What Types of Menopause Treatments Can Help My Symptoms
3 minute read
If you’re going through menopause, there’s a very strong chance you’ve already experienced at least some menopause symptomsthanks to the wildly erratic estrogen levels that accompany perimenopause, otherwise known as the decline of estrogen in your body. This menopausal transition usually means changes in estrogen levels, which cause symptoms like changes in your menstrual cycle, hot flashes, bone loss, vaginal dryness, and much more.
But did you know that perimenopause can last for years? There’s no reason to suffer in silence during this menopausal transition. Rather, now is the time to learn about your best options for menopause treatment.
What do I need to know about menopause?
So what is menopause exactly and how does it affect your body? Because the age a woman enters perimenopause also varies so greatly, the onset of perimenopausal symptoms (like hot flashes) can be surprising. For the average woman perimenopause begins between the ages of 45 and 55, but some begin in their mid-late 30s, while others might start after 55.
That age swing along can make perimenopause and menopause tricky, if not impossible, to diagnose, says Menopause.org. If you go to the doctor to get your hormone levels checked, test results can be misleading, because hormone levels vary from day to day.
That’s because during perimenopause, your body is stuck in a hormonal push-pull of trying to convince itself to produce more estrogen. As your ovaries produce less estrogen (or estradiol), the pituitary gland can crank out more FSH (or follicle stimulating hormone), to no avail.
There are a couple of “tells” that you’ve transitioned from perimenopause to menopause — not having a period for a full year, according to the Mayo Clinic, and having an FSH blood level is consistently elevated to 30 mIU/mL or higher for a year.
Then there are the 34 potential menopausal symptoms— each that can call for its own form of menopause treatment. Here are a few of the most common:
Irregular menstrual cycles
Irregular periods, or shifts in your menstrual cycle, are one of the first clues you’re in some stage of menopause. Irregular periods can either come close together or further apart than usual, then progress to less frequent irregular periods in varying degrees of heaviness.
Hot flashes/night sweats
Hot flashes — the sudden onset of intense, feverish sweating — can happen to 75% of menopausal women, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. As you can see, hot flashes and menopausereally go hand-in-hand for most women. They feel like a sudden internal heat that emanates outward toward your skin, and are often accompanied by a raised heart rate.
During perimenopause your metabolism slows, triggering weight gain concentrated in the midsection when you head into menopause. The average woman gains 5 pounds but can gain 10 or more during this time.
Plunging estrogen levels and menopausal night sweats can mess with our ability to get enough deep REM sleep, which can make us prone to weight gain, studies show. Plus, sleep deprivation has been shown to raise cortisol levels — a stress hormone — which can also contribute to weight gain.
Vaginal dryness/painful intercourse
Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse can occur during perimenopause and menopause when estrogen levels decline and vaginal tissue becomes thinner, making you more prone to bladder and urinary tract infections, as well.
Mood changes in perimenopause and menopause can be the result of the sleep deprivation and hormonal fluctuations.
Menopause symptoms can make some women miserable, while others sail through unscathed. Approximately 85% of women have experienced a menopause symptom (or many), according to a 2015 BMC Women’s Health study.
What types of menopause treatments work best?
Although most of us will experience at least one menopause symptom — and likely a range — every woman’s experience with menopause overall is different. Hence, potential remedies that work for one woman, even a sister or your mother, may not be right for you.
That’s why it’s good to acquaint yourself with potential options — and to talk with your healthcare provider. Here are a few of the best-known remedies for menopause to learn and ask about.
Menopause Hormone Treatment
Whether or not you can take it depends on your personal and family medical history, but if you’re healthy, within 10 years of menopause and don’t have any contraindications, low-dose hormone therapy is the go-to for perimenopause and menopause symptom relief. It comes in pill, skin patch, gel or cream form. If you still have your uterus, you’ll need to add a progestin to your estrogen dose.
Vaginal estrogen or moisturizers
Vaginal estrogen releases just a small amount of estrogen, which is absorbed directly into the vaginal tissue to relieve dryness, discomfort with intercourse and some urinary irritation and symptoms. Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants can relieve the symptoms, but they do not address the underlying problem which is due to the thinning of the vaginal and vulvar tissues.
Used to treat nerve pain and seizures, Gabapentin has also been shown to help reduce hot flashes. A study of women with breast cancer showed gabapentin reduced their hot flashes by around 50 percent.
Eat well and exercise regularly
Regular exercise increases blood flow and helps to regulate your insulin levels and blood sugar to mitigate menopausal weight gain. Weight bearing exercise has been scientifically proven to help prevent bone loss, which really starts to happen in menopause. Eating smaller portions and cutting back on carbs can help too, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
What Types of Menopause Treatments Can Help My Symptoms
Get more sleep
Poor sleep quality is a lesser-known common symptom of menopause, says Johns Hopkins Medicine. With hot flashes, an increased risk of sleep apnea, and anxiety as part and parcel of our menopausal makeup, it’s no wonder. To improve sleep, try and keep blue light (which messes with your circadian rhythms) distractions out of your bedroom, and dial back your bedtime.
Black cohosh, St. John’s Wort, and Red Clover are all said to alleviate menopause symptoms, but they aren’t approved by the FDA and can also mess with your hormone levels, so you might want to discuss this form of treatment with your doctor before moving forward.
Phytoestrogens or plant estrogens
Some studies of the efficacy of plant or phytoestrogens are promising: One meta-analysis of 10 studies found them to cause “a significant reduction” of hot flashes. But again, these formulas aren’t regulated, so tread lightly to start.
Menopause symptoms can be disruptive, so it’s good to know that relief is available.
Experts agree that for the vast majority of healthy women, supplementing your body's natural hormones is the safest and most effective treatment to ease the vasomotor symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats. Head to our product page to check out your options. A menopause-trained doctor will review your choices to make sure you get the right treatment.