Menopause marks the end of reproductive life and the cessation of regular menstrual periods. It typically occurs at about age 50-51 years, but can occur several years earlier or later. It is a natural process, but may be associated with symptoms that cause concern and reduction in the quality of life. Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, mood disturbances, and memory problems are common. These symptoms may begin before the last menstrual period, and can continue for months after menstrual periods end. Some women experience few or no bothersome symptoms.
Baystate Reproductive Medicine provides the following clinical services related to menopause:
- Treatment of women with hormonal problems from adolescence through the childbearing years, menopause and beyond. Hormone replacement therapy may enhance a woman's quality of life by minimizing the side effects of menopause.
- Management of menstrual irregularities, lack of periods, excessive bleeding, management of hormonal or alternative therapies prior, during, and after menopause, with particular expertise in the area of premature and surgical menopause.
- Evaluation of:
- Heart disease
- Urinary incontinence and related problems.
If a woman has surgery to remove the ovaries due to a disease process, she will have menopause symptoms right away. If she is much younger than age 50, the symptoms may be marked. If you are planning to have ovaries removed surgically, it is worth discussing how you and your doctor will approach menopause symptoms in advance of the surgery.
If menopause symptoms are mild, many women are able to alter their environment and reduce hot flashes by dressing in layers, reducing alcohol intake, and avoiding high ambient temperatures. Hot flashes may subside without treatment in some women in a few months.
For women with more severe symptoms, short-term hormone therapy offers the best relief. Many types of patches, pills, skin creams, vaginal tablets and creams are available, including natural estradiol and progesterone. If you think you might benefit from such treatment and want to discuss the risks and benefits in light of your own medical history, we will be happy to discuss these with you. Hormone therapy has the advantage of working quickly to provide relief.
Alternative therapy to hormones for menopause symptoms includes serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, gabapentin, and sleep medications. Paced respiration and yoga may offer some benefit without requiring medication. If you are having bothersome menopause symptoms, your doctor may be able to help you get through this transition so that the quality of your life will improve.