All women will go through menopause, but it is not usually discussed among women who suffer from symptoms or as a women’s health issue in general.
As we recognize Women’s Health Month, Paniz Heydari, MD, an OB-GYN at Dignity Health Medical Group in Northridge, discusses what menopausal women can expect and when to reach out to your health care team.
Perimenopause vs menopause. What is the difference?
For most women, menopause occurs after 12 consecutive months without a period. Although this is a normal stage in a woman’s life, the transitional phase before menopause, also known as perimenopause, can often raise questions for women with symptoms.
The perimenopause transition can last three to five years, and in some cases up to 10 years, meaning that women in their late 30s and early 40s can experience postmenopausal symptoms.
Symptoms may include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles that are heavier or lighter than usual
- Irritability of mood
- Brain fog
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Pain during intercourse and vaginal dryness
Dr. Heydari advises women to track their symptoms and menstrual cycle and discuss these changes with their doctor.
Symptoms associated with menopause can be very uncomfortable, but there are treatments available for various symptoms. Depending on the severity of symptoms, hormone replacement therapy may help with hot flashes and brain fog. Mindfulness and behavioral health tactics, including breathing, medication, and journaling, have been shown to help. Dr. Heydari encourages discussing mental health issues with a licensed therapist or counselor.
Certain health risks are associated with menopause
Estrogen plays a critical role in women’s bone, heart, and brain health. When estrogen declines during menopause, women are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteopenia, and osteoporosis, which causes weak bones. Dr. Heydari recommends talking to a doctor if a patient has a family history of these diseases, as it can affect a person’s risk.
Menopause is a natural part of life, but symptoms can be alleviated with various treatments and medications. When entering this stage, it is important to remember:
- Track menstrual cycle symptoms and irregularities
- Talk to your doctor about treatment options that are right for you
- Consult your doctor about the risks of developing heart and bone disease
Regardless of symptoms, Dr. Heydari strongly recommends women talk to their doctor if menopause is interfering with their daily activities.
If you think you may be entering menopause or need help exploring treatment options, make an appointment with your primary care physician. Our Find a Doctor tool can help you find a Dignity Health Medical Group doctor near you.