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10 Reasons to Celebrate Menopause

By , Cathy Cram, M.S.
Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site, BabyFit.com. She writes a monthly series on menopause health and fitness.

My past menopause blogs have dealt with some of the less than pleasant changes that occur during and after menopause, so for this blog I want to cover some of the positive changes that come with this life change.   It's summertime, so it feels appropriate to lighten things up and look at things with a "glass half-full" attitude.
For most women, menopause not only results in freedom from monthly menstrual periods and birth control, but also coincides with major life changes.   Children are nearing adulthood or are already launched, and our relationships with spouse, partner and family begin to shift as the nurturing hormones wane.  
Your attitude about these changes can play a strong role in how well you navigate the rest of your life.   Shifting from being full-time mom to the parent of near adults can result in an identity crisis, but instead of spending precious time mourning this change, think instead of how much energy you'll now have to nurture your dreams.  After years of having your children's needs come first it can take time to adjust to having more time to yourself.  The quiet you may have dreamed about when in the thick of childrearing may feel disconcerting, but try to avoid filling the void too quickly.    Discomfort can be an effective catalyst for making positive life changes if you allow yourself time to sit with it, and think about what actions will provide long-term emotional sustenance.
For those of you who never had children (I'm in that group), menopause can cause you to mourn the loss of choice regarding parenthood.   On the other hand, you can close that door and open others that allow you to make your mark in the world and form meaningful, enriching relationships.   You have value and worth outside of reproduction, so don't let anyone make you feel less of a woman because you don't have children.  Think of the people in your life who had a positive influence on your development, such as aunts, teachers and mentors.   As the saying goes, "it takes a village" and your life experiences offer a perspective that can enrich  a child's life.
The years after menopause can be the most fulfilling of your life, as long as you continue to view yourself as a strong, vital person.   Maintaining a fitness routine will help immensely with your self-esteem, as will surrounding yourself with people who have a positive attitude.   If you don't have a strong circle of women friends, think about ways you can form new friendships or rekindle old ones.   The emotional and physical benefits of spending time with good friends becomes more important as you transition into midlife.
One consistent factor that researchers find when studying women and mental health is the power of female friendships.   I know in my life, my girlfriends have been a constant source of strength, laughter and comfort.   They've been with me through marriage, divorce, and a parade of dating debacles, always ready to shore me up when I'm down and gather the wagons during illness or other difficult times.   Within my group of friends, I know that I'll never lack for a simpatico ear to regale with my latest indignity of aging or mental acuity lapse.
I hope that as you head into the menopause years you'll strive to cultivate good friends, keep yourself fit and healthy and laugh every day.   In addition, if you have a bad day of hot flashes, read through this list--hopefully it'll help you keep it all in perspective!

Here is my countdown of the "Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Menopause."
10.  Your children are becoming young adults and able to feed and care for themselves (hopefully!), so you can start making the meals that appeal to you not your kids.

9. Your body no longer is on the roller coaster ride of a menstrual cycle, giving back those days each month you spent suffering from cramps and bloating.

8. You can take all the money that used to be spent on tampons, pads, pain relievers and birth control and put it towards a vacation.

7. Your brain shifts from caregiver to others to caretaking yourself.

6. You can rediscover your youthful dreams, hopes and desires or create new ones.

5. You can say no.  Not maybe, we'll see, or let me get back to you--just no.

4. You can say yes--to what you'd really like to do, not what others would like you to do.

3. You can become an athlete. It's never too late!  Go ahead and work toward your dream of running a half marathon, or train for that bike trip through Tuscany you've dreamed about.

2. You can keep learning. The brain responds with positive neural changes when used, so read, write, think and learn.

1. You can fly. Think of your life in terms of a butterfly; it's your turn to emerge from the chrysalis, spread your wings and fly!
There's more than just hopeful thinking behind this list, as current research supports the positive changes women can experience in their post-menopausal years.  There are many books on this topic, but my two favorites are:
  • "The Female Brain," by Louann Brizendine, M.D.
    This intriguing book is an interesting read on the brain changes that occur during the female lifecycle.   The section on menopausal brain/hormone changes illuminates the physiological reasons for the shift in how our brain functions after menopause.

