no decrease in dark leg hair, an increase in facial hair, and my head hair (which used to be straight) has gotten much more wavy, which I like. (My sister, age 50, says the same for her.) So changes vary, I'd say, just like they do when women are pregnant. Hormones are sneaky little things. I agree that not having to use birth control or worry about pregnancy is a biggie, and just not having periods and PMS is GREAT. No more breast tenderness, no more mid-cycle ovarian pain. If you have had fibroids or ovarian cysts, they shrink after menopause. Other than that, I think there are emotional changes, a sense of transition to a new phase of life that can be powerful.
posted by mmw at 3:32 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh yes, far fewer headaches for me too. I used to get excruciating PMS headaches and many others throughout the month, and now they are quite rare. I can't remember the last time I had a headache, actually.
posted by something something at 3:43 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Ourselves, Growing Older" (in the tradition of "Our Bodies, Ourselves") is supposed to be pretty great.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:01 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I put off surgery for an ovarian cyst related to endometriosis because my endometriosis would go away when I hit menopause and so would the cyst. This is no help if you don't have endometriosis but I did and menopause was heaven sent. I love not bleeding and I've kept my sex drive. Have zero complaints personally about menopause.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:24 PM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is a perception thing, but you know how time gets faster as you get older (something I have long been fascinated by)? Well, I have come to understand that menopause is nature's way of letting you off from the perception that you are ALWAYS menstruating, like I JUST GOT MY PERIOD A WEEK AGO DIDN'T I? How come it's here again? kind of thing.

Not just a oh-I'm-glad-I-no-longer-have-periods thing (although I own white pants for the first time since I was a pre-teen, because yes I am THAT risk averse), but also the effect of easing what could be an overwhelming sense of menstruation cycles being at hyperspeed.

But yeah, my skin's a lot better.
posted by janey47 at 5:01 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a post-menopausal gal living where winters can be harsh, I can say that my hot flashes have often been an extremely handy way to keep warm at night without the fuss of locating an extra blanket. I was lucky that I didn't get night sweats though, just extra-toasty toes. YMMV.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:22 PM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have no scientific backing on this, so I can’t say it’s related to hormones or anything else menopausal. However. I have felt (in a background way, nothing that I think about day to day) far less tolerant of anything that requires me to be compliant or compromising or accommodating than I did four years ago, when I went through menopause. It has been strange and beautiful.
posted by sophieblue at 7:23 PM on September 29, 2016 [12 favorites]

I have enjoyed the changes that happened to my emotions. I stopped having the wild menopausal emotional swings every month and have settled into a more even temperament.
posted by eleslie at 6:16 AM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

No concern for accidental pregnancy (providing you have truly, completely gone through menopause. I know two "older women" who got pregnant "after menopause," but that is because they hadn't actually gone through it yet).
posted by TinWhistle at 7:31 AM on September 30, 2016

I now know two women who lost weight after menopause. They had PCOS-type issues and were overweight most of their adult lives. They lost tons, like one lost over 70lbs, the other just passed 100lbs lost. Not with no effort but with less effort than ever before in their lives.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 8:34 AM on September 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I second sophieblue. It's not exactly detachment, but I feel a stronger sense of separation between other people's issues and my own since menopause. Also, I feel cold less often.
posted by Sybil Stockwell Oop at 11:31 AM on September 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

For me (53), not getting periods anymore is a huge, huge, HUGE upside - not only the physical aspect but also the mood swings.

Regarding the other symptoms that you mention: not everyone gets those, and not everyone gets those to the same degree.

Hot flashes: I'm comfortably warm most of the time and I tend to walk around coat-less when most people are wearing coats, but no actual hot flashes or night-sweats.

Loss of muscle tone, lots of pimples: nope. I've had acne all my life, and my skin is actually doing well.

Body hair going wacky (more hair where I don't want it; less hair where I do): I have noticed some of that, but not to a problematic extent.

Vaginal dryness: in my experience there's a certain 'use it or you lose it' aspect to that, and there's nothing going on that some regular Kegels / masturbation can't remedy.
posted by rjs at 6:23 AM on October 1, 2016

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