What is menopause?
Menopause is the stage of life that marks the end of your menstrual cycles, diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
The years leading up to menopause are known as the menopausal transition or perimenopause, which typically begins in your 40s or 50s, and may continue for several years into postmenopause. With it comes physiological symptoms that can vary from woman to woman.
The menopausal transition
As you age, the reproductive cycle begins to slow down and hormonal fluctuations and endocrine changes occur. Your ovaries make less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which controls your period and the release of eggs.
As your body adjusts to the drop in the production of these hormones, dramatic menstrual cycle changes and skipped cycles can occur, as well as the following common symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Sleep disturbance
- Vaginal dryness
- Sexual function
- Cognitive changes
- Joint pain
- These symptoms vary, but if the side effects of menopause are affecting your quality of life, talk to your Ob/Gyn or other healthcare provider about menopause symptom management tips.
Menopause symptom management
Mild to moderate menopause symptoms can often be managed through home remedies and lifestyle changes, such as keeping cool, practicing relaxation techniques, limiting caffeinated beverages, and trying over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer products for vaginal discomfort. However, if you find that your symptoms are affecting your quality of life and wellbeing, and these methods are not providing significant relief, your healthcare provider can help with menopause symptom management. The main types of medical treatment for menopause are:
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – HRT is a course of action that involves medication used for menopausal symptom management. It contains the hormones that your body stops making, which can help alleviate hot flashes and vaginal discomfort. This medication comes in different forms, including a pill, a patch, ring, gel, cream, or spray that you put inside your vagina. However, HRT comes with its own associated risks, such as putting you at higher risk of health issues like heart disease or breast cancer. Most doctors prescribe the lowest dose for the shortest time possible.
Topical Hormone Therapy – This is a low-dose vaginal product that comes as an estrogen cream, tablet, or gel that you administer to the exact place you are trying to treat. The estrogen in this medication will stay in the vaginal tissue and mainly alleviates vaginal discomfort and urinary symptoms associated with menopausal symptom management. Therefore it will not be effective for hot flashes or osteoporosis.
Non-hormonal therapy – Non-hormonal therapies menopausal symptom management for women who need to or want to avoid HRT include prescription medications such as:
- Gabapentin, which reduces menopausal hot flashes
- Paroxetine, an antidepressant that is also used to treat moderate to severe hot flashes
- Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), which treat hot flashes, vaginal dryness, bleeding, and bone loss by activating or blocking estrogen receptors in certain parts of the body
Eventually, your ovaries will no longer release an egg every month, and menstruation ends. Once you’ve passed 12 consecutive months after your final period, you’re in menopause. Your symptoms can continue for several more years into postmenopause. However, these will decrease in frequency and intensity over time.
Menopause is a natural part of aging, but if you’re concerned about troublesome symptoms, don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider. The expert doctors at Viva Eve can recommend menopause symptom management tips and create a customized treatment plan to ease your menopause symptoms.