Perimenopause and Menopause: What Every Woman Should Know
One of our specialties at The NEST Clinic is providing a holistic approach to the unique health and wellness needs of women. This includes creating personalized treatment plans for women at different stages of life. Some of the things we commonly work with include mental health during pregnancy, postpartum depression, difficult emotions around infertility and loss, perimenopause, and menopause.
There are many ways that our experienced therapists are able to work with women during these life stages. But there are times when medication management and hormone therapy play an important role in treatment and menopause is one of those areas.
There is a lot of misinformation that exists around perimenopause and menopause, so we want to help answer some of the questions.
FAQ about menopause
Do you have questions you've been curious about but haven't been comfortable asking? There's never any judgment at The NEST! Below are the answers to some commonly asked questions about perimenopause and menopause.
If you have additional questions after reading this, we invite you to schedule an appointment with Brenda Reiter, our Certified Menopause Practitioner.
What is menopause?
When menopause occurs naturally, it's reached when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months when it can't be explained by another medical condition or reason. As the female body ages, the ovaries' function begins to slow down. This leads to a drop in hormones like estrogen.
When a woman reaches the point of menopause, she has passed the stage of natural fertility.
There are a lot of symptoms that women can experience during the years leading up to menopause. This stage is called perimenopause. There's more information about what you may experience during perimenopause below.
When does menopause happen?
It would be nice if there were a set age when you could expect menopause, but that's not how it works. While the average age of menopause is 51 years old, it's not like that for everyone. It's not uncommon for women to reach menopause in their 40's. However, if a woman hits menopause in her 30's then her physician may want to discover the reason why it happened that early to see if there is an underlying condition that needs to be treated.
Because there is such a range in when you could begin experiencing symptoms, it's important to know your body. If you begin to experience symptoms that aren't normal for you, we encourage you to speak with a medical professional. Don't ignore it or try to handle it silently on your own because you think it's too early for you to be in perimenopause.
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the stage when the female body begins to transition from reproductive years to menopause. It's common for women to begin noticing symptoms in their 40's and some women notice changes while still in their 30's.
During this phase of life, your period may become unpredictable as your estrogen levels continue to drop and rise unevenly. More symptoms that occur during perimenopause are listed below.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
There are many different symptoms that a woman may experience during this phase. These include:
Anxiety and depression
Increase in LDL (bad cholesterol)
Loss of bone mass
For some women, these symptoms are things they can handle on their own. But it's also common for women to experience changes that interfere with their normal life activities and experiences. If your symptoms are getting in the way of your life, there are treatment options that can help. And even if you can "handle" the symptoms on your own, there may be treatment options that help make them easier for you. You don't need to suffer silently.
What is early menopause?
When menopause happens before a woman hits her 40th birthday, it's considered premature menopause. This is not common and only impacts around 1% of U.S. women.
Premature menopause can be caused by autoimmune diseases, genetics, or metabolic reasons although that's not always the case. If your menstrual cycle has stopped in your 30's, you should speak with your physician or gynecologist.
What is induced menopause?
Induced menopause is when a woman experiences menopause due to unnatural circumstances such as chemotherapy or surgery removing the ovaries.
When a woman experiences induced menopause, she skips the gradual onset of symptoms that most women are able to experience. This can feel like a lot to handle all at once. Working with a Certified Menopause Practitioner can help you find the best treatment options for your specific situation.
What are the side effects of menopause?
There are some natural side effects that can come with aging and menopause. These include things like weight gain, osteoporosis, urinary problems, and heart disease. If you have questions and concerns, speak to a Certified Menopause Practitioner or a physician.
You may also benefit from working with a therapist that specializes in reproductive mental health. Our experienced therapists in Stillwater can help you with the mental and emotional side of this life transition.
Where to get help for perimenopause and menopause symptoms
While menopause is a natural part of life for many women, it continues to be one that isn't often discussed. Even in groups of women, conversations about perimenopause and menopause rarely happen.
Many women have a lack of information and understanding about menopause. That can lead to confusion when premenopausal symptoms begin to show. It's common for women to talk to their gynecologist about their symptoms, but the help they receive doesn't always do the trick. And when that happens, many women just resign themselves to suffering through or trying to find the answers to their questions online.
Another option for treatment is to work with a Certified Menopause Practitioner.
What is a Certified Menopause Practitioner?
Someone who is a Certified Menopause Practitioner may use the title "NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner" or have the letters "NCMP" after their name. This shows that they have met the standards set by The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) to earn this credential.
NAMS is, "dedicated to promoting the health and quality of life of all women during midlife and beyond through an understanding of menopause and healthy aging."
In order to become certified, a person must be a licensed healthcare practitioner and pass the NAMS examination. This shows they have extensive knowledge in treating perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
Treatment for menopause and perimenopause symptoms
As a therapy clinic, we'll start by sharing that if you're struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or mood swings, during this phase of life (or any phase of life), you may benefit from working with a therapist. At The NEST Clinic, we have both therapists and a Certified Menopause Practitioner on staff. That means we can provide you holistic treatment options all in one place.
In addition to therapy to handle the mental and emotional aspects of this life transition, there are treatment options that can help.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone Replacement Therapy also referred to as HRT, is a common treatment that can help with the symptoms that you may experience during perimenopause and menopause.
Mayo Clinic describes HRT by saying "Hormone replacement therapy is medication that contains female hormones. You take the medication to replace the estrogen that your body stops making during menopause."
Hormone Replacement Therapy is known for helping with things like:
Decreasing bone loss
Delivering relief from night sweats and hot flashes
Reducing vaginal dryness, itching, and pain from sex
Reducing the risk of long-term health consequences from low estrogen in women that have induced menopause at a younger age
Improved mood and lower levels of anxiety and depression
Higher energy levels
There are some cons and possible risks that can be related to HRT which has caused many women to avoid trying it in recent years. But there are many ways to reduce these risks when working with an experienced and trained professional like a Certified Menopause Practitioner.
You don't need to struggle with the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
Medication management for perimenopause and menopause
In addition to HRT, there are other treatment options that can be explored when working with a healthcare professional. These can include things such as medications to prevent or treat:
In addition to seeking help and guidance from a professional, there are things you can do at home that may provide relief from some of the symptoms you're experiencing. This includes things like:
Identifying anything that triggers hot flashes
Getting enough sleep
Using relaxation techniques
Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscle
Eating a healthy and balanced diet
Benefits of working with The NEST Clinic
While you can work with your regular family doctor or gynecologist to treat your perimenopause and menopause symptoms, we offer a few additional benefits at The NEST Clinic.
As mentioned above, we have Brenda Reiter, a NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner on staff. She is highly qualified and experienced at working with women during this stage of life. As a women's health Nurse Practitioner, she's focused solely on the promotion of women's health and has 20+ years of experience.
In addition to her experience and credentials, as a woman, you may feel more comfortable speaking with another woman about the symptoms you're experiencing.
Another benefit of working with the team at The NEST Clinic is that you have your team of professionals working together. This makes it easy as your therapy and medication management can be handled under one roof. You will have a team of professionals working together to help you feel your best.
Perimenopause and menopause help is available
We know that it's kind of a taboo topic in daily conversations, but it doesn't need to be. The symptoms that come with perimenopause and menopause are a normal part of life even if it looks a little different for each person.
There is no need to feel embarrassed about asking questions about your physical or mental health. And doing so can be the first step toward feeling better and more like yourself again. If you have questions or want to explore your treatment options, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Brenda today.