What is it about the M word that seems to turn our world upside down?

We’ll go ahead and say it – menopause. Menopause, menopause, menopause. Women’s mid-life marker.

For so many women, menopause is a life experience that can shake them to the core.

One day, we’re worried about birth control, and thinking about trying a reusable period cup, and the next day, we’re realizing we’ll never have to worry about those things ever again but somehow are furious with both ourselves and everyone around us because of it!

Of course, we know menopause doesn’t happen overnight. But its onset can often be quite sudden and even jarring.

Even though menopause physiologically occurs gradually over several months or years, it is a milestone that can significantly change how you think about yourself progressing through the years, and how it feels to be in your body.

If you’re going through it now, you probably know exactly what we’re talking about. Despite what naysayers may be telling you, know that it’s not all in your head. Menopause is real and it is hard.

So, what exactly is going on? What’s happening to your body as it experiences menopause? When your younger self might have thought that your period was going to be in the spotlight of this experience, now you know that the emotional changes, and those that affect your self-esteem, are really the stars of the show.

What Happens to the Body During Menopause?

In medical terms, menopause is defined by the point in time 12 months after the woman’s last period.

Most of us will want to chuckle when we read that, because it makes it seem like we’re expected to wake up one morning and  say, “Oops! No more periods ever again! Now I just have to wait 12 months and it will all be over!”

Not even close. Menopause isn’t so much an event as it is a process of the body adapting to a stage in life where our bodies are not readily able to get pregnant.

To respect the process of menopause and the different changes that occur in our bodies, the medical world is beginning to adopt the term “menopausal transition”. This term gives much more credit to the process of adapting to changes leading up to your last period, and then the several years after your last period. The menopausal transition lasts an average of seven years, but it can last as long as fourteen years in some women (*jaw drop+*).

Try not to faint on us here! In most women, those years are not all difficult (okay – almost unbearable). Some months feel much more intense than others, and in the years toward the end of the transition, many women are close to accommodating to their new normal.

Why Women Go Through Menopause

Menopause is a completely natural part of female aging. And no we’re not saying we’re all old.

Believe it or not, we start aging from the moment we are born. After a period of intense growth throughout infancy, childhood, and adolescence, our bodies shift into a stage that is more focused on development and adaptation, and – okay – accelerated aging in adulthood.

All female animals that live out their full lifespan go through menopause. It’s a period when, biologically, we transition out of a reproductive stage to a post-reproductive stage.

Now we’re going to tell you something that might change how you view menopause. Almost all female animals only live a short while after they experience menopause. Human women, however, have some of the longest post-reproductive periods of life of any living thing!

What does this mean? Human women have up to half of their lives ahead of them after the menopausal transition. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why humans live so long after menopause, but one thing is for sure – it gives humans the opportunity to live many, many years not worrying about periods, babies, and birth control.

Changes in the Body During Menopause: Hormones Are the Reason for the Season

“Those hormones! They’re out to get me again! 😆

As women, we’ve heard a dozen different “our bodies are changing” talks, starting from when we began wearing a training bra and our first maxi pads to our first prom and childbirth. So, we’ve been taught to get anxious when we know that hormones are the cause of these changes.

Let’s set the record straight – hormones aren’t “good” or “bad”. Changes in hormones aren’t good or bad either. However, discomfort and potential health issues can arise when our hormones are out of balance.

The main hormones involved in the changes we experience throughout the menopausal transition include: follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, among others. All of these tend to drop as our body no longer needs to prepare for a possible pregnancy.

These hormone changes do, however, have other effects on our body and our brain – and this is where we want to whip out my 😆 emoji again.

Changes in the Body

Every woman experiences menopause slightly differently, but these are the most common changes we might experience:

  • Decreased muscle
  • Increased body fat, especially around the abdomen
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Reduced energy
  • Reduced mobility

Changes in the Brain

Hormones cause changes in the brain just as much as they cause changes in the body.


Phew! Glad we got that off our chest.

So yes, in addition to possible abrupt changes in our mood, some other changes in our brain might cause:

  • Impaired memory
  • Increased depression
  • Short tempers
  • Declines in performance and motivation

And the big one we’re focusing on here – changes in self-image, often for the worst.

