Sharing moments Menopause Young adults Bye bye Hotel Mum How you feel at home Semester abroad Language course abroad or work as an au pair? Be prepared for military training Grassrooted Pack smarter, travel better Make an impression Contraception Vegan diet Bye bye Hotel Mum – hello shared flat Big trip, small budget Finanzielle Vorsorge Planning a family Tracking fertility The right time? How men can help Fertility and diet Medical check-up What you need to know about ovulation What to do if you don’t conceive straight away Three electronic fertility and cycle trackers in comparison Planning a family and partnership Pregnancy Examinations during pregnancy Diet and nutrition Is my pregnancy progressing normally? Tips for daily life Important points for travel and holidays Is my pregnancy progressing normally? What items do I need for my baby? Where and how do I want to give birth? What do I need to pack for the hospital? How should I prepare my home for my child? Is my pregnancy progressing normally? How can I best prepare for my baby? How can I best prepare for the birth? Nutrition Parent-child relationship Preparing for breastfeeding | Sanitas Magazine Insurance Stretch marks Sleep Rupture of membranes Baby blues High-risk pregnancy Braxton Hicks & false labour Formalitites Morning sickness Family rooms Signs of a premature birth Our baby Bathing baby – what you need to know How babies hear Infant first-aid kit Baby care Is my baby developing normally? Month-to-month overview of baby development Is my baby developing normally? Baby’s development: Months 3 and 4 Baby care Breastfeeding When does a baby start eating? Weight Baby growth spurts Toys Sun protection for baby skin Teething Milk teeth: what to do in case of accident Baby’s development: Months 5 and 6 Pelvic floor exercises after birth Babyschlaf Celebrating and enjoyment Christmas and New Year’s Eve with a twist A philosophical take on pleasure Pleasure can also be found in the soup kitchen in Zurich Tips for a peaceful and stress-free Christmas Living better with cardiac insufficiency Alejandro Iglesias Hana Disch Patrizio Orlando Vaccinations and travel first-aid kit Hay fever In pursuit of happiness Seven tips for a happier daily life Kids in lockdown Online addiction Women's hearts Decisions Decision-making tips Report from the hospital Donating a kidney Life decisions Emigrating to South America Geocaching Sexuality Erectile dysfunction Young people and sexuality Be active Active during pregnancy Sport and exercise during pregnancy Antenatal exercise classes Standing properly Healthy eating Green smoothies Vitamin D Good eggs, bad eggs Diet plan Healthy fats Feed your muscles How much sugar should we eat a day? How much fat should we eat a day? Lactose intolerance Healthy diet, strong immune system Low Carb E-numbers and other additives in food Personalised diet Vegan meat substitutes Healthy heart Interview with Christophe Wyss Heart-friendly sports How the mind affects the heart Taking blood pressure correctly High blood pressure: what you need to know Healthy teeth Home remedies: relief for sore gums A dentist explains Brushing up on brushing Changing habits Interview Stortpsychologie 10-step guide to changing habits Try, try, try again Fitnessmotivation Running coaching Running ABC Race in Sarnen Factors affecting condition Weekly planner Running shoes Strengthening exercises Running nutrition Complementary sport Warm-up Stretching Functional clothing Fitness tracker Shopping – sportswear Running tips for women Relaxation technique Recovery New lease of life thanks to Sanitas running coaching Sport after childbirth Postnatal exercise Taking the strain off your shoulders Kangatraining Workout while walking Expert tips Stress and relaxation Moving air Fight stress with yoga What is stress Learn how to relax Dealing with stress What is burnout? “The first step was to create boundaries” Juggling family and a career Reduce stress Stressor factors The most beautiful Swiss saunas Sweating in the sauna Breathing exercises for relaxation The right rest & recovery: