When women go through perimenopause, they can often experience menopause fatigue, which can turn into menopause exhaustion. Because the age of first-time moms is increasing steadily, this combination of menopause and tiredness is overlapping with their children’s puberty more and more often, and there can be a direct clash of people under one roof experiencing perimenopause and puberty. (1)
Perimenopause can start between a woman’s late 30s to her early 50s, but typically starts in a woman’s early 40s, and lasts 7-10 years. Menopause and the transition into postmenopause begin at about 51 years of age. Usually, puberty starts between ages 8 and 13 in girls and ages 9 and 15 in boys. (2)
For many of us who chose to start our family a bit later, the combination of puberty and menopause can be bewildering. Slamming doors, shouting, or even occasional sobbing come to mind. At the same time, we all aspire to be fun, intelligent, caring, and calm parents; when we are in the grip of our raging hormones, that’s a pretty tough goal.
Many moms are taken by surprise when perimenopause hits. There is minimal discussion about what perimenopause looks like. So together, mothers and children can feel like they are stumbling into hormonal storms that feel new and out of control at the very same time. (1)
This article will provide you with the knowledge you need to talk to your teenagers about your menopause fatigue and understand how you are actually in similar phases of life.
Menopause and Puberty – A tale of two phases
The menopause transition results from dropping estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone hormones. With receptors for these hormones on nearly every cell of our bodies, it makes sense that our whole body, including our brains, can be affected by a drop or an increase in the hormones. There are a multitude of perimenopausal symptoms that can individually lead to feeling tired, but in combination, they can lead to an overwhelming state of fatigue.
Menopause is often described as puberty in reverse. Puberty is due to increased hormones, while peri- and menopause is due to a decrease in hormones. Puberty is when the body begins to develop, and a child moves from a child into an adult.
The physical and behavioral changes in puberty and perimenopausal women can be stunning, as hormones work their transformative ‘magic’ (for good or evil). Much of what is happening to kids in puberty and women in perimenopause is invisible to friends, family, and coworkers who are likely trying to make sense of these phases.
One of the reasons it is so tricky to parent during these two phases is that menopause symptoms can lead to terrible fatigue. One in four women will experience severe menopause symptoms, but it is rarely addressed appropriately within a family. Because we typically refrain from talking about menopause, our families are left wondering, “What is going on?”
Let’s Compare the Two Phases
As puberty progresses, a girl’s ovaries release estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These are called “sex hormones” and typically will be coursing through the body. Some say these hormone changes will take a child on a rollercoaster ride to adulthood. Well, with menopause, the opposite happens, but it still feels like a rollercoaster!
Symptoms that often get overlooked during both phases are emotional changes. There is a level of emotional ‘chaos’ that perimenopause can create for some women. Imagine dealing with all of these symptoms simultaneously as you are navigating parenting teenagers who are likely going through their own emotional and physical changes.
This overlap of puberty and perimenopause puts families in a position where both the teenager and mother are dealing with bodies that start acting in ways that feel strange and unfamiliar. This overlap of increasing hormones (puberty) vs. decreasing hormones (perimenopause) means that a mother and her teen may be experiencing many of the same symptoms, such as:
- Mood swings – Emotional states, including increased irritability, are heightened during puberty and perimenopause phases. Some kids and moms lose their tempers more often and get angry with their friends or families. The ability to empathize and control impulses and emotions aren’t as level as they should be. (2) Before menopause, a woman’s hormones helped her avoid conflict and protect her relationships. As estrogen decreases, this protection also drops, and relationships can suffer.
- Anxiety – During puberty and perimenopause, one might feel anxious or become upset quickly. You also may feel worried about how your changing body looks.
- Fatigue – In both phases, fatigue is prevalent. In the puberty phase, this fatigue is due to the rate of growth and the need for extra sleep to accommodate this growth. In perimenopause, most fatigue is due to sleep deprivation due to anxiety, night sweats, sleep apnea, insomnia, and other menopausal symptoms.
- Sexual Function – At the end of puberty, girls will have started their period while their moms end their monthly cycle at menopause. Boys will likely have experienced their first erection in puberty, while moms are experiencing decreased libido due to dropping testosterone.
- Libido – Teenagers might also have sexual feelings they have never felt before and may question these new, confusing feelings about sex. Moms may be dealing with decreased libido due to depression, vaginal dryness, and a whole host of other menopause symptoms.
