In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, Dr. Justine Lee, DACVECC, DABT talks about something most people don’t talk about EVER in veterinary medicine. Perimenopause and menopause. Yup. Keep reading. Because we’re a field of 70-90% women, and you need to know this!
By Dr. Justine Lee, DACVECC, DABT
Director of Medicine / CEO, VETgirl
Perimenopause and What You Need to Know
(Said in the fashion of Bunk, from The Wire)…
I never thought I’d be writing about infertility and why you should stop and have kids now, which was a very heartfelt, honest, vulnerable VETgirl blog for me to write about 6 years ago.
Well, while I’m at it, I might as well tell you about perimenopause and menopause (that’ll be a future blog in about 12 months), because you know what? This sh*t needs to be discussed!
Recently, I went to visit my dear old veterinary friends, and one of their life hacks of life was this amazing fan that goes around your neck to help with menopause…
And with that, she jinxed me.
Call it psychosomatic, but within < 1 week, I officially became perimenopausal with severe hot flashes and the need for a neck fan. So, what the heck is perimenopause? As we all know, ‘peri’ refers to “around”… which means the dream is over and menopause is right around the corner. This officially means that my infertility is officially become the capital “I” as the end of my reproductive years are officially over.
Why am I talking about it? Because when I graduated from veterinary school in 1997, my Cornell class was about 65% female. And now? Graduating classes are almost 90-100% female… so it’s an important topic. Perimenopause can occur at various ages – but in general, can occur as early as the mid- to late-30’s to the 40’s. And just in case you don’t remember from your theriogenology class (granted, it was a different species), perimenopause is when the levels of estrogen fluctuate tremendously.
Clinical signs of perimenopause include:
- Various length and heaviness of menstrual cycles*
- Hotter-than-hell hot flashes (for someone who is normally cold)
- Vaginal and bladder problems (decreased elasticity and lubrication, predisposing us to urogenital infections along with decreased tissue tone and secondary urinary incontinence)
- Irregularities in sleep
- Night sweats (hot flashes + no sleep, Yeah!)
- Mood swings
- Higher risks of depression
- Lack of sex drive
* If it’s > 7 days in the length of your menstrual cycle, you’re in early perimenopause, while if it’s > 60 days between cycles, you’re in late perimenopause.
Add to that, the other physiological changes like decreased bone density, increasing your risk of osteoporoisis and changes in cholestrol (your “good” cholesterol goes down while your “bad” LDL cholesterol goes up).
I mean, can it get worse?
Once you’ve gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you’ve officially reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over.
Man, I’m already stressed in life or in the veterinary clinic or in family life and now I’ve got all that above PLUS sleep deprivation?
Why am I telling you this?
I’m truly telling you this because before you know it, you’re in your 30’s with decreased infertility and then, before you know it again, you’re almost 50 and approaching these crazy hormonal changes that make you think that you’re becoming more bitchy and crabby and monstrous and then you find out, it’s just your body talking to you.
So stay cool. There’s a MEDICAL PHYSIOLOGICAL REASON FOR YOUR IRRITABILITY (Husband, read <– HERE).
Plus, it’s another reminder for some more empathy, please. It’s a good reminder that we individually all have a lot going on.
Most importantly, how we feel in our bodies and minds directly impacts how we show up to our veterinary clients, patients, and colleagues at work, as well as our capacity to keep all of the plates spinning. Women’s issues, including menopause and perimenopause support, are workplace issues!
It’s not a club I want to join. But I’m here in the end of my PM stage, and looking for some sympathetic sisters. You can find the Top 5 Things That Helped Me with Menopause.
What are you hacks on how you managed PM or menopause?
Addendum added February 7, 2023.
Well, wow. See, this is an important topic to be made transparent! Look what posted two days ago on New York Times Magazine?