Menopause affects millions of women across Canada. Do you experience symptoms? We want to hear from you

Menopause is an inevitable life stage that'll impact half of the world's population — so what does it look like for you?

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Menopause impacts millions of people worldwide, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to managing its symptoms, according to experts. (Photo via Getty Images)
Menopause impacts millions of people worldwide, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to managing its symptoms, according to experts. (Photo via Getty Images)

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While menopause is a normal part of aging, some experts around the world have recently been concerned about its overmedicalization and how that impacts how older women are treated.

A new series in medical journal The Lancet featured experts urging against treating menopause as a disease, noting people's experiences greatly vary and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to its management.

The paper, which was published last week and is the first in a series of four articles, also calls out some organizations promoting menopausal hormonal therapy (MHT), which further frames menopause as a disease. While the paper's authors aren't against using MHT, they argue the risks are being downplayed and it's perception as a universal cure for menopause — as well as a tool for women to regain control of their bodies — is ultimately doing a disservice to women as they age.

"Greater diversity in research that addresses priority areas for women is needed," the paper noted. "A paucity of information and education on menopause has led to symptoms being dismissed by uninformed health-care professionals and a lack of understanding in the workplace."

Menopause hinders the workplace

That position falls in line with a report last fall from the Menopause Foundation of Canada (MFC), which warned the life stage has a huge impact on Canada's economy and urged employers to start making change.

According to that report in October, menopause symptoms result in missed work days, lower productivity and lost income, leading to a $3.5 billion cost to Canada's economy each year. Since most women reach menopause around ages 45 and 55, that impact is only set to grow. One quarter of Canada's workforce is currently made up of women over age 40, but the number of women within the menopausal years who are working is expected to rise by 27 per cent by 2040.

Moreover, there's a stigma around menopause in the workplace that largely hinders women when it comes to seeking help. According to the MFC's study, 67 per cent of women said they would not feel comfortable having a conversation with their supervisor about menopause symptoms. Additionally, 48 per cent said they'd feel embarrassed asking for support.

The report also showed three out of 10 respondents believe others will consider them weak, old or "past their prime" if they say they're in menopause. Half of respondents also said they worry menopause symptoms could affect their appearance at work.

Menopause symptoms and what it looks like

While hot flashes and night sweats are some of the more common menopausal symptoms you might hear about, those aren't the only ones. A change in cycle length, vaginal dryness and discharge, sleep disruption, mood changes and weight gain are also symptoms that could indicate you're going through menopause.

While those symptoms may arise in your 40s and 50s, for some people, they can occur as early as your 30s. Actress Naomi Watts spoke to Marie Claire in an interview published in January about how she first experienced menopausal symptoms in her mid-30s.

"I practically fell off my chair," she told Marie Claire. "I'm being told I'm close to menopause when I'm just feeling ready to get pregnant. How can those things live together at once?. I left the [doctor's] office in pieces and rang my mum and said, 'What the hell? How come you didn't tell me more?'"

Naomi Watts says she first experienced menopausal symptoms in her mid-30s. (Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)
Naomi Watts says she first experienced menopausal symptoms in her mid-30s. (Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

For Samantha McGarry, a 48-year-old living in Ottawa, she began experiencing night sweats around age 40.

"I was feeling very run down and fatigued and I had problems concentrating," McGarry recently told Yahoo Canada, adding she had sore joints. "My knees would hurt walking up the stairs and my knuckles were sore and swollen."

McGarry went to her doctor to with questions about perimenopause, the transitional phase before menopause, marked by hormonal fluctuations and irregular periods. While her doctor ran some blood work, she was told she was not in perimenopause because those tests returned normal. She later found out through her own research that perimenopause can't always be recognized through bloodwork. Instead, it should be regarded through a patient's symptoms.

By age 45, she was still confused with her symptoms. Her menstrual cycle became irregular and then stopped altogether. Despite exercising regularly, she gained nine kilograms in two years. McGarry explained she felt a lot of frustration for having to research so much on her own and advocate for herself when it came to her health.

"I thought I was too young," she said about experiencing menopausal symptoms and being unprepared for the changes in her early 40s.

Want to share your story?

Since menopause is top-of-mind for many Yahoo Canada readers, we'd like to hear your story. Do you have unanswered questions about menopause that keep you up at night? Or perhaps you have an experience getting through the life stage you think the world should know? Reach out to to have your story featured in a Yahoo Canada piece.

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