Mothers, daughters and stages of womanhood

The mother-daughter relationship is a sacred bond that brings much joy and happiness. At our practice, I often hear from patients who are mothers sharing news about their daughters’ successes and I see first hand daughters who are encouraged by their mother’s support. But there are times when I hear about mothers and daughters feeling divided or disconnected during big changes in life, especially during life transitions and body changes.

As a young woman grows up, she goes through the natural changes that every woman experiences, including puberty. The daughter’s hormone levels begin to fluctuate and soon enough she gets her first period. Between the new mood swings and the everyday stress of being a teenager, talking to her mother is the last thing she wants to do. There’s no way a mother can understand what a teenager is going through, right?

It might seem surprising, but mothers and daughters relate more than they think about ever-changing hormones, despite their difference in age. The simple truth is all women experience hormonal changes. There are three main hormones that are made in a woman’s ovaries – estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Each of these play a different role in the functioning of a woman’s body and can cause different symptoms depending on the stage of womanhood: menstrual symptoms, perimenopausal symptoms and menopausal symptoms. Let’s not forget, too, the hormonal changes due to pregnancy and postpartum, which also contribute to the emotions within a household.

All women deal with hormonal fluctuations. Some have terrible side effects, while others barely notice any changes. From puberty to menopause, the signs of womanhood can affect a woman’s mood, her food cravings – even her sex drive. For many women, these hormonal changes are no big deal, but for others, the intensity of these symptoms can make day-to-day life seem impossible. These symptoms are physical, as well as emotional, and they are not limited to headaches, mood fluctuations, food cravings, bloating, fevers, bowel changes and hot flashes, night sweats and an increase and/or decrease in sex drive.

As women experience ever-changing hormones throughout life, it is important for mothers and daughters to keep open communication and talk to one another. This is a great opportunity for mothers and daughters to support one another – and most importantly, learn to cut each other some slack during the tough times.

The best thing women can do is learn about their bodies and the daily triggers that can increase hormone fluctuations and make symptoms worse. Research suggests limiting salt intake, which will help to reduce bloating and ease both physical and emotional symptoms. Women can also reduce sugar and caffeine to lessen side effects of PMS. Most importantly, exercise and stress reduction are key to overall health and well being throughout these transitions.

Making healthy lifestyle choices and maintaining a healthy diet are great ways to reduce stress. Mothers and daughters can easily make these changes together, which in turn will bring them closer together and improve their bond.

Not sure where to start? Exercise together – go for daily walks or try new fitness classes together. Eat healthier – remember to reduce salt, sugar and simple carbohydrates and instead consume more fruits and veggies while increasing omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber.

Cook meals together and encourage one another to maintain this new healthy lifestyle. Changing ones diet can be very difficult, but by motivating one another you are more likely to stay on track. All of which will help to lessen symptoms of hormonal fluctuations.

At the end of the day, change is inevitable and no one can change her body’s physiology. Knowing that all women experience hormonal changes throughout life can help mothers and daughters relate to one another and realize that they really do have something in common. My recommendation is to help each other, stay educated and keep healthy – and celebrate that shared bond of womanhood.

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