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20 Eye-Opening Things About Menopause You Probably Didn't Know

We had questions, so we got answers.

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By definition, menopause is going 12 months without a period after the age of 40. But what else is there to know about menopause?

TBH, we had a lot of questions about it. So, we spoke with board-certified gynecologist Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a New York-based OB-GYN and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V (Fair Winds Press, 2017), to get her expert response to a bunch of our questions.

1. What, medically speaking, actually happens during menopause?

NBC

Dweck told BuzzFeed, "Basically, your ovaries stop producing estrogen. They stop ovulating. Now, we do produce estrogen in some other ways than the ovaries, but it’s not enough to prevent symptoms people have during menopause."

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4. What are the first signs of menopause?

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"First signs of menopause are usually that bleeding habits change. However, you can also experience hot flashes, changes in perspiration, or hair loss."

5. Is there such a thing as a “phantom menopause?” Like, you think you're going through menopause and then all of the sudden your period shows up?

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"Some people will lose their period for a short period of time, but they’re not really in menopause. This could actually be stress or health related, and this happens all the time. But, if it hasn’t been 12 months without a period, then it’s not menopause."

6. Is it possible to experience menopause when you’re relatively young – say, like, in your early 30s or 40s?

Bravo

"Yes, there are some people who go through a premature menopause and no one really knows why this happens. However, smokers can sometimes have menopause earlier."

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8. I've heard people say they've experienced a "menopause period" – WHAT is that?!

NBC

"If you’ve gone a whole year without your period (i.e. you've gone through menopause) and you get what appears to be a period, this needs to be looked into. That is called postmenopausal bleeding and that is not normal."

9. If your uterus is taken out and you no longer have a period, will you have menopause?

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"Menopause is called by the ovaries stopping their function. So, if the uterus comes out (hysterectomy) but the ovaries that make hormones stay in, then these women are technically not in menopause because they're still producing hormones — even though they will stop bleeding (having a period). If the ovaries stay in, they'll continue to function and provide estrogen until you naturally go through menopause. But if you have a hysterectomy and your ovaries are also removed, then you’d have what we call a surgical or 'instant' menopause because your ovaries are no longer there producing estrogen."

10. Can taking birth control for a long period of time have effects on menopause?

MTV

"Birth control pills are used a lot for the right candidates experiencing perimenopausal (the period of time right before menopause when ovaries slowly begin making less estrogen) symptoms. It can help control and regulate flow and also work for contraception purposes if a woman is still sexually active. However, the symptoms of menopause might be masked by birth control, which is something to consider."

11. Is it possible to skip menopause entirely? Do some people NEVER go through it?

ABC

"It is possible to skip all the misery of menopause symptoms. In fact, some women never experience symptoms. However, do some people bleed until forever? No. Everyone goes through menopause."

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12. What are some things women could do to ease symptoms of menopause?

Bravo

"For symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness – you can avoid triggers like high sugar, red wine, stress, and caffeine. Acupuncture, medication, exercise, hormone therapy, and even anti-depressants can also be helpful."

13. What is hormone therapy? I’ve heard this phrase a lot related to menopause.

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"Hormone therapy mostly refers to estrogen replacement. Women want to replace the estrogen that their ovaries are no longer producing. Why? Because estrogen will stop hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. It also helps keeps your bones strong (fighting osteoperosis). However, you will need progesterone if you still have your uterus, because estrogen alone will cause cancer in the uterus."

14. What can you do to help symptoms like dry skin and brittle hair?

Paramount

"Moisturizing, being physically active, and continuing to have sexual activity can all help. Not everybody experiences these symptoms though."

15. How long can menopause symptoms last?

Bravo

"Perimenopause can last upwards of 10 years. Hot flashes and night sweats on average last about seven and a half years and they can last upwards of 14 years. It’s variable and, of course, depends on factors like genetics and health."

16. What exactly is happening to your physiology when you have “hot flashes”?

Tytan Creates

"Thermal signals in your brain are going kind of haywire. The exact cause of hot flashes, however, is not known."

17. Has there ever been a case where someone got pregnant after going through menopause?

CW

"Yes, with assisted reproduction women can get pregnant after 50. But, it’s not spontaneous. If it happened naturally, then they probably weren’t really in menopause."

18. What happens to your “unused” eggs during menopause – are there even any unused eggs?

Hulu

"There are loads of unused eggs when you go through menopause. If you don’t use all your eggs up (which you won’t), they become unviable, die-off, and dissolve when you go through menopause."

19. Is it possible to avoid menopause forever? Like, say if you just took hormones until you died.

FOX

"This is controversial, but there is prophylactic hormone therapy. It’s not really considered the standard of care. The standard of care is to offer hormone therapy (estrogen with or without progesterone) up until about age 60 for people who need it because they’re having symptoms. After 60, we remove this because of the risks related to cancer, strokes, etc."

20. WTF is the point anyway of menopause?

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"The going 'theory' is that, at some point, women have to stop producing and take care of all the offspring they produce. Supposedly, to enhance the survival of the offspring and the mom in general."

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