Women have options when it comes to menopause

(NC)-Virtually all women can expect to experience some change associated with menopause when they enter their mid-to-late 40s. Slowly our bodies start giving us signs that menopause is right around the corner.

We may not be able to stop it, but we can try to be prepared so that menopause will not have a negative impact on our lifestyle or health. Informing ourselves about the ways to control the physical and emotional changes is the first step to managing menopause and not letting it manage us.

“Women need to remember that their experience with menopause will be as unique as they are themselves, so what works for a friend or relative, will not work for everyone,” explained Dr. Shawna Johnston, obstetrician and gynecologist. “All women with questions or concerns about her individual management of menopause should talk to a doctor for advice and facts.”

Menopause does not start at the same time or affect every woman in the same way. Most women begin to experience menopause in their late 40s and finish around age 51, but others may still be in transition until age 55 or older. Since every woman is different, they will experience the various signs of menopause to dferent degrees. These signs include hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disturbance and vaginal dryness. Not all women experience the same changes, but depending on their severity and duration, they can have a significant effect on a woman’s quality of life.

Know what is right for you
There are several options women have when it comes to managing this hormonal change in their bodies. If you are approaching menopause or are currently experiencing menopause, it is important to speak to your doctor about various options available. Lifestyle changes may be enough to help some women manage the changes they are experiencing and adopting a healthy lifestyle – including a balanced diet and regular exercise – will help improve or maintain quality of life. Another option is hormone therapy (HT). HT is the treatment that replaces the hormones which ovaries stop making at menopause. Most women who take HT take a combination of two hormones, estrogen and progestin, as the progestin helps to protect the uterus from endometrial cancer. If a woman has had a hysterectomy, she will need only estrogen.

The most common HT used is Premarin, offered in both oral and topical cream form (which is used when vaginal dryness is the only symptom). Oral Premarin is an effective option for relief of distressing menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances and mood swings. It can also reduce the vaginal dryness, night sweats, fatigue and joint pain that many women experience.

Premarin has the secondary benefit of providing bone protection and, according to the most recent Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study, has been shown to slightly reduce the risk of colon cancer when used in combination with progestin. It is recommended that women who choose to take HT, take it at the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time to manage menopausal symptoms.

Some women may decide to manage symptoms without HT. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and their effect on a woman’s quality of life, she may also conclude that the benefits of HT use, such as Premarin, are right for her and her individual situation. It’s important for women to inform themselves about menopause by speaking with friends and family, and to consult a physician to determine the most appropriate way of managing their unique experience with menopause.

For more information about menopause and hormone therapy, visit www.sogc.org.