Perimenopause is like a signal, letting you know that your body is preparing for menopause. You’ll probably start having some hot flashes and irregular — or abnormally light — periods as soon as your early 40s. These early symptoms can last for a few months, or for as long as several years. When you begin to notice these symptoms it is important to start tracking any abnormalities you may have and discuss them with your provider.
When you reach menopause, it means that you are no longer fertile, since your body stops producing eggs. You’re officially in menopause if you’re not pregnant or sick, and haven’t had a menstrual cycle in 12 months.
Aside from not having periods and hot flashes that are so commonly referenced during menopause, you’ll probably have other side effects. Many women experience:
Absolutely. While menopause is unavoidable, it’s a natural part of aging, and your caring practitioner can help you find the right treatment option to lessen your symptoms. Because your estrogen level drops during menopause — which is why you have symptoms — you need to restore estrogen to your system. It’s also possible that you might need progesterone as part of your hormone replacement therapy plan, but it’s often combined with estrogen treatments.
One of the most common treatments is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT can involve trial and error with options and dosages until you find just the right one for your needs. HRT treatments come in many forms:
If HRT isn’t right for you, or if you’re not getting relief, your provider can help you with alternative treatments. You could benefit from consuming more foods that are rich in plant-based estrogen, such as soybeans or soy milk. Some herbal supplements can also help improve menopausal symptoms. Vaginal laser therapy is an alternate option to treat vaginal dryness or bladder problems in patients who aren't candidates for HRT.
Your provider will likely suggest doing regular weight-bearing exercises and taking daily calcium and vitamin D supplements to minimize your chances of osteoporosis.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions are available here.
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