With today’s life expectancy you have a lot of great years ahead of you after menopause. Menopause is not a change to be dreaded it is just a change in your bodies hormones that presents some challenges but today there are lots of solutions to managing those changes.
You have reached menopause when you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months. Menopause symptoms can start in your 40s and not finish until you are in your 60s. Everyone’s clock is different and everyone’s symptoms are unique in frequency and severity that is why symptom relief should be individualized for you, we will explore options a little later, first let’s look at symptoms.
Alterations in menstrual bleeding. You may experience periods less frequently, or the timing may become irregular. You may have heavier bleeding when menstruating. Any of these are normal just let your doctor or gynecologist know at your regular appointment.
Hot Flashes. 75% of women will experience a hot flash. A hot flash is when you feel hot all over, you perspire heavily, and you may have red blotchy skin. Most last between 1 to 5 minutes (it will feel longer) and hot flashes can occur at night. Again remember your severity and symptoms will be unique to you.
Disturbed Sleep. You may find you can’t get to sleep, or you wake up frequently, or hot flashes are waking you up. Most will experience troubled sleep patterns.
Drop in Estrogen. This is an internal hormonal adjustment but the lack of estrogen can effect where excess weight is stored. If you’ve never had to worry about your weight going to your abdomen you probably will now.
Vaginal Changes. The pH of the vagina changes which can lead to an increase in vaginal infections. The vaginal walls will become less elastic, thinner and less lubricated.
Tame hot flashes. Dress in layers so that you can peel off or put back on as your body temperature fluctuates. Regular exercise has been shown to help lessen hot flashes. Avoid hot drinks, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol which can trigger a hot flash. Reduce your exposure to cigarette smoke and keep your environment cool. Keep a cool drink handy for when you feel yourself start to heat up and try and keep your breathing slow and even. Don’t let your hot flash stress you to the point you start panic breathing.
Get the rest you need. To ease troubled sleep avoid heavy meals close to bedtime. You also want to avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine which upset sleep patterns when you are not experiencing menopause sleep difficulty. Do not exercise right before bed. It takes your body awhile to relax and cool down after a workout. Keep your room cool, so turn down that thermostat. Keep a regular sleep schedule and keep other activities out of your bedroom such as TV or reading. Wear light weight moisture wicking pajamas to combat those hot flashes.
Combat vaginal dryness. Try an over the counter product like K-Y Jelly or another water-based lubricant. Your doctor can also supply you with vaginal estrogen in a tablet, ring or cream.
Hormone therapy. The most effective treatment option for symptoms is estrogen or estrogen-progestin therapy. The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends hormone therapy for the shortest time possible and in the smallest dose for the relief of symptoms. Maintain regular visits with your physician to review your status. This choice comes with risks that need to be looked at with a doctor.
Low-dose antidepressants (SSRIs). Drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can help decrease hot flashes. These are prescription only and must be monitored by your doctor.
Black cohosh. This is an herb that has been treating menopausal symptoms for centuries. The North American Menopause Society supports short-term use of black cohosh for relieving symptoms. You can find this as a supplement online or at a health food store.
Vitamin E. 400 (IU) vitamin E may provide relief for hot flashes.
Ginseng. A ginseng supplement may help with sleep problems.
Increase soy. Soy has estrogen-like effects. So as your estrogen is dropping, soy may help reduce hot flash discomfort.
Menopause is a natural biological process. The good news is this is a transition phase similar to puberty and you have already survived that. Your symptoms are unique to you and your solutions will be unique to you also.