While it’s something many of us don’t want to think about, menopause is bound to hit basically 100 percent of women. If you have a menstrual cycle, you’re going to be gifted with “the change” at some point during your 40s and 50s (51 is the average age in the U.S. for the onset of menopause), though a very small percentage of women do experience premature menopause. The hot flashes, night sweats, the emotional rollercoaster — heck, it may almost feel like you’re pregnant all over again, except you won’t get that precious bundle of joy when it’s all said and done. The silver lining is that you will no longer have to deal with your monthly cycle… and menopause doesn’t last forever (yay!). Here’s the 411 on what you need to know about this inevitable stage of life.
What is Menopause?
A normal condition that all women experience as they get older, menopause marks the period (pun intended) when you stop menstruating, signaling the end of your reproductive phase. This life stage occurs when your ovaries no longer release an egg every month and menstruation comes to a standstill. There are three stages of the process:
- Perimenopause typically occurs a few years before menopause when the ovaries gradually make less estrogen.
- Menopause kicks in about a year after you have your last period, when the ovaries are no longer releasing eggs.
- Postmenopause includes the years after menopause when your symptoms start to ease up.
Symptoms of Menopause
The most common symptoms of menopause include hot flashes and night sweats, varying from mild to severe — not the best news when you live here in Florida! These symptoms can last for just a few months or up to a few years. Other common symptoms may include:
- Insomnia or fatigue
- Mood swings
- Depression or irritability
- Headaches or joint pain
- Changes in libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Bladder control issues
- Weight gain
Ways to Combat Menopause Symptoms
There are a few simple things you can do to ease any menopause symptoms that may arise and affect your day-to-day life. For instance:
Track your triggers and cool down. This is especially important when it comes to those pesky hot flashes or any migraines, and you can use a notebook, a planner, a note in your smartphone — whatever is easiest! Write down where you were and what you were doing when it occurred. Common causes of hot flashes can include caffeine, alcohol, stress, a hot room or even spicy food. When it happens, slowly and deeply breathe through your nose and out through your mouth. Eventually, you may notice a pattern and can avoid any potential triggers. When dealing with night sweats, consider the obvious: Wear light PJs, use thin blankets, turn on a bedside fan and opt for a cooling pillow.
Stay active. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — exercise possesses so many benefits! Working out at least three times a week can help with hot flashes, insomnia and reducing stress levels (hello, endorphins).
Practice meditation. Just say, “Om.” Meditating, establishing deep-breathing techniques and practicing gratitude can help combat any emotional symptoms you may be struggling through and reduce stress.
Give your body a little boost. If dealing with vaginal dryness or a lowered libido, water-based lubricants can help, as well as gentle massage or some foreplay with your partner. And remember that while hormone changes could be the primary culprit, maintaining good mental health can help, also.
And remember — the emotional toll and physical symptoms of menopause become too great, definitely speak with your doctor, as hormone treatment therapy could be an option.
Contact Beaches OBGYN at (904) 241-9775 for more information or to schedule an appointment.