Menopause is a natural transition in a woman’s lifetime when her menstruation cycle and ability to become pregnant has come to an end. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period over the course of one year.
Common Symptoms: Menopausal women will normally report having irregular periods, spotting, period cessation, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, and mood swings. Other symptoms may include hair loss, migraines, a change in bone density or increase in bone fractures, and pain during sex. Menopause symptoms last an average of 4-5 years.
Causes: Menopause usually begins in her mid-to-late 40s when the ovaries begin to produce much less estrogen and progesterone. If spotting and irregular periods occur for some time, this is referred to as perimenopause, which is the early onset of menopause symptoms. However, menopause specifically refers to the absence of a period for one year. Menopause can also occur due to a hysterectomy and other uterine or ovarian surgeries.
Treatment: An OB/GYN can assess your symptoms or administer a blood test to check your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estradiol (E2) levels to ensure that your symptoms are menopausal and not related to some underlying cause. Hormone replacement therapy such as low-dose birth control, prasterone, or other menopausal hormonal therapies that come in pill or patch forms are often recommended and prescribed by OB/GYNs to manage and mitigate menopausal symptoms. Topical hormone therapies such as low-dose estrogen or progesterone creams, are also commonly used to mitigate symptoms. Keep in mind that any hormone replacement agents should be approved by yourOB/GYN as creating further hormone imbalance can increase your risk for polycystic ovary syndrome, ovarian cancer, breast cancer uterine fibroids and more.
Several natural hormone replacement supplements such as black cohosh, red clover, flaxseed oil, vitex, and others have been shown to have positive effects on menopause symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and ensuring you are getting your proper balance of vitamins and minerals (especially calcium) is vital to stabilizing your energy, mood, improving sleep, and releasing endorphins that make you feel better overall. This can also keep off excess weight gain that may lead to further estrogen/progesterone imbalances.