Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years, when menstruation ceases. You can learn more about menopause here, or read on for some of our most frequently asked questions.
What is Perimenopause?
The word perimenopause means "around menopause" and refers to the time leading up to your final period when your body transitions into menopause. Perimenopause, also sometimes called the menopausal transition, usually lasts from 4-8 years. During this time, the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries will fluctuate, causing your cycles to become more irregular. Some women may also experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sleep disturbances.
Once you've gone through 12 consecutive months without a period, you've officially reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over.
What can I do about vaginal dryness?
The drop in estrogen around menopause can lead to vaginal atrophy–the drying and thinning of vaginal tissues. This might cause a feeling of vaginal tightness, pain, discomfort, or soreness. Over-the-counter water-based vaginal lubricants can be effective in making intercourse more comfortable. Talk to your doctor if vaginal dryness is a concern for you, to find out if other treatments such as vaginal estrogen may be a good fit for you.
Is there a way to prevent hot flashes?
There are some treatments available to reduce hot flashes and other symptoms associated with menopause. Hormone therapy–which can come in different forms such as a pill, patch, gel, or cream–is one of the most effective treatment options for relieving perimenopausal and menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. Other treatments may include anti-depressants or other medications. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms, family history, and the risks and benefits involved with each treatment option.
How can I keep my bones and heart healthy?
Because your risk of osteoporosis and heart disease increases during this stage of life, a healthy diet and regular exercise are more important than ever. A low-fat, high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is ideal. Choose calcium-rich foods. You can also ask your doctor whether calcium supplements or vitamin D are a good choice for you. Regular exercise has been shown to strengthen bone density and reduce hip fracture risk in older women. Walking, cycling, swimming, and weight bearing exercises are all good choices.
What should I know about Hormone Therapy?
Many studies show that systemic hormone therapy can effectively reduce symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, and bone loss. These benefits can lead to improved sleep, sexual satisfaction, and quality of life. However, there are also risks involved with hormone therapy. In order to minimize serious health risks, HT is recommended at the lowest effective dose for the shortest time period.
Each woman is unique, and there is no one-size fits all choice for managing your perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Discuss with your doctor the different treatment options to decide what is right for you.