Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause and perimenopause can be a stressful phase in a woman's life. Menopause marks the end of a woman's menstrual cycle, diagnosed after a woman has completed a year without her menstrual periods. Perimenopause refers to the period when a woman is slowly transitioning to menopause when her ovaries gradually begin to make fewer ovaries. It begins several years before a drop in her estrogen levels and ends at the onset of menopause. Both menopause and perimenopause have similar symptoms, some of which include hot flashes, sweating at night, vaginal dryness, slow metabolism, irregular menstruation, and sleep difficulties. This period can cause great discomfort in a woman's life, but it doesn't have to be so. By incorporating proven self-care techniques recommended by specialists like OB/GYN Patricia Nevils, menopause and perimenopause can be managed without altering one's life in a drastic way. (1)
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Whether or not to use hormones for treatment remains a personal choice for women, though many choose to avoid it. This is mainly due to health concerns and alleged side effects of taking hormones. Unfortunately, hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) is the only FDA approved method for treating hot flashes and night sweats, one of the most common symptoms of menopause. If HRT is an issue, a woman should consider other means of controlling the problem, for instance avoiding known triggers, exercising, and adding soy to their diet. Known triggers of hot flashes include alcohol, smoking, spicy foods, and caffeine. One can afford to skip a nightcap before bed, and maybe try ice water instead.
As much as painful intercourse could be a symptom of menopause, it could also be a symptom of other conditions such as endometriosis or Atrophic Vaginitis. It's important that a woman with such a problem consult a competent doctor to rule out the other causes of dryness and discomfort. The doctor might also suggest better ways of managing the problem, for instance, using estrogen-infused gels or oral prescription medicines that can help the patient lubricate naturally. Over-the-counter lubricants can help with moisturizing and lessening pain during intercourse. Water-based lubricants are preferable to oil-based ones like petroleum jelly. It's advisable to weigh the pros and cons of using such medication before proceeding with the treatment. (2)
It's tremendously comforting to find support from other women going through similar physical and mental changes caused by menopause. It can be therapeutic for a woman to join groups for menopausal women where coping approaches and strategies that really work are discussed, helping one another deal with the symptoms. Coping strategies include using antidepressants, minimizing stressors, and getting enough sleep, among other self-care techniques. Sometimes, a woman might be suffering from depression, which camouflages menopausal symptoms, and it's important that they get an opportunity to address this.
A woman can still get pregnant in the early stages of perimenopause transition. One should check and double-check that the erratic periods are as a result of menopause and not an unexpected pregnancy. If one has been on a reliable form of birth control for a while, they should check with their doctor just for peace of mind. Erratic periods also require that one carry hygiene products with them because the menstrual period is unpredictable. Women can also prepare by downloading apps to help them track their periods, as well as carrying extra sets of painkillers.