Hormonal Havoc…Menopause, the Next Chapter

blog_banner9 By Dr. Sherry Ross Once we hit 45 year the thought goes through all our minds at least once…How will “the change” affect me?  Will I have crazy uncontrollable bleeding for weeks on end, drenching sweats that happen all day and night or painful sex that make intimacy with my husband a thing of the past? The path to the change of life, medical known as menopause, affects every one of us differently. There was a time when we got together with our girlfriends to have a glass (or two) of wine and the conversations typically revolved around topics related to our out of control teenage children, financial issues and complaining about our husband’s/partner’s obsession with football. The conversation takes a dramatic shift when you are the first one in the group to bravely admit that you had a sudden burst of fire in your body that caused you to sweat so badly it looked like you just stepped out of the shower.  The terrifying look on your best friend’s face of 30 years only highlights the fact that you are entering that next phase of life and moving forward through the aging process.  You then call your mom and ask her what her experience was like when she entered this rite of passage and she brushes off the question saying she didn’t even notice anything different. What is the medical explanation of menopause?  Menopause is the natural hormonal change in a woman’s life when you no longer have menstrual periods.   The slow transition into menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing estrogen.  The average age of menopause is 51 years. Pre-menopause or peri-menopause can start as early as 40 and continue through 55year.  Both of these medical terms describe the same condition and refer to years leading up to menopause.  For the average woman, this is a time when your hormones go wild and erratic.  I like to refer to this time as “hormonal havoc”. Typical signs that hormonal havoc is underway and something is just not right when you experience these top 7 symptoms: Irregular bleeding-There may be no rhyme or reason when your period comes, how many days it will last or how long it will go on. It could start months or even years before you actually cross over into menopause.  For 75 % of women irregular periods drive many of us to the brink.  Most of us want to know how long it will last or how we can make it stop.  The fact is no one really knows the answer.  The most important thing is to talk to your doctor to make sure you don’t have a polyp or fibroids in your uterus, your ovaries don’t have any cysts on them and your thyroid is acting normally.  Once these “organic” causes can be ruled out you can assume that the irregular periods are caused by hormonal havoc that is also known as a pre-menopause symptom. Hot Flashes-It feels like you have a coil in inside your body and it slowly starts to heat up from the middle and goes in every direction. The heat that you feel inside your body is second to the beads of sweat that drip from forehead and chest and onto your silk shirt.  You can get them when you least expect it, all day or all night.   Most women experience a hot flash or two when their ovaries stop producing estrogen. Anxiety/Mood Swings/Irritable/Depression-Less patient with your children for not getting ready to bed on time, screaming at your husband for leaving his clothes on the bathroom floor, pushing your pet dog, Scooter, away when it wants to snuggle in your lap? These are new and normal emotional lows caused by this sensitive time.  Mood swings, depression, anxiety, anger, rage and crying fits are normal and very common.  Some even have panic attacks. Insomnia-Can’t sleep at night, tossing and turning in bed, counting sheep not working…Not having a good night sleep is common for months and years as you enter into this next stage of life. Many cannot sleep as a result of being woken up with night sweats.  Some have to change their pajamas once or twice from midnight to 6am.  Insomnia tends to be worse during the first 1-2 years when your hormones are fluctuating daily. Palpitations-Find your heart racing throughout the day as though it is going to pop out of your chest? This can be a scarier symptom of menopause since it involves your heart, not your ovaries.  Low and fluctuating estrogen levels make your heart beat change its rhyme and as a result, bouts of rapid heartbeats happen without warning and regardless of what you are doing at the time. Vaginal dryness-Once your estrogen levels drops over time your vagina loses all its hydration and nourishment, becomes dry, starts to burn and all this make sex painful and sometimes impossible. A dry, thinning or “atrophic” vagina may take a few years to develop after entering menopause.  You have suffered through the hot flashes and sleepless nights all by yourself but dealing with a dry vagina now involves your partner and intimacy.   Finding remedies to treat vaginal dryness often brings you back to your health care provider to learn about treatment options. No sex drive- Sweating profusely all the time, feeling irritable and depressed from not sleeping well and having a dry vagina are all reasons you are not feeling sexy or interested in getting naked with your partner or having sex. You are not alone.  If you are willing to talk about it with your girlfriends of the same age, I suspect you will find that most women are suffering from the same problem in the bedroom.  This is hormonally driven and can be fixed when you are open to treatment options. Making the Diagnosis-Coming into see your health care provider to discuss your symptoms, getting blood work that includes a FSH, an estradiol and thyroid is the first step in making the diagnosis of menopause. Treatment -what are your options?  What is best for you?  Everyone has a different set of symptoms when their ovaries stop producing estrogen. Depending on how disruptive the 7 symptoms of menopause affect you and your life will determine what treatment options to choose.  Treatment for menopause is individualized and greatly depends on your own personal philosophies and beliefs in western and eastern medicine. The good news is that the symptoms related to hormonal havoc are temporary…for the most part.  Temporary can mean 1 to 5 years depending on your body’s reaction to your ovaries shutting down the production of estrogen.  But during that time period life start to move in slow motion and it seems like the perfect storm of hormonal upheaval will never stop.  During this time know that there are treatment options available for all your symptoms. Originally posted on HelloFlo

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