When it comes to getting through menopause, you have quite a few more options than your grandmother did. Perimenopause, the years leading up to your final period can be filled with hot flashes, sleep interruption, vaginal dryness, urinary problems, mood swings, loss of libido, weight gain, forgetfulness and more.
Menopause is different for everyone. Some women make the transition easily over the course of a year or two while others suffer from multiple, severe symptoms spread over many years. It’s important to talk to your provider to prepare for menopause. Lifestyle and diet can play a significant role in managing your symptoms. And, medical management, such as hormone replacement therapy, can help make getting through the inevitable “change” easier and less stressful.
So what exactly can you expect before, during, and after menopause and what do you need to know about managing symptoms?
Menopause & Perimenopause
Perimenopause, the phase when a woman experiences menstrual irregularity and the majority of symptoms, can last 4-10+ years and ends when you hit menopause. Symptoms associated with perimenopause typically start in one’s 40s—rarely late 30s or early 50s. The average age of menopause is 51 for caucasian women, while most Black and Latina women go through menopause at 49. Menopause that occurs before the age of 40, natural or induced, is known as premature menopause.
The term “postmenopause” refers to the years after menopause starts. During this time, most peri/menopausal symptoms subside. But there may be new health concerns to consider associated with low estrogen levels such as cardiovascular disease, bone loss, and vaginal, sexual and urinary issues (Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause). It’s important to continue your gynecological care during this time.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Menopause
During perimenopause, estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate erratically. For many women this means uncomfortable and possibly even surprising menopause symptoms. Common menopause symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods (heavier, lighter, shorter in duration, longer in duration, missed cycles)
- Trouble sleeping
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Less interest in sex, difficulty getting aroused or climaxing
- Pain or discomfort during sex due to vaginal dryness
- Brain fog
- Feelings of not being able to cope as well as you used to
- Breast tenderness
- Joint pain
How We Can Help: Your Personalized Care Plan
It’s important to keep in mind that menopause is a natural condition and doesn’t necessarily require medical treatment. However, many women experience discomfort from hormonal changes and other factors. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
Some women prefer to manage their symptoms in a more natural way, while others want to know what medications are available. Regardless of how they want to proceed, our team will advise them to get regular blood work and annual physicals. Reduced estrogen levels are a risk factor for bone loss. Calcium, vitamin D, and exercise along with a bone density scan may be recommended if bone loss is suspected. Every menopause journey is unique and we will work together to create a comprehensive treatment plan that meets your needs— one that keeps you sane and satisfied.
Virginia Women’s Center team of physicians and nurse practitioners can help in the following ways:
- Hormone replacement therapy increases estrogen levels and helps alleviate uncomfortable symptoms (available in pill form, gels, creams, or patches)
- The MonaLisa Touch is groundbreaking non-surgical fractional CO2 laser therapy that can help reverse many of the symptoms associated with vaginal atrophy. There’s no need to suffer painful intercourse, vaginal dryness, and itching and burning with urination.
- Vaginal creams and other treatments to help with painful intercourse and dryness
- Antidepressants/antianxiety medications to help with mood swings (we can also recommend certified counselors and therapists)
- Support for lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and well-balanced nutrition.
- Letting you know that you are not alone. You’re not going crazy.
Virginia Women’s Center has helped thousands of women manage and minimize their perimenopausal symptoms and we can help you. If symptoms are adversely affecting your quality of life, it’s time to talk to your provider. There’s no need to be overwhelmed. We are here to help. Make an appointment today online or call 804.288.4084.