With healthy lifestyle choices and hormone therapies, menopause need not hinder life as you know it.
Not to say we haven’t heard plenty about the disagreeable symptoms that can accompany menopause — hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings. But the good news is that those symptoms are manageable. We can transition through menopause and maintain good health and vitality and lead an active, productive life.
Our bodies need hormones. Women specifically require estrogen and progesterone, both of which are produced by the ovaries. Progesterone is vital for menstruation and pregnancy — it prepares the uterine lining for implantation of the fertilized egg and regulates the menstrual cycle. Estrogen guides sexual development. It is responsible for all of the physical and emotional changes we experience during puberty and plays an important role in ovulation and lactation after pregnancy.
Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, usually around the age of 51, but for some women it can occur as early as 40 or as late as 55. Symptoms of menopause or impending menopause can include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vaginal and urinary issues
- Mood shifts
- Decreased libido
- Onset of osteoporosis
What You Can Do
You can decrease the severity of some menopausal symptoms on your own. According to Suzanne Zsikla, MD, at Renown Medical Group, “Lifestyle changes are the most important and effective — regular exercise, healthy eating, proper sleep and decreasing stress in one’s life.” Appropriate supplements, such as over-the-counter remedies, to address specific symptoms may also be of benefit, she notes.
If you require medical attention, many women turn to biodentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). This treatment involves administering medications containing progesterone and estrogen to replace those the body is no longer producing.
BHRT is not for everyone, as each person is different with different needs, and there are several different types of hormones used to treat patients. “BHRT is very customized for each person and requires an in-depth consultation with the treating provider,” explains Dr. Zsikla. “It is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Hormone therapy treatments can include the following:
- Systemic Hormone Therapy: Systemic estrogen is administered in this approach in the form of a pill, skin patch, gel, cream or spray. It is the most effective treatment for relief of hot flashes and night sweats and also eases vaginal symptoms such as dryness, itching, burning and discomfort during sex.
- Low-dose vaginal products: These medications offer low-dose preparations of estrogen in cream, tablet or ring form. They address vaginal and urinary symptoms, and their minimal absorption in the body is a plus.
- Progesterone: Because estrogen can stimulate growth of the lining of the uterus, increasing risk of uterine cancer, it is generally prescribed along with progesterone to balance out its adverse effects. Progesterone is administered via injection, gel, capsule, suppository, insert or tablet.
Talk to Your Doctor
Weigh the risks and benefits of hormone therapy with your doctor when deciding what treatment is right for you. And be assured that the life you enjoy doesn’t end when fertility does. You might even embrace the inherent benefits of menopause — the end of discomforts associated with your menstrual cycle.
Our bodies perform the miraculous every day, and menopause doesn’t mark the end of the wonder and amazement at what we can do and accomplish. It’s simply a new chapter.