Catherine Cram, M.S. is the author of Fit Pregnancy For Dummies, and the owner of Comprehensive Fitness Consulting, LLC. Catherine's company specializes in providing prenatal postpartum fitness information to health-care professionals.

Are you celebrating menopause? How so?

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I have to wonder. I can do / have done a lot of those things on the list without menopause. Also, with societal changes, many women are going into menopause with children who are still not adults. At least I do get to save money on pads and tampons. The author has a point there. Report
Other than finding a period a drag (never wanted kids so no reason to have one in my book) I am one of the lucky ones. I was regular to a fault - you could set a clock by me. I never had bloating or tenderness. I never had PMS. I never experienced a cramp. It was some to get through in my case every 28 days. You could set a clog by me. 11:10 a.m. and there it was. I therefore knew immediately when I was "late." And my response was hooray - finally. I went to the doctor asked for HRT and never once looked back. I was finally free from carrying tampons and from dealing with birth control since children were not ever a part of my master plan.

But because we never get everything we want in life, I may be post menopausal but life still isn't perfect. I've been on HRT for 23 years and counting with no problems there but sex, that wonderfully enjoyable part of life is essentially there for reproduction is not as wonderful.

And so it goes. The rest of the article is fluff. That women ever let their periods or their children dictate their lives leaves me puzzled. Report
Bioidentical hormones are dangerous, I am almost 63 and have had hot flashes for almost 10 years, I have tried everything but I don't trust the bioidentical, folks, mine got worse when I used them and they have thrown my whole system off ever since. Buyer beware. Report
I am saving this to read tomorrow for more spark points! But seriously, my hot flashing have been killing me this summer. And my weight loss is weight gain. So I am hoping for some insight! Report
I started menopause around the age of 40. It was so hard for me with the hot flashes, and wanting to chew ice to cool my insides. I didn't care what people thought of me, and I would quickly get angry of any poor person that was around me. It by far was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. I am now 51, and done with the process, and now I am loving life once again. I admire women who barely feel menopause, or it last for a short time for them. For me it took almost 11 years .
I feel better reading your blog as I don't have children either. I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in January so that I wouldn't have more estrogen in my system, due to my breast cancer tumor being 91% estrogen positive (1 year survivor). I started feeling lonely after the ovary etc. surgery due to less hormones, and people talking about how they are looking forward to grandchildren. However, no more monthly's, the products that go along with them, and a reduced risk of cancer returning is worth the menopause at 48! The hot flashes are nothing compared to going through chemo's ones. I have had problems losing weight since my mid-30's so it is not a big deal. Just lucky to be here another day! Report
It's so interesting to see how other women's experiences with perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. There's such a variation. I think I may finally be in menopause at almost age 54...but won't know for another six months or so. However, I am not having a monthly migraine on a regular basis. What a relief! Hot flashes plague me, but a fan seems to help divert them. (I think I'm getting used to perspiring and accepting the uncomfortableness.) Yay! No more horrible cramping or dealing with the "floods." Now if I can get this weight off and improve my lifestyle, I'll feel accomplished. My best to all of you. And for those of us who are suffering -- we'll just have to hang in there for a while longer. Report
Hallelujah! Except for having hot flashes when the weather is in the 90's (like today), this has been a great change for me. I had migraines twice a month for 3-4 days at a time, and have been pretty much free of them for nearly a year. That in itself makes the other changes worth it. Thank you for the blog post! Report
Loving life, rediscovering and pursuing my passions and getting in touch with who I am and what I want, had more to do with maturity and turning 50 than with menopause. As for celebrating it? NOT! I hate the fact that everything that worked for me premenopause in regards to weight maintenance and fitness, no longer do. I have to eat less and make my nutritional choices more deliberately than before. I need to exercise more at a time when my energy levels are lower and when the results of all that exercise are no longer as optimal as before. I hate the loss of concentration and the brain fog and the constant forgetting. I hate the dry skin, the trouble sleeping, the faulty "thermostat" and dozens of other subtle and not so subtle changes that come with this stage. What's to love? Seriously!

