Menopause is a natural part of a women’s life.  It is a milestone in development like many others.  Many women have questions about what to expect and what treatments are available for symptoms associated with menopause.  As the best OBGYN clinic in Long Beach, CA, we would like to share the following information:

The definition of Menopause is absence of menses (periods) for 12 consecutive months.  There are some classic symptoms women may experience, such as hot flashes, sleep disruption, mood swings, and vaginal dryness.  Menopause is a result of decreased ovarian function, which means that the ovaries decrease production of estrogen.  This is a natural occurrence as women age with an average age of onset of 51.  This means that some will begin menopause prior to age 51 and some will begin after age 51.  Iatrogenic causes of menopause include any type of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that either removes or decreases ovarian function.  It is possible to preserve ovarian function and spare the ovaries in some types of surgeries or to move the ovaries to protect them from radiation therapy.

Hot Flashes

A hot flash is a brief yet intense sensation of feeling hot.  Flushing of the head and neck are common and red spots or blotches may also appear on the chest, back, and arms.  Often, sweating followed by chills occurs.  This phenomenon is transient and medical therapy is available to help manage these symptoms.  We also recommend dressing in layers, carrying a fan, and avoiding activities that seem to exacerbate the number of hot flashes.  These activities can be different for each person.

Sleep

Sleep is the time when our body regenerates and heals.  Commonly, women complain of hot flashes that occur at night and disrupt their sleep.  We encourage layering light blankets and lightweight sleepwear, sleeping with a fan in the room, and keeping a damp cloth at the bedside. If disruption of sleep becomes persistent, this can severely affect a woman’s quality of life, exacerbate mood swings and complicate any underlying health issues.  Sleep is very important.  Please seek medical attention if you are having difficulty sleeping.

Vaginal Dryness

Diminished estrogen levels during menopause lead to vaginal dryness and thinning of skin in the genital area.  This can make intercourse uncomfortable.  We do not recommend lotions, oils, or ointments that were not specifically created for the vagina.  Increased foreplay and vaginal lubricants that do not contain glycerin or paraben can be very helpful.

Perimenopause

The period of transition when the ovaries start to decrease estrogen production is commonly referred to as Perimenopause. During this time, women commonly experience menstrual irregularity usually consisting of periods closer together, then farther apart, and finally absence of periods when they become menopausal.  It is important to keep a calendar of the menstrual cycle, as irregular bleeding can be attributed to diseases such as endometrial cancer or endometrial polyps.  The National Institute on Aging cautions women to consult their health care provider if the periods are very close together, if there is heavy bleeding or spotting, or if a period lasts for more than a week.

Other symptoms of perimenopause can mimic those of menopause; however, the difference is that women who are not menopausal will continue to have menses.

Treatment

It is important to remember that menopause is not a disease, but a natural progression through life.  That being said, our staff at the best OBGYN clinic in Long Beach, CA advises that if symptoms are disruptive to your daily life, it is important to communicate that to your OBGYN so that we can help you through this time with the least disruption.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

HRT is used to replenish the estrogen that is decreased or no longer produced by the ovaries.  There has been much controversy over the use of HRT; however, it is very successful in the treatment of many symptoms of menopause for appropriate patients.  Your physician will create a personal risk assessment for you and together you will find the safest and best solution for your symptom relief.

Bioidentical Hormone Therapy

Bioidentical Hormone Therapy refers to compounded medications prepared by pharmacists that are usually plant based.

Alternative Medications and Herbal Supplements

Herbal and plant supplements have become very popular as women are becoming more and more educated regarding menopause, HRT, and potential risks and side effects.  Some examples of these preparations are Black Cohosh, Dong Quai, Red Clover, and Soy.  As of yet, we do not have adequate studies to promote or discourage the use of these alternative preparations

Health Maintenance

Annual Well Woman exams are vital to your health and safety, especially during the perimenopausal and menopausal stages in your life.  We encourage annual mammograms after the age of 40, colonoscopy after the age of 50, and a DEXA scan for bone density after the age of 65.

Women of all ages are encouraged to participate in regular physical exercise and to make healthy eating choices.  This helps to increase energy levels, maintain a healthy weight, and breed’s self-confidence.

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