debunking myths Mindfulness Sleep Trend sports Fitness boxing Slackline Bouldering Fascia training Stand Up Paddling Keeping fit efficiently Swing with a smile! Vertical workout Hiking Altitude sickness Seven stroller-friendly hikes Needed: a hiking-friendly pushchair There goes the other sole! Tips on hiking with a baby Mountain lakes Winter walks Planning a family: Fertility and exercise Stair climbing Pumptrack Kids’ back Back exercises Sitting properly at work Forest fun Playing for life Promoting health and fitness Motivation Sledging Curling glossary What do you get if you cross a kite with snow? Snowshoeing Preventing falls Inline skating Swimming Swimming Wings for Life Stretching Bike tips Stretching exercises for cyclists koerper-und-kaelte Healthy teeth thanks to dental hygiene and preventive care Putting wishes into practice Tips for healthy teeth Hometraining Investigating teeth-related myths 10 tips to ease anxiety Hand care How our body regenerates The best abdominal exercises in five minutes Keeping fit on holiday Swim training aids Wie viel Sport ist gesund Gathering mushrooms – the right way | Sanitas Magazine Check-ups Five-minute stretching routine Gehirntraining Rückenschmerzen Licht Yogastile Ayurveda-Morgenroutine Tips for doing sport outside in winter Cross-country skiing for beginners Home remedies against dandruff Home remedies Home remedies for bladder infections Home remedies for a sore throat Home remedies for migraines Home remedies against excessive sweating Home remedies for a sun allergy Healthy feet, healthy back core exercises for mountain bikers Symptoms Check Sport after Corona HIIT: quick and efficient exercises Sore muscles: debunking myths Debunking swimming myths strength training for young people Exercise videos Whole-body workout Sun protection Strong mind How to be mentally strong Mental strength Psychosomatics Resilience Tips against feeling down Sleep hygiene and mental well-being Depression Panic attacks Prescription drug addiction ADHD: Symptoms in children and adults Mental illness: help for friends and family Living with autism Pressure to perform Alcoholism Blood: myths and facts Hormones Complementary medicine: the most common treatments Living together today Digital life Online addiction Digital temptation Children and digital media Smartphone neck Digital responsibility and solidarity Our brains love habit Change my habits? You’re joking! Planning a family: Difficulties trying to have a baby Planning a family: Myth vs fact Solidarity study Newcomers Living together tomorrow Digital nomads Giesserei multi-generation house The blind film director Help instead of rent Working on the move Medical practices of the future Our skin – layer by layer Generational discussion: wishes for life Hausarzt und Corona Safe return to work Corona crisis: singing together Corona crisis: Working in intensive care Corona crisis: working in a nursing home Rest and recovery: learning from children Corona crisis: voluntary work for the needy Second opinion Relationships and children Three questions that keep us awake at night Outing The nature of lying Vorsorge Finding sound health-related information online Impfstoffe entwickeln Tipps für Jugendliche in der Corona-Krise Becoming parents Diagnose: Kind im Haus Long Covid Take it easy in your free time YouTuber Aditotoro on the coronavirus pandemic Minimalism for a happy life Thanks to corona: more time for family Back to life after a paragliding accident Decluttering: the answer to chaos Living and loving with autism Synaesthesia Talking to doctors Non-verbal communication Developments for the future App check Aqualert SRC blood donor Codecheck Forest Freedom Freeletics Moment Three sleep apps reviewed PeakFinder Findery Six fitness apps reviewed Internet use High-tech trousers Prostheses Hospital of the future New skin for burns victims Online-Therapien How drugs are developed Generics A vision of the future: How we will live in 30 years Onward Overcoming erectile dysfunction Family medicine practices of the future Sanitas newsletter
Dossier: Sexuality

