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Story Session: What Happens When Menopause Comes Early and Ahead of Schedule

menopause midlifewomen perimenopause womenshealth

It seems a little cruel that a body capable of growing and giving birth to a human could launch into menopause just a few years -or even months later. We often talk about perimenopause happening in our late thirties and early forties. But we don't often talk about early menopause, meaning you've gone twelve months without a period between the ages of forty and forty-five.  


This diagnosis is so much more common than you might think. That’s why I am so thankful that Lindsay was generous enough to share her story of navigating this path. Even as a public health nutritionist, she was completely shocked to discover how little she knew about early menopause and how many other women were walking the same road with zero support. She shares just how confusing the symptoms were and why it’s so easy to fall through the cracks at this age and stage of life.

Sharing stories like Lindsay's is critical because early menopause makes the body more vulnerable to osteoporosis, heart disease, and cognitive changes. The good news is that there’s so much support you can draw upon to reduce these risks, but only if you understand how to recognize the signs of early menopause. Lindsay shares how hormone replacement therapy has been able to fill gaps and minimize the troublesome side effects she faced on her journey. Lindsay also shares specific reasons why it's been empowering to share the highs and lows of this season with the Midlife Feast Community.

In this episode you’ll learn

  •  The first signs that Lindsay was menopausal
  •  Why we can’t judge someone’s health by their weight
  •  What wisdom Lindsay wishes she could have offered her younger self
  •  The danger of believing that everything can be treated with diet and exercise
  •  Why we need to advocate for making early menopause awareness a public health issue



Jenn Salib Huber 0:02
Hi and welcome to the midlife feast the podcast for women who are hungry for more in this season of life. I'm your host, Dr. Jenn Celine Huber. Come to my table. Listen and learn from me. Trusted guests, experts in women's health and interviews with women just like you. Each episode brings to the table juicy conversations designed to help you feast on midlife. Welcome to this week's episode of the midlife feast. This week is a story session and I'm talking to Lindsay, who at 42 is already postmenopausal. We often talk about perimenopause happening in our late 30s and early 40s. But we don't often talk about early menopause, which is when someone stops having a period so you've gone 12 months without a period between the ages of 40 and 45. When it happens before 40. It's called premature menopause or premature ovarian failure sometimes or ovarian insufficiency. And it's often on the radar a little bit more than early menopause. Because when you're over 40, and you stop having a period, people may I assume that? Well, it's expected it's normal. But we really do need to talk about it more. Because if you go into menopause before 45, there are some health considerations with regards to reducing the risk of osteoporosis, and heart disease and even cognitive changes that really need to be happening with health care providers. And so I'm really excited for you to hear Lindsey story about how things started to change for her after she had a baby, which in hindsight, was in perimenopause. So listen in and listen to Lindsey story of what changed after 40. So Lindsay, welcome to the midlife. Thank you. So Lindsay, orient us Where where are you at ages and stages of midlife. Oh, I

Lindsay 2:03
am 42 and I have recently gone through menopause early. So that was a surprise to me. And yeah, so it's it's been all like a very interesting journey over the last probably five to seven years for me.

Jenn Salib Huber 2:27
So at 42, you were probably, you know, really kind of taken aback by this diagnosis of menopause. Because as I mentioned in the intro, early menopause is when you go, you know, when you stop having a period before the age of 45. And so the average age is 52. So most people in your life are probably still having periods, maybe still having babies. And, and you're in this stage of life where you know, you're postmenopausal at this point. So what surprised you about all of this,

Lindsay 3:01
I think one of the biggest surprises for me was the lack of awareness around early menopause. And so when everything was happening, to me in terms of my symptoms, I really didn't know what was going on. And when I think about that, in the context of, you know, other life changes that women go through in terms of, you know, puberty and then having babies and breastfeeding. And I feel like those were, you know, female experiences that I was prepared for, I knew what to expect. There was whole systems around, you know, making sure that that people know what to expect and, and education and all those things were with menopause at my age, certainly. I was just surprised that really almost nobody I know was talking about it. And even some of my older friends that you know, are of menopausal age. I mean, I could probably, I can actually only think of one, maybe two friends of mine who have ever said anything about menopause even though you know, I know many of my friends would have gone through, at least be in perimenopause and having some symptoms along with that.

Jenn Salib Huber 4:34
Yeah. And perimenopause, you know, can last eight to 10 years and often starts, you know, by 40, you know, 80 You know, I would say that 80% of women are experiencing something by 4042. That is like, Hmm, this doesn't quite feel like it did 10 years ago, but in hindsight, because I guess in your case, it probably wasn't hindsight, what was changing and when what were your early symptoms? and signs like, what do you look back on now and think, oh, that's why that was happening.

