Is it hot in here or is it just me?
You know what I’m talking about…MENOPAUSE!
As women, we all must go through this phase. It is a gradual process at a time when our ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone. However, it will be different for each of us. We can take comfort from the fact that we will all experience some changes. It helps to talk about it and share our experiences and choices. It can be a complicated time with an array of symptoms of varying degrees. Some symptoms may occur before the loss of menstruation and for others only after menstruation ceases. Many women experience heavier periods leading up to menopause. After the absence of a period (amenorrhea) for 12 months or more you can consider you are “in menopause”. However symptoms can continue for years in post menopause.
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness with or without discomfort during intercourse
- Decreased libido
- Mood fluctuations
Possible health complications:
- Heart disease
There are many treatment options available to alleviate the menopause symptoms that you suffer from. It is important to discuss all the options with your family physician or gynecologist as there are many important factors to consider. Factors such as:
- Family history (including cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis)
- Age, smoking
- Specific symptoms that affect daily life
- Frequency, duration of menstruation
- Lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, smoking, rest)
- Hormone therapy (oral, creams, patches, vaginal rings)
Hormone therapy can be taken to reduce or control hormonal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Generally, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recommends short-term, lowest-dose HT to treat symptoms. It may include estrogen and progesterone or estrogen only. This decision depends on your personal history. HT can work positively on bone health and heart disease but is NOT a treatment for either. HT may be given in various forms: oral, creams, patches, and vaginal rings for local effect. The decision should be made after consultation with your physician and may take time to find the proper combination for you. There are also many naturopathic remedies, diet changes and other guidelines to help with your symptoms.
Women should also follow basic guidelines for good nutrition and good health, such as:
- Dietary and or supplemental calcium, vitamin D
- Diet high in fiber, plenty of water (8 glasses/day)
- Avoid foods high in fat, sugar, salt
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Smoking cessation
There are no right or wrong answers when choosing treatment options during menopause, as what works for one woman may not work for another. Each individual must decide what she feels is best for her health, quality of life and future.
Patricia Warren Spencer, BScN RN