- Voice changes – In both stages (puberty and perimenopause), there will be changes in an individual’s voice! Deeper for most girls, boys’ voices crack and eventually become deeper, but women in perimenopause might experience a roughness of their voice and throat dryness.
- Changing Shape – Both boys’ and girls’ bodies fill out and change shape during puberty, and so do mom’s bodies with perimenopause. A boy’s shoulders will grow wider, and will become more muscular. The teenage girls’ hips get wider, and their breasts develop. In perimenopause, breasts start to sag and become sore or sensitive. In perimenopause, women deposit weight differently; some women call it the “meno-belly” and “spare tire.”
- When will I get my period? – The uncertainty of when the period might come is true for both perimenopause and puberty for girls. Because of decreased hormones, or erratic levels of hormones, the period can be very irregular during perimenopause.
- Coordination changes – The rapid growth in teenagers, and changes in the inner ear of perimenopausal women can lead to both phases seeming clumsy or awkward.
- Face Changes – Acne isn’t uncommon with puberty but women in their 40s are not ready for the skin to get oilier, and pimples sometimes start showing up.
- Hair Growth Changes – Growing hair in new places (and maybe some hair loss for mom) is common. While boys and girls both begin to grow hair under their arms and their pubic areas, women in perimenopause start to lose it in those same places and get it on their faces.
- Sweating & Body Odor – Both mom and kids in puberty can have new smells under their arms and in other places when the hormones stimulate the glands in your skin, including moms that are suffering from hot flashes and night sweats. When sweat and bacteria on your skin get together, it can smell pretty bad.
- Vaginal Changes – Both boys and girls notice changes in their reproductive parts, but in puberty, girls sometimes might see and feel white or clear vaginal discharge. For mom, this vaginal discharge starts to dry up and can make the vaginal itchy and dry, leading to increased UTIs and even painful sex.
- Identity transition – Moving out of a sexy reproductive state (perimenopause) or into a sexy reproductive state (puberty) can lead to identity questions. While this can be exciting for both phases, there are unperceived and often unacknowledged vulnerabilities.
Menopausal Fatigue and Parenting
The most apparent perimenopause symptom that can lead to fatigue is the lack of sleep and the constant battle to get consistent quality sleep. If not treated, this can lead to debilitating exhaustion.
If you have chronic fatigue, you may wake up in the morning feeling as though you’ve not slept. Or maybe you cannot function as well with your family as you’d like. You may be too exhausted even to manage basic activities.
Menopausal fatigue often includes having a constant sense of being drained and can diminish your overall quality of life. (1, 2) Parenting can feel particularly difficult during this time. Women with menopausal fatigue can be tired and anxiety-ridden leading to:
- Poor sleep, yes, not sleeping well is a vicious cycle.
- More difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
- Difficulty waking up in the morning.
- Less able to handle stress and increased irritability.
- Judgment, empathy, and controlling impulses are off-balance as estrogen decreases.
- Seeking out too many stimulants, like caffeine beverages.
- A weak immune system, so you are more likely to fall ill. (3)
What Can Cause Menopausal Fatigue?
As a woman enters perimenopause, her hormone levels fluctuate dramatically, which can cause chronically disrupted sleep. Also, lower levels of estrogen and progesterone can make some women short-tempered and less able to relax. So actually getting to sleep, or just taking a moment to unwind, can be difficult.
The decrease in these hormones can throw off cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone). When you’re stressed, you will produce more cortisol leading to a cycle of even more stress. (3) With high levels of some hormones and others dropping, rest can be hard to find. Here’s a few of the significant ways hormones impacts rest:
- Sleep Apnea. Balanced hormones can help protect women from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts. (5,6)
- Menopausal Weight Gain. With additional weight, especially in the torso and neck, women can increase the probability of having sleep apnea.
- Night sweats. When night sweats wake you up, they can also lead to poor sleep and feelings of fatigue.
- Elevated levels of cortisol and thyroid hormones. When our bodies produce less estrogen and progesterone, it can affect other hormones, such as cortisol and thyroid hormones. (5) These hormones regulate cellular energy in the body, so you can feel fatigued when they are off.
- Stage of Life. When there is stress at home, and the family may be transitioning (empty nesters), it can lead to exhaustion.
- Medical Conditions. A wide variety of medical conditions can lead to feelings of chronic fatigue and include Allergies, Hay Fever, Anemia, Depression, Fibromyalgia, Food Allergies, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and so much more.
