From an Interview with
Dr. Chelsea Hughes
McLeod OB/GYN Dillon
Menopause is part of the process of aging for most women. McLeod OB/GYN Dr. Chelsea Hughes offers this information to help you better understand this phase of a woman’s life.
Here’s a summary of Dr. Hughes’ comments:
Menopause is the end of periods and the end of reproduction. It is the part of a person’s life when they stop having periods. So, officially it’s after 12 months of having no periods.
Women are born with all the eggs they’re ever going to have. And so, menopause is when you reach the point where you don’t have any more eggs, because every month an egg comes out of the ovary for most people, normally, and the ovaries also produce estrogen and progesterone. So, when you don’t have any eggs left, because they’ve all been released, then your estrogen levels are low.
So, any time after age 40 it’s normal for menopause, but age 51.4 is the average.
The most common symptoms of menopause are hot flashes. Almost 80% of women experience them. Hot flashes are when you all of a sudden get really hot, usually starts in the chest, goes to the face and usually lasts a few minutes. Some people have really severe hot flashes. Some people have really mild hot flashes. The other symptoms are vaginal dryness, joint pain, breast tenderness, problems sleeping, mood changes like depression and anxiety and mood swings.
One method of treatment is Hormone replacement therapy, medication to replace the body’s hormones that you aren’t producing anymore. It can really be helpful for some people to decrease the symptoms. There are risks associated with hormone replacement therapy, including increased risk of breast cancer, blood clots, stroke and heart disease. For some women, the benefits really outweigh the risks. So, we just recommend that people use the lowest dose necessary for the shortest amount of time possible.
Other treatments that may be used during menopause include topical medications, such as vaginal estrogen. It comes in creams, pills and a ring. It treats vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse and, occasionally urinary issues. Some non-hormonal treatments include a depression medication. The most common one is called paroxetine. That’s the only FDA-approved depression medication for menopausal symptoms. There are other depression medications that have been shown to be about as effective, but aren’t FDA approved at this point. The nerve drug Gabapentin can help with hot flashes, especially for people who can’t take medications with hormones in it.
Every woman experiences menopause in a different way. And if you’re struggling with symptoms of menopause, there are things we can do about it to help you. You shouldn’t suffer in silence. So, if you’re having issues with that, then you should make an appointment with your OB GYN.
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