What was I saying...? LOL! Report
I can truly say I am enjoying menopause. I am finding myself again. I have time to myself now, as my kids are young adults. I am making decisions based upon what I want to do, no longer compromising all the time. My kids are enjoying watching me enjoy myself. Thanks for the article. Embrace!!! Report
I have learned to enjoy and embrace every cycle of this wonderful female body. I remember like yesterday, the shock of my first period, first pregnancy,first labor and childbirth, first breastfeeding, first night sweat! I think I have wondered at each stage, and like many of my sisters in this post, I'm looking forward to making the 12 month of no periods marker, so that I can embrace this cycle of menopause - so far - there's no pause, and at 55 I'm ready! Truly we are "wonderfully made!" Report
No one shared much about peri menopause with me. I would have understood so much more about myself. Mood swings and anxiety, sleeplessness, heart palpatations at times and terrible periods were all part of my 40's. I love menopause and the stability it brings and wish I could reclaim my 40's. Report
Hmm, I don't know what to comment on I can relate to not loving it . I agree with Weedlady 100%. And the brain fog is horrible Report
I guess I am in the very small minority of one, it seems, as I have always embraced my fertility and my monthly cycles, and never seen them as a negative. Never used 'birth control', so feel no 'freedom' from that.

I am disheartened by the abrupt and severe changes I have noticed in peri-menopause, and am trying to learn to deal with them.

cj Report
This is good - gave me a different perspective - What hit me was going from care giver (I will always be that - gives me my greatest happiness to help someone) - to care taker - the perspective being - I'm ready to move on w/ my life and my "wasband" is not going to be part of it. (Too long a story for here). But I'm finally taking care of my emotional / mental health and it feels good. Report
Like HUSHBABY's, my perimenopause was long, starting with my first hot flash at age 39. However, the 40's were really not too bad except for the weight gain. The hardest were the two years prior to that last period, when the flow became aperiodic and more like hemorrhaging, with intervals between "periods" as short as a week and as long as a few months. Then came the couple of years of really bad hot flashes, night sweats, and rapid weight gain once I did hit menopause. Now four years postmenopausal, the hot flashes and night sweats have diminished (not gone, but manageable), and my weight is now lower than it was in my mid-40s (and still dropping, thanks to SP). Life truly is good. Report
I am going thru menopause but not the empty nest syndrome yet. I have 3 grandchildren living with me and 2 that are here half the week. I am overwhelmed . I think menopause is making it more difficult because I don't feel that nurturing side right now. I want to do what I want , when I want. But that just isn't happening . I can't wait for that day when I can breath and wake up in the morning and not have to dread walking up the stairs. Don't get me wrong, I love them all dearly, but I gave my time, now it's my turn to do what I want with my time. Report
I am 35 and my Dr thinks I am going though menopause. As a woman without children, I took the news hard. But I think I am ok with it. This article just pushes me even more in that direction. Thank you for writing/posting it. Report
I was quite young (45) when I started menopause. It was a long process but about 5 years later it was over for good.... and I never felt better. No more aches and pains, no cramps, no mess... I had only 1 hot flash early on and never had another. I started working out, lost 60 lbs and developed a healthy lifestyle. I've never had childred, because I didn't want them so that wasn't an issue. Honestly, it has been great!

