No woman enjoys going through the stress of menstrual cramps, hormonal changes during ovulation and period care. This is why you’d expect menopause, the phase when monthly menstrual flow ceases, to be more stress-free, right?
Speaking to Edith, a 54-year-old on the topic, she says she was terrified about menopause because she’d heard stories of women who suffered excessive bleeding just before their period stopped. “I don’t know why or how, but someone told me it was better to take out my womb before I got to menopause because it could lead to cervical cancer”, she adds.
While different people experience different changes, research shows menopause does not cause cancer. Rather, the treatment of cancer involving a hysterectomy (removal of ovaries) can trigger menopause. So when you deep it, it’s the complete opposite of what Edith heard. She later figured out as she approached her 40s that it was all a lie.
You can’t expect your body to react to menopause the same way as someone else’s. So even if nothing else happens, just know your period will be playing hide and seek with you. After two months without your period, it could just show up the next month. “When my period started to come one month then disappear for two, I knew menopause was close”, Edith says. “It continued on and off for about six months before my period eventually stopped coming”. She was 45 years old at the time, and the only other symptoms she could identify were breakouts and cold chills in her feet. It’s like having your feet in Canada, but your body stuck in Nigeria. She started wearing socks to bed but didn’t attribute it to menopause until someone mentioned it in a group conversation with friends.
Some people may refer to Edith as one of God’s favourites because the symptoms usually range from mood swings to excessive sweating and weight gain. Beth, another 54-year-old, experienced all these. But she says the one thing she couldn’t stand was the heat. Can you imagine adding extra heat to the one we’re already suffering in Nigeria? It was like nothing she’d experienced before. It didn’t matter if she decided to take 100 showers, she’d still end up sweating ten minutes after.
She had to change to lighter cotton clothes, take lots of showers and never leave the house without a hand fan and face towel in her bag. She’d even started to worry it might be a spiritual attack until her nurse friend assured her it was only menopause. Older women seemed to just know by seeing her frantically fan herself. Trust Nigerians to tell you things like, “This sweat you dey sweat, menopause dun dey do you, abi?” or “You get luck say na only sweat you dey sweat. Some people dey sick”.
Some of the symptoms may follow into the post-menopause phase. Omo, we refuse to believe all this is because one woman ate a fruit she wasn’t supposed to. Because a year after the menstrual cycle ends, the average woman may still experience excessive body heat or cold feet, only milder.
While these physical changes are happening, and you’re hit with unexplainable fatigue, you need something to boost your energy levels and mood. This is why women are encouraged to take multivitamins. Not only did Beth resort to that, she became a believer in its effectiveness, spreading the gospel to women who come to her for help in dealing with menopause. While Edith says it’s very important to include fruits, vegetables and more natural spices like turmeric, ginger and garlic in your diet.
With menopause, like everything else in life, the hack is to find what works for you and stick with it. “Menopause can be stressful, but at least I’m free from buying pads. And considering how much they cost now, everyone should look forward to menopause”, Beth says, laughing.
*This interview has been edited for structure and clarity.