Myth: It Makes You Forgetful
It's true you may feel a little foggier during perimenopause, the transition time into menopause. But menopause itself doesn't cause memory loss. Any memory troubles you may have are more likely due to your brain aging.
Myth: It Starts When Periods Stop
You're not technically in menopause until you haven't had a period for 12 months in a row. You'll likely go through some time with irregular periods first, during perimenopause. That can last as long as 8 years.
Myth: It Makes You Irritable
Menopause itself doesn't alter mood. But some of the symptoms, such as night sweats and hot flashes, can mess with your sleep. That might make you moodier during the day.
Myth: You Can't Get Pregnant
Your fertility doesn't necessarily go away when you first stop getting your period. It's true that you're much less likely to get pregnant after age 45, even if you're still having periods. But it's still possible for some women. To be on the safe side, doctors recommend using birth control until you've gone a full year with no period.
Myth: Your Sex Life Is Over
Decreasing levels of the female hormone estrogen in your body may lower your sex drive and increase vaginal dryness. Sex probably won't feel like it did when you were in your 20s. But that doesn't mean you can no longer enjoy it. Lubricants, hormone therapy, and exploring new forms of turn-ons can keep your sex life alive.
Myth: You Need to Take Hormones
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is just one of many tools you can use to deal with menopause symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. HRT has risks as well as benefits. Your doctor can help you decide if it's right for you. If not, you may be able to ease symptoms with acupuncture or relaxation techniques, vaginal lubes, and lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Myth: It Makes You Gain Weight
Declining estrogen levels may make it more likely that any extra pounds will settle around your middle. But weight gain isn't a given after menopause. Often, it's a result of a slowing metabolism as you age. If you eat as much as you always did and don't work out more, you'll put on pounds. The answer? Eat less and move more. Include strength training to boost muscle mass and metabolism.
Myth: Men Have Menopause, Too
It's typical for men to have a drop in testosterone as they age, but "manopause" isn't like menopause at all. Testosterone levels lower gradually as a man ages, not quickly like estrogen in women. It's not fair, but "the change" also doesn't cause as many -- or sometimes any -- symptoms for men.
Myth: It Only Happens After 40
The most common age for menopause is between 45 and 55, but it's possible to have it as early as your 30s. Certain surgeries, medical conditions, or medications can induce menopause. It can be genetic. And sometimes there's no known cause. About 5% of women in the U.S. enter menopause before age 45, and about 1% before age 40.
Myth: You'll Get It When Mom Did
Your genes play an important role in when you'll go through menopause. But other factors matter, too. Smokers start menopause an average of 2 years sooner than nonsmokers. If you have an autoimmune disease or have had chemotherapy, you also may be more likely to start menopause early.