How to Increase Your Energy to Deal with Your Child’s Puberty
Raising teens is already challenging, but doing so when going through menopause with all of the emotional angst that’s going on can make it feel impossible. It is challenging to relate to teens when you’re both experiencing similar symptoms.
Between puberty and menopause, a woman’s body releases hormones at a level that allows her to walk that fine line to make sure relationships are healthy, and anger and aggression are in check. Once the supply of estrogen and progesterone hormones drops steadily during perimenopause, those natural peacekeeping urges also decline. (2) In those situations where you may have just taken a deep breath and let your anger pass, now you are openly angry.
When you lack patience, nurturing doesn’t come easy and believing that the gorgeous baby you brought into the world is that teenager isn’t always straightforward. The good news is that by understanding what is happening (to the whole family), you can moderate your reactions to maintain positive relationships and come out the other side a happy and balanced family.
Menopause Fatigue Treatment
The primary medical treatment for the symptoms of menopause is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). (5, 6, 7) HRT works by replacing lost hormones, which can improve fatigue. By allowing you to finally sleep again, or maybe help you to lose the menopausal weight and reduce sleep apnea, you can start to feel less fatigued quickly.
Another potential option to reduce fatigue is non-hormonal medication, like antidepressant therapy, including serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These drugs may improve hot flashes and night sweats, which can improve sleep, but SSRIs and SNRIs can cause insomnia rather than make it better for some people.
Lifestyle changes can also help improve menopausal fatigue
It’s helpful to try incorporating lifestyle changes to improve your sleep and feelings of fatigue.
- Make yourself a priority. Putting yourself back on a priority list and having enough energy reserves can help you empathize with and enjoy your teens.
- Exercise. During these phases of fatigue, it may be challenging to get up and exercise, but studies suggest it can improve energy levels overall in people going through menopause. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can help you feel more energetic. (5)
- Avoid stimulants and alcohol. Caffeine can feel like such a simple solution when energy levels are low, but too much caffeine can disrupt sleep and leave you feeling even more tired. Alcohol can help people feel drowsy when having difficulty sleeping, but it lowers sleep quality overall and can also be a hot flash trigger. (5, 7,8)
- Avoid eating spicy food. Spicy food is notorious for triggering hot flashes — avoid it if you can.
- Bedtime routine. Devise a regular schedule for sleep to ensure healthy sleep – including:
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- Avoiding naps in the daytime
- Refrain from using computer screens and electronic devices before bed
- Drinking warm drinks or taking warm baths or showers in the evening
- Use the bedroom for sleep or sex only.
- Meditation and yoga can provide gentle exercise and lower stress, and help with energy levels and sleep.
How Do We Balance Our Teenagers and Our Menopause?
We know that ignoring menopause is not a solution to the symptoms and the adverse impacts on our relationships with our teenagers. So, what can we do? First, let’s face the challenge of menopausal symptoms head-on. Accept menopause and treat the symptoms that come with decreasing hormones so that you can live your healthiest, happiest life.
It may sound simplistic, but take care of yourself. If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, address them and manage your teen’s ups and downs productively. Women can effectively treat the symptoms with safe, medically prescribed options like hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The earlier you start to treat the symptoms, the better.
Women are not likely to sail through menopause by drinking tea or taking special vitamins. The reality is that 80% of women in menopause have far-reaching symptoms – including brain fog, anxiety, weight gain, low libido, depression, sleeplessness, exhaustion, vaginal dryness, and stiff joints. With HRT, women can look forward to fewer debilitating symptoms that can adversely affect their ability to parent the way they want to.
Menopause is not an “old woman” thing. Millennials are entering perimenopause, and they aren’t even 40 yet.
As women in perimenopause, we need to watch and try to navigate our teens who are also feeling the surge of hormonal changes. Their hormones are rising and flooding their brains, which means they are mostly incapable of understanding that mom is experiencing the drain of hormones, leaving her less able to contend with stress as well as she used to.
By helping your pubescent child understand the different symptoms of their and your hormone fluctuations, together, you can control the symptoms, so they don’t control you and adversely impact your relationships.
A Winona doctor can help you manage your symptoms and determine which treatments make you more comfortable. The drop in hormones during menopause can have far-reaching effects. Winona can help. Safe, natural, bio-identical HRT is available if prescribed.
Hormone therapy is available in oral tablets or topical cream or patches. Check out bywinona.com today!