Menopause is a normal part of a woman’s aging process, and it marks the end of her reproductive years. It happens when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. The ovaries’ production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone also decline, and the woman stops having periods.
Menopause has three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. A woman is said to have entered menopause if her last menstrual period occurred a year ago. Perimenopause starts a few years earlier, as the ovaries start producing fewer hormones. A woman’s menstrual cycle also becomes erratic during perimenopause. Most women start developing menopause symptoms during the last year or two of perimenopause, as their estrogen levels drop more quickly.
Many menopausal symptoms ease as a woman enters her postmenopausal years. On the other hand, the decline in estrogen levels increases her chances of developing certain health problems, particularly as she gets older. For example, postmenopausal women have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, or abnormally porous and fragile bones.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Menopause can cause the following symptoms:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings
- Slower metabolism and weight gain
- Trouble sleeping
- Dry skin and thinning hair
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased breast size
How are menopause symptoms treated?
Menopause is typically treated through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Bioidentical hormones are identical to those produced in the human body. They are also plant extracts that are most usually derived from yam or soy.
The doctor will start by ordering laboratory tests to determine the patient’s current hormone levels. Every patient is different, so the doctor will have to tailor the replacement hormones for each patient. Similarly, the pharmacy will have to make different dosages for different patients. Bioidentical hormones are usually administered as creams, patches, or pellets, with creams being the most common form. The doctor will periodically order laboratory tests of the patient’s saliva to ensure that the patient is getting the proper mixture and dosage.
There are several different brands of creams. They all work by delivering the hormones through the patient’s skin to the bloodstream. The patient will typically apply them to a specific part of the body once every day. They should wait for the cream to dry before getting dressed. Since the estrogen is absorbed through the skin, the patient should wash their hands thoroughly before touching another person.
Patches are usually worn on the lower abdomen. The patient would usually change a patch one or twice a week.
Pellets look like a grain of rice. The doctor would implant the pellet in the hