A Gift Guide for the Menopausal Woman in Your Life
Editor's note: Some of the sources for this article requested their full names not be used.
Forty-eight-year-old Debs, from Shropshire, United Kingdom, is going through postmenopause, the time when someone has been without a period for more than a year. While symptoms may lessen from the perimenopausal stage, many women still experience uncomfortable side effects.
"[I] still struggle with night sweats, fatigue and excess weight," Debs said. "During menopause, my worst symptoms were headaches, itchy skin, irritability, brain fog and depression."
One particular item would have made her menopause experience significantly easier: "I'd have been most grateful during that time for an industrial-strength fan for my bedroom," she said. "And, in fact, I'd still be very grateful for one!
"I sleep with open windows," Debs continued. "I use quality bedding and sleep naked but still wake up soaked in sweat."
Debs' experience is by no means unusual. The menopausal transition can be an immensely difficult time. Symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, mood changes, weight gain and vaginal dryness, among others.
Every person who goes through menopause experiences it differently, but certain gifts can ease this difficult process and make it slightly more bearable.
If there's someone in your life who's experiencing menopausal symptoms, they're probably having a much tougher time than they're letting on. So why not invest in something that will make their life infinitely easier—or even just a little bit better—and surprise them with a thoughtful menopause gift?
For vaginal dryness: A pelvic floor vibrator
"Menopausal transition is marked by a notable decrease in estrogenization of the vagina. This affects women in more ways than one," said Apurva Shah, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN in Boston and member of the medical advisory board for Mira, a fertility tracker. "The atrophy of vaginal walls leads to decreased physiological lubrication and increased vaginal dryness, which very quickly starts affecting the sexual pleasure and desire for sex.
"The decreased estrogen also increasingly contributes to urinary incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction," Shah continued. "This makes pelvic floor vibrators one of the best multipurpose gifts. The vibrator functions to improve stimulation and sexual pleasure. They also double up as pelvic floor physical therapy wands for soft tissue mobilization and improved pelvic floor tone. This translates into decreased urinary leakage. Combine this with great vaginal lubricant and you will never look back."
A vibrator might seem like an odd (read: embarrassing) gift to give someone going through menopause, but it's a gift they'll likely appreciate.
For hot flashes: Portable air conditioning
"Hot flashes for decades have been the poster child of menopausal transition," Shah said, and he's not wrong.
Louann Brizendine, M.D., is a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California San Fransisco, an expert in women's hormones and the author of "The Female Brain and The Upgrade," which explains how a woman's brain gets "upgraded" in midlife. She suggested multiple gifts around the air conditioning theme to ease those hot flashes, including a small desk fan that can be turned on when you sense a hot flash is about to happen and a portable air conditioner or large fan for keeping your room cool at night.
"I have been going through menopause for well over 10 years now," said Jeanette Forder, a 57-year-old woman from Kent, England. "I am technically postmenopausal but still continue to suffer some of the common symptoms: anxiety, sleeplessness, weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats, etcetera."
Forder said she would appreciate a small fan when she gets hot, one that won't keep her and her husband awake.
Speaking of staying asleep…
For night sweats: Cooling pajamas and bedsheets
"Any relief from the night sweats would be a welcome relief," Shah said.
Night sweats are hot flashes that occur, you guessed it, at night. The sudden warming can make a good night's sleep impossible.
Forder suggested a cool pillowcase.
"I have long hair and find that I have to move it away from my neck and shoulders, otherwise I start to feel like I am overheating, but even doing that I find the hot flushes from my neck up are still really strong just as I go to bed," she said. "If I had a pillowcase that was made of a fabric that was supercooling…I am sure it would make me feel less hot."
She also posited the idea of a mattress cover or blanket with cooling properties that goes on underneath the sheet, noting that the memory foam topper she uses for her back makes her get "hotter and hotter."
"A great gift idea would be a set of pajamas with or without some cooling pillows," Shah added. "The moisture-wicking feature will keep you from drowning in sweat all night."
Brizendine confirmed the usefulness of cooling clothing and nightwear for night sweats, recommending easy-to-remove clothing such as light tops for dealing with warm flushes and hot flashes.
"A cooling eye mask might be good, too," Forder suggested. "A mask would be good to block out light and help me to sleep, and if it was made of a cool fabric and perhaps with a filling that is soft and naturally cooling, then that would help with my hot flushes."
Kari Roberts, 58, from Southampton, England, is postmenopausal and can attest firsthand to the challenges menopause poses.
"At the time, brain fog, memory issues and hormone imbalance really impacted my work, and although I made a decision due to a lot of reasons to leave [work], being reflective, I know being menopausal played a considerable part in my decision," she said.
Looking back, Roberts would have loved to receive the sleep spray and collagen supplement she's currently taking.
"[Sleep spray] has helped me get off to sleep, and the collagen has limited the night sweats I experienced," she said.
Additional sleep aids
Forder said she would like a cool drink with soothing properties to aid sleep.
"I drink a herbal tea but that is often too warm so it makes me feel hotter, so something like an iced tea would be good," she said.
She also suggested a meditation device you can listen to before bed and again if you wake up at night. "I find that I wake constantly and struggle to get back to sleep," she said.
Setting the mood for sleep can help, too. Forder suggested a candle or wax warmer that can be used all night to release a soothing fragrance into the room without heating the room.
Just a couple more ideas before you go…
If you're still struggling for menopause gift inspiration, then a couple of parting gifts (no pun intended) come courtesy of Brizendine. She suggested a small heating pad to use for cold chills after a hot flash and CBD-infused ointment to massage around joints for aches and pain.
So without further ado, it's time to go forth and invest in a top-tier gift for the menopausal woman in your life. From the sound of it, it's something they would appreciate more than words can say.