In addition to puberty or the onset of a woman’s reproductive life, menopause is the second biggest hormonal change in a woman’s life. In medical terms, a woman reaches menopause after she has ceased to have a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Menopause is preceded by a slow natural transition towards permanent infertility known as perimenopause, or the menopausal transition. During this period of transition, which typically begins in the mid-40s but can start as early as the 30s for some women, the body’s natural levels of estrogen—the female reproductive hormone—rise and fall unevenly, the menstrual cycle becomes irregular, and the ovaries gradually cease releasing eggs.
Unfortunately, while perimenopause and menopause are natural, important changes in every woman’s life, this transition can, for some women, be a difficult, unpleasant time involving potentially challenging and sometimes downright uncomfortable side effects. The all-female team of highly skilled Board Certified gynecologists at Commonwealth OB-Gyn, conveniently located in Brookline Village just moments from Boston, MA, understands the disruption that perimenopause and menopause can bring into a woman’s already busy and complicated life. Our goal is to help you navigate this time of transition as smoothly and as comfortably as possible so you can continue to live your life to the fullest!
Common Symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause
While few women will miss the irritation and discomfort that comes with a monthly menstrual period, anticipating the end of the childbearing years can be bittersweet for many women. This psychological transition can be made more difficult by the physical and emotional symptoms that the menopausal transition can bring. Common symptoms of perimenopause include:
- Mood swings and irritability
- Missed and irregular menstruation
- Hot flashes
- Insomnia/sleep problems
Perimenopause can also increase the risk for osteoporosis, a disease that causes the bones to become weak, brittle, and highly susceptible to fracture. Many women experience loss of bone density during the first few years of perimenopause, putting them at increased risk of osteoporosis. Regular bone density scans and proper calcium supplementation are important for every women in this phase of life.
Treatment Options for Perimenopause and Menopause
Perimenopause and menopause themselves cannot be “treated”; they are a hormonal change that every woman’s body must go through at some point in her life. However, it is possible to efficiently and effectively manage the symptoms of perimenopause to enable this transition to be more comfortable and less disruptive. The first step in managing your menopausal transition is to schedule regular preventative appointments and all necessary screenings with your practitioner, taking this time to openly and honestly discuss all your symptoms, even if they are intimate and potentially embarrassing, so she can develop an effective treatment plan. She will also discuss important lifestyle choices, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, relaxation techniques, calcium and vitamin supplements, and alternative treatments such as yoga and acupuncture, and how they can help alleviate some symptoms as well.
For women experiencing the most severe perimenopausal symptoms, hormone replacement therapy can help maintain even levels of estrogen and progesterone to minimize the most uncomfortable side effects of changing hormone levels. Hormone replacement therapy involving precise, tailored supplements of estrogen and progesterone can offer many women a number of significant benefits, including:
- Decrease in hot flashes
- Reduced risk of bone density loss
- Increased breast volume
- Decreased risk of colon cancer and cardiovascular disease
- Reduction in mood swings
Hormone replacement therapy is not recommended for women who smoke, or who have a current or past history of stroke, blood clots, and certain forms of cancer, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or endometrial cancer. Your practitioner will work closely with you to determine if you are a candidate for hormone replacement therapy to relieve your perimenopause symptoms.
Contact Commonwealth OB-Gyn
If you believe you are experiencing the symptoms of menopause and would like more information on this important life change, or if you would like to learn more about Commonwealth OB-Gyn, our physicians, and our other services, we encourage you to schedule your appointment today. We look forward to hearing from you!