Menopause is known as "the change" because that's pretty much what happens to the 6,000 women each day who enter it. While hardly uncharted waters -- much has been written about the time when a woman's period stops -- there is plenty of misinformation out there.
Here are eight things that you may believe are true, but aren't:
1. It happens overnight.
Menopause is not a sudden event, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, an obstetrician and gynecologist who teaches at Yale University, told The Huffington Post. It occurs gradually. It isn't a case where one day you used up your last egg and then boom! you are in menopause. Egg production slows down gradually over a period of several years. The term “perimenopause” refers to this time when symptoms have started but periods have not yet stopped. Menopause does hit suddenly if the ovaries are removed surgically, but in all other cases -- no. So if this has happened to you, go see your doctor to find out why.
2. It can't be menopause if you're not having hot flashes.
Symptoms vary and not all women have the same ones. About 20 percent of women get no hot flashes at all; 20 percent get severe ones; and the remaining 50 percent get hot flashes that are annoying but tolerable, says Minkin.
Hot flashes may be worst in the perimenopausal time frame (the years leading up to that final menstrual period, which can go on for a while). They do tend to get better over the course of time, although 10 percent of women will face significant flashes for 10 years or more. Smokers and overweight women suffer worse hot flashes, she said.
No one knows exactly what causes hot flashes, believe it or not.
3. You just got a period after 10 months of skipping them, so there must be something wrong.
Nope, you're just not in menopause yet. Menopause, for women who have a uterus, is defined as no menstrual periods for one full year. If you get a period after 10 months, you have to reset the one-year clock.
4. You can't possibly be menopausal because you are still in your 30s.
Actually, you can. While the average age for menopause is 51+ years of age, it can start any time between 35 and 60. About 1 percent of women are menopausal by age 40; 5 percent by age 45.
5. Sleep problems have nothing to do with menopause.
They do -- big time. Typically menopausal women wake up from a sound sleep between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m, said Minkin. Sometimes it's caused by sweating from hot flashes, but not always. Sometimes, it's a "just because" kind of thing. Not getting a good night's rest frequently leads to the irritability and crankiness that many attribute to menopause, said Minkin.
6. Menopause causes arthritis.
Some menopausal women feel a general overall achy feeling, not unlike an arthritic type condition. Some feel a weakness in their knees or complain about having a sore lower back or shoulders. Bone loss can accelerate with menopause, and it’s a good idea to check with your doctor about bone density.
7. Once you are perimenopausal, you can't get pregnant.
Menopause marks the end of fertility. But women reaching their 40s or having occasional hot flashes shouldn't think that birth control is no longer necessary. Deciding when contraception is no longer needed can be dicey. Generally, a physician can tell this based on your history, examination or blood tests. In the lead up to menopause, the function of the ovaries is less consistent. But yes, you can still get pregnant.
8. Your receding gums have nothing to do with menopause.
Wrong again. Your dental health and the health of your bones are closely related. Problems with teeth and gums may be more common at and after menopause. With bone loss, the tooth sockets in your jaw deteriorate, leading to receding gums and the exposure of roots, which make your teeth sensitive to cold.
Also on Huff/Post: