The Woman's Group
   
A catalogue of answers to the various types of menopausal experiences.

FAQ’s FOR WOMEN WITH MENOPAUSE

A time to focus on your body’s changes.


When does menopause begin?

A woman is said to have reached menopause when she has not had a period for a full year.  The average age of menopause is 51, but can be earlier or later in some families of women.  Menopause is preceded by a  transition period called peri-menopause which is from three to eight years in length and is characterized by irregular periods, mood instability and hot flashes. It is possible for a woman to move directly into menopause with none of the peri-menopause symptoms.

What are the typical symptoms of someone who has entered the menopause phase?

Eighty five percent of women have minor or no side effects.  Fifteen percent of women have hot flashes, mood disorders, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and/or memory problems.

What are the most common approaches to treating the symptoms that come with menopause?

Mild symptoms are managed with good diet, exercise, black cohosh, progesterone cream, and melatonin to help with sleep.  When symptoms affect a woman's ability to carry on her daily routine, we consider hormone replacement therapy – estrogen and progesterone for women who have a uterus and estrogen only for women without a uterus.  We may add testosterone if depression and decreased libido are problems. The creams, gels, or patches are the preferred routes of delivery because  they bypass the GI tract and get directly into the bloodstream.  There is currently no evidence that bio-identical hormone preparations, made by compounding pharmacies, should be used. 

A predisposition for osteoporosis may also influence our decision to recommend hormone replacement therapy.

Do most women experience the same menopause symptoms?

Menopause symptoms can vary from woman to woman.  Most women have very minor or no symptoms.  The rest will have moderate to severe symptoms in a variety of combinations that include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse, depression, memory loss and insomnia.  It is important to note that many other medical conditions can mimic the symptoms of menopause, so patients should undergo a good history and physical exam to rule out other underlying medical conditions.

If I am well into the menopause phase and I have not experienced any symptoms, am I likely to experience them later?

The symptoms of menopause can last for several years after you have stopped having periods, but they usually go away with time.  It is unusual for you to develop symptoms for the first time years after you stop menstruating.

Is the sexual drive different during menopause?

The libido may diminish during menopause but many women express increased sexual satisfaction because they are not worried about getting pregnant or because they may enjoy greater personal freedom at this time of life. Painful intercourse may occur as a result of  vaginal dryness from atrophy, but this is easily treated with vaginal estrogen.   During their senior years, men also may experience problems with sexual function, such as difficulty maintaining erection, as a result of taking certain medications. Men are often reluctant to seek help for these problems and need encouragement and support from their partners

Does diet affect the symptoms of menopause?

The right diet can help decrease menopausal symptoms.  For instance, soy products can diminish hot flashes.  A balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein is recommended along with regular daily exercise.

Is it necessary for a woman to receive medical care during menopause?

Most women will not require any hormonal treatment except in the cases mentioned above. However, during menopause, women require screening tests such as colonoscopies every 5 years, screening blood work every year, bone densities every 2 years and vaccinations against DPT, Pneumonia, Flu and Shingles depending on risk factors. 

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