Yes, you read the title correctly.
And no, we haven’t lost the plot.
We often talk about the difficulties and struggles of the menopause. We tend to speak about “getting through” or “overcoming” the menopause and rightfully so: it can be an extremely difficult experience making it difficult to see the bright side. Yet, in many cultures, the menopause is actually something to look forward to. With that in mind, let’s consider both the surprising and unsurprising benefits of the menopause.
…some women actually experience an increase in libido (sex drive) after the menopause.
Firstly, the physical: there are actually plenty of physical benefits to the menopause. Some of them are obvious. For example, no more periods, no more PMS, and no chance of pregnancy! While for some women, not being able to get pregnant may be a source of great sadness, as the choice has been taken away from them (even if they didn’t plan on having children), there is the evident benefit that you get to enjoy sex without the fear of an unplanned pregnancy.
Now of course, sex might not at first be a menopausal woman’s priority, given that vaginal dryness is such a common symptom and it can really make sex off-putting. But fortunately, it’s a relatively easy symptom to treat (with vaginal moisturisers and lubricants) and many women still enjoy sex during and after the menopause. In fact, some women actually experience an increase in libido (sex drive) after the menopause. With unwanted pregnancies a worry of the past, sex can be even more enjoyable post-menopause!
Another physical benefit of the menopause is that uterine fibroids (and the risk thereof) tends to shrink! Fibroids develop when estrogen levels are high, and although they are usually benign, they often cause painful symptoms such as severe cramps, heavy bleeding, and pressure on the bladder. For many, surgery is needed to treat fibroids. While not every woman will experience fibroids, it is not uncommon, and the menopause is often a welcomed stage since it means not having to worry as much.
Less estrogen in the body may actually promote oxygen uptake in your muscles, making your workouts much more effective.
Perhaps the most surprising physical symptom of the menopause comes from a recent Danish study which suggests that the menopause is the best time in a woman’s life to get in shape! While this may seem shocking, given the weight gain, fatigue, hot flushes, and every other symptom of the menopause that seems to make exercising that much harder, it all adds up scientifically! Less estrogen in the body may actually promote oxygen uptake in your muscles, making your workouts much more effective. This is great news for your symptoms too, as so many symptoms of the menopause can be alleviated through regular exercise.
Rather than thinking about it as the end of your youth, think of it as a new chapter.
Moreover, there are plenty of mental benefits to the menopause. Many post-menopausal women report feeling higher self-assurance, more empowerment, and more energy. While it’s unclear as to whether these changes are a result of physical changes or positive outlook changes, there’s no reason to believe it can’t happen to you! Again, many cultures look forward to the menopause, which shows that our perception of the menopause does not have to be so gloomy. Rather than thinking about it as the end of your youth, think of it as a new chapter. We’re living much longer now than we did in the past, and by the time you reach the menopause, it’s very possible you’re only at the halfway mark of your life. You’ve still got so much to live for! Many women find this to be a time to start anew and to take more risks. This can be in any department in life: dating, family, career, or your own interests and hobbies! In all likelihood, you’ll be at the point in life where your career is relatively stable, your kids have moved out (or are moving out), and you’ve got a bit of time on your hands.
It’s the perfect time in your life to really focus your energy on yourself: your health, your dreams, your happiness – the whole lot!
…it’s important to know that this positive outlook is absolutely achievable, and it isn’t just for those with a naturally positive and peppy disposition.
It’s completely understandable that the bright side of things can be hard to see. You might be reading this with a horrible headache after yet another sleepless night and be thinking ‘absolutely not’! It can take time to change your perception of a situation, especially when every day is a struggle. But it’s important to know that this positive outlook is absolutely achievable, and it isn’t just for those with a naturally positive and peppy disposition.
The fact of the matter is, our perception of the menopause is rooted in our cultural and societal view of it, and that’s going to take a lot of time to change. But the good news is, the menopause is not innately a horrible thing and your symptoms can be treated and will eventually pass. So as you treat your symptoms and take care of yourself, consider the benefits of the menopause!
Image taken at the first ever menopause conference at Dublin, Ireland, October 2019