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Managing menopause and motherhood

February 5, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, young kids to boot -- it's a lot for one person to handle, but more women are doing it. Some mothers are managing menopause and motherhood at the same time.Motherhood and menopause were once two very different phases of a woman's life. But as more women wait to have children, those phases are overlapping. It can make the happiest time in a woman's life challenging and exhausting.

"Once I hit my forties, I just noticed that there were so many things I wanted to accomplish in a day, and my body wasn't allowing me to do that," said Cynthia Leonard, mother.

A new mom again at 40, Cynthia Leonard was exhausted. She had a newborn and two older boys under the age of 10. Like many other parents, she and her husband waited until they got established to start their family.

"I felt, and my husband felt, that we needed to be ready," said Leonard. "And fully appreciate having kids, and that really came with I think age and maturity."

The Leonard story is similar. Studies show one in every 12 babies is now born to a mom 35 years old or older.

But for some moms, the joy of motherhood can be overshadowed by menopause and perimenopause.

"I knew I was 45, so I knew it was coming," said Leonard. "But most of my family had experienced it in their fifties, or 55."

Dr. Susan Linder said she sees about 30 older moms a month, complaining of symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue and frustration.

"They come in and they're truly saying, 'I'm at the end of my rope, I blew up, I yelled, I lost my temper, I don't know what's happening,'" said Dr. Linder.

She says most moms like Cynthia will turn to unhealthy stimulants to try to get themselves going.

"I would have a lot of caffeine, I would try to do everything I could, try to get more rest at night, but at some point during the day I would wear out and have to take a nap," said Leonard.

There are healthier alternatives:

  • Accept your limitations and need for more rest
  • Set time aside for yourself
  • Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy.
Leonard says bio-identical hormones and lifestyle changes helped her, and while she admits raising three young boys can still be challenging, she wouldn't change a thing.

"There are times when you don't feel great," said Leonard. "I think about the day that my boys leave home, and it makes me sad, so I want to be there, be in the moment, and be the best person I can be, while they're here."

Dr. Linder also suggests seeking out other moms who are going through similar experiences. Talk to your doctor about finding a support group.


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