Women's Health Tips

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Menopause is a topic of great discussion both in medical circles and with women in general!

Let’s start with some definitions:

Perimenopause refers to that time in a woman’s life before the periods completely stop. This can range in time from a few years to 5 years. It is often accompanied by hot flashes, some mood swings including crying easily, to vaginal dryness, sleep changes and osteoporosis.

Menopause refers to the stopping of menstruation. There are no periods for a time of at least 6 months and the woman is not pregnant.

Background on these conditions: While you were developing in your mother’s womb there were 30- 35 million eggs deposited in your ovaries that can be activated during your lifetime. Of these millions of eggs, it is estimated that only 400-500 are released during the years a woman could get pregnant. So there are more than enough.

Some women are concerned about getting pregnant during the peri-menopausal time. In short the answer is YES pregnancy can happen during this time. It is after age 35 that a more rapid disintegration of eggs occurs. After age 40 it is more difficult to become pregnant and after age 45 it is rare – but you still can get pregnant. In fact, in my practice, it is not unusual that a lady comes in thinking that she has started the menopause when in reality she is pregnant.

What about treatments during the peri-menopause and menopause time?

Let’s look at some of the easier treatments that I suggest :

* Try to keep your surroundings cool. Turn down the heat or decrease the a/c temp by a few degrees.
* You should limit the use of alcohol drinks, this aggravates the symptoms
* Eat right, especially limiting sugars and caffeine, both of which can increase these symptoms.
* Smoking should also be stopped. Besides the risk of heart conditions and cancer, smoking also increases the heat in your chest which can aggravate hot flashes.
* Layer yourself with clothing so when you get hot you can take one or two layers off.

Doctor, what about hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?

As you are aware in 2002 a major study was stopped early because it was shown that estrogen and progestin combination increased breast cancer and heart disease. The increase in these was definitely noticed but the real increase was small.

This is long way of saying that if your symptoms feel severe to you, then you need to talk with your physician about the choices. Even Dr Susan Love, a well-known breast surgeon, feels that these are still choices that can be used for women. For these women you should be on them for the shortest amount of time and a good rule of thumb is you should be off within 5 years.

For women who have had their uterus removed by having a hysterectomy, estrogen alone is a treatment alternative. Once again, talk with your doctor first. Estrogens still have some potentially major side effects.

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