Women expect to have hot flashes and mood swings during menopause, but they're seldom prepared for all the possible changes they may face. Few expect menopause to lead to painful sex, for example, yet it's a real problem for 20-30% of women.
When menopause changes your life — whether you can't sleep due to night sweats, you lose interest in sex, or develop recurrent urinary tract infections — you can overcome your symptoms and regain a healthy, thriving life with compassionate care from Karen F. Brodman, MD, PLLC.
Here, we share more about the changes to expect during menopause and offer some tips to help you manage your symptoms.
Menopause arrives when your ovaries stop producing estrogen. Though estrogen is well-known for its role in reproductive health, you may be surprised to learn that estrogen regulates many essential functions throughout your body.
Without estrogen, you can develop many possible symptoms, as well as chronic health conditions. However, the menopause experience differs for each woman. You may or may not have symptoms and, when symptoms do arise, they could range from mild to severe.
Here's a rundown of the possible changes you may experience after menopause:
Hot flashes, night sweats, and excessive sweating, which are all vasomotor symptoms, affect up to 80% of all women. These symptoms appear when your internal body temperature suddenly rises.
Even when they’re mild, vasomotor symptoms disrupt your life, and most women have moderate or severe symptoms. In addition to losing sleep when you wake up soaking wet and roasting, hot flashes can interrupt your daily routine and interrupt your performance at work.
Your brain needs estrogen to regulate your emotions and thinking processes. When estrogen levels decline, you have a higher risk of developing depression and mood swings.
Half of all women develop symptoms affecting their urinary tract and vagina (urogenital symptoms). You need estrogen to maintain healthy, resilient tissues in both systems. Estrogen also supports blood flow and lubrication in your vagina.
After menopause, the tissues lining your vagina become thin and fragile. These changes cause vaginal dryness and soreness, pain during sex, and sometimes bleeding after sex.
Similar changes in your urinary tract lead to problems like frequent urination, urinary incontinence, and urinary tract infections.
Many women aren’t aware of urogenital symptoms before they happen. Expected or not, these problems significantly impact your quality of life.
All of the symptoms caused by menopause can affect your sex drive. However, the loss of estrogen directly diminishes your sexual desire.
After menopause, your risk for osteoporosis skyrockets. You also have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
Vasomotor symptoms will eventually disappear without treatment. However, they last seven years for half of all women, and some struggle with vasomotor symptoms for a decade. By comparison, urogenital symptoms don't improve without treatment.
For these reasons, you can’t wait and hope for your life to improve. We often help women learn to manage their life and reduce the effect of hot flashes and night sweats with tips such as:
Many women find that certain foods and drinks trigger their hot flashes. Whether your hot flashes flare from consuming spicy foods, caffeine, hot beverages, or alcohol, you can make life easier by identifying and avoiding your triggers.
If vaginal dryness is your primary challenge, you may get the relief you need from estrogen in the form of creams or tablets. Placing the medication in your vagina quickly but temporarily improves your symptoms.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) uses forms such as pills, gels, or transdermal patches to get estrogen into your bloodstream. This treatment restores normal levels of estrogen, which eliminates menopause symptoms and prevents some chronic health conditions.
HRT is safe for most women. We carefully review your medical history, talk about your menopause symptoms, and run blood tests to determine if you're a good candidate for HRT.
When you need relief from menopause symptoms or have questions about your health, call our office on the Upper West Side of New York City, or connect online to request an appointment.