The Wisdom of Menopause

The Promise of Transformation and Healing

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Menopause

Research into the physiological changes taking place in perimenopausal woman is revealing that, in addition to the hormonal shift that means an end to childbearing, our bodies—and, specifically, our nervous systems—are being, quite literally, rewired. There is much, much more to this midlife transformation than “raging hormones.”

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 centers in the temporal lobes of her brain all are plugged into, and affected by, the circuits being rewired.

After working with thousands of women who have gone through this process, as well as experiencing it myself, I can say with great assurance that 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.

As a woman in midlife today, I am part of a growing population that is an unprecedented 48.5 million strong in the United States alone. This group is no longer invisible and silent, but a force to be reckoned with—educated, vocal, sophisticated in our knowledge of medical science, and determined to take control of our own health.

Think about it: more than 48 million women, all undergoing the same sort of circuitry update at the same time. By virtue of our sheer numbers, as well as our social and economic influence, we are powerful—and potentially dangerous to any institution built upon the status quo. Baby boom women (those born between 1946 and 1964) are now the most affluent and influential group in the world.

It’s clear that the world is changing, willingly or otherwise, right along with us. And in many instances, it’s changing for the better. It’s no accident that the current movement of psychospiritual healing is composed largely of women in their thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties. We are awakening en masse and beginning to deliver a much-needed message of health, hope, and healing to the world.

My personal experience, now shared by millions of others, tells me that the perimenopausal lifting of the hormonal veil—the monthly cycle of reproductive hormones that tends to keep us focused on the needs and feelings of others—can be both liberating and unsettling. The midlife rate of marital separation, divorce, and vocational change confirms this. I, for one, had always envisioned myself married to the same man for life, the two of us growing old together. This ideal had always been one of my most cherished dreams.

At midlife I, like thousands of others, had to give up my fantasies of how I thought my life would be. I had to face, head-on, the old adage about how hard it is to lose what you never really had. It means giving up all your illusions, and it is very difficult. But for me the issue was larger than where and with whom I would grow old. It was a warning, coming from deep within my spirit, that said, “Grow… or die.” Those were my choices. I chose to grow.

For most women, identity and self-esteem are generated by our associations and relationships. This is true even for women who hold high-powered jobs and for women who have chosen not to marry. Men, by contrast, usually get most of their identity and self-esteem from the outer world—the job, the income, the accomplishments, the accolades. For both genders, this pattern often changes at midlife. Women begin to direct more of their energies toward the world outside of home and family, which may suddenly appear as a great, inviting, untapped resource for exploration, creative expression, and self-esteem. Meanwhile, men of the same age—who may be undergoing a midlife crisis of their own—are often feeling world-weary; they’re ready to retire, curl up, and escape the battles of the workplace. They may feel their priorities shifting inward, toward home, hearth, and family.

The woman in menopause, who is becoming the queen of herself, finds herself at a crossroads of life, torn between the old way she has always known and a new way she has just begun to dream of. A voice from the old way (in many cases it’s her husband’s voice) begs her to stay in place—”Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.”

But from the new path another voice beckons, imploring her to explore aspects of herself that have been dormant during her years of caring for others and focusing on their needs. She’s preparing to give birth to herself, and as many women already know, the birth process cannot be halted without consequences. Caring for others and pursuing unexplored personal passions are not necessarily mutually exclusive choices, but our culture makes them seem so, always supporting the former at the expense of the latter.

This is part of what makes the midlife transformation so much of a challenge—as I know only too well. Throughout most of human history, the vast majority of women died before menopause. The average life expectancy for a woman in 1900 was only forty. For those who survived, menopause was experienced as a signpost of an imminent and inevitable physical decline. But today, with a woman’s life expectancy at eighty-four years, it is reasonable to expect that she will not only live thirty to forty years beyond menopause, but be vibrant, sharp, and influential as well.

The menopause you will experience is not your mother’s (or grandmother’s) menopause. Women of the World War II generation, whose female role models tended to be like June Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, had an entirely different social and political environment in which to make their transition. Menopause (like menstruation, for that matter) was not discussed in public.

Today this is no longer true. As we break this silence we are also breaking cultural barriers, so that we can enter this new life phase with eyes wide open—in the company of more than 48 million kinswomen, all undergoing the same transformation at the same time. And, as you’ll soon discover, the changes taking place in midlife women are akin to the power plant on a high-speed train, whisking the evolution of our entire society along on fast-forward, to places that have yet to be mapped. Whether you climb aboard this fast-moving train or step aside and let it pass will play a major role in how far you go and how you feel along the way.