Yes, have been in menopause for about 4 years and I love it. no more hassle and pain pills. Never had or wanted children so no more birth control. I was fortunate and never had many symptoms of menopause and only a few hot flashes. I still have a few hot flashes off and on especially in the summer as I don't tolerate heat well anyways but will take the hot flashes over cramps any time!! Report
Excellent blog! For me perimenopause was the worst and lasted 14 years. Now that I am 1 year post menopause at 54 I feel wonderful. It is amazing how the mind does click into wanting to take care of yourself for a change-it just takes time to not feel guilty over it. It really helps so much staying active and being as phyiscally fit as possible- both for your body and mind. Even with a little pot belly, thinning hair, hair on parts of my body I thought would never appear and fat moving around- I am still looking better than I was in my 30's and feel soooo much better. It is a "freedom" change - do what is important to you. Now we have the wisdom and knowledge to get things accomplished, all the things learned over the past 20-30 years can be used. Love this time of my life!!! Report
While I'm happy to be done with periods, I find little else to celebrate. Hot flashes are not fun, nor are mood swings. My loss of libido is upsetting to both myself and my husband. Nope, not celebrating here, but I keep hoping things will get better eventually. Report
I started the hot flashes side of menopause in October 2002...still having them !! Can't say this is a nice thing to endue...maybe I'll feel better about it all when they are over?
Menopause has only been a very good experience! I used to suffer severe headaches frequently. With menopause, these attacks have stopped. My doctor told me that this happened to his mother also. I have the relief of no periods, no headaches and I have not had hotflashes as some report. Lucky me! Report
I had to have my ovaries removed in Oct. at age 45. I have a 7 year old daughter and Evamist! I'm a happy girl! hahaha Report
I have found it to be so "freeing"! Imagine, I can go swimming any time I want!!!! Report
Yeah.....I am really embracing these hot flashes, night sweats and hair loss......NOT!!! I'm "celebrating menopause" by seeing an anti-aging doctor and going on on bio-id's HRT's. Report
Oh, yeah! I love being on the other side at last! No more mood swings, breakouts, night sweats, etc. I still have a 12 yo at home, so haven't yet reached the end of the child rearing years, but love the physical changes that have come with menopause. Report
I had a hysterectomy at age 41, due to severe endometriosis - and my only regret was that we didn't do this sooner! I LOVE menopause - it has made my life so much easier! (I'm a teacher, and I have 60 or so kids a day, so I'm fine with skipping the mother phase.) Now, at age 57, I'm looking at early retirement so my husband and I can just travel. ZERO regrets! Report
I'm 45 so no Change yet, though I've been without my monthly period for the last 8 years (hysterectomy, leaving me with only 1 ovary). I am loving that! I have one 20-year-old, one 16-year-old, and twin 14-year-olds - I'm definitely ready for them to grow up and move out! LOL. Thanks for pointing out the good parts of menopause, especially for stating that it's ok to start caring for myself...it's very freeing to read that statement! I'm looking forward to better health, more time with my husband, and hopefully a bit of travel thrown in for good measure. Report
Thanks for the glass is half full attitude. It's true that once both of my children went off to college I started thinking about myself. I joined Spark, started eating better and exercising (a lot) more. But now that one child is out of college and the other is away at school, I find that I still have two children to take care of...the mothers. This is the time of my life when the roles are reversed and we are required to take care of our parents instead of our children. Report
Thanks everyone for your insightful posts. Menopause is usually looked at in a negative light, and I agree that the challenges this life change presents can be daunting. Celebratory isn't the word I use when assessing thinner hair, changes in fat deposition and hot flashes, but as with most
things in life, having a humorous take on the situation can make a big difference. The ten reasons to celebrate menopause listed in this blog may not be true for all women, but hopefully you'll find a few that can help you rethink this time of life. It's not my usual nature to paint things all rosy (give me the science!) but thinking of the positive points of menopause helped me look at things in a different light. Report
Seriously I am not feeling the love for menopause...just sayin Report
I was dx'd with premature ovarian failure at age 34 - so menopause has been no cause for celebration for me. Report
Too many times women will grumble when hot flashes replace our monthly period, but its all a cycle in our life. We have moved into a time that we can search out our dreams. Embrace that time and celebrate. Thank you for that reminder Report
Like the idea of celebrating menopause. The past 12 yrs (I'm 53) have been difficult, starting with heavy non-stop bleeding, followed by a hysterectomy, then fast coming menopause symptoms. Hot flashes are now rare, vaginal dryness painful, but yes, I enjoy discovering this new me. Although I believe that being a mom was the best thing I'll ever be, I am curious, and a bit happy/excited, about the person I'm becoming. Report
I've been post-menopausal for 3 years now. During perimenopause, and into menopause, I used a very low dose bio-identical topical estrogen cream. This really addressed my mood changes. Just recently I have been experiencing vaginal dryness, and have been using the 'Estring' Vaginal ring, which delivers a VERY low dose, due to low absorption, and has proven to be very effective in remedying the dry vaginal problems.

