The Climacteric, The Change of Life, or my favorite:
MANopause. That’s right, fella’s, back away slowly…
Throughout a woman’s life, hormones are constantly shifting and changing, rising, and falling, performing an intricate dance. When the ovaries reach the end of their lifespan, on average around the age of 50, they no longer produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. For some women this happens suddenly and they are thrust into distressing symptoms such as irregular periods, heavy bleeding, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and pain with sex, low sex drive, anxiety, irritability, and even depression. Perimenopause, the years before the official diagnosis of menopause, can last 10 years or more. When you have not had a period for an entire year, we can officially say you are in menopause.
One of the most common distressing symptoms are called “hot flashes”. Hot flashes begin as a sudden sensation of heat centered on the upper chest and face that rapidly becomes generalized. The sensation of heat lasts from two to four minutes, is often associated with profuse perspiration and occasionally palpitations, and is sometimes followed by chills, shivering, and a feeling of anxiety. Hot flashes may range from less than one each day to as many as one per hour during the day and night. On average, symptoms last 5 years but 30% of women have symptoms for 10 years and 9% of women have symptoms for 20 years
Modern medicine can offer relief from distressing symptoms, but there is no “cure” for this very natural life process. As with any medication, there are risks and benefits. A discussion with your provider can help you decide if medication or hormone replacement therapy is right for you.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to manage symptoms at home. These suggestions are basic recommendations for self-care:
For the management of hot flashes and night sweats:
- Lower the room temperature
- Use fans
- Dress in layers that can be easily shed
- Wear a base layer that wicks moisture away from your skin.
- Avoid spicy food, hot drinks, alcohol, stress
- Weight Loss
To keep your mood and emotions steady:
- Daily Exercise
- Daily Yoga or other mindful meditation and relaxation
For vaginal dryness and pain with sex:
- Use a vaginal moisturizer three times a week.
- Use lubrication for sex.
- Sorry, we have no great medical solution for libido
To protect your bones, support your immune system, and promote sleep:
- 1200mg of Calcium
- 400mg Magnesium
- 2000IU Vitamin D daily.
Calcium is only absorbed 500mg at a time so taking a supplement twice a day with meals, in addition to at least one serving of dairy or other calcium fortified food daily will supply what you need. The Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium and it activates it in your muscle and bone cells so it can work for you. Magnesium and Vitamin D help with mood and a healthy immune system, too.
For more information on perimenopause and menopause, you can explore the following:
The Wisdom of Menopause, by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
-Kirstin Johnson, Certified Nurse Midwife