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October 6, 2022

Q&A with Dr. Adeyina: What is Menopause and How to Manage It

by Feyisayo Adeyina, MD

As women age, they experience a variety of changes in their body and health, including menopause. While menopause is often cast in a negative light and dreaded among women, there are ways to manage and celebrate the lives of women as they age. To help simplify what menopause is and how to manage it, Dr. Adeyina with Avance Care Holly Springs answered your top questions about menopause.

Dr. Feyisayo Adeyina Answers Your Questions About Menopause

What is menopause?

Menopause is a natural decline in reproductive hormones when a woman reaches her 40s or 50s. It is signaled by 12 months since last menstruation.

How do you know you are going through menopause?

Let us look at the stages a woman goes through when approaching menopause:

In our late reproductive years, our ability to have children declines. Menstrual cycle becomes shorter, periods may be lighter or heavier. This could last up to 9 years. Next, we enter in the early menopause transition (perimenopause) where periods become unpredictable, we are producing more estrogen, so we feel like we are PMS-ing most of the time leading to irritability, bloating. This can last up to 4 years. Late menopausal transition, periods are more irregular, and we may go months without a period. This is when we start to experience menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and brain fog. Usually lasts about a year. Finally, we reach Early post menopause, this is when we have had no period for a year, menopausal symptoms are more pronounced as female hormones are very low. We start to see more changes in our reproductive organs too including vaginal dryness

When do most people go through menopause?

The menopausal transition usually begins between ages 45 and 55. The duration can depend on several factors such as smoking, age of onset, race, and ethnicity

What are the changes I will experience when going through menopause?

There are a variety of symptoms, and some women may not experience any at all.

Hot flashes: A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all of your body. Your face and neck may become flushed. When I was a younger Physician, I had a wall quote in my practice that said,   “ I don’t  have hot flashes, I have short, private vacations in tropical like conditions’ . Now in my menopausal years, I feel like I need to apologize to my patients who were going through this at the time! It is more like being stuck in the Desert with no A/C!

Loss of bladder control: You may feel sudden urge to urinate, leakage when you cough or sneeze or during exercise

Sleep:  Most often difficulty staying asleep, but some women have difficulty even falling asleep

Vaginal health and sexuality: Vagina may become drier leading to discomfort during intercourse. Interest in sex may decrease or you may feel freer to have sex without the fear of pregnancy. Please practice safe sex. You can still get Sexually transmitted infections.

Mood changes: You might be more irritable, anxious, depressed. This may sometimes also be related to life stressors

Body changes: Your waist gets larger, joints are stiffer and ache, skin is thinner, headaches more frequent, Brain fog.

This can be a scary and frustrating time as you try to figure out if this is just menopause or an underlying condition

What other health changes come with menopause?

As your hormones remain low, you may experience changes in bone and heart health leading to osteoporosis and heart disease. There may be an increase in urinary tract infections related to vaginal dryness. It is important to monitor these changes and discuss testing with your Primary care provider to prevent complications. Getting an annual Physical exam is a suitable time to address this.

Are moodiness, headaches, and depression due to menopause?

It is not clear if this is strictly due to menopause. There are many life changes happening at the same time. We often become caregivers for parents and/or other relatives, our children are transitioning to adulthood, which is often bittersweet. We have changes in our professional lives either with workload or career . It is a fragile balancing act and can increase stress. Throw in hot flashes, incontinence, lack of sleep and brain fog and it is not surprising that our moods change.

What are some ways I can support my body while going through menopause?

Deciding whether and how to treat the symptoms of menopause can be complicated and personal. Discuss your symptoms with your primary care provider and create an individualized plan to help navigate this time. There are a lot of remedies advertised, not all are right for you.

In general, consume a healthy diet, stay active, focusing more on toning exercises, keeping your mind active with puzzles, reading etc. Keep your friends close and make new ones. Get good quality sleep. Create and sustain intimacy with your partner. Reduce stress.

Talk about your symptoms, Trust me you are not alone.

Menopause is a transition that could be difficult, but I believe attitude is everything. At this age you are more confident, accomplished and usually have more freedom to make choices in self-care. Explore new things, enjoy each day, Live life fully and adapt to this change both positive and negative. Life is still beautiful right?

Don't delay the care you need.

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