Are You At Risk of Starting Menopause Early?

Are you in your 30’s and experiencing changes in temperature? Do you wake up in the night between 3-4am? Has the rhythm of your period changed? Is your bladder less reliable than it used to be?

 That got your attention, didn’t it?

All of these symptoms in a woman below 45 most often indicate that you are running yourself too hard! They are likely signs of what Chinese Medicine calls “yin deficiency”.  It can also be understood as “stress,” but it is more nuanced than that.

When we are young women we need to be careful not to burn out all of our yin essence, even though we may feel like we are capable of anything and everything. Women are excellent at stepping into the fast pace of life, competing in the job market, creating a career path and setting sights on motherhood. But we need to be attentive to our bodies, our hormones, and our yin through every phase of life so that we set ourselves up for a smooth next chapter.

Many women in my practice have spent their 20’s burning the candle at both ends, waiting until they are in their late 30’s to try for pregnancy, and then having a hard time. For those who do get pregnant in their 30’s, and then embark on the busy path of working and raising children, they end up in my office with insomnia, night sweats, and anxiety. When this stage of life is not well tended to, they reach menopause and the night sweats are worse! The anxiety is worse! The incontinence gets really bad. And forget any desires for intimacy or restorative connection with their partners: they are fried.

This can all be prevented.

It is music to my ears when a woman in her 20’s comes in and tells me “I am not ready for kids, but I want them one day and I want to make sure it happens easily when I am ready. How can we be sure my body is healthy and balanced now so that in 5-10 years I can slip right into an easy conception, pregnancy, and motherhood?”

Or, when a woman comes in and tells me she’s about to have her first child and she wants to know how to help her pelvis and vulva heal after the birth, to make sure her bladder and uterus return to where they should be.  She wants to insure that her pelvic bowl regains it’s strength and balance as well as to prevent any future imbalances in hormones or tissue integrity. She is thinking ahead, recognizing that care needs to be taken for the health of her future.

When we do start the peri-menopausal process, usually in our early to mid-40’s,  some of us start to notice little signs that perhaps we didn’t tend to our bodies as closely as we should have. When the hormones begin to shift, our connective tissue and smooth muscles can behave differently. This can show itself in reduced flexibility and reduced elasticity, and can also show up as bladder incontinence. The ways in which we did not take care of ourselves will begin to reveal themselves as we begin to undergo this change.

One of the key pieces of advice I have for women is to anticipate what is down the road and do not take for granted just how thin you can spread yourself in your youth. We are not built to lead the pace of life that we do. We all must rebel against it with fierce self-care. Take the time and devote the energy to nourishing your yin.

How do I nourish my yin, you ask? Oh, you will like these suggestions:

 ·      Slow down! Cut one or two errands out of your schedule everyday. Allow yourself to stop running around.

·      Your device – I need not say more!

·      Turn down the lights around 7pm and keep the house quieter and darker.

·      Hang out next to the water, amongst the trees, and in the garden.

·      Sit and stare at the sky.

·      Lie on the earth.

·      Practice BE-ing instead of DO-ing.

·      Eat good quality protein and minimize raw foods, especially as the weather cools down.

·      Rest your mind: no planning, no list making, no device, no reading. Just notice where you are, what you hear, the feeling of the air on your skin.

·      Take a bath (and add soothing smells and bath salts).

·      Play an instrument (even if you are no good!).

·      Weave, paint, craft.

·      Get acupuncture, cranio-sacral work, or an abdominal massage.

·      What else can you think of?

 The gist of this article is to say that as women, we go through 3 major phases of life: the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. If we do not care well enough for ourselves in one stage, the next stage will likely be more difficult. Listen to your body. Think ahead. Do not assume the gifts of youth will be there for you to ease the transition into the next phase. Nurture yourself now as an investment in your life to come.