Menopause is the time in a woman’s life that marks the end of her menstrual cycles. It’s officially diagnosed after a woman has gone twelve full months without her menstrual period. Menopause can happen when a woman is between 40-50, however the average age of onset is 51 in the United States. Menopause is a natural biological process, but the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or affect your emotional health. There are many effective treatments available for Menopause, from hormone therapy to simple lifestyle adjustments. Below are the most common signs and symptoms of menopause:
Some women experience hormone fluctuations in the lead up to perimenopause that create a sense of being out of control. Increased irritability, anxiety, fatigue, and depression are not uncommon in women as their menopausal process begins. Relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, deep-breathing exercises, massage, and various self-nurturing activities may help mitigate the symptoms of menopause. Additionally, living a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition and daily exercise can be immensely helpful. Some women cope with their menopause symptoms by using over-the-counter supplements such as St. John’s Wort and Vitamin B6.
Discussing mood-related issues with your doctor can help you identify the cause and determine the most appropriate course of action. For depression, prescription antidepressant medications may be prescribed to assist in the correction of a chemical imbalance. While it make take several weeks to determine the full effect of any prescribed medication, many women show considerable improvement using these medications with few (if any) side effects. Antidepressant therapy is most effective when combined with other forms of therapy such as counseling or psychotherapy.
Traditionally defined as the persistent, involuntary loss of urine, most women who experience urinary incontinence see it as an unfortunate and unwelcome annoyance. Fortunately, there are effective strategies that can help mitigate the effects of incontinence without medication or surgery. Drinking an adequate amount of water will help keep your urine diluted, and avoiding foods and drink with a high acid or caffeine content, may help prevent the irritation of the bladder lining. Foods and drinks to avoid when experiencing urinary incontinence include grapefruit, oranges, tomatoes, coffee, and soft drinks. Additionally, studies have shown that Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and reduce episodes of incontinence.
Night sweats, or hot flashes that occur when you are asleep, are a frequent and common characteristic of menopause. The following methods may help you cope with the night sweats and stay cool while you sleep:
- Wear light, loose fitting pyjamas.
- Use layered bedding that can be removed with ease during the night.
- Use an electric fan to create a gentle breeze and help improve air flow.
- Keep a glass of cold water on your nightstand and take sips as needed throughout the night.
- Place a frozen cold pack under your pillow, and turn over the pillow often so you’re resting on a cool surface while you sleep.
Difficulty Falling Asleep
Establishing a regular sleep schedule and sleep routine can play an important role in your quality of life during waking hours. Here’s few tips to consider:
- Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, including weekends.
- Relax before bed by reading a book, listening to music, or taking a warm bath.
- Foods such as milk and peanuts contain a chemical called Tryptophan, which can help the body relax. Chamomile tea may be helpful, too.
- Try to keep bedroom light, noise and temperature at a comfortable level. Rooms that are dark, quiet, and cool can help you get a better nights sleep.
- Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol, particularly late in the day.
Menopause contributes to changes in sexual function as a result of decreased ovarian hormone production. These hormonal changes may lead to unpleasant side effects such as vaginal dryness and a general decline in sexual function. To counteract these unfortunate hormonal changes, you might consider the following:
Vaginal lubricants are available without a prescription, and they can help decrease friction and ease intercourse when experiencing vaginal dryness. Be sure to use only water-soluble products, as oil-based products such as Vaseline may have the opposite effect resulting in increased vaginal irritation. This may sound obvious, but only products designed for vaginal dryness should be used. Avoid moisturizing creams and lotions containing alcohol and perfumes, and any warming/tingling or flavored lubricants, as they may irritate tender vaginal tissue. Vaginal lubricants such as Astroglide, Moist Again, and Silk-E are some of the more popular products available at your local pharmacy.
Vaginal moisturizers are also available without a prescription. These products can help improve or maintain vaginal moisture in women experiencing vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy occurs when the tissues of the vulva and the lining of the vagina become thin and dry as a result of estrogen loss. Vaginal moisturizers can also help you maintain a low vaginal pH level, which ensures a healthy vaginal environment. Popular vaginal moisturizers include K-Y Long-lasting Vaginal Moisturizer and Replens. Both of these products can be used safely on a regular basis, and they offer a longer lasting effect than standard vaginal lubricants.
As always, please consult with your physician if you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of Menopause as detailed above. While menopause is a natural process that occurs in all women at some point in their lives, there are a number of options available to help reduce the unpleasant, unwanted side effects of hormonal changes related to aging.