Busting the Myths of Menopause

Where to TurnThere are many questions for women surrounding Menopause, especially for those who are approaching the time in life that this change is to be expected.  Today our expert contributor and OB, Dr. Mark deFazio, shares with us the many myths and truths regarding menopause and perimenopause.

Learn some helpful information about what to expect and what can help with the dreaded symptoms that accompany this time in women’s lives.

Menopause Myth Buster

Menopause is defined as the permanent end of menstruation and fertility which occurs one year after a woman’s last menstrual period. The average age of menopause in the United Stats is 51. Though some women may abruptly stop menstruating and asymptomatically become menopausal after one year, the majority of women will experience changes in their cycle and go through a variety of symptoms that are characteristic of the “perimenopause.” The average length of the perimenopause is 4 years, and it is not uncommon for women to endure any or all of these symptoms:

irregular periods
decreased fertility
vaginal dryness
mood swings
weight gain
insomnia
thinning hair
loss of breast fullness
incontinence
and the worst of all, hot flashes

A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever ovulate during her lifetime. Basically, as a woman reaches her 40’s, the eggs that remain in her ovaries are the ones that have been around the longest, and consequently will be less efficient at producing estrogen. Ovulation becomes more difficult to achieve, affecting progesterone production and menstrual irregularities may follow.

Tissues that are estrogen dependent like the breasts, vagina, vulva and bladder are affected by this relative decrease in estrogen resulting in some of the symptoms mentioned. The lack of estrogen also affects the hypothalamic temperature “set-point” in the brain which results in vasomotor symptoms. Menopause also increases a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Though menopause itself requires no medical treatment, the signs and symptoms associated with it can be addressed. Hormone replacement therapy, which is the best treatment for hot flashes, is an option for some patients. Estrogen creams can relieve vaginal dryness. Bisphosponates and selective estrogen reuptake modulators (SERMs) are treatments for osteoporosis, along with calcium supplementation, vitamin D and excercise. Phytoestrogens, which are naturally occurring estrogens found in certain foods (soybeans, chick peas, flax seeds), have also been found to be helpful.

Smoking has been found to potentiate all the symptoms of menopause, and may also cause it to occur earlier.

Dr. Mark deFazio, Aesthetic and Minimally Invasive Gynecology, skinMDny

Prepare yourself with knowledge to take the guess-work out of navigating through Menopause with Ann Sandretto’s book, Dear Menopause, Bring it On!, available through Amazon.

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