Menopause occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs and her period stops permanently. It is a natural biological process—but one that often causes physical and psychological symptoms that severely impact the daily wellbeing of menopausal women.
Menopause is clinically diagnosed when a woman goes 12 straight months without a menstrual period. This means an entire year without any bleeding, including spotting.
❯At what age does menopause occur?
The average age of menopause in the United States is 52 years old. However, each woman is different; research indicates that menopause can occur as early as age 45 or as late as 58. (And in rare cases even beyond this age range.)
❯Is there any way to estimate when it will happen to me?
The age your mother went through menopause provides the best guidance when it might occur to you. But keep in mind this is only an estimate.
❯What factors other then genetics influence when I might go through menopause?
One factor is whether you ever had children. Pregnancy, especially multiple pregnancies, tends to delay menopause. A history of smoking, on the other hand, is associated with an earlier onset of menopause. Various health conditions or treatments can also cause an unusually early menopause.
Perimenopause is the gradual biological transition period leading to menopause. During this time the ovaries produce less and less estrogen and progesterone. As a result of these hormonal changes, many women start experiencing significant physical and emotional symptoms.
❯When does perimenopause begin?
For most women this transition period begins in their mid- to late-40s. However, it can start when a woman in her 30s or, in rare cases, even earlier.
❯How long does perimenopause last?
Although there is considerable individual variation, on average the transition period lasts about four years until a woman reaches menopause.
❯What happens to hormone production after menopause?
During the period known as postmenopause, the ovaries produce much less estrogen and progesterone than they did before menopause. As a result, many postmenopausal women continue to experience symptoms that significantly reduce their daily quality of life.
❯What hormone-related problems do women experience before, during or after menopause?
A wide range of distressing symptoms are commonly experienced as estrogen and progesterone levels decline over time. These symptoms include:
- Daytime hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of sexual drive
- Painful intercourse
- Loss of muscle mass
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Foggy thinking
- Water retention/bloating
- Weight gain
- Increased body fat
- Thinning hair
❯Do all women have basically the same symptoms when they go through menopause?
No. Every case is different. Which is why Dr. Patel and the staff at Natural Clinic MD place such importance on providing highly individualized care for every patient who walks in the door.
❯Is hormone replacement therapy (HRT) effective at reducing or eliminating these symptoms?
Yes. Research clearly demonstrates that HRT is the most effective means of treating menopausal symptoms. When individually tailored to a woman’s unique biological, emotional, and lifestyle needs, HRT can significantly increase energy, sex drive (libido), weight loss, brain function, muscle strength, bone density, and psychological wellbeing.
❯What specific hormones are taken to treat the symptoms of menopause?
Women with a uterus usually take both estrogen and progesterone, while women without a uterus usually take only estrogen. But depending on your particular medical circumstances, Dr. Patel may make other treatment recommendations. (For example, he might recommend to a woman wanting to increase her sex drive that she also take testosterone.)
❯Are there over-the-counter dietary supplements that claim they treat the symptoms of menopause?
Yes. These supplements include black clohosh, red clover, and soy products, among others.
❯Do these supplements provide real symptom relief?
Usually not. Research and patient experiences suggest that taking these supplements rarely results in significant, long-term relief from menopausal symptoms.
❯What are vasomotor symptoms of menopause?
The most common vasomotor symptom is hot flashes or flushes. These daytime episodes are characterized by a sudden increase of blood flow—usually to the chest, neck, and face—that causes profuse sweating and a feeling of extreme heat. Vasomotor symptoms also include the night sweats experienced by many women.
❯How common are these symptoms among menopausal women?
Research indicates that almost 90% of menopausal women experience at least one hot flash per day, with more than 30% of women experiencing 10 or more per day.
❯How long does each hot flash typically last?
Usually between one and five minutes. In addition to flushing, sweating and heat sensations, some women also experience clamminess, anxiety and heart palpitations. Some also get chills once the hot flash passes.
❯Can these vasomotor symptoms significantly impact a woman’s quality of life?
Yes. Although symptom severity varies between women, hot flashes and night sweats can take a major toll on physical and psychological wellbeing. One example is the insomnia and disrupted sleep that often results from night sweats. This lack of proper sleep can then lead to irritability and difficulty concentrating during the day.
❯How how many years do these symptoms last?
While every woman is unique, vasomotor symptoms typically last between five and seven years.
❯Can the symptoms last significantly longer than that for some women?
Yes. For some women the hot flashes and night sweats can continue for decades—or even for the rest of their life.
❯What is the most effective treatment for relieving vasomotor symptoms?
Research clearly indicates that hormone replacement therapy—consisting of estrogen, progesterone or a combination of the two—is the best treatment for reducing hot flashes and night sweats on an ongoing basis.
❯What happens to a woman’s vagina as she ages?
Over time the walls of the vagina may become thinner, drier and inflamed. This atrophy occurs because the body produces less estrogen than it used to. Estrogen is vital for optimal functioning of the vagina, including during sexual activity.
❯What is the name of this condition?
The condition is known as vaginal atrophy—or more commonly as GSM, which stands for “genitourinary syndrome of menopause.” This name takes into account changes to both vaginal and urinary functioning experienced by many menopausal women. (Particularity postmenopausal women.)
❯What body parts other than the vagina are impacted by GSM?
Other affected body parts include the labia, urethra, and bladder.
- What are the symptoms of GSM?
- The most common symptoms include:
- Vaginal burning
- Vaginal itching
- Decreased vaginal strength and elascity
- Increased vaginal infections
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal soreness
- Unexplained bleeding or spotting
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Reoccurring urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Urinary incontinence
- More frequent and/or urgent urination
- Burning with urination
- Less vaginal lubrication during sexual intercourse
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
❯When do these GSM symptoms most commonly occur?
Most women first experience these changes in the vagina and urinary system after menopause when estrogen production significantly decreases.
❯Can hormone replacement therapy help relieve or eliminate these symptoms?
Yes. But it is important to remember there is no one-size-fits-all approach to menopause relief. Every woman is unique and requires individualized care like that provided at Natural Clinic MD. Otherwise, HRT is likely to be both less effective and riskier to a woman’s long-term health.
❯So individualized care is important for menopausal women?
Absolutely. Each woman’s symptoms and needs are different. Dr. Patel carefully listens to every patient and considers their unique medical history, life circumstances, and treatment preferences before recommending a course of hormone therapy.