10 myths about the menopause

The menopause affects every woman at some point in their life. Nevertheless, it is fraught with taboos and myths – we clear up 10 of them for you.

Text: Katharina Rilling; photo: Edward Cisneros / Unsplash

What’s happening to me? Women face huge challenges during the menopause when their fertility comes to an end and the body changes. As part of a couple, perhaps they’ve not been able to have children or their children have flown the nest and they have to find their way now in a new scenario.

Cause of menopausal symptoms

Physical menopausal symptoms are caused by oestrogen deficiency. The ovaries, which are particularly active between the age of 25 and 35, gradually reduce their function even before the menopause itself, with the egg supply decreasing and ovulation occurring less and less frequently. The ovaries produce less oestrogen and progesterone, the two main female sex hormones.

When does menopause start?

A woman’s last menstrual bleeding is known as the menopause. It usually occurs between the age of 45 and 55, and on average women have their last period at 51.

Totally normal? Menopause as a turning point

One thing is certain: the menopause is a turning point in the life of every woman – and is far too often a taboo topic. Doubts, fears and symptoms are hidden and many women suffer alone: “An incredible number of women just grin and bear it. Many try to cover up symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness or even poor sleep,” says Petra Stute, head physician at the Maternité Women’s Clinic at Bern University Hospital. The Maternité is the leading centre of competence for the clarification of symptoms during the menopause.

“I often wonder why women do this to themselves. Some patients don’t sleep properly for months. It doesn’t have to be that way; you can do something about almost any symptom.” The first and perhaps most difficult step is admitting or recognising that menopause is the cause of the changes.

We take a look at the most common prejudices surrounding the menopause with explanations by Professor Stute:

Myth 1: Sweating is part of menopause

“Yes and no. Some women are more susceptible to cold during the change of life. So this can also be listed as a symptom. But it is true that two-thirds of women suffer from hot flushes and sweats, with one-third suffering so severely that they have to go to the doctor, where they are often prescribed hormone therapy.

Patients with milder symptoms can try alternative therapies. Herbal remedies containing black cohosh, rhubarb, sage, soy or red clover, for example, can reduce hot flushes and sweating by around 30%. Acupuncture is also said to help relieve symptoms by 30 to 40%.

In a few cases, antidepressants or antiepileptics are prescribed when hormones cannot be used and herbal remedies do not go far enough. Factors that encourage hot flushes, such as being overweight, obesity and smoking, should be avoided. Plus genetics also play a role here, so it’s worth asking your mother how she felt during this period.”

The herbal remedy St. John’s wort can help with depressive moods.

Myth 2: All menopausal women suffer from mood swings

“Thankfully not! However, the likelihood of developing depression is higher during the menopause, i.e. during the transitional phase from the late 30s or early 40s until menopause at around 51 years of age. More precisely, women in this stage are two and a half times more likely to suffer depression than younger women.

Generally speaking, women are particularly vulnerable during any periods of hormonal imbalance – not just during menopause, but also after childbirth, which sometimes leads to postpartum depression, or simply during their period as a symptom of premenstrual syndrome. The good news for women going through the change of life: Once they get through these phases, the risk of depression falls again.

The herbal remedy St. John’s wort can help. Antidepressants and psychotherapy are also popular in Switzerland. But HRT is prescribed in some cases.” 

Myth 3: All women gain weight after the menopause

“Unfortunately, that’s often the case. On average women gain half a kilo a year. But it’s not a gradual weight gain, so we could “get used” to it. Most women experience sudden weight gain of five to six kilograms within a few months. The reason for this is that the metabolism and hormone balance change, while women don’t really adjust their eating habits and exercise routines.

It’s also a good idea to take a look at hidden fatteners like alcohol. But to suddenly eat fewer calories, change long-held habits and to exercise more is, of course, incredibly difficult. All the more so when symptoms such as joint pain or depressive moods start happening at the same time.

Women often worry that this will go on indefinitely and their weight will get completely out of hand. But that is not the case! Eventually, things settle down. Nevertheless, it is important to adjust your lifestyle: Excessive weight is a risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia – especially when oestrogen levels fall.”

Myth 4: Women lose the desire for sex during menopause

“Menopause is not automatically associated with a decline in sexual activity. There are many influencing factors, such as the quality of the partnership or stress levels. But also the question of how a woman feels about getting older.

