by Dr. Victoria Myers
Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Hot.
Can’t get your sweater off fast enough? Bra soaked with sweat? Your husband and teenagers are staring at you like you are nuts? You just felt your period come on like a faucet while you are sitting on your friend’s white couch at a cocktail party?
Welcome to perimenopause. It’s not fun (trust me, I know!). But we all get through it, and there are a variety of treatment options that can help.
What are menopause and perimenopause?
Menopause occurs when you stop getting periods for a full year. As a woman ages, her ovaries eventually stop making estrogen, causing her periods to stop. The average age of menopause is 51 years old, but menopause can happen earlier or later. A woman’s age of menopause is often similar to the other women in her family.
Perimenopause is the period of time before menopause occurs and during early menopause, and generally lasts several years. Typically, perimenopause starts during a woman’s 40’s. During this time, there is a fluctuation in the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries. These hormonal variations can lead to changes in your menstrual cycle which can include heavy or light bleeding, longer or shorter cycles and skipped periods. These changes are often normal but always should be discussed with your gynecologist to rule out other problems.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
The most common symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances and vaginal dryness.
Hot flashes are a sudden feeling that heat is rushing through your body. Some women experience them daily and some never experience them. When these occur at night, they are called night sweats. Women can wake up extremely hot or wake up drenched in sweat after the hot flash breaks.
Sleep disturbances can occur not only because of night sweats but also because of trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Vaginal dryness occurs because when women produce less estrogen the vagina becomes thinner, dryer and less elastic. These changes, called atrophy, can lead to painful sex, vaginal or vulvar discomfort and an increase in urinary tract infections.
Is this normal? What can I do about it?
All women eventually experience menopause however, every woman has a different experience. For some women symptoms can be mild and for others they can be debilitating. Normal does not have to mean suffering though. Once we know that your symptoms are not related to any other problems, there are a variety of treatments available.
Period irregularities can be managed medically, or with procedures if needed. Hot flashes can be treated through lifestyle modifications, natural or herbal supplements and hormone replacement therapy under direction of a physician. Vaginal dryness can also be addressed with lubricants, moisturizers, and vaginal estrogen.
Make an appointment today!
If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause, speak with your gynecologist to tailor a treatment plan to your needs. At Philadelphia Women’s Health and Wellness, we’d love to help you through your transition into menopause, hot flashes and all.