Women's Health Q and A: Menopause

Posted by Seanna Thompson, M.D.
August 20, 2013

Seanna Thompson MD

What exactly is perimenopause?

Perimenopause, also known as the menopausal transition, is the time leading up to menopause. Women can experience some bothersome symptoms during this time or none at all. Symptoms can include hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, irritability or vaginal dryness. Perimenopause may start as early as age 30, but the average age of menopause is 51. It is common for women from the same family to go through menopause at a similar age. I recommend having a discussion with the female members of your family to ask your mom or sisters about their experiences and inform your daughters about this transitional period.

Is there anything I can do about hot flashes or night sweats?
Hot flashes due to menopause are very common. Try to stay cool emotionally and physically, and avoid bright lights and hot beverages. A chill pillow, cool sheets, moisture-wicking clothing or personal fan can also be helpful.

What can help sexual aversion?
Sexual aversion can be experienced during and after the menopausal transition. If you experience this, it is important to discuss it with your provider. Also, keep the line of communication open with your partner. In some cases, counseling or therapy is beneficial and can reignite a relationship.

I leak urine and have started wearing a pad, is there anything else that can be done?
There are many ways to manage this. Exercise, behavioral changes, silicone devices or surgery may be beneficial. You should discuss your symptoms and explore options with your provider to choose an option that best fits your lifestyle.

I am currently taking oral contraceptive pills, when do I stop them?
Oral contraceptive pills and other types of hormonal contraception can be taken up until menopause. All medications have risks and benefits. The benefits of hormonal contraception include less anemia, cycle regularity, decreased risk of ovarian cancer and pregnancy prevention. Risks—though rare—do occur. It is important to discuss this with your provider. Together, you can decide when to stop taking oral contraceptives depending on your symptoms and desires.

Can diet and exercise really impact perimenopause?
Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can go a long way to ease most perimenopausal symptoms. A healthy lifestyle can also decrease the risk of cancer and improve cardiac health. Alcohol use should be minimized and smoking should be stopped immediately. Talk with your primary care provider to explore effective cessation options.

Remember, your body is going through a natural transition and you are not alone in experiencing these symptoms.  Keeping an open mind and talking with those you trust will help you adapt to your body’s changes during perimenopause.

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