Oprah Winfrey Opens Up About Her Personal Perimenopause Experience and Her First Menopause Symptom – Which Went Unnoticed

On April 5th, Oprah Winfrey was joined by some of her friends and colleagues – including Dr. Judith Joseph, Maria Shriver, Drew Barrymore, Dr. Sharon Malone, and Dr. Heather Hirsch – in a panel conversation about perimenopause and menopause, a subject many women often avoid talking about. 

They want to help change that and hope to normalize the conversation so aging women can feel more comfortable about that chapter in their life. With so many stigmas surrounding the subject, the panel decided to talk about their personal experiences with it and the many symptoms they had as a result. 

At one point in the conversation, Oprah Winfrey opened up about the first symptom she experienced – heart palpitations – and how many of her doctors failed to warn her that it might be the beginning of her menopausal years. In fact, she had to come to that conclusion on her own – with her own research. 

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“I never had a hot flash in my life,” she said. “But I started (menopause) at 48 with heart palpitations. And I went from doctor to doctor, literally five different doctors. At one point, a female doctor had given me an angiogram and put me on heart medication and never once mentioned that this could be menopause or perimenopause.”

Perimenopause is defined as the transitional period when a woman’s body starts to enter menopause. Some of the most common symptoms of perimenopause, according to Dr. Sharon Malone, include  hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances, and brain fog – but heart palpitations shouldn’t be ignored.

It wasn’t until Oprah Winfrey opened up a book and saw ‘heart palpitations symptoms of perimenopause’ that she made the connection that her body was entering menopause. Around that time, she was also experiencing brain fog – another connection that doctors missed, but Oprah eventually made on her own.

Maria Shriver chimed in and detailed how most women around Oprah’s age would likely be misdiagnosed with depression and/or midlife anxiety when introducing ‘brain fog’ as a symptom to their doctor. “And they don’t even ask you or tell you that this could be a symptom of being perimenopausal,” Shriver added. 

Oprah Winfrey Wants to Change the Stigma Around Menopause

Oprah Winfrey – and the rest of her panel – are well aware of the stigma surrounding perimenopause and menopause, but feel they have an opportunity to change it. “We get now to redefine it, unlike our mothers and their mothers before them, where there was no discussion about it,” Winfrey said during the panel. 

Drew Barrymore opened up about how the stigma recently stopped her from talking about menopause during a date. She was with a guy she found attractive and brought up the fact that she was going to be part of a panel. When he asked what the panel conversation was about, she didn’t want to tell him. 

And she didn’t. “There’s something in that stigma that I don’t want you to think I’m some dusty, old, dry thing. That’s not the image I want,” Barrymore explained. While she’s normally an ‘open book,’ Barrymore didn’t feel like she could be herself in that moment – despite being able to openly talk to others about it.

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Maria Shriver added that, while the conversation they were having was about women’s health, it was also about the stigma – adding that women should ‘see themselves as vibrant, as sexual, as attractive,’ even in their later years. “We’re not just attractive in our 20s. … We’re whole at every decade,” she said.

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