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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Help When Menopause Symptoms Heat Up

 

By Dr. Robert Wool

 


The weather heats up here in New England at this time of year, but if you’re a woman going through the transition toward menopause, that might not be the only thing making you sweat. Fortunately, there are things you can do to find some relief without medication when perimenopause symptoms heat up.

 

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

Hot flashes are the most talked about and common symptom women experience during their transition to menopause, with about 2/3 of women having them at some point. They occur when blood vessels near the skin expand, causing you to flush (particularly your neck and face) and break out in a sweat. When they happen at night, they are called night sweats.

 

There are some lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce the incidence and severity of hot flashes:

·         Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking and spicy foods, all of which cause your blood vessels to dilate

·         Wear loose, breathable clothing and pajamas

·         Use lightweight, cotton sheets and blankets

·         Avoid getting overheated; use air conditioning, fans and cool packs to help

·         Sip ice water throughout the day

 

Mood Changes

As your hormone levels fluctuate, you may find your moods do as well, with many women experiencing feelings similar to when they went through puberty and pregnancy. These can include increased irritability, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

 

Self-care practices may help, such as:

·         Regular exercise

·         A healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables

·         Yoga, tai-chi, meditation or similar activities

·         Stress reduction

 

Sexual Discomfort and Decreased Sex Drive

Decreases in ovarian hormones may lead to vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable or painful. The change in hormones and the discomfort can also reduce your desire for sex.

 

There are a number of vaginal lubricants and moisturizers you can purchase over the counter to help with this issue, but keep these tips in mind:

·         Water-based lubricants are generally full of chemicals, get quickly absorbed and may not last long enough to provide lubrication if your intercourse lasts longer than a couple minutes.

·         Natural plant oils, which are readily found in most people’s kitchens, are a much better alternative. Olive, corn or coconut oils used in small amounts will provide all the lubrication needed. They are also a much better choice if oral sex is part of your foreplay or lovemaking.

·         A more high-tech, silicone-based lubricant, such as Uberlube, is a good choice for people using condoms as the silicone will not destroy the condom the way oil-based products will.

 

Wide Range of Symptoms and Treatments

Not all women have the same experience during their transition to menopause. The types of symptoms, their severity and duration can vary widely. In addition to the above, many women experience disrupted sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory problems, urinary incontinence, dry skin and more. Your periods may get heavier or lighter from month to month, and you may go several months with no period and then have one that lasts much longer than usual.

 

How quickly the transition takes varies as well, with some women going into full menopause within a year or two, and others taking as long as a decade or more. You are officially considered to be in menopause when you don’t have a period at all for 12 straight months.

 

If you have any symptoms that you find concerning, painful or that are too disruptive, talk to your women’s health care provider. In addition to non-medical remedies, there are a variety of medications, including hormone therapy and antidepressants, that can help. We can talk with you about your specific concerns and come up with a strategy that works for you.