Halle Berry Shares a Confusing Perimenopause Experience: “My Doctor Had No Knowledge”

If you ever find yourself feeling confused or isolated in a menopausal experience, then console yourself with this small piece of information: An award-winning actress has felt exactly how you feel. During a recent panel in conversation with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Halle Berry shared a very suprising  experience she had with menopause. Namely, a doctor misdiagnosed one of Berry’s perimenopause symptoms as herpes.

To Dr. Biden, Berry, 57, said that she had originally believed she wouldn’t suffer from any menopause symptoms at all. “First of all, my ego told me that I was going to skip [perimenopause],” she began, according to PEOPLE. “I’m in great shape. I’m healthy. I managed to get myself off of insulin and have managed my diabetes since I was 20 years old. So that makes one think, ‘Oh, I can handle menopause. I’m going to skip that whole thing.’ I was so uneducated about it at that time.”

Then some things happened that Berry couldn’t have predicted. First, she said, she met the “man of my dreams,” musician Van Hunt, and second, she experienced an extremely painful bout of intercourse. “I [felt] like I [had] razor blades in my vagina,” Berry said of the experience. “I [ran] to my gynecologist, and I said, ‘Oh my God, what’s happening?’ It was terrible. He said, ‘You have the worst case of herpes I’ve ever seen.’ I’m like, ‘Herpes? I don’t have herpes!’”

Berry eventually learned that she was right: What she was experiencing wasn’t some herpes flareup — it was a symptom of perimenopause. “My doctor had no knowledge and didn’t prepare me,” she said. “That’s when I knew, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to use my platform. I have to use all of who I am, and I have to start making a change and a difference for other women.”

Last summer, Berry offered insight to Women’s Health Magazine, about how she’s feeling now that she’s moved past the perimenopause stage and into the throes of menopause itself. “The most important thing about owning your sexuality as a woman is accepting the station you’re at — and embracing that,” Berry said. “And I say that because I’m smack dab in the middle of menopause. And I am challenging everything I thought I knew about menopause. Things like: ‘Your life is over.’ ‘You are disposable.’ ‘Society no longer has a place for you.’ ‘You should retire.’ ‘You should pack it up.’”

Now that she’s in the latter half of her 50s, Berry said she feels like she’s reached her “best self.” “I have the most to offer,” she said. “I have zero blanks to give anymore. I’m solidly in my womanhood. I finally realize what I have to say is valuable, even if no one else agrees.”

Berry’s advice wasn’t limited to women at a similar life stage, though. She also had some hugely relevant insights for much younger people. “If you’re in your 20s, own that,” she suggested. “Own the era of exploration. Earn the era of real curiosity. Earn the era of trying to figure out who you are. Take your time and figure yourself out. You don’t have to be rushed, you don’t have to be forced. It’s not a race.”

And if you’re in your 30s? “Don’t be bogged down by the idea that you have to have children by a certain age,” Berry said. “You decide.”

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