12 things every woman should know about menopause
Menopause is a daunting word. You may have heard horror stories of painful sex and night sweats keeping you awake at night. But menopause doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Let’s take a look at 12 common menopause questions, so that you can understand the changes that occur during this period and get a better idea of what to expect if you’re in or approaching menopause.
How do I know I’m officially in menopause?
A woman officially begins menopause once she has not had a period for one full year. The time leading up to this is called perimenopause, which brings symptoms of its own. Menopause is another thing. For most women, the onset of menopause begins in the late 40s or early 50s. It is characterized by a drop in both estrogen and progesterone production, which takes place in the ovaries.
What will my menopause symptoms look like?
Due to the drop in estrogen and progesterone, the following symptoms are common during menopause:
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain
- Vaginal atrophy
- Vaginal dryness
- Discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Potential osteoporosis
- Possible insomnia
What’s the difference between menopause and perimenopause?
Menopause is defined by lack of a period for one year. Perimenopause occurs before this. Perimenopause is characterized by a decline in estrogen and progesterone, as well, and you might also have hot flashes. You will have a period, although it may be erratic. Perimenopause can last for years.
Can I prevent hot flashes?
Avoid the triggers above, and take the following steps to decrease the impact of hot flashes:
- Use a fan in your bedroom at night and also at your workplace
- Wear layers that you can easily take off as needed
- Practice yoga and deep breathing techniques to reduce stressDon’t try to push them away or get flustered when they hit you. Stay calm; they will pass.
- Have a chat with your OBGYN to see whether meds might help
Will my bones become brittle?
For some women, bone loss is a real problem during menopause. Osteoporosis tends to hit around this time, as the body produces less estrogen, which impacts calcium production. To prevent major bone loss, you can help your body by not smoking, drinking alcohol only in moderation, and eating a whole foods diet. Dark leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, and kale have loads of calcium, as does dairy. Take a high-quality vitamin D supplement and exercise outside in the sun when weather permits. Weight-bearing exercise is also key to maintain bone health.
Am I doomed to gain weight during menopause?
Many women do gain weight by virtue of the combination of aging and hormonal changes. You’ll probably have to work extra hard at sustaining a healthy weight. If you eat right and exercise right, you’ll have a better time of it. Plus, excessive weight gain is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other issues, so you’ll want to keep your weight under control anyway just to stay healthy. You may have to cut sugar from your diet to see real improvements during this time. You’ll also want to exercise well — combine resistance training with yoga, and walking with burst training.
If my mom suffered through menopause, will I suffer too?
While there are genetic components that characterize menopause, symptoms typically differ from one woman to the next. Our ovaries all age in different ways. Your mom may have had three kids, while you had none. You may be a devout yogi, while your mom rarely exercises beyond walking the dog. Lifestyle factors come into play when it comes to the severity of menopause.
Is hormone replacement therapy a safe option for me?
The use of hormone replacement therapy is something that should be determined by you and your doctor. Several studies show the safety and efficacy of hormone replacement therapy for many women. However, everyone’s different. If you have a medical condition that doesn’t mix well with HRT, you’ll need to seek other options.
Hormone therapy may be right for you. It all depends upon your body and the severity of your menopausal symptoms. Although there have been concerns in the past that HRT can be linked to cancer, those risks have been overstated, and occurred when HRT was given to women who were well past the average age of menopause. When HRT is started closer to the onset of menopause, the same risk does not exist.
As you can see, menopause brings lots of questions. At OB/GYN Associates of Alabama, we can help you understand menopause, hormone imbalances, and the range of treatment options available for you. Contact us to request an appointment today.
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