Do you struggle to fall or stay asleep? Do you feel tired even after you get a full night of sleep? Do you wake up every couple of hours to urinate every night? Do you feel lethargic or apathetic towards things that used to bring you joy? If so, you may need menopause relief at Aurora OB-GYN in San Antonio, TX. Today, our hormone experts answer the most frequently asked questions about menopause and symptom relief. Let’s get started.
Menopause Relief Frequently Asked Questions Answered
What Are the Signs That Menopause Has Started?
The first step in finding menopause relief is to be diagnosed with menopause. Technically, menopause is diagnosed 12 months after your last menstrual period. What most people think of as menopause is actually perimenopause, a condition that occurs in the months leading up to menopause. In some cases, it can even start years before your final period. You may be approaching menopause if you’ve missed your regular period and you are experiencing the following:
- Decreased breast volume
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain during sex
- Loss of interest in sex
- Frequent nighttime urination
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain
Keep in mind, the above list is not comprehensive. Furthermore, the signs that you may be within a year from menopause can also be explained by other medical conditions, like hypothyroidism or major depressive disorder. An accurate diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms is important because menopause relief will be ineffective if you’re not suffering from symptoms of perimenopause.
How Is Menopause Diagnosed?
If you’re at least 43 years of age and are suffering from several of the aforementioned signs of the transition to menopause, your symptoms alone may be enough to diagnose you with menopause. However, if your family medical history puts you in a high risk of developing a condition that could explain your symptoms, you may need blood tests to assess your serum levels of FSH or TSH.
When Are FSH Tests Administered?
FSH tests are designed to identify the levels of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and estradiol (estrogen) in your blood. FSH tests are necessary when your symptoms indicate that you are in the menopause transitional phase, but there’s a chance another medical condition is causing your symptoms. If you are approaching, or have reached, menopause, you will have high levels of FSH and low levels of estrogen.
When Are TSH Tests Administered?
TSH tests are administered when you are around the age that perimenopause usually starts, but there is a strong possibility that you are suffering from hypothyroidism. This test measures the amount of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) in your blood to rule out the possibility of hypothyroidism. Among the symptoms of hypothyroidism are insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, unexplained changes in appetite, weight gain and dry skin.
At What Age Does Menopause Start?
Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, and most women are diagnosed with menopause at the age of 51. In other words, the average woman will menstruate for the last time at the age of 50. Only 1% of women experience menopause before the age of 40.
What Causes Menopause?
The most common cause of menopause is a drastic decline in reproductive hormones. When you reach 35 years of age, your ovaries start producing estrogen and progesterone, the hormones responsible for menstrual regulation, at a reduced rate. Usually, by the time you’re 40, your sex hormones are so imbalanced that you become essentially infertile and the duration, frequency, and flow of your menstrual periods change.
The second most common cause of menopause is oophorectomy, a procedure to remove the ovaries. There are several reasons why a woman may opt for this procedure, such as eliminating the risk of unwanted pregnancy or treating ovarian cancer or ovarian cysts. The signs of menopause after oophorectomy are severe, because the loss of estrogen and progesterone are immediate.
Will a Hysterectomy Cause Menopause?
A hysterectomy that removes the uterus but does not remove the ovaries does not cause immediate menopause. While you will no longer menstruate, your ovaries will still produce sex hormones and release eggs. Since the transition into menopause is slower, the signs and symptoms experienced are less severe than the signs and symptoms of menopause after oophorectomy.
Will Radiation Therapy Cause Menopause?
Radiation therapy will only cause menopause if the radiation is directed at the ovaries. If you receive radiation therapy for breast or brain cancer, for example, you will still be fertile. Chemotherapy will halt fertility, but that side effect may not be permanent. If you don’t want to add another member to your family, ask us about pregnancy prevention measures.
Can You Get Pregnant During Perimenopause?
Yes. Although you become significantly less fertile as you age, and your period may stop for months at a time during perimenopause, your ovaries are still releasing eggs and producing sex hormones. If you don’t want to be a new mom in your 40s or 50s, you should continue the birth control regimen that you were on in your 20s and 30s when you weren’t trying to have a child.
Which Birth Control Method Is Right for Me?
The most effective contraceptive therapy for you depends on several factors, including your lifestyle and personal preferences. If you travel frequently for work and don’t feel confident that you can take a pill at the same time every day, you may benefit from a quarterly injection. You may also benefit from an implant, IUD or vaginal ring.
