Are you waking up in the middle of the night in a puddle of sweat? Are you throwing the covers off, then on, and then off again? When you’re out with friends, seemingly dressed for the weather, do you wish you were sitting half-clothed in front of a fan?
Ladies, welcome to the world of perimenopause and menopause!
Menopause is a totally normal and natural part of aging that the average woman will go through at age 51. Technically, you’re considered menopausal after having gone one year without a period. That lovely time leading up to this moment is known as perimenopause and can last six years or more – not what you wanted to hear, I know.
Some lucky women will experience “the change” with little or no fanfare. For others, it can severely affect their lives. But here’s something worth smiling about: Women today don’t have to suffer through it. Talk to your doctor and understand the risks versus the benefits of various types of treatment. Let’s go over a few of the basics.
The most common symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse, sleep problems and a feeling of fogginess.
A couple things I recommend trying initially:
- Dress in layers to accommodate those surges in body temperature
- Cotton sheets on the bed can help with night sweat issues
- Have a fan near by, especially when sleeping
- Consider using lubricants for intercourse if it’s painful
- Weight loss
One study showed that losing weight via exercise and decreased calories resulted fewer hot flashes. Interestingly, exercise alone did not persistently have the same results.
In addition to these lifestyle adjustments you can look into alternative options; however, most of these are no more effective than placebo or sugar pills. These can include Vitamin E, black cohosh, soy products, evening primrose oil and acupuncture.
Still no relief? It may be time to discuss therapy options with your physician. This could include hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or non-hormonal medications.
Hormone therapy can be extremely effective but should be used at the lowest dose possible and for the shortest period of time. I’m talking .3 to 1.25 milligrams of estrogen for up to five years. Progesterone is also necessary if a woman still has her uterus.
HRT used to come primarily in the form of pills, but now there are multiple options that include creams, gels, sprays, vaginal rings and patches. It truly depends on what best fits a woman’s lifestyle and symptoms. As with any medication, there are benefits and risks.
Whether HRT is for you or not, it’s important to understand your options and make choices that are best for your life and your family.