The Menopause Transition:
Understanding and Dealing with a New Stage in Life

Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC

Entering the stage of menopause brings on all kinds of changes and emotions. You may feel a sense of loss since the reproductive years are ending. There will no longer be opportunity to give birth to children. There may be a loss of identity and feeling of uselessness to your family or society. It is normal to grieve. It is normal to feel this way. It’s important to realize that as a child of God you do not lose your purpose and worth. It’s also vital to recognize that menopause is a stage of life to pass through not a disability.

What happens as women enter the stage of menopause?

“I feel on edge. I can’t sleep or think clearly. My husband is tired of my forgetfulness. Sometimes I just fly off the handle for no reason. I am having trouble with sex. I don’t know what is happening to me? Could this be menopause?”

Nancy, age 52, sat in my office looking frustrated, worn-out and depressed. I have counselled many women with complaints like hers. Women come in with overwhelming symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, which impair their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual health.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, but if you are currently in perimenopause, odds are you are feeling more like Nancy and are looking for answers to help you cope with this uncertain territory. Informing yourself about what to expect when you begin experiencing menopausal symptoms and how you can more effectively handle this new stage of life is the first step towards feeling better.

Perimenopause facts

Perimenopause, the time our mothers referred to as "the change," can start as early as 40. The closer a woman gets to 50, the more symptoms she will have. Common symptoms include hot flashes, erratic and often painful periods that may be extremely heavy or too light or skipped altogether, forgetfulness, insomnia, night sweats, headaches, and, given the other symptoms, a hardly surprising tendency to mood changes and depression. This transition period is a unique experience for each woman.

What can women do for themselves?

"Some of the general things women can do during perimenopause include watching what they eat and exercise. These are clichés but clichés become clichés for a reason. Women's metabolism is slowing down and they start putting on weight. They may have the same diet and exercise program as earlier in life but they begin to gain weight. Watching the diet and doing more exercise not only keeps off weight but it's also good for the heart and bones," said Dr. Lucca.

Some doctors recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT). You should manage your medical care and determine what is best for you. There are some risks with HRT and there are risks associated with use of uncontrolled over-the-counter or ‘natural’ treatments. Inform yourself of the benefits and risks of any treatment you are considering.

What is menopause?

Menopause begins a new phase in a woman’s life when she stops having periods, often some time in her 50s. Menopause is a natural biological event in which the menses stop when the function of the ovaries begins to cease. Menopause does not occur overnight, it is a gradual process. A woman is in menopause when she has had no menstrual periods (menses) for 12 months and has no other medical reason for her menses to stop.

What makes menopause so difficult? The decrease in estrogen also affects serotonin- a brain (neurochemical) chemical - which causes women to feel good, energetic and to focus more clearly. This is called the “serotonin-estrogen” dance. Less estrogen=less serotonin. When serotonin decreases women begin to feel “blue” or experience depressive-like symptoms.

Some Biblical insights

Whenever you are dealing with physical changes or a crisis in your life – it’s vital to remember that God is in control, has a purpose for your life and will provide strength to carry on. These physical changes remind us that suffering is part of life but that good can come from enduring the suffering.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Romans 5:1-5).

  1. What has been your perspective about this stage of life from a spiritual standpoint?
  2. What would God want you to do and to be during this stage of life?

Though you may be dealing with various symptoms of perimenopause and menopause – does this mean you should just cave-in and feel sorry for yourself? Of course not! As with any difficulty or physical malady or disorder – you can endure it and press on because God wants to show you His power in your weakness.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

As you pass through this stage of life – be assured that God has a plan and purpose for you. God’s Word declares these core purposes for your life:

  • To be reconciled to God by trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior;
  • To love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength;
  • To be a witness of the gospel and Christ’s love to the whole world;
  • To live a godly life - fully devoted to Christ.

Don’t let menopause – pause your life! No matter what trial you face in life – living for God’s purpose and for Christ will give you fulfillment and satisfaction in the midst of it. The symptoms of menopause are only ‘light and momentary troubles’. You can move forward and continue to live fully for Christ.

In passing through menopause – you can discover a new depth in your relationship with Christ and a new purpose for living. Take time to read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren for a deeper understanding of the significance God places on your life!

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