By Dr. Sushma Hirani | 03/21/2016

How Menopause Affects Parenting with Dr. Sushma Hirani

How Menopause Affects Parenting with Dr. Sushma Hirani

Menopause is a natural biological process that occurs when a woman ages. This transition is just as important as puberty and pregnancy. During menopause, a woman’s sex hormone levels begin to decline and menstruation ceases. Menopause can occur in your 40s or 50s, with the average age being 51 in America.

Menopause has a host of symptoms, including memory lapses, concentration issues, depression, headaches, weight gain, mood swings, hot flashes, sleep problems, sexual issues and decreased metabolism. These symptoms can vary in severity from woman to woman. The psychological and physical symptoms of menopause can affect the woman’s entire family. When a woman is going through menopause, her energy levels can plummet, making it very difficult to keep up with the demands of motherhood. Fatigue can be caused by sleep problems and hormone fluctuations.

Another common issue related to menopause that can cause problems with the family is mood swings. One minute a woman can be laughing and the next minute she can be crying or in a rage. Family members can have a difficult time coping with the sudden and drastic changes in emotions. Experts believe that hormone fluctuations can cause mood swings. The hormones estrogen, progesterone and androgens control the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the “feel good” neurotransmitter. When serotonin levels decline, anger, sadness and other emotions can peak.

Parenting a Baby During Menopause

In today’s world, many women devote the early part of their lives to their careers and wait until they are in their 40s to start raising a family. They may have to care for their infants while facing the challenges of menopause.

During menopause, hormone levels can spike and fall, causing mood swings leading to irritability and stress. When raising a child, you may experience sleep deprivation, postpartum depression and adrenal fatigue.

Sleep Deprivation

A new mother realizes quickly that babies need almost constant attention. The late night feedings and diaper changes can make it almost impossible to get much restorative sleep. This, coupled with sleep problems caused by menopause can leave you feeling irritable and exhausted.

You can help combat these negative emotions by asking for help. Ask your spouse or another family member to care for the baby a day or two a week so that you can rest. If you have trouble falling asleep, try a cup of hot chamomile tea, a warm bath or some melatonin to help you relax and get to sleep quickly.

Adrenal Fatigue

The adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones that are needed throughout the body. As you begin transitioning through menopause, the adrenals must work harder than ever. If you have an infant or toddler, it is even worse. Irregular sleeping hours and the constant physical work and emotional roller coaster can tax the adrenal glands further. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands cannot keep up with the demands of the body. When this occurs, you may feel tired, confused and weak.

You can reduce the demand on your adrenal glands by catching up on sleep and eating a healthy diet filled with lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. You can help prevent and correct adrenal fatigue by learning stress management techniques, including meditation and deep breathing exercises.

Depression

Menopausal women and new mothers are at an increased risk of developing postpartum depression and anxiety due to hormonal fluctuations.

There are many ways to combat depression naturally. Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, increasing vitamin D levels, and expressing your feelings can help you overcome depression. Eat at regular intervals to avoid unstable blood sugar levels, which can cause mood swings. Also, get plenty of exercise to increase endorphins.

Menopause and Older Children

Menopausal symptoms can test the resiliency of your family. However, with the following techniques you can learn to connect with your children and make this trying time more manageable for both of you.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Older children require a lot of energy. During this transitional time in a child’s life, you will face many battles that can try your patience. Learn how to positively react to these situations by remaining calm and responding in a positive manner. Responding negatively or getting upset can cause stress, leading to more mood swings.

Find Common Ground

Your child may find it difficult to understand what you are going through. One way to help counteract this is to find things that you can enjoy doing together. For instance, schedule a date with your child to go to the movies, go to a ballgame or spend an evening playing games to help bond together.

Communicate with Your Children

At times, it helps to talk openly with your older child about why you are tired, emotional and “crazy.” Explain to them that your hormones are fluctuating, and it causes you to have mood swings. Reinforce that you love them and care deeply for them, no matter your mood.

Menopause occurs in midlife, generally between the ages of 40 and 60. During this time, a woman will experience a variety of symptoms, including mood swings, sleep problems, fatigue and depression. If care is not taken, these issues can cause family problems, including disagreements, stress and social problems.

You can help prevent family issues by caring for yourself. Eat a well-balanced diet, get plenty of exercise and rest. Talk with a trusted friend if you are feeling anxious. Children can make it difficult to find time for yourself. Schedule a family fun night to spend time reconnecting with your family to help improve your relationships.

About Sushma Hirani, MD

Sushma Hirani, MD is the medical director of Rose Wellness Center for Integrative Medicine in Northern Virginia. She specializes in holistic and integrative care to treat a variety of illnesses including hypothyroidism, hormonal imbalances, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. Sushma believes in combining the best of conventional and alternative medicine for prevention and management of various health conditions.

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