Take the Mystery Out of Menopause
All women face the day when they will stop menstruating. Knowledge is power! You can’t predict exactly how you’ll feel, but you can understand the range of experiences you may have.
The first signs are likely to occur between ages 40 and 50, when perimenopause may stretch your period from 25-30 days to more like 40-50 days, or you may begin missing periods altogether. You’re considered in full menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 months with no medical explanation other than age, according to Nicole C. Woitowich, director of science outreach and education at Women’s Health Research Institute.
Woitowich lists typical symptoms during perimenopause that frequently continue after menopause:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Joint pain
- Mood changes
- Sleep disturbances
For some women, one or more of these symptoms can be severe. What can you do to relieve symptoms?
- Hormone therapy. This can come in the form of pills, creams or skin patches containing estrogen or progesterone in order to “replace” hormones that you’re no longer producing. “While the use of hormone therapy is still regarded as one of the most effective ways to control menopause symptoms,” Woitowich says, “it may not be appropriate for everyone.” Hormone therapy can increase the risk of blood clots, heart attack, stroke, uterine cancer and breast cancer. If your symptoms are bad enough, discuss the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy with your doctor.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy. While studies have concluded that cognitive-behavioral therapy does not reduce the severity of menopause symptoms, it can help women cope and manage their symptoms.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). Some evidence suggests that treatment with SSRIs, drugs typically used to treat depression and anxiety, are effective in reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
“In addition, the Office on Women’s Health encourages women to maintain a healthy lifestyle by staying active, eating a balanced diet and reducing stress to ease the discomfort of menopause symptoms,” Woitowich adds. To learn more about your own potential journey through menopause, use the Women’s Health Research Institute’s an online self-assessment tool.