It isn’t called the change of life for nothing. It’s a major transition — one that affects not only your reproductive organs, but the rest of you as well. According to the American College of OB/GYN’s, the changes are triggered by a reduction in your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones essential for reproduction. As the hormone levels decrease, your ovaries stop producing eggs and menstruation becomes irregular or infrequent, eventually stopping altogether.
When Menopause Occurs
Menopause usually takes place between the ages of 45 and 55, although age and duration vary. While menopause occurs naturally for most women, it can also result from surgical removal of ovaries and some types of cancer treatment.
According to the American College of OB/GYNs, as the production of estrogen and progesterone diminish, the body responds in a variety of ways, possibly including:
- Hot flashes and/or night sweats
- Racing or irregular heartbeat
- Joint pain
- Leg cramps and restless leg
- Mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety and forgetfulness
- Decrease in sexual interest/responsiveness
- Vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse
- Adult acne
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is the most common treatment for menopause symptoms. Your doctor can help you sort through the issues, weighing factors such as your medical history, the severity of your menopause symptoms, how far menopause has progressed and the different types of therapies available.
If hormone replacement therapy isn’t right for you, there are other ways to treat menopause symptoms. Low doses of antidepressants and other prescription medications provide relief for many women.
There are also measures that don’t involve prescription drugs, such as:
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol
- Dressing in layers you can remove when a hot flash hits
- Practicing slow, deep breathing when you feel a flash coming on
- Using relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga
- Using vaginal lubricants to prevent discomfort during sexual activity
Discuss Options with Your Physician
Although menopause is a natural occurrence, as opposed to an illness, it’s important to consult with your doctor when you begin to experience signs, such as infrequent or irregular periods. Here’s why:
- Your physician can check your hormone levels to determine your stage of menopause.
- Your physician can use a pelvic exam to check for changes in your vaginal lining that may require medication.
- Your physician will help you evaluate the pros and cons of treatment for menopause.