Lindsey 5:04
So one of the biggest things would be my cycles. So they definitely, I was having more PMS symptoms that I had no explanation for, other than I guess the way I sort of explained them in my head was that I was no longer on birth control and no longer breastfeeding. So I was because I was so young. That was the stage of life that I was in where I had. I mean, I think I stopped breastfeeding when I was 37. So I was and then, and I hadn't been on the pill since I was 33. I guess it would have been so yeah. So I just thought, well, I guess my periods just changing. I'm not breastfeeding anymore, all these things. So that was definitely the biggest, the biggest indicator and also my metabolism. So weight gain definitely happened way easier than previously in my life.

Jenn Salib Huber 6:15
So in hindsight, you had a baby and perimenopause. Yes. Yeah. Right. Yeah. You know, and so I think sometimes we like I don't think anybody would have a 35 or 36 year old on their perimenopause radar, because we still think of that, as you know, not peak fertility, but certainly not in the the zone of kind of diminished fertility. And yes, when your cycles changed after breastfeeding, it probably wasn't on anyone's radar that this could be right.

Lindsay 6:46
And I never thought I'd even bring it up to my doctor, anybody.

Jenn Salib Huber 6:53
So what happened that led to this diagnosis of early perimenopause, walk us through that.

Lindsay 6:59
So during the, the first lockdown April 2020, I was I had missed a, my PAP and because of the lockdowns and I believe, when my nurse practitioner called she said, you know, obviously, we're gonna have to reschedule. But do you have any concerns? And I said, while I thought I was pregnant, because I hadn't had a period from February until just like, right, but like, probably a week before, my pap was supposed to happen. And I spoke to her. So it was, you know, a couple like a month and a half to two months where I hadn't hadn't had a cycle.

Jenn Salib Huber 7:49
Yeah, so you were already kind of noticing that things were changing. And even when that was happening with perimenopause, on

Lindsay 7:58
the rate, it was at that point for me, because I was I had just turned 40. And so I thought, Okay, well, this makes sense. Maybe something is going on. In terms of Yeah, moving towards menopause.

Jenn Salib Huber 8:14
Yeah, and, you know, I think that for a lot of people, regardless of the age that this happens, it often is that first, really noticeable cycle change that prompts them to think, Wait a minute, if I'm not pregnant, is this period? Because I hear that all the time. People say, Oh, my goodness, I've taken so many pregnancy tests in the last year. Like is this what happens? And I think because we're so used to, if you've always had a regular cycle, you're used to that predictable rhythm of you know, it's going to happen, maybe give or take a day or two, but you don't expect it to go weeks or months without it happening. And so I think for a lot of people, and I remember the first time that I really had gone a couple of months, it feels it really feels different, like you're really used to this predictable rhythm and routine of a cycle. And when it's missing, it really does feel like everything is changing. And so you mentioned body changes, which we'll come back to in a second. But were there other changes or symptoms that maybe now in hindsight, you can look back and think, oh, maybe that's what was going on? Or was that really the main one that you were noticing

Lindsay 9:24
that was by far the main one. especially so in terms of like regularity, but also in terms of symptoms? So I was getting, like cramps and just, you know, heavier cycles, all like the the cycles themselves had changed. So it was just all around. Yeah, all around my cycle. Predominantly, yeah.

Jenn Salib Huber 9:47
And those cycle changes can be really variable. I think most people do experience a period of really heavy periods. You know, as estrogen is still on a roller coaster and progesterone is He is on the decline. That is often another kind of red flag, I guess. I'm not sure. But you know, there's sign that, wait a minute, what in the hell is going on here because it's, it's like going to seem like if you've never experienced, I don't think there's anything that compares to that heavy flooding, which often does come with cramping and clots and just more discomfort than even people who've had painful periods were accustomed to. In my case, I had endometriosis for most of my, you know, teens and 20s. And things got really great for about five years after my kids were born, where I had like, no pain, and then all of a sudden that 37 Again, in hindsight, I started to experience a lot of pain, a lot of cramping, and you know, come to find out that, yeah, the endometriosis had come back, but I also had fibroids, and I was also going through this heavy period. And you know, it was kind of that Well, why didn't anyone tell me that? Right? Like, I really Yes, and warned that it was a perfect storm of hormones, that was going to create a lot of discomfort. And that, you know, like you were saying, In the beginning, we aren't preparing women for these ages and stages. And so, so many of the women that I talk to you, this is all stuff that they realize, in hindsight, they're not looking for it, they're not talking about it with their friends, because, you know, I think it's a fair statement to say that at 40, we're over talking about our period, right? It's not like, it's not anything exciting to anyone anymore. It's not what we want to talk about. It doesn't come up at book club, or you know, is it's just a fact of life. And but I think we need to be talking about it, because so many women will suffer in silence, and think, Oh, it's just me, I've just got to get through this. I've just got to do this, or, you know, it'll be over soon. But then when we talk to other people, and everybody has the shared experience of oh my god, I remember having to set like three alarms just so that I didn't like soak through the bed, or I cancelled going out to dinner because I wasn't sure if I could like leave the house. Why? Yeah, that like that is something that

absolutely, and I mine, I would say, I didn't experience it, maybe to that degree, like I didn't have to set alarms or anything like that. But it was it was just still so much more than I was used to.

