Expert advice and care for relieving menopause symptoms
Menopause is the transition period in a woman's life when her ovaries stop producing eggs, her body produces less estrogen and progesterone and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping altogether. Menopause is a natural event that normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.
The symptoms of menopause are caused by changes in estrogen and progesterone levels. The ovaries make less of these hormones over time. The specific symptoms of menopause and how significant (mild, moderate or severe) they are varies from woman to woman. A gradual decrease of estrogen generally allows your body to slowly adjust to the hormonal changes. Hot flashes and sweats are at their worst for the first one to two years. Menopause may last five or more years.
The drop in hormone levels can lead to disruptive physical changes. You should talk to your doctor if you have the following menopause symptoms:
- Heavy periods
- Long or irregular periods
- Severe hot flashes or night sweats
Menopause and depression
According to the North American Menopause Society, women have double the rates of depression during the perimenopause years and in the years immediately after menopause. In fact, women with a history of depressed mood earlier in life are at greater risk.
If you are experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of depression for most of the day or nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be experiencing depression. Talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional. Symptoms of depression may include:
- Persistent sad mood
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Aches or pains without a clear physical cause and that do not ease with treatment
Menopause treatment options
There are solutions to help decrease the symptoms associated with these changes, including over-the-counter herbal therapies, non-hormonal medications and hormone replacement therapy.
Menopause treatment plans for patients will be determined by their care team based on age, medical history, stage of menopause and personal preferences.
- Endometrial ablation
- Medical therapy
- Hormone therapy
- Estrogen therapy
- Non-hormonal therapy
- Estrogen alternatives
- Alternative therapies
Seeking menopause treatment
All women experience menopause differently. If you have symptoms of menopause, reach out to the women's health experts on the Baylor Scott & White Health staff. We can help you determine the best treatment for you or just answer your questions.
We're here to help you deal with every stage of menopause:
- Natural menopause
- Early menopause (ages 40 to 45)
- Premature menopause (before age 40)
- Menopause caused by a surgery
- Perimenopause (the transition to menopause)
Benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
The most effective treatment available for severe hot flashes and night sweats is low-dose hormone replacement therapy. Many women may fear the risks of hormone replacement therapy, but studies show these increased risks for breast cancer and blood clots are most often associated with former less common high-dose treatments combined with long-term use.
In fact, some benefits of hormone replacement therapy as a treatment for menopause include:
- Decreased risk of hip fractures
- Decreased risk of colon cancer
- Decreased risk for heart disease
Frequently asked questions
What is menopause?
Menopause occurs when a woman's ovaries stop producing eggs that could be fertilized. A normal menopausal transition lasts about four to five years, but during this time women may experience significant variations in their reproductive hormone levels. On average, symptoms of menopause begin in a woman’s early 50s, however they can start earlier or later depending on genetic factors and lifestyle choices.
What are the signs and symptoms of menopause?
Menopausal symptoms that result from the decreased production of estrogen, the primary female sex hormone responsible for mature women's secondary sexual characteristics (e.g., breast development), include hot flushes and vaginal dryness. The lack of progesterone, another key reproductive hormone associated with menstruation, may also cause symptoms. Not all women will experience these menopause symptoms.
How common are the symptoms of menopause?
The frequency and severity of menopausal symptoms vary from one woman to the next and tend to be worse among older women. Only about 25% of all women who reach menopause experience significant hot flushes and night sweats, but these symptoms tend to be more troubling among women who have a history of breast cancer or a family member with ovarian cancer.
Why do some women have more severe symptoms than others?
Women's bodies change significantly during perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) and menopause itself. Symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness are often experienced differently by individual women. There is no single explanation for why some women experience more severe symptoms than others; it most likely depends on a woman's age when she enters the years leading up to menopause, her genetic makeup, how long she has been experiencing symptoms and associated risk factors.
What other conditions are associated with menopause?
For many women, perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms are the first sign that they are approaching the menopause. These changes are often significant enough to prompt a visit to a doctor, but for women whose menopausal transition is uneventful, the first they usually hear about it is when their periods stop.