We spend a lot of time talking about what to do to manage perimenopause, menopause, and midlife health and wellness challenges. But sometimes cutting out unhelpful behavior can be just as good or better (and easier) than adding good habits (though please, don’t stop doing that too).

Here are some “menopause don’ts” to cut out in order to feel better and be healthier during the transition and beyond:

Don’t stop using condoms.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise in the over-45 age bracket. Thanks perhaps to Viagra and other erectile dysfunction remedies, high divorce rates, group-living arrangements for older adults, no fear of pregnancy, etc., cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV are all increasing. Women in this age group are particularly at risk as thinning vaginal tissue is more vulnerable to infection. Also, perimenopausal women have the 2nd highest rate of unintended pregnancy after teens, soooo…..

Don’t neglect your health.

A woman said to me not long ago, “Now that I don’t care about attracting a mate any more, I eat whatever I want.” Yay for living for yourself and not trying to meet others’ expectations, but please don’t see your liberation as freedom from taking care of yourself. A healthy lifestyle can give you as much as seven extra years and make all your years a whole lot better. So: eat a healthy diet, hydrate properly (drink half your body weight in ounces daily), and continue with routine check-ups.

Don’t smoke.

This should probably be #1 on our list of “menopause don’ts.” We totally get it: easier said than done, and nagging never helped anyone stop. So let me just list the reasons stopping will be soooooo good for you, then we’ll move on. Smoking can bring on early menopause, meaning greater lifetime risk of osteoporosis and other health issues estrogen protects you from (breast and cervical cancer, heart disease). Smoking can make menopause symptoms worse. Quitting may help you ward off additional weight gain around the belly and the increased risk of diabetes that comes with it. You’ll likely have better skin, easier sleep, and reduced hot flashes if you quit. Yep, menopause is tough and we hate to take away anything that makes it easier, but honestly, quitting smoking is only harder in the short term.

Don’t ignore the need for a good sleep routine.

Practicing “sleep hygiene” is good for everyone – sleeping and waking on a regular schedule, having a bedroom that’s conducive to sleep, limiting naps – but it’s even more important during the sleep-challenged years of perimenopause and menopause. Why is insomnia so prevalent at this time? It may be that we lose the cortisol-dampening effects of our hormones, making it easier to get all fight-or-flighty and harder to calm down. Sleep routines can help us regain a more natural sleep rhythm. Don’t exercise within 3 hours of bedtime. Test out hydration timing so you don’t wake up thirsty, but you also don’t need to get up and pee during the night. Turn off electronic devices well before bedtime (yeah, sorry, but that includes tablets, cell phones, even your TV – time to rediscover books!).

Don’t say goodbye to your gynecologist.

If you still have a uterus, you’ll still need a Pap test every 3 years (more often if you have certain risk factors) and a pelvic exam every year. You may need help with other issues like vaginal dryness or atrophy, incontinence, and prolapse, which are even greater concerns after menopause. Plus, your gyno is a good source of information on other health issues, so don’t cut off a great resource unnecessarily.

Don’t stop listening to your body or let embarrassment keep you from getting help.

If something feels wrong, don’t assume it’s “just menopause.” It may be – in fact, it probably is – but give yourself the peace of mind by checking it out with a health care professional. (And if you need an example of this, check out Ann-Marie’s story of fibroids and pre-cancerous cells.) You are the expert on your body, so keep digging and asking questions until you get answers. This counts for physical AND emotional symptoms: depression and anxiety are very real, as are resurgences in eating disorders and PTSD. There’s help out there, and if you’re having trouble finding it, email us at info@genneve.com. We’re building a network of experts on women’s midlife health, so use us.

Don’t stop exercising.

Fatigue is real, depression is real, and both of those can put exercise at the very bottom of your “can’t-wait-to-do” list. But now is the time to be super consistent with your exercise. Build bone and muscle, retain your balance and proprioception (healthy awareness of your body in space keeps you from banging into things and falling), reduce menopause symptoms like insomnia and hot flashes, manage weight, improve posture, retain flexibility, avoid back pain, get those good endorphins, heal faster and better from frozen shoulder – yes, it’s a long list, and this ain’t all of it. You can get a lot of benefit from just 30 minutes of exercise a day, including cardio (running, walking, dancing, skipping, leaping for joy) and strength training (using weights or resistance). If you’re suffering from fatigue, don’t let it stop you. Slow down, go easier, reduce your expectations, see a doc for help getting your go back, and know your best days aren’t behind you.

Don’t despair, and don’t go it alone.

Menopause IS forever, once achieved. But the symptoms most likely aren’t, so don’t despair. In fact, most women report feeling better than ever once hormones level out and transitional symptoms subside. To make it through the tough times, here’s the best resource of all: other women. If there’s one thing more universal than hot flashes, it’s got to be the need for a tribe. Many women we talk to tell us menopause really hit them right in the confidence, and it’s so hard to rebuild that alone. Find a community of women (men, dogs, cats, etc. are great, but nothing beats a shared experience) to shore you up and share wisdom with you. Those who don’t understand your experience may dismiss or belittle it, not out of unkindness but simply because they can’t relate. Your Sisters of Hormonal Fluctuation not only understand, they probably know some great recipes for tofu and how to take black cohosh.

One big, joyous do: DO CELEBRATE YOU.

You’ve made it this far, through puberty, years of menstrual cycles, possibly pregnancy and childbirth, some UTIs, Pap tests, yeast infections … let’s face it. Being a woman isn’t always easy. You can do this too. Coming into post-menopausal years can mean reclaiming your time, your creativity, your strength, and your passions. Take back your self-confidence, because honestly, who cares about a few wrinkles or some cellulite when there’s you, glorious YOU, to celebrate?

To learn more, test yourself with our menopause quiz found here.

At genneve, we think menopause should be marked as a rite of passage. Read this lovely excerpt from Phyllis O. Berman on how she gathered friends to discuss “the stages of womanhood” and promote openness in a ceremony informed by her Jewish faith.

How would you like to celebrate a woman’s passage into post-menopausal life? Did you mark your own passage somehow? Share with the community in the comments below, or fill us in on genneve’s Facebook page or Midlife & Menopause Solutions, genneve’s closed Facebook group.


Shannon Perry

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