Perimenopause can have a significant on impact mental health and well-being. If you're experiencing perimenopause now, or in your post-menopause years, this is an understatement.
The hormonal changes that occur during this time can lead to an overwhelm of dizzying symptoms. We all know the hot flashes and insomnia. But what about the depression, anxiety, and mood swings? The loss of libido? The vaginal discomfort and painful sex?
It's essential to prioritize our mental health and seek support from your healthcare provider, family, and friends. Your provider may recommend medications or therapy to help manage both the physical and psychological symptoms.
Additionally, self-care and alternative therapies like meditation, yoga, and acupuncture can be incredibly effective. By recognizing the impact of perimenopause on our mental health and taking proactive steps to manage our symptoms, we can maintain a healthy, happy and thriving life during this time.
Perimenopause and Your Sex Life
Perimenopause can bring about significant changes in our sex lives. From vaginal dryness and decreased libido to pain during intercourse. This can create profound stressors to any relationship and it's vital to take a deep breath and address the issues, head on.
For some, chatting all things sex come easy. For others, not so much. We love to keep an open dialogue with our girlfriends. Talking sex lives and intimacy has been a way to find deeper meaning and connection. Staying open about what's going on within a relationship can be a super uncomfortable territory to hang out in. It can also be an opportunity to nurture friendships and elevate them to a place of new honesty that can be incredibly rewarding during this time.
It's understandable to feel uncomfortable discussing the trickier corners of perimenopause with your primary care physician. The more intimate topics (vaginal dryness, decreased libido, painful sex) might not be something you've historically openly shared with your primary care physician. However, this is the common ground for your OBGYN. Even so, not everyone is comfortable sharing.
A member of our team found it a challenge to open up, fully and honestly, with her OBGYN. We got together as a group and created a plan of attack, almost as a experiment, to see if she could address symptoms that for her, carried shame and secrecy. We thought, what if you approach it, in a very matter of fact way - part of her long laundry list of symptoms. And on that note, to have a list, an actual list on a piece of paper to create some distance and get it out of her head onto paper - without putting any emotionality onto it - simply list the facts of what's going on.
This was a thrilling experiment. She reported back, that she was able to rattle off a list of what is going on, like she was at the supermarket calling out things she needed. What she had perviously struggled discussing, flew out of her mouth, effortlessly. It was as if she distanced herself from her 'story' around sex, sex-drive, vaginal pain - and dropped into her scientist mode. She soon found herself in an inspired, deeply meaningful and powerful conversation she didn't know she had in her. She left feeling elated, aligned and powerful.
The bottom line is - keeping these concerns to ourselves can be detrimental to health and life-quality. We owe it to ourselves to dig in and find a way to express ourselves - and we hear time and time again, then once we do, there is a sense of relief. The feelings of loneliness and isolation can hit like a tsunami when we suffer in silence. The feeling of community and support that comes from finding language to share our experience is profound.
Tips to prepare to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms.
Before your appointment, prepare mentally and emotionally.
Write down any questions or concerns to ensure that everything is covered during your visit. It is essential to be specific when discussing symptoms: frequency, duration, and intensity of each symptom. By listing your symptoms and discussing your concerns openly, together you can develop a personalized plan for managing your symptoms.
For the month prior, take notes vigilantly. And take notes during the appointment.
Listing your symptoms
It can be helpful to list any symptoms you are experiencing, no matter how out there they might seem - to ensure you don’t forget anything during your appointment. Symptoms of perimenopause can include:
Loss of libido
Pain during sex
Urinary or vaginal infections
Joint or muscle pain
Brittle hair and nails
Then - ASK, ASK, ASK. Take your time and if you feel pressured or rushed - welp, let that go! This is your time.
If my symptoms persist or worsen, what treatment options are available, and what are the potential side effects or risks associated with them?
Are there any additional screenings or tests I should consider, unrelated to perimenopause?
Are my symptoms typical of perimenopause, or could they indicate a more serious condition?
What lifestyle changes can I make at home to manage my symptoms?
There are many support options available. Your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle changes, such as exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction techniques, to manage symptoms.
They may also suggest hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or other medications to alleviate severe symptoms. Additionally, find your tribe! There is a vibrant digital community of support : Facebook groups, online communities, podcasts (we will share our faves next week) or counseling to help manage emotional and mental health during this time.
Remember, there is support available, and we are not alone in this journey. And remember, you deserve compassionate and respectful care, no matter what stage of life you're in.