Why Feeling What You Are Feeling During Menopause is Totally Normal

Here’s the thing: hormones are chemical messengers for the entire body. Yes – they tell our body when to ovulate, when to produce breastmilk, and when to shed that all-too-familiar bright red lining in our uterus.

Hormones also tell our brain when to feel sad, scared, angry, frustrated, happy, and calm. So, when the hormone balance brought on by menopause changes, so does our mental space and the way we see ourselves.

No lies – it usually not a positive experience, to say the least; after decades of regularity (more or less), our bodies are going through massive changes.

However, let’s be clear and open about something. No woman experiences menopause in the same way, and women may have vastly different feelings about the meaning of menopause in their lives.

While some women may feel relieved about the part of menopause where they don’t have to worry about birth control any more, other women may mourn not being able to birth anymore children, or maybe that they never did. So, it is important to be sensitive to different experiences, and know that all those feelings are completely valid.  This means you too, we know you’re kind to your friends, but are you hard on yourself?  Don’t be.

Self-Esteem and Self-Image During the Menopausal Transition

How Menopause Affects Self-Esteem

Just when we thought we reached a point of maturity in our lives where we truly accepted our body and its capabilities – boom! Menopause throws a whole bunch of changes at us.

Suddenly, the body we had come to know and understand seems unpredictable and it has completely new physical and emotional limitations.

Menopause means we are in bodies that forget things easier, tend to get more tired, and get frustrated or angry about things we used to brush off.

We just don’t feel like ourselves.

So, it is only logical that we have issues with our self-image as we get to know our new limitations.

How You Feel About Yourself is Normal

We’ll say it time and time again. Your experience of menopause is your own, so however you are feeling about it – anxious, frustrated, indifferent – is absolutely valid.

IF your experience of menopause is negatively impacting your quality of life, know that there are options for you.  You can also request a telemedicine visit, just click here when you’re ready.

What are Your Treatment Options?

Many women decide, together with their healthcare team, to undergo some sort of treatment to help ameliorate some of the side-effects of menopause that make the transition difficult to live with. The most common options are hormone replacement therapy and natural alternatives.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

HRT usually contains estrogen and progesterone, two hormones that work together to reduce some of the uncomfortable, even ugly, side effects of menopause. There are other variations, including estogen only and testosterone, which one of our doctors might recommend depending on your medical history and symptoms.

While there are many ways to take HRT, the most common form is in a tablet form taken daily like you would a birth control pill (oh, the irony). Other forms are skin patches, gel, and implants. Cleopatra Life also has newer forms, which we’re launching soon.

Natural Alternatives to HRT

Some women’s bodies simply don’t take HRT too well.

If your entire body gives you the side-eye even when you think about HRT, not to worry! There are researched-backed natural alternatives that can help to regulate your hormone levels and keep you feeling like yourself.

The first natural alternative we’re going to tell you about is the solution to hundreds of other health issues – diet and exercise. We feel the eye-roll coming on, but we promise you, they help.

Some of the general lifestyle recommendations that help you to manage your symptoms include:

  • Exercising 150 minutes a week (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week), including aerobic exercise, weight bearing exercise, and flexibility training.
  • Cutting down on caffeine, alcohol, and spicy food
  • Eating calcium and vitamin D-rich foods

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to help you feel more like yourself, you might want to consider taking natural supplements. Know that there isn’t a whole lot of research about some of these supplements for managing menopause symptoms, so always talk to your healthcare team before starting a supplement regimen in place of, or in addition to HRT.   Cleopatra Life offers supplements based on your needs.

Here are some of the most common supplements:

  • Vitamin E
  • Omega 3
  • John’s wort
  • Black cohosh
  • Dong quai
  • Chaste tree
  • Maca
  • Red Clover
  • Sage
  • Milk thistle
  • Valerian root
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Ginseng

Some other alternative therapies you may want to consider together with your healthcare team include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Tai chi
  • Meditation

Main Takeaway

Let’s agree on something, shall we? Let’s be gentle with ourselves. It’s going to take time to adjust to the changes our body is feeling, and, sometimes, it means we have to take a time out and take things slowly.

If the effects of menopause are becoming too much to handle, or they are severely affecting your self-image, there are solutions (thank you, science!). Whether you choose HRT or a natural alternative, there are ways to make the transition into your fabulous post-reproductive life smoother.

Take solace in that, we are here to help you even out and find balance again and you will, once again, become comfortable in your own skin.


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