One irritating physical symptom can be vaginal dryness. Fortunately, however, it can be treated very easily with creams or suppositories containing hormones. Some women feel liberated by the menopauseas it means no more periods and no risk of falling pregnant. It can have a positive effect on your love life.”

Myth 5: Women go through a process of “masculinization”

“As oestrogen levels fall, male hormones gain the upper hand. Although these also decrease with age, the level of female hormones decreases more sharply. That’s why the hair on our head usually becomes thinner and sparser. Many women also feel that they lose more hair and that it doesn’t grow as long as it used too. At the same time, more hair tends to grow on the face.

But women don’t start to grow hair all over their body like men. A woman’s voice also changes slightly, but the change is hardly noticeable in everyday life. Only professional singers are likely to notice the difference.

Myth 6: The ageing process is speeding up

“There’s a grain of truth to this myth. If a woman doesn’t take hormones, she does age a little faster. Oestrogen protects against many ageing effects when it comes to skin, hair, blood vessels and bones. Some women now see more wrinkles when they look in the mirror or suffer from joint pain, swelling or back pain as a result of ageing. Some feel like everything suddenly hurts.”

Myth 7: The risks of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are greater than the benefits

“Patient anxiety is understandable, but it really pays to talk to your gynaecologist. The therapy is used for more severe symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, psychological changes, sleep disturbances and to prevent osteoporosis. I estimate that in Switzerland about one in 15women are treated with hormones.

HRT has many benefits: It not only reduces the symptoms of menopause, but also lowers the risk of osteoporosis, dementia, heart attack, diabetes and colon cancer. There are also benefits for the skin, hair, figure and weight. If oestrogen is not taken orally but delivered through the skin, the risk of thrombosis and stroke is not increased.

What is true, however, is that the risk of breast cancer is increased after five and a half years of combination therapy with oestrogen and progesterone. Specifically, this means: Without hormone treatment, around14 out of 1,000 women between the age of 50 and 59 are diagnosed with breast cancer within five years. After five and a half years of combination therapy, this figure rises to around18 out of every 1,000 women in the same age group. Three to four women are thus additionally diagnosed with breast cancer within this period.

Herbal preparations have the disadvantage that they are symptom-oriented, which means you have to take one plant, such as St. John’s wort, for psychological well-being, valerian drops for sleep disorders, and black cohosh, soy or red clover to control hot flushes. But in this case you have no protection against the long-term effects of oestrogen deficiency on bones, heart and the brain. It is important to know that your choice is not set in stone. You can switch between therapies or combine them – and you can mix and match without having to justify yourself.”

Myth 8: You can just keep taking the pill

“Yes and no. Although the combined pill does contain artificial oestrogen which helps against symptoms of the menopause, the classic contraceptive pill is associated with a higher risk of stroke, thrombosis and heart attack than HRT. Therefore, only healthy women are recommended to continue taking their usual combined pill until the age of 50. Then, at the latest, it’s essential to change.”

Myth 9: Menopause lasts two years

“It depends on the individual. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how long the symptoms will last, but hot flushes and hormone-related mood swings do stop for all women at some point. However, changes in the genital area such as vaginal dryness do not get better on their own. If you have irritating symptoms in this area, they have to be treated permanently.”

Myth 10: After menopause everything starts to go downhill

“That’s not true.The hormonal transition is a challenge for most women, but it can also be a good thing. Many women use this hormonally enforced period of reflection to focus on themselves for the first time in years and think about what they want, sort out their relationships, get rid of negative influences, stand up for themselves more and demand more from the people around them.

People around them may initially find this process irritating and exhausting, but it can be a positive experience for the women who are going through it. What’s more: ageing takes place on multiple levels, it’s not just a question of hormone-producing ovaries. Women at this age are often just getting to or at the peak of their emotional-social competence.”