Treating menopause symptoms in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin
Menopause is a time of transition when women stop menstruating and adjust to different levels of hormones in their bodies. For most women, this phase of life begins in their forties. During menopause, women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, mood changes and insomnia. Even though every woman goes through menopause, everyone’s experience is different. It’s common to wonder if your symptoms are normal.
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What is menopause?
As women age, our reproductive system slows down and we permanently stop menstruating. This cycle is called menopause and it can be a normal part of aging or caused by a medical procedure (induced menopause). During menopause, women may experience many symptoms, which can vary from person to person. Some of most common include hot flashes, night sweats, emotional changes and a decreased libido.
There are three stages of menopause: perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause. The symptoms women experience vary at each stage.
Sometimes called “pre-menopause,” perimenopause is the time your body transitions into menopause. Perimenopause starts about four to eight years before menopause. For most women, this phase begins around the age of 40, but some women might experience perimenopause in their 30s.
During perimenopause, the amount of estrogen your ovaries produce will steadily decline. But, you’ll still get your period and could become pregnant. When you’re going through perimenopause, you might start to experience irregular periods, more severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS), mood swings and breast tenderness.
Menopause is when you no longer get your period. You’re officially in menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months.
At this stage, your ovaries are producing much less estrogen and stop releasing eggs, which means you’re no longer able to become pregnant. As estrogen levels decrease, you might experience symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence and irritability.
The average age women experience menopause is 50, but some women go through menopause as young as 40. The age you start menopause is likely determined by genetics.
Menopause is a natural part of aging, but it can also be caused by a medical procedure. This is called induced menopause and is commonly caused by surgically removing the ovaries, chemotherapy or radiation.
Post-menopause simply means “after menopause”. During this stage, you’ll still experience some symptoms of menopause, but these symptoms will be less intense and less frequent. This stage usually lasts for two to seven years but can sometimes last longer.
Every woman experiences slightly different symptoms of menopause. Some women might experience symptoms more intensely than others, and some might experience very few symptoms. And the symptoms of menopause vary depending on the stage of menopause you’re in. Common symptoms include:
- Irregular periods that eventually stop
- Mood changes
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes or chills
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
- Lower libido
- Sexual discomfort
- Slower metabolism
- Thinning hair
- Urinary incontinence
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight fluctuation
Determining if you’re in menopause
Doctors typically don’t need tests to determine if you’re in menopause. They’ll talk to you about when you last had your period, ask about other symptoms and give you a physical exam. Many women are able to determine they’re going through menopause without talking to their doctor just by paying attention to their symptoms.
If a test is needed to confirm menopause, your health care provider may recommend a blood test. During a blood test, they’ll check your levels of estrogen and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Abnormal amounts of these hormones can indicate menopause.
They might also check your level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). If your level of TSH is high, it might mean you have hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are similar to symptoms of menopause.
Convenient options for managing and treating menopause symptoms
How you experience menopause is going to be unique. We offer a variety of care options so you can get help managing your symptoms in the way that works best for you.
Primary care doctors are trained to provide expert care for all stages of life, menopause included.
Visit your OB-GYN
An OB-GYN’s expertise doesn’t stop at menstruation and childbirth. They can guide you from perimenopause to post-menopause with a personalized treatment plan for your symptoms.
No matter which kind of care provider you choose, you can get the same personalized care, expert answers and tailored care plan without leaving your home.
Getting relief from menopause symptoms
While menopause is a natural part of aging, low estrogen levels can cause discomfort and lead to some health risks like osteoporosis and heart disease. We can help keep you comfortable and healthy by identifying the best treatment for your menopause symptoms. Common treatments include:
Since women’s bodies produce fewer hormones during menopause, one of the most effective ways to manage symptoms is to supplement the amount of estrogen and progesterone in the body.
There are two main types of hormone therapy, systemic and vaginal.
Systemic hormone therapy
Systemic hormone therapy is the most effective type of hormone therapy. This type of hormone therapy uses hormone supplements that enter the bloodstream so they can circulate through the entire body (the whole system). It can help manage many different uncomfortable symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal atrophy. Systemic hormone therapy can also reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Systemic hormone therapy typically includes a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Depending on your needs, your doctor might prescribe hormones in the form of a pill, patch, cream, injection or vaginal ring.
Vaginal estrogen hormone therapy
Topical hormones, usually estrogen, are prescribed in a cream form that contains much lower doses of hormones than systemic hormone treatments. These creams are most commonly applied to vaginal tissue, but some can be applied to other areas of the body including your inner thighs and armpits.
Vaginal estrogen is most commonly used to treat vaginal discomfort and urinary incontinence caused by menopause. But, it’s not effective at treating other symptoms like hot flashes and mood changes.
Medicines for menopause symptoms
Going through menopause can increase your risk of certain conditions. Women going through menopause are commonly prescribed supplements and other medicines to help treat or manage these conditions, which can also help with certain menopausal symptoms. Examples include:
- Vitamin D to support bone health and reduce risks from osteoporosis.
- Blood pressure medicine to help manage increased blood pressure sensitivity as a result of weight gain.
- Antidepressants to regulate depressive symptoms, mood swings and hot flashes.