If you’re not a fan of needles, and you don’t want to insert anything into your vagina, you may benefit from an unobtrusive, but highly effective, patch. If you’ve tried implementing family planning measures in the past, but were recommended a method that didn’t work for you, don’t give up hope. We can help you find an effective therapy that will be easy for you to stick to.
What Causes Menopause Before the Age of 40?
Though the most common cause of premature menopause, or menopause before the age of 40, is oophorectomy, it can also be caused by primary ovarian insufficiency. This condition affects fewer than 1% of women and is characterized by the failure of your ovaries to produce adequate levels of progesterone and estrogen. While the condition is most commonly linked to genetic factors, it can also be caused by an autoimmune disease or have no identifiable cause.
How Is Menopause Treated?
The most effective menopause treatment for you depends on the symptoms you are experiencing. If you are suffering from a mood disorder and hot flashes, for example, low-dose antidepressants can treat both symptoms. Specifically, you may benefit from an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) if you’re not healthy enough to take estrogen or you need to treat both major depressive disorder and perimenopause.
Gabapentin was originally designed to treat seizures, but it is another safe alternative for women who have hot flashes, especially those that occur at night and can’t take estrogen. Originally used to treat high blood pressure, clonidine is yet another safe treatment for hot flashes in women who are not a good candidate for estrogen replacement therapy.
What Can Treat Vaginal Dryness?
The most common treatment for vaginal dryness, pain during sex and low libido is vaginal estrogen. This medication can be administered via a vaginal cream, ring or tablet that is inserted into the vagina. Research has also shown that vaginal estrogen is also effective at preventing excessive nighttime urination and other urinary symptoms, helping you sleep longer throughout the night.
What Other Urinary Symptoms Can Be Treated With Vaginal Estrogen?
When your ovaries no longer produce enough estrogen, you may also find that you experience urinary tract infections more frequently than you did when you were younger. Research has shown that vaginal estrogen is particularly effective for the treatment of recurring urinary tract infections. Furthermore, vaginal estrogen is effective for the treatment of urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is a condition characterized by the frequent, strong, sudden urge to urinate. These feelings may be followed by urge incontinence, or the unwanted loss of urine. Unwanted urine excretion may also occur when lifting things, laughing, coughing or jumping (stress incontinence). Keep in mind, even if you haven’t suffered from regular urinary tract infections yet, urinary incontinence puts you in a high risk category for recurring UTIs.
Could I Benefit From Hormone Therapy?
If you are healthy enough for estrogen therapy and suffer from the signs of the menopausal transition, you could absolutely benefit from hormone therapy. During your initial consultation, we will look at your personal and family medical history to ensure that estrogen replacement therapy is appropriate, and prescribe you the lowest effective dose. If you still have your uterus, you will also be prescribed progestin.
Hormone replacement therapy, particularly estrogen replacement therapy, is crucial for your health and safety once you reach your 40s. Among the many functions of estrogen is the maintenance of bone health. Since women are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis, particularly as they age, it is critical that you take every step you can to protect the health of your bones.
What Else Can I Do to Protect My Bones?
If members of your immediate family, like your parents or siblings, have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you may need to take extra precautions. For example, you may need to take vitamin D3 supplements to strengthen your bones if your bones are already brittle or have lost quite a bit of density. In addition to D3 supplements, you may also need to take an osteoporosis preventative or treat existing osteoporosis.
How Often Should I See a Doctor Once I’ve Reached Perimenopause?
Once you’ve reached perimenopause, you should come in annually to review your health and the efficacy of your treatment. Preventative health care steps you should stay on top of as you age include colonoscopies, triglyceride screenings, and mammographies. How often you need to take these tests depends on multiple factors, like your personal medical history, family medical history, and the results of previous tests.
Always schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you bleed from your vagina after menopause. This could indicate a serious medical condition, such as cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, endometrial cancer or hypothyroidism. If you’re not sure if something you’re experiencing is indicative of a serious health concern, feel free to call and ask us if you need to schedule an appointment.
Get Relief From Your Menopause Symptoms Today
If it’s been a while since you menstruated last and you are suffering from some of the signs of the transition to menopause, you may get menopause relief from hormone therapy, vaginal estrogen, or other medications. To be diagnosed with perimenopause or menopause, and discover the most effective treatments for you, contact our hormone experts at Aurora OB-GYN in San Antonio, TX today to schedule your initial consultation.