Five Menopause Myths
By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on November 01, 2011 • Updated May 01, 2023
The Truth About Menopause
During many of my patient visits, I hear so many misconceptions about menopause. To help make the path to menopause easier, I want to debunk some of these myths and equip you with the facts to enter menopause and post-menopause in a Be Strong, Be Healthy and Be in Charge way!
Myth #1: You can be tested for menopause.
There is no simple test that can determine if a woman is going through menopause or when it will begin. Really, the best way to determine this is by:
- Medical and menstrual history
- A physical exam, specifically looking at the vagina for signs of thinning
- Age (average age of menopause is 51.3 years, but can occur anytime between the ages of 40 to 58!)
- Symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and night sweats
- Tracking your menstrual cycle (if a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months, she is medically defined as menopausal. That is, if there is no other medical reason, like pregnancy! And if she is over age of 50.)
You can also look at your mother’s menopausal pattern to help identify what pattern you might fall into, but this can be used only as an estimate. If early menopause runs in your family, you might have a smaller genetic endowment of eggs.
Myth #2: Hormone therapy is not safe.
While hormone therapy is not the solution for everyone (no medicine ever is), it is still the best treatment currently available for menopausal symptoms. In fact, hormone therapy is especially good for newly menopausal women, women within 10 years of menopause, women under the age of 60 and especially women who truly need “hormone replacement,” such as women with premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
Myth #3: All women experience hot flashes.
Not every woman experiences hot flashes. It all depends on how your brain is wired and how your body’s thermostat sensor is programmed. For those who do experience hot flashes, the symptoms can be reduced by avoiding:
- Spicy foods
- Tight clothing
- Smoking cigarettes
Myth #4: Women will uniformly have a decrease in sexual desire.
For many women, their sexual desire increases during this time of their life due to a number of factors, including:
- No longer having children in the house!
- The end of painful periods
- Fewer life stresses
Plus, many women are more comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality. However, some women during this time experience vaginal thinning due to loss of estrogen, which can make sex VERY uncomfortable. (Some women describe this as "shards of glass" tearing their insides … ouch!) The good news is that dysparuenia (the medical term for painful intercourse) can be treated easily with the help of your doctor, who understands menopause, hormone therapy and female sexual function.
Myth #5: Your body changes drastically overnight and your voice will even change because of menopause.
For the most part, this is a myth. However, the voice change, with a loss of the upper register, can be true for a very SMALL MINORITY of women. When the body goes into menopause it loses estrogen due to lack of eggs, but usually continues to make the same levels of testosterone, causing the body to do a flip in its estrogen-to-testosterone levels to a more ‘masculine’ ratio. Because of this, some women can experience deepening of the voice as well as hair thinning on the top of the head and chin hair growth.
Fortunately, there are lots of treatment options to help alleviate these symptoms and most women do not experience this. However, if you are an opera singer, it is recommended that you see your women’s health physician PRIOR to menopause.
Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!
- Holly. L. Thacker, MD
Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Thacker is also the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. Her special interests and areas of research including menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health.
- Alternative Therapies for Menopause
- Coping With the Symptoms of Menopause
- Emotional Aspects of Menopause
- Is It Menopause?
- Menopause from A-Z
- Menopause: Frequently Asked Questions
- Sex and Menopause
- Surviving Menopause Series: Signs & Symptoms