VPFW’s Dr. Ingrid Prosser discusses the transition to menopause and what you can do about it (besides fan yourself!)
Our mothers and grandmothers called it “The Change”—the mysterious process during which females become unpredictably moody, irritable, short-tempered, and most of all—HOT. We now refer to this time period as “perimenopause,” and it can last from 2-5 years. These years can feel like decades to some, as the symptoms of menopause can be very uncomfortable as you transition from the childbearing years to menopause. Women find themselves standing in front of the open freezer door longer than necessary, and they begin dressing in layers. Turtlenecks are tucked away in the back of the closet, and many women cool their homes to frigid temperatures in an effort to combat the sudden flashes of heat that engulf them.
The GREAT news is that our periods STOP, and there is no more need for birth control!
The BAD news is that most of us will have hot flashes and night sweats, and many females will have other unpleasant symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, cognitive issues, and vaginal dryness.
EVERY female will experience menstrual irregularity as their ovaries gradually wind down and their periods stop. When periods are absent for a full year, the transition into menopause is complete.
For most females, hot flashes will subside within 5-10 years after they have their last period. Other menopause-related issues, such as vaginal dryness, are likely to continue, which can lead to painful intercourse and vulvar/vaginal discomfort and urinary symptoms such as urinary frequency and urgency, and a greater likelihood of developing urinary tract infections.
Is there anything I can do about menopause?
Menopause is a natural process that occurs because of the decline in ovarian production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. The symptoms experienced by a majority of women are primarily due to the effects of low estrogen levels. These symptoms generally don’t adversely affect health, but significant quality of life issues can occur due to sleep disruption, difficulty concentrating, urinary symptoms, and painful intercourse. Women should be aware that a variety of options are available to help them navigate through the menopausal process more comfortably. These include over-the-counter herbal and other natural supplements, hormone replacement therapy, and other medications that help to treat vasomotor symptoms.
Vaginal dryness can be treated with topical vaginal treatments such as vaginal creams, tablets, rings, and suppositories. At VPFW, we also offer a radiofrequency-based procedure called ThermiVa that improves vaginal blood flow and elasticity, leading to improvement in vaginal dryness and sexual function.
We encourage our patients NOT to suffer through menopause. All of our physicians are well-versed in menopausal medicine and can offer solutions and approaches that are appropriate for you based on your medical history, lifestyle, and the severity of your symptoms. It may feel difficult to begin a dialogue with your physician about your concerns (especially concerning sexual function), but we hope that you will make us aware of any problems you are experiencing so that we can help. As you enter menopause it is important to continue with regular exams so that we can have these conversations with you, in addition to performing cancer screening tests and assessing your bone health through bone densitometry.
As gynecologists, we are your advocates for good health and optimal functioning during all stages of your life. Happily, as life expectancy increases, you can anticipate living many years past menopause. It’s our hope that these years will be an active, healthy, and fulfilling phase of your life.