Jenn Salib Huber 12:28
And I mean, no, none of it is fun. So more or

Lindsay 12:31

Jenn Salib Huber 12:34
So you were having these changes, and then your periods started going a wall. And so then you were diagnosed as being in early in menopause. So at 40 Too often, I think many women fall through the cracks. Because if someone goes into menopause in their 30s, that's on everyone's radar as early, it's on everyone's radar to say, oh, we need to do something about this to protect her health, you know, bones and brain and heart and to reduce the risk. But I find that when women get that diagnosis in that 40 to 45 range, they're often they kind of slip through the cracks, because there's, well, you're 40 you're having kids, you know, let me know if you're not feeling well, but there really isn't a whole lot of discussion around perimenopause or early menopause, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to share your story because for you know, women need to know that if you stop having a period before 45, you need to be having conversations about hormone replacement therapy and hormone therapy to protect your health, not just raise your symptoms, which is the guiding decision point for women who go into kind of normal menopause or at a at an average age. So but let's circle back a little bit to the body changes because you also work in the area of health and nutrition. And, and so I think most people assume and it's not always the right assumption, but most people assume that when somebody is working in this field, that there was an understanding about food and nutrition and how that relates to body size and shape. And so you found yourself in this, you know, situation where you were feeling, you know, like your body was changing. It was happening to you, like you had no control, which is how most of us feel when we experience it. And what was kind of the intersection of that with your

Lindsay 14:37
work. How, yeah, that's a that's a really great question. And so yeah, I did as I was going through, you know, some of the initial changes and perimenopause, I was working as a public health nutritionist and so while kind of like weight and you know, so would have individual medical nutrition is was not what I was doing. I still, you know, was a dietitian, and so certainly would, did have that training. And so it was, I guess there's a lot of shame attached to it to be honest, like it is, it's a total shame storm, because you, you know, you feel like people are judging you for either, you know, maybe not knowing what you're supposed to do or not doing what you're supposed to do as a good dietician. So yeah, and then my other work is with health and wellness company called Arbonne. And we and certainly with that, I will say in both, you know, both dietetics and an Arbonne, my sort of experience is not weight centric. So it's very much about, you know, choosing, like making healthier choices, that kind of thing, that's sort of where, you know, the philosophy that I and the people that I worked work with, and worked with, worked under, but so it's more so the outside like the people like, so I never really worry too much about the people that are in my close circle. But it's more like general, you know, acquaintances, general population, like, they would just have no idea or probably be very confused, to see a dietitian and at somebody struggling, and I even hate to say struggling with weight, because I actually refuse to struggle.

Jenn Salib Huber 16:45
And I love that. Yeah. And so and I bring it up only because also being someone who works in, you know, the health and wellness, you know, industry, I guess you could call it, there are so many assumptions that we make about people that are incorrect. And it's such a good reminder that you cannot judge someone's health, by what they look like, you cannot, you can't know how someone eats, how often they move their body, what their general state of health is simply by looking at them, because weight is not off. And, you know, I think that will I know, again, from having also been in this area that it is it, it's almost a plague of the health and wellness culture, to assume that everything can be treated and prevented with food and exercise. And so regardless of the condition, regardless of you know, whatever medical state the person is in, it's assumed that if you work in this area, you have not done your job well, or you aren't good at your job, if you are not the picture of health. And I think that that really needs to be broken down. Because as we know, you know, weight is not a proxy for health and health, it isn't always something we can control in the way that Diet and Wellness culture led us to believe you can do quote unquote, all the right things, and still end up with a medical diagnosis that wellness culture assumes can be prevented or treated with diet and lifestyle, which it can't be. And on the flip side, you can do all the wrong things and live to be true.