As for the physicality of post-menopause...I decided to work on"getting young" again!! I got serious about 6 weeks ago, and am up to a minimum of 5 miles a day on my elliptical trainer, and weight training 2-3 days a week. My husband says there is a "discernable difference" in my body composition...which is encouraging, due to the fact that he does not like to create false hope! So...I hold on to REAL hope ;) Report
My doctor told me I am finally there, imagine me doing a happy dance, shouting whoohoo and any other joyful things you can. I am 65. I started early, and like so many other women in my family ended late, or ending. A year ago, i had the hormones of a 14 year old and regular as clockwork. The doctors would alway look at me funny when I said no, I have not been through menopause. All 10 of my granddaughters have started, yes grand. My oldest daughter went thru the change a few years ago but not me.

So since three weeks ago, I have been celbrating this long overdue event. Hooray, Hooray. It well past about time. Oh by the way, never had a sympton except I went from once a month to once every three months. I think I earned it by having it so long, well over 50 years! Report
Thank you so much for this article. I feel a bit guilty for no longer wanting to take care of my 30 + yr. old child, or sit with the grandchildren. I thought I was being selfish for saying no to things I didn't want to do. But after reading this article I realize that it is OK. I am OK. Thank you. Report
Wow - thanks for the positive outlook and I enjoyed everyone comments - I look forward to the freedom that everyone is talking about. Hopefully soon. Report
I have been fortunate to find the good in all life stages thus far. Hoping my no period streak of 4 months will make it to 12. I've had this streak broken in the past 2 years. At 56 very much looking forward to menopause!
My kids are grown and on their own. I am back in school, doing well. I love it! Report
Praise God for freedom. Have hot flashes from time to time, but I think I've had them all my life. Had night-sweats for most of my life. They went away as I got older. I would I take medicine? No. Report
Life is... I don't miss the pads and the internal protections. Life is... I enjoy it now as much as during the years of fertility. Life is... that is the point for me - we have the opportunity to make the choices for a balanced, fruitful lifestyle. Seize the moment(s), and run! Report
I didn't think I would like menopause as much as I do, but I have been blessed in that it simply was not that much of a transition for me. I could count the true hot flashes I have had on one hand with a couple fingers left over. In fact, they had been so infrequent, that the one REAL one I had, I actually thought I had gotten some kind of bug. I took my temperature--was 103!! I was mentally starting to think of how I was going to re-schedule the meetings I had at work the next day, when I suddenly realized I didn't feel hot. Took my temperature--normal. Realized it was a hot flash.

Only that major one, two other minor ones, and never again. And, I didn't think not having periods was going to be that big of a deal, but knowing you can absolutely go anywhere, do anything, and not have to worry about "it" happening has been a godsend. Not having to pack those things when traveling is also a space saver (and you must pack if you are traveling in many foreign countries as you do not know if/when the appropriate supplies will be available).

Yes, menopause is a good thing. (blissful sigh) Report
I'm only 49 and its been a blessing to have all the craziness over and done with. There are times when I wish I had more children but the grandkids help. Oh what freedom ;-}. Report
I'm 51 and still waiting for the menopause to get here and kick TOM's keister out of my life. I've had irregular, painful periods for as long as I can remember. I'm ready for a change, or, as they say, the change. Report
I always find the hot flashes to be really amazing - to think that chemically, I can start 'heating up' is really something. For me, if I can just detach myself a bit and just let it happen, it usually passes quickly and I can just marvel at the chemistry of it all. Report
Menopause = FREEDOM. Haven't looked back. Report
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