Menopause: The Myths & Facts

By Dr. Jenna Kolodziej, DO, FACOOG, Obstetrician/Gynecologist, Aspirus Health

Menopause is a natural stage of life and affects every woman differently. It officially occurs 12 months after your last period and commonly begins around age 50. Like any major life change, it can be confusing, so I would like to share some of the myths and facts I often encounter in my OB/GYN practice.

Menopause affects only physical health.
Around menopause, women may have bone loss, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and irregular menstrual cycles; but they may also experience mood swings, memory problems, and trouble sleeping.

After menopause, women do not need to practice safe sex, because there’s no risk of getting pregnant.
Myth: It’s true that a woman cannot get pregnant after menopause. However, menopause has no effect on the risk for sexually transmitted infections.

Weight gain during menopause is inevitable.
Myth: A balanced diet combined with physical activity can keep you at a healthy weight. It can also alleviate some symptoms of menopause like sleep problems, mood swings, and bone loss. It also helps keep your heart healthy.

During menopause, a woman’s sex drive will decrease.
Myth: Menopause affects every woman differently. Some women feel less interested in sex, while others feel more comfortable with their sexuality. If sex has become uncomfortable due to vaginal dryness, consider a vaginal lubricant. You can also discuss treatment options with your OB/GYN.

Hormone therapy can help treat the symptoms of menopause.
Fact: Menopausal hormone therapy involves taking estrogen and progesterone. It can relieve symptoms and prevent bone loss; but it has some risks, so talk with your OB/GYN. Herbal remedies are available over the counter but are not regulated; and some plants or herbs can be harmful when combined with certain medications, so use with caution.

Getting a hysterectomy will always cause menopause.
Myth: This depends on what kind of procedure you have. If your uterus is removed, you will not get periods, but your ovaries will still produce hormones. So you may not have any other signs of menopause. If both ovaries are removed, then menopause will start right away. If you have this surgery, talk with your OB/GYN about ways to manage your symptoms.

If you’re bothered by the symptoms of menopause, here are some self-help strategies that may help:

Hot flashes:

  • Note when they occur and what seems to trigger them. Common triggers are spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress, and hot environments.
  • Dress in layers.
  • Take slow, deep breaths.
  • Stretch your muscles with activities like yoga.
  • Trim down. Hot flashes may be more intense and frequent if you are at an unhealthy weight.

    Night sweats:

  • Wear lightweight sleepwear and use layered bedding.
  • Use a fan.
  • Keep a frozen cold pack under your pillow and turn the pillow to the cool side as needed.

    Vaginal dryness:

  • Try an over-the-counter, water-soluble lubricant. Oil-based ones like petroleum jelly can cause irritation.
  • Have sex more often. It promotes blood flow to the area and may improve vaginal health.

    Troubled sleep:

  • Get regular exercise, but not too close to bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet.
  • Go to bed and wake up at consistent times.
  • Before bed, avoid large meals, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and screen time.

    Memory problems or moodiness:

  • Get your rest, make healthy foods a priority, exercise, and stay mentally active.
  • Socialize. Research shows that people with active social lives have the slowest rate of memory loss.
  • Don’t take on too much and do at least one thing you enjoy every day.
  • Count your blessings. Gratitude can ease stress and help keep things in perspective.

Dr. Jenna Kolodziej is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and cares for women at Aspirus Plover Clinic-Vern Holmes Drive and Aspirus Riverview Clinic-Wisconsin Rapids. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kolodziej or one of her colleagues, call 715-421-7474 for Wisconsin Rapids or 715-344-1600 for Plover. You may also schedule an appointment at or by using the MyAspirus app.