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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

More than Hot Flashes: Navigating Perimenopause and Menopause

Posted By: Advancing Care

Medically reviewed by Ashanda Saint Jean, MD

When most people think about menopause, they think about hot flashes and night sweats. But there’s much more to the experience than that. Menopause is a natural part of life, and women shouldn’t have to grin and bear it. There are options available to make the transition easier.

What is menopause?

What is menopause?

Menopause, the stage of life when the ovaries no longer produce hormones and ovulation stops, typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. It’s defined as 12 months without a menstrual cycle, but the stage leading up to menopause, known as perimenopause, can begin several years before menopause itself.

Symptoms are at their highest intensity during perimenopause, but they can continue well into menopause, which means some women experience symptoms for about five years. But studies show that, for women of color, symptoms can be more severe and last longer, sometimes 10 years or more.

The onset of menopausal symptoms varies widely among individuals and depends on several factors, including genetics, lifestyle, reproductive history and certain medical treatments or surgeries.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

We commonly associate menopause with physical symptoms, or vasomotor symptoms, like hot flashes and night sweats. But menopause can cause other physical symptoms like sleep disturbances, memory problems and vaginal dryness. The hormonal changes can also lead to emotional symptoms like unexpected mood swings, depression and decreased sex drive, and can even impact bone and joint strength.

What treatment options are available?

Hormonal and non-hormonal treatment options can help manage menopausal symptoms. Hormone therapy uses estrogen, progesterone or a combination to alleviate vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Other treatment options that can help ease vasomotor symptoms include taking a low-dose birth control pill, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Meanwhile, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation and mindfulness practices can help support your body through physical changes and ease emotional symptoms. Certain antidepressants can also help you cope with symptoms of menopause-related depression or anxiety.

Talk to your healthcare provider

Your symptoms don’t need to be debilitating to receive treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms so they can tailor a personalized treatment plan to you.

At WMCHealth, we offer compassionate, comprehensive women's health care to women of all ages at locations around the Hudson Valley. To find a women’s health provider nearest you and to schedule a consultation, visit WMCHealth Physicians.