Weir: There's no such thing as 'symptoms' of menopause

Let's start with this myth: you don't 'go through' menopause — you reach it.

Shirley Weir 4 minute read October 5, 2020
shirley weir menopause advocate

Shirley Weir is the founder of Menopause Chicks

Dear Shirley,

I just saw a meme on facebook that says there are 34 symptoms of menopause —and I have three of them: heavy periods, sleep disruption and hair loss. But I’ve heard you say there’s no such thing as “symptoms” of menopause. Why is this so confusing?


It is confusing.

First of all, let’s be honest. Anything you want to find on the internet is there. But the internet is not always the best place to access quality health information.

One of my favourite quotes is from Gloria Steinem: “The first challenge for all of us is not to learn, but to unlearn.”

I use this quote to guide a lot of the conversations I have with women to bring clarity to the most common myths, misconceptions and even social media innuendo we all hear about menopause on a daily basis.

First, let’s define menopause

Menopause is one day. It’s not a series of years. It is the twelve-month anniversary of your final menstrual period. The average age of menopause in North America is 51.2. I was 49.

Menopause is also frequently used as an umbrella term to describe the time in our lives when we transition from perimenopause to menopause to post menopause. You may hear the phrase,  “going through menopause,” but the reality is you reach menopause.

However, women do “go through” perimenopause. It includes hormone fluctuations as our bodies prepare for post-menopause, but the perimenopause journey is different for everyone. And contrary to what we may see in the media, perimenopause is not a synonym for symptoms, or for suffering.

Different sources attribute different ages and number of years for perimenopause, but the truth is, it has not been studied by many — or for very long. The term itself was only coined in 1996.

Perimenopause is about age

Perimenopause is determined more by a woman’s age, not by the presence of symptoms — although some women have their worlds turned upside downby disruptive health effects. I use five to 15 years as the possible range for perimenopause, which means that women can be in this phase from their mid-to-late 30s to their mid-to-late 50s.

Post-menopause is every day after menopause for the rest of your life.

Symptoms of menopause vs. hormone imbalance vs. something else

The reason I am vehemently opposed to media and the medical community saying “menopause symptoms” or “perimenopause symptoms” is threefold. First, perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause are not ailments or diseases; they are life phases. Secondly, hormone imbalance is often the root cause of what wreaks havoc on a woman’s quality of life, and finally, there are other health conditions that mimic hormone imbalance — and if, by chance, a woman believes her disruptive quality of life is something she has to endure, the opportunity to diagnose and treat an important health concern is missed.

Menopause, for many reasons, has evolved into a bit of a social construct. What menopause means has a vast number of interpretations, misinterpretations and social stigma. And there is a significantly large cohort of women who have inherited the myth that menopause is just something women have to “get through.”

Other interpretations include, “it’s just part of being a woman,” “it’s part of getting older,” and “suck it up.” This has resulted in many women not paying attention to certain signals from their bodies when something requires attention. It means that women are more likely to put their own health on the back burner than recognize a symptom as an opportunity to prioritize their health.

You should know that hair loss is a prime example of this. Hair loss could be a sign of iron deficiency, thyroid imbalance, estrogen dominance or another underlying health condition. But if you were to tell yourself that it’s just part of getting older, and sweep your concerns under the carpet, you might suffer unnecessarily and miss the opportunity to address the underlying reason that’s causing you to lose your hair.

Dr. Julie Durnan calls many of the midlife signs and symptoms “master mimickers.” There are health conditions that mimic hormone imbalance. Sleep challenges could be fluctuating progesterone or magnesium deficiency. Brain fog could be related to fluctuations in estrogen or progesterone, or thyroid or iron deficiency or stress. Fatigue, heavy periods and weight gain could be hormone imbalance, thyroid or insulin resistance (i.e. pre-diabetes. Imagine ignoring certain health signs because you think “it’s just menopause,” when it’s actually diabetes.

That’s why it is essential for women to get as informed as they can and surround themselves with a health care team that will work with them to prevent and treat any health concern that’s impacting their quality of life.


Let’s continue the conversation. Join me & a panel of Canada’s top menopause experts — including a physician, naturopathic doctor, gynecologist and dermatologist. Free online event October 14.

Do you have a question about perimenopause, menopause or beyond? Post it in our private online community or write to me at

Shirley Weir is the founder of Menopause Chicks, an online facebook community that advocates for women in perimenopause, menopause & beyond! She is also the author of Mokita: How to Navigate Perimenopause with Confidence & Ease@MenopauseChicks