One of the most common questions I get asked often is this: What did women do about their hot flashes, night sweats and other menopausal symptoms before hormone replacement therapy (HRT) became available?
I have been a pharmacist for nearly 30 years and I have seen the days when nearly every woman was getting HRT pills to the time when the big scare about breast cancer and heart disease came about and most doctors stopped prescribing hormones suddenly. My practice of counting hormone pills has changed over the past three decades but my opinion about HRT has not.
You see, the life expectancy of a white woman increased from 49 years in 1900 to 80 years in 2000. Black women’s life expectancy went up from 34 years in 1900 to 75 years in 2000.
In other words, most women used to have the luxury of not living long enough to face menopause. Nowadays, we live well into our 70’s and get to experience peri-menopause, menopause and beyond. Furthermore, we are now a big part of the work force, we play crucial roles in family matters and we are more open about expressing our feelings and concerns.
Some of you may remember your mother taking “Valium” for her “hysteria”. I think it is safe to assume that it was indeed menopausal mood swings, irritability and sleeplessness that your mom was suffering from? The weight gain during midlife was expected for a woman and no one thought much of it. Nowadays, we are more aware of our body image and view the menopausal weight gain as an exhausting battle that we often times lose.
In addition, the stresses of everyday life and our busy schedules tend to cause us to have more intense menopausal symptoms. A lot of us are baby boomers and are now taking care of our elderly parents as well as our adult children in addition to having to deal with our own health related issues.
Talking about your vaginal dryness or sex drive was taboo not too long ago. I see more women discussing these issues openly within the past 20 years.
As you see, a lot has changed since the 1900’s or even the last few decades. In this series of blogs, I will be discussing menopause, the obvious and not so obvious issues related to menopause and will offer you suggestions that come from years of experience working as a female pharmacist taking care of menopausal women. Stay tuned.