“The change” or menopause is an inevitable part of aging for women. What exactly is menopause and how do you manage those sometimes pesky symptoms?
On Tuesday, Sept. 30, Dr. Samantha Durland of Lawrence OB/GYN Specialists, will be sharing information at a free community presentation, “The Change of Life: Managing Menopause Symptoms” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She will talk about perimenopause and menopause, including symptom management, the progression of menopause, signs and symptoms, pros and cons of hormone therapy, supplements and lifestyle management.
What is menopause?
Menopause is the time of a woman’s last period. This usually happens about age 50 but can happen to women in their 40s or even late 50s. The National Institute on Aging says women should expect to experience these three stages in the menopause journey:
Perimenopause can begin several years before the last menstrual period. Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone, which are two female hormones made in the ovaries, might lead to symptoms. The North American Menopause Society notes that common symptoms in this stage include irregular periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances and mood swings.
Menopause comes next. This is the end of menstrual periods. After a full year without a period, a woman can say she has been “through menopause.”
Postmenopause follows and lasts the rest of a woman’s life.
Many women find symptoms to be bothersome. Below are some of the most common symptoms and a few suggestions about treatment. For a complete list, visit the North American Menopause Society at the link provided below.
- Try to notice what triggers your hot flashes and avoid those things. Possible triggers to consider include spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress or being in a hot place.
- If you still have menstrual periods, ask your doctor if you might take low-dose oral contraceptives (birth control pills). These may help symptoms and prevent pregnancy.
- Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is an effective treatment for hot flashes and night sweats. Ask your healthcare provider if MHT is right for you.
- If you’re overweight, losing weight might help with hot flashes, according to one recent study.
A water-based, over-the-counter vaginal lubricant can help make sex more comfortable and an over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer like Replens can help keep needed moisture if used every few days.
- One of the best ways to get a good night's sleep is to be physically active. You might want to avoid exercise close to bedtime, though, since it might make you more awake.
- Avoid large meals, smoking and working right before bedtime. Avoid caffeine after noon and avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
- Try drinking something warm before bedtime, such as caffeine-free tea or warm milk.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
- Getting enough sleep and staying physically active will help you feel your best.
- Avoid taking on too many duties. Look for positive ways to ease your stress.
- Some women complain of memory problems or trouble focusing in midlife. But studies suggest that natural menopause has little effect on these functions.
- Getting enough sleep and keeping physically active might help improve symptoms.
- Mental exercises may help too, so ask your healthcare provider about them.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of menopause or have questions, talk to your healthcare provider. Register to attend the free presentation on Sept. 30 by calling 785-749-5800 or visiting lmh.org. The following online resources also may be helpful:
National Institute on Aging: nia.nih.gov/health/publication/menopause
US Department of Health and Human Services: womenshealth.gov/menopause
North American Menopause Society: menopause.org
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: acog.org/patients
Aynsley Anderson, MA, RN, is Community Education Coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, a major sponsor of WellCommons. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.