The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup

Ultimately, I’ve found this journey bracing, exciting, and health-enhancing. And I’m certainly not alone. 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, interests, 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.

So no matter what is happening in your life right now, take heart. Please join me—and the millions of others who have come before and will come after—as we transform and improve our lives, and ultimately our culture, through understanding, applying, and living the wisdom—and joy—of menopause and beyond.

Learn More — Additional Resources

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

Comments

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  1. AJ
    4 weeks ago

    OMG people. Thus isn’t a place for free personal medical advice.

  2. Sandy
    2 months ago

    I have been struggling with menopause symptoms for 10 years. I tried HRT with some success for 4 yrs. Then I started having trouble with side effects from the creams. Now if I take even a dab of the creams I have bad side effects. I am a person who for some reason has become extremely sensitive to most things …. and it’s getting worse. I would like to know why. Since I’ve been off H.RT I have been experiencing vaginal dryness and irritation. My doctor just prescribed a compounded vaginal estriol.
    I’m a bit afraid to use it because of the side effects I have experienced. I tried coconut oil, but that did nothing. Not sure what do any suggestions?

  3. Victoria Andrews
    5 months ago

    I have been having muscle pains in my thighs, calves and my hands. I do have hot flashes that are pretty bad, and I really have a tough time sleeping at night. I try to get exercise in as much as possible. Do you have any advice?
    Thank you,
    Victoria Andrews

  4. Tj
    5 months ago

    Does anyone know how to tell when it’s time to end HRT? When is menopause over with?

  5. Michelle
    6 months ago

    There are so many valuable golden nuggets in your video series. It was especially vindicating to learn that the last few years oh hibernation from (age 50 – 52) actually were part of an astrological stage of ones birth chart. Called the Chiron return. All I’ve wanted to do is be alone at home painting my walls different colors and fixing up my home. I’ve pulled away from friends and potential partners and just want to be by myself often painting into the early hours of the morning lost in my creations.
    Thank you for enlightening me that I’m really going through a soul growth period and am not losing my mind.
    My only negative comment is that as a lesbian identified woman, I often feel invisible in your assumptions that your entire audience consists of heterosexual women. Gay women go through menopause too. It bothers me to even need to bring this up, but I guess my peri menopausal self is tired of feeling invisible.

    1. Paula
      6 months ago

      I too am lesbian and am still surprised when I read blogs from intelligent people that are non inclusive. In 2017? Shame really as I’m sure she misses out on a huge menopausal group of women (like me) who have wisdom to impart, but perhaps don’t feel ‘invited’ to participate.

    2. Trish
      4 months ago

      Please read the whole book, she does include you. She fully addresses this in the book. She is totally aware of the fact that lesbian women go through this change as well, and does not discount the experience and wisdom of lesbian women. After reading the book and understanding exactly what is going on in my body, mind, and soul, just having this knowledge, my symptoms became less pronounced, especially the heart palpitations. My emotions have become less dramatic, the mystery of the “dreaded change” became fully enlightened, and I’m definitely not having my mother’s awful experience. Also, after telling my husband about it, and reading him snippets from the book, his understanding and patience, and most importantly, his compassion, has been outstanding, I’ve gone from resenting and sometimes even hating him, to having a new-found respect and appreciation for him. I can only imagine that two women going through this change at the same time would be as challenging or even more so, without this information. The book, The Wisdom of Menopause.

  6. Rachel
    9 months ago

    I have been reading some of your books, one of which is a calendar called Women’s Wisdom . It was sold brand new in a charity shop and I used the ideas for some of my work. I liked the page about the peri menopause and the menopause as I find it hard to get positive information about health nowadays in Manchester.

  7. baeleay
    11 months ago

    Hi Dr. Northrup,
    I have started bleeding , first spotting then heavier after 15 years of post menopause.I am an active 70. The ultrasound indicated thickened uterus lining so the suggestion is to biopsy then see if normal, then D&C…I am thinking if this is a hormonal imbalance, is this not reversible
    by changing the hormone picture, diet change, etc??? Not a fan of any more trauma to that part of my body. What are my options from your point of view??
    Thanks you, Baeleay Callister

    1. KDO
      1 month ago

      Beverly,
      Sae your post which describes exactly what im experiencing at 55. Curious if you had any feedback ar gained enlightenment about endo hyperplasia wjth D&C recommended?

