Menopause can be a physically challenging and emotionally trying time for a woman. But with the right information and outlook, the so-called “change of life” phase can also become the bridge to the best time of a woman’s life, says Dr. Arianna Sholes-Douglas (www.tulawellnessmd.com), author of The Menopause Myth: What Your Mother, Doctor, And Friends Haven’t Told You About Life After 35, and the founder of Tula Wellness Center in Tucson, Ariz.
“It’s a myth that menopause is the beginning of the end,” says Sholes-Douglas. “Menopause is a journey toward your best, authentic self. Menopause is not a dirty word. It’s time we use it, reform it, and own it.”
A long-time OBG-YN, Sholes-Douglas says she missed her own perimenopause diagnosis, thus she dedicated her career to helping women through a difficult stage that she thinks is largely neglected by most of the medical community. “Women are blindly struggling, and often, no viable solutions are offered by their medical providers,” Sholes-Douglas says. Sholes-Douglas offers advice on how women can empower themselves to better cope with menopause and not let it diminish their quality of life:
- Separate the myths from reality. “A common myth is that menopause doesn’t affect women until after menstrual cessation,” Sholes-Douglas says. “The reality is that perimenopause — one of the most emotionally and hormonally tumultuous times of a woman’s life — precedes menopause and starts as early as age 35. This journey is not only heralded by the fluctuations of hormones, but also by a ‘personal awakening’ that starts to occur. No wonder women have traditionally avoided the ‘M’ word like the plague. But this avoidance of information, resources, and conversations does a disservice to women and their families.”
- Embrace the change. Feelings of dread and confusion often accompany the onset of menopause. “So many women start to focus on the signs of aging that we all experience,” Sholes-Douglas says. “But there is technology available to push back the hands of time. The real work, however, starts with the mental and spiritual. At midlife, we are forced to take inventory of our lives. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to do you; the best part of your life is waiting for you to show up, which takes courage.”
- Have a real menopause conversation with your doctor. “Forty years ago, nobody really recognized perimenopause as a significant issue worthy of understanding, much less of research and conversation,” Sholes-Douglas says. “Women just dealt with it and suffered in silence. Unfortunately, the current healthcare model still doesn’t allow time for doctors to truly assess a woman’s physical and emotional symptoms. Fortunately, there is a new generation of women who demand understanding and validation of their bodies and their sexuality after midlife. We need to start the real menopause conversation and open it up so that it is destigmatized, demystified, and accessible to all women. It’s an exciting time because there are new therapies and options available so women can continue to lead vital, pleasurable, fulfilled lives.”
“The journey is ultimately about balancing the emotional, physical, and spiritual components of coming into your own,” Sholes-Douglas says. “Embracing and understanding it can have truly transformative effects on women’s lives.”
About Dr. Arianna Sholes-Douglas, MD, FACOG
Dr. Arianna Sholes-Douglas (www.tulawellnessmd.com), author of The Menopause Myth: What Your Mother, Doctor, And Friends Haven’t Told You About Life After 35, is the founder of Tula Wellness Center, a unique medical practice in Tucson, Ariz., focusing on women’s health and beauty. Sholes-Douglas is board certified in obstetrics, gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine and has been practicing for over two decades. She specializes in integrative women’s health, a subspecialty of gynecology that incorporates evidenced-based alternative medical therapies to promote healing. An innovator in the medical community for much of her career, Sholes-Douglas developed the High Risk Pregnancy Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md., in 1997 and has served as clinical faculty at multiple prestigious institutions, including UCLA, University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.