If you are unable to fall asleep, wake up too early or have hot flashes and night sweats, it is possible you are experiencing perimenopause or menopause. As your estrogen hormone level drops with age, symptoms can become unmanageable and it may be time to call your doctor.
According to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, on average, menopause occurs at age 51. The ovaries stop making estrogen and the menstrual cycle ends. Perimenopause typically begins earlier as estrogen levels fluctuate causing hot flashes, sleep issues, vaginal dryness and urinary tract changes.
Going through perimenopause and menopause can be difficult. If symptoms interfere with daily living, hormone replacement therapy can ease this transition and help replace the estrogen your body no longer makes after menopause.
“Estrogen may be good for your heart and joints, can help protect against osteoporosis, and may boost your mood,” said Sarah Vander Pol, MD, of Samaritan Obstetrics & Gynecology – Corvallis. “Hormone therapy may be associated with a small increased risk of heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis and breast cancer. Patients with a personal or family history of these conditions should tell their doctor before treatment to determine if hormone therapy is right for them.”
Two Basic Types of Hormone Therapy
- Systemic estrogen — in pill, skin patch, ring, gel, cream or spray form — typically contains a higher dose of estrogen that is absorbed by the body. Women who have not had a hysterectomy should pair systemic estrogen with progesterone therapy to protect the uterine lining according to Dr. Vander Pol.
- Low‑dose vaginal estrogen products — like a cream, tablet or ring form minimizes the amount of estrogen absorbed by the body. These low‑dose vaginal preparations are typically used to treat the vaginal and urinary symptoms of menopause.
Natural Ways to Manage Symptoms
- Try lifestyle changes: be physically active, eliminate alcohol, smoking, caffeinated beverages, and practice relaxation and breathing techniques.
- Talk to your doctor about herbal supplements or nonhormone prescription medications that may help relieve hot flashes.
Ready to get help for your menopause symptoms? Find an OB/GYN provider at samhealth.org/FindaDoc.