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Gayle King and Drew Barrymore share their experiences with menopause and the one word they would use to describe it

"Facing Fertility" Part 3: Menopause
"Facing Fertility" Part 3: Menopause and fertility 08:47

Menopause marks the end of fertility for women, and celebrities like former first lady Michelle Obama and actress Naomi Watts are coming forward to talk about it more than ever before.

Still, for some women, it remains an uncomfortable topic despite its importance.

To help normalize the conversation, CBS News' Gayle King and talk show host Drew Barrymore sat down to get candid about their own experiences — and the one word they would use to describe menopause.

For King, that word is "reality." For Barrymore, it's "natural."

The two described what it was like going through perimenopause, which is when the body starts transitioning toward menopause.

"I realized that I was in perimenopause when I started having my period every two weeks," Barrymore said.

"Was it a heavy flow? That's a sign," King chimed in.

"Yes, like a teenager," Barrymore replied. "One doctor also just told me, like, this could last, on the worst case scenario, 10 years. And I was like, 'I will never make it 10 years like this.'"

King admitted she had never even heard the phrase perimenopause until a visit to the doctor.

"Not to get too graphic but when it first happens for a lot of people, it looked like a crime scene," King said.

King also described getting hot flashes, which Barrymore said she hasn't experienced.

"It was just a physical heat. And then you can sometimes have dripping, drenching sweats," King said, adding it can happen at the most inopportune times.

"I've been on the red carpet where photographers say, 'Gayle, are you OK?' I go, 'It's just a hot flash,' and they go, 'Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry.'"

King has found this to be a typical reaction to being open about hot flashes, which she said she still gets at times. 

People react "like they've said something very bad about you," King said, adding "that's why I think it's good we're saying, 'Yes menopause, hot flashes, dry vagina.' It's all part of it."

But not everyone has drastic symptoms, King noted. 

"I know some women who, they have been through it and they've just sort of sailed through it, have had very minimal things," King said. "It wasn't disruptive to their life."

King and Barrymore also spoke about whether they received any treatment.

"I did talk to a doctor, but I didn't take any hormones," King shared. "I know friends that have creams or they take medication. And I just sort of weathered through it, when I realize you really don't have to do that."

Barrymore said she also turned down hormone therapy. 

"I really didn't feel like the doctor who was suggesting it understood where I was at and it seemed preemptive," she explained. 

"At some point there might be a treatment that's right for you," Barrymore said. "So don't do it too fast, but don't be a hero unnecessarily if you don't need to be."

They also highlighted a misconception about menopause: that going through it means someone is "old."

"When you think of menopause ... you think of: 'Old. Her life is over. She's done,'" King said. "What we know is that's just not true. If there's any message we could get across, I think that would be the one that would be the most helpful."

King also denounced the idea that it's an improper or indelicate topic to discuss, something that had a particular hold on previous generations, including her own mother.

"My mother also had very bad symptoms but she never talked about it," she recounted. "I remember being on vacation with my mom and she had white pants and her period came and she was in menopause — had to be perimenopause — and this blood started gushing and I said, 'What is happening?' and she goes, 'Oh nothing, I'm fine...' No conversation about it."

King believes it's important to discuss these topics not only with daughters, but with sons, too.

"I do think kids, boys and girls, should be well informed," she added.

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