Unknown Speaker 18:33
And that's really frustrating. For so many

Jenn Salib Huber 18:37
years, it was frustrating. Like most things, I mean, you know, 70% of our body size and shape is genetic. And the changes that we go through hormonally and perimenopause and menopause that lead to body changes, specifically where our body stores fat is probably the biggest one and and also some of the maybe insulin resistance that we experienced, the further we get into menopause and post menopause, those changes are pre programmed into your DNA. They're not because of what you have for breakfast. So you know, I think that the one of the take home messages that I would like women to hear is that regardless of the age and stage that you're at, these changes happen to 80 plus percent of us and there are things that we can do to manage maybe the health risks and consequences of menopause and post menopause. But that doesn't mean that we have to make weight, the focus of those efforts, we can really separate out weight and health. And that might even be more important in this age and stage of life. Because as I think anybody over 40 knows even if you had found things that worked before and I'm saying works, you can't see it but in quotations. Chances are they're not working now. And that's where you know, I think a lot of people Regardless of whether they they're working in this industry or not feel really frustrated because it feels like something's broken. Like, you know, why isn't this working anymore? I used to do all these things. And it worked wise. And for me,

Lindsay 20:11
I think it wouldn't be so I don't even know. So I never I think we've talked about this, like, it's, I've never really kind of consciously gone on a diet or like a weight loss diet, I have certainly, you know, adjusted eating habits tried on different things, just to see how they made me feel. I looked at things as sort of an experiment, like how will I feel if I don't eat gluten? Or how will I feel if I, you know, eat this many times a day and things like that. But what I think overall in you know, perimenopause, and menopause is just that feeling of like your body, you just don't feel at home in your body anymore. Just like, even. So it's not for me anyway. It's not so much like the eating pattern, or the diet or whatever isn't, quote, unquote, working anymore. It's that my body's just doing its own thing that I don't recognize.

Jenn Salib Huber 21:18
Yeah, yeah, I think that's a feeling we can all relate to. I've certainly felt that way. And I've heard it hundreds of times. So I can, I can be sure that someone listening can relate to that. Which is, the whole point of sharing these stories is to make these experiences a little bit more relatable, so that you know, you don't feel alone in them. Because no two experiences are alike. But there are so many things that we do all experience. And I think that feeling of not feeling at home in your body is is relatable. Thank you for sharing that. So what would you like women to know about going into early menopause, menopause? What would you tell your younger self? What advice would you give? Oh, I

Lindsay 21:56
would, I would definitely tell my younger self to be aware that these are the things that you can expect, you can expect that your periods are going to change in terms of frequency and duration and quantity. And that your I would tell myself that your body is going to change in ways that you don't have control over. And to continue. Like I think one of the things that I feel like, I could have been someone who really got sucked into diet culture for so many different reasons. But because I was fortunate enough to have background in Health at Every Size philosophies and intuitive eating mindfulness, those kinds of things. I did give myself and my body grace. So I would I mean, I, I think I could, but I also struggled. So I think honestly, one of the biggest things would be to, to seek out support sooner. Yeah,

Jenn Salib Huber 23:16
yeah. Yeah. And I think it needs to be a public health issue. So you know, just like we have resources for, you know, kids going through puberty. And for moms, you know, first time moms and breastfeeding support and all that kind of stuff, I really think that we need to have another, you know, kind of echelon of support for women who are entering menopause because Mary menopause lasts for a decade, we put a whole lot more time and effort into it, which is nine months. And you know, the, if we are living longer, then we would have, you know, 100 or 200 years ago, and, you know, many women are living into their eighth and ninth decades. And that means that they're going to spend potentially a third or more of their life in post menopause. And that needs to be something that we're preparing women for, because otherwise they're going to end up not having the quality of life that they want to. And we're you know, we're going to struggle to support the health of this aging population of women who want to be healthy well, so I was asked people at the end, you know, what, what do you think is the missing ingredient in midlife?

Lindsay 24:28
Probably community. I think the community around this change because so one of the other things that I do in my volunteer life is I am a volunteer Lecce league leader and I so I support moms with breastfeeding and you know, have been involved in in prenatal support for breastfeeding as well as after the baby's here and I think that community piece is so so important. When you are in that phase. But there's nothing again there's no infrastructure. There's no like, it just there's nothing there like there is and I mean, arguably there's not enough for pregnant and breast pregnancy and breastfeeding either but there's nothing for perimenopause and menopause. Yeah.

Jenn Salib Huber 25:21
There isn't. I mean, most women are. You know, I've read statistics that women are, are misdiagnosed for four to five years before someone confirms, yeah, you're in perimenopause. You know, they have been seeking help for their symptoms, which in hindsight, are clearly Peri menopausal. But because it's not on the radar of many healthcare practitioners, it really does fall through the cracks. So I agree with you 100%. And community needs to be, I think,

Lindsay 25:49
part of our plan. Definitely.

Jenn Salib Huber 25:52
Lindsay, thank you so much for sharing your story. I know that it will help many people who are listening to it. And, you know, sharing stories is what the story sessions are all very welcome. Thank you. Hey there, thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of the midlife feast. You can find a link to my group program beyond the scale and anything else that I've got on the go in the show notes. You can also find a link to download my free menopause nutrition for underwriters Guide, which includes some of my favorite recipes to help you implement gentle nutrition. And as always, come hang out with me on Instagram at menopause dot nutritionist. It's where I love to connect with people who are in this stage of life and are looking to try different instead of harder


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