  8. Catherine Girardeau
    12 months ago

    Dr. Northrup, I’m 54 and have had periods every 21 days for a couple of years. My last 2 periods have been longer periods and the last one lasted 16 days, after which spotting began again 4 days later. My OB-GYN didn’t even examine me before scheduling me for an endometrial biopsy. I’m inclined to get a second opinion. I have had fibroids – about 10 years ago – which I successfully treated with acupuncture/herbs. Is it unsafe to assume she is overreacting and that this bleeding could be within the range of normal for perimenopause, or should I go ahead with the procedure? I have no family history of cancer. Thanks for any advice.

  9. Julia Tully
    1 year ago

    Dr. Northrup, I’m 62, had a complete hysterectomy when I was 34. Dx: dermoid cysts. I go to a holistic MD and conventional GYN, yet don’t trust their knowledge base. I have not taken hormones for over 20 years. At that time I took Premerin for one year and then used wild yam for two years. I stopped because I wasn’t sure it was safe. No hx of breast cancer in my family, though MGM died of ovarian ca . I do not have hot flashes and feel good without hormones, but if there are health benefits to taking them, I’d like to know about it. Your thoughts and advice most appreciated. Thank you. Julia Tully, California

  10. Toni
    1 year ago

    I’m 48. I had blood work last year saying I am a step away from menopause. I get my period every few months or so. I have gained 7 pounds in the last 2 years and a lot of cellulite on my legs and stomach. Depressing!! Any words of wisdom to lessen cellulite? I have been searching the internet but no concrete way on how to lose it.

  11. Lois
    2 years ago

    I am surprised that you were diagnosed with endo if you’ve never had any problems. You must have a great gyne. I am also, 55, but had to have a complete hyst. at age 44. I’d had pain and problems since I was in my 20s and wasn’t diagnosed until age 43 after having seen at least a dozen doctors. After hyst. I went into immediate and dramatic meno. I refused to take hormones which I had concluded had led to all of my problems in the first place. A specialist that I saw for endo. told me that women with endo tend to have extra high amounts of estrogen. I’m wondering if that’s why you havn’t had meno. yet.

  12. Melanie Bryan
    2 years ago

    I wanted to get your opinion on my situation. As mentioned, I am 55 and still without hesitation have a monthly period – ev 23-24 days religiously. I have endometriosis and have been followed my whole adult life very carefully, didn’t want to have hysterectomy because I’ve always felt great! Never had children. Anyway, my GYN recently checked my blood and hormones. My estrogen is at 280! My FSH is 20.8, All other readings she was pleased with. It’s a mystery to why I have never experienced any menopausal signs given my age. I actually don’t mind as I feel great and know that I am staying young. My GYN wants to do a DNC since I bleed heavily during my period just to thoroughly check on everything. I was wondering what Dr. N would think of my situation. I’m a Yoga teacher, in very good shape and not overweight – 134 lbs, and am 5’7.

  13. Paula
    2 years ago

    Hi, any ideas on how to avoid painful sex during menopause?

    1. Jen
      1 year ago

      Coconut oil 🙂

    2. Michelle
      1 year ago

      Sesame oil 😉

  14. Mary
    2 years ago

    Does acupuncture help with menopause

    1. Giovanna
      2 years ago

      I’m graduate in chinese medicine, and I’m a Qi gong and tai ji terapeutic trainer. i’m live and reciever in Milan (Italy). In my esperienze, on me and on my recievers, nails are very usefull for remake in armony all part of wemen in menopausa, but also during all their LIFE.

      But not only nails, but all chinese medicine tecnics like Qi gong e tai ji specific for menopausa, meditation, massage, official erbas, diet, because chinese medice is a method for helping wemen and men and little childrend to have a good armony situazione the inevitabile passege of life; it’s a guide for a Natural stile of LIFE that see the wemen like spiritual Beings those take espierience in the world of Nature.

    2. Christina
      8 months ago

      YES!! With a combination of Chinese herbs and the acupuncture treatments, I was able to nearly eliminate all hot flashes and night sweats which had become unbearable. The key if finding a reputable Acupuncturist who has been properly trained in this disciple and NOT someone who take a side course in this.

  15. Sue M
    2 years ago

    My GYN recently had me do a pelvic ultrasound which showed endometrial hyperplasia with a thickness of 15mm.
    I still have the random period (1-2 x yr). I’ve been in perimenopause forever. She did an endometrial biopsy and
    it came back negative. Should I be concerned? She would like me to have a D&C in a hospital setting but I am not inclined
    to put my body through a surgery just for peace of mind. Thoughts?

  16. robin
    2 years ago

    one of my sisters sent me your article….it has helped as I am having a very hard time.

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