The Wisdom of Menopause

The Wisdom of Menopause

I was sitting having a coffee while I waited for my car to get serviced recently so I opened a book that’s been on my bedside table waiting to be read.

It’s called ‘The Wisdom of Menopause’ by Christiane Northrup, M.D. Two pages into the introduction, The Journey Begins, I’m wondering why it’s taken me so long to read!

In my last blog, I talked about menopause being a gift as this is what I have personally intuited. But here in her opening pages, Christiane articulates it so much better than me.

life expectancy

She describes how during her perimenopause she started to lose patience with the behaviour in her household, where her energy was the organising principle.

Put simply, her presence invited the rest of the family to lose their personal initiative to take charge of a situation. She didn’t realise that the bursts of irritability she was experiencing over these dynamics were the start of her perimenopause – well before she started to skip periods or have hot flushes.

She writes:

“All of the changes I was about to undergo were spurred, supported and encouraged by the complex and intricate brain and body changes that are an unheralded part of the menopausal transition. There is so much more to this midlife transformation than “raging hormones”.

Research into the physiological changes taking place in perimenopausal women is revealing that, in addition to the hormonal shift that means an end to childbearing, our bodies – and specifically, our nervous systems – are, quite literally, being rewired. It’s as simple as this: our brains are changing.

A woman’s thoughts, her ability to focus, and the amount of fuel going to the intuitive centres in the temporal lobes of her brain are all plugged into, and affected by, the circuits being rewired. Menopause is an exciting developmental stage – one that, when participated in consciously, holds enormous promise for transforming and healing our bodies, minds and spirits at the deepest levels.”

Life Expectancy & Creativity

Throughout human history, the majority of women died before reaching menopause. Those who survived were ‘rewarded’ with imminent physical decline.

Today, however, our life expectancy is 84 years and we don’t get old at the age of 65 either physically or mentally.

Lydia Bronte, PhD, director of the Aging Society Project and author of The Longevity Factor has discovered that many of us are likely to have three different careers over our lifetime. The first in our thirties and forties, the second in our fifties and sixties and a third in our seventies.

In her research, she discovered that over half of the women she studied had a major peak of creativity beginning at about age fifty and in many cases lasting for twenty-five to thirty years!

This newfound creativity comes from the rewiring women’s brains undergo during menopause. They become biologically primed to transition from focusing on caring for others to exploring the outer world.

For sure, this does not come without its challenges as women in menopause become torn between their traditional role of caretaker and pursuing an unexplored passion, but they need not be mutually exclusive choices.

The wisdom of Menopause

And isn’t it truly amazing to consider that as our bodies come to the end of their ability to reproduce, and our children (if we have them) are beginning to leave home, our brains are preparing us to redefine our lives to continue to grow? This is truly the gift of menopause. The wisdom of menopause.

The Beginning of the End!?

Christiane tells us:

“A 1998 Gallup survey, presented at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society, showed that more than half of American women between the ages of fifty and sixty-five felt happiest and most fulfilled at this stage of life.

Compared to when they were in their twenties, thirties and forties, they felt their lives had improved in many ways including family life, interest, friendships, and their relationship with their spouse or partner. In other words, the conventional view of menopause as a scary transition heralding the ‘beginning of the end’ couldn’t be further from the truth.

get on with living the next exciting chapter of our lives

Women in New Zealand

I have no doubt that the same would be true of women in New Zealand and Australia. I look around me and see that midlife is not about curling up and getting ready to retire, it’s about redefining home and giving birth again – to yourself this time. And menopause is our enabler. Our gift. How cool is that!

Knowing this, why waste time being in denial about menopause? Let’s talk about it, accept the gift and get on with living the next exciting chapter of our lives.

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This is the time when menstruation is well and truly over, the ovaries have stopped producing high levels of sex hormones and for many ladies, perimenopause symptoms subside.

Estrogen has protective qualities and the diminished levels mean organs such as your brain, heart and bones become more vulnerable. It’s also a key lubricant so your lips may become drier, your joints less supple and your vagina might be drier. In addition, your thyroid, digestion, insulin, cortisol and weight may alter.

At this juncture, a woman might experience an increase in the signs of reduced estrogen but she should have a decrease of perimenopause symptoms. That said, some women will experience symptoms like hot flushes for years or even the rest of their lives.


Peri = ‘near’

Most females begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-forties. Your progesterone levels decline from your mid-30s but it’s generally from around 40 that the rest of your sex hormones begin to follow suit. 

Perimenopause is a different experience for every woman and some women may barely notice it. The first indicators are usually changes to the monthly cycle. This means that for some ladies, this can be accompanied by things like sore breasts, mood swings, weight gain around the belly, and fatigue as time goes on.

For those with symptoms it can be a challenging time physically, mentally and emotionally.

Importantly, perimenopause lasts – on average – four to 10 years. The transition is usually a gradual process and many women enter perimenopause without realising.