(Based on the Wise Woman Way)
By Kaya Matthews
Ancient women’s history handed down mostly through the spoken words, tell us of the mysteries of powers and initiations in two unique events of a woman’s lifespan: menstruation and menopause. This article will focus on the latter; the years of transformation (30 to 90) from potential motherhood to wise whole wombman. Menopause signifies the last menstrual flow of a woman, meno (menstruation) pause (stops). Hence I suggest that a majority of women experience symptoms of perimenopause, a term used to describe the transition years to menopause. Also called Para menopause by many, this transition is usually from the onset of symptoms (usually late twenties), until the last flow, or menopause (generally mid 50’s). Then, there are of course many exceptions which make these numbers appear unfounded. Sometimes menopause creeps up on individuals as early as late forties. My close friend, Marie, had her last flow at age 38. It totally threw her for a loop since she had just miscarriaged her first daughter and had hoped to try again. On the other hand, I am now fifty-six years and still not convinced that I have seen my last flow. Many other friends and associates I survey get menopause between 48 to 50 years. The actual age of this when this major change begins or ends varies considerably from woman to woman.
This change is a metamorphosis…a complete change at the cellular level, which follows the three classic stages of initiation: isolation, death, and rebirth/reintegration.[i] Hence it is called change of life in many cultures. These stages translate into three phases: before menopause, during menopause, and after menopause. Each menopausal step has different needs and offers special challenges. The change that women experience during the transition is primal and deep.
The premenopausal years have a normal range of 35 – 45, during which changes occur in the ovaries, the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, pineal, and pituitary glands. These changes can be nourished by herbal allies in many forms. Increasing the number of calcium rich food consumed to maintain bone density and tonify the hormonal system with herbal medicines and yoga exercise. Regular physical activity is essential, even if it is passive exercise like slow walks. This helps maintain peak bone mass, strengthens the cardiovascular and ensures deep sleep. Maintain regular menses by ensuring progesterone surge with herbal allies.
The menopausal climax years are one or two years before and after the very last menstrual flow. This two to five year period is very critical, and symptoms like hot or cold flashes, flushes, palpitations, emotionally sensitive and insomnia are common. Depending on the individual and her circumstances, a woman may experience little to no effects of the change, while another may even experience physical or emotional changes with the Change, such as mental illness and even death. During these years, women should spend time with you. These are the years when our reproductive cycle ends, you will probably suffer from moodiness, insomnia, night sweats, hot flashes, and really need to take at least one day for yourself. Experiment with eggs, meat and butter in your diet. Spend time reflecting on your life…start journaling. This is a time to break all the rules and be someone you would never have believed you could be.
Some changes relative to menopause are weight gain, menstrual irregularities, flooding, fibroids, spotting, water retention, digestive distresses, emotional uproar, flashes, flushes, chills, night sweats, thoughts of suicide, rage, grief/crying spells, anxiety, fear, extreme nervousness, oversensitivity, irritability, sleeplessness, fatigue, headaches, migraines, heart palpitations, and the list goes on.
Postmenopausal years symbolically start 14 new moons after the last menstrual flow, and last until death. During this time, women generally experience hot flashes, aching joints, heart disease, incontinence, vaginal atrophy, and broken hips, which affect the quality and quantity of these years. Women are advised to eat vegetables, fruits and grains instead of meat…nourish the body with every bite of food. Another important factor is exercise. Keep active…dance, swim, move, walk, stretch, take up salsa or belly dancing…break all the rules and taboos. Assert control over your wellness and health. You are the architect of your life.
[i] Weed, Susun S., 1992. Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way (Alternative approaches for women 30-90). Woodstock, NY Ash Tree Publishing