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Organized Support Groups: A Place to Vent (and Ventilate)

If you are a woman currently going through menopause, you know just how difficult it can be. The awkward, uncomfortable, and even embarrassing symptoms you're experiencing have no doubt turned your life upside down—and that's just the physical side of things. Menopause can also cause an exorbitant amount of mental stress, which is why it's important for you reach out to the people around you.

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Beyond Your Immediate Family
While your immediate family is often the best resource for dealing with most of life's curve balls, they often do not make for the best menopause support group. Although it's important to reach out and communicate with your immediate family, the best support usually comes from other women who have had or are experiencing it themselves. After all, you can't expect non-menopausal women, or men, or teenage daughters to truly understand the intensity of a hot flash or the discomfort of chronic vaginal dryness.

Benefits of Support Groups
You might find the support you need while going through menopause from your family and friends, but if not, try seeking a community of women at the local hospital, women's center, or online support group. If your local hospital doesn't have such a group, ask if they would start one, and reach out to other women in your community who may be interested. Ask if one of the gynecologists affiliated with the hospital can lead the group or give a series of lectures on menopause.

One such doctor, Robyn Jacobs, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN in Lebanon, NH, has often presented to groups of women on issues concerning menopause. Learning more about its symptoms, she says, can offer you "validation that you're not going insane." In a group setting, she adds, you can share ideas that have worked for other women or just commiserate with someone and laugh about it. "A lot can be gained by sharing with people who are going through the same thing you are."

In one series of lectures she invited experts in exercise, nutrition, and sexuality to talk to the class as part of the overall focus on lifestyle management. Menopause, says Dr. Jacobs, who specializes in a field known as functional medicine, presents "an opportunity for people to take control of their lives."

What to Expect
Many women avoid talking openly about their menopause for fear of embarrassment. In an organized support group, you'll find women who are going through many of the same things you are. From a constellation of symptoms such as hot flashes to mood swings, women in these groups have been through it or are going through it and can help you feel less embarrassed about this natural occurrence. You'll find that it can be extremely comforting to have non-judgmental people share in your experiences. The women in these groups can also point you to ideas or methods they found to be successful in treating their menopausal symptoms.

Online Groups
While personal interaction with other menopausal women has proven to be very therapeutic for many women, some wish to remain anonymous. For these women, there are online support groups. These groups are great for those who are very busy because the information there is available at any hour. Many of these online support groups also feature chat rooms in which you can talk anonymously with other women who are going through the same things you are. A simple Internet search will garner a host of results for online menopause support groups.

You actually can start right here at HotFlash Network. Register to participate in our new HFN Forum and start a new thread or jump into an existing one. You'll find the Forum tab on the Navigation Bar below our logo on every page of our site.

Medical Treatment
While menopause support groups have their place, they cannot replace the care and advice of a doctor. You may get some great advice from women on certain medical procedures or prescription drugs, but in the end, only a doctor can tell you if any drug or medical procedure is right for you and your specific situation. Before embarking on any treatment regime, always first consult a physician, and never accept a sample of a prescription product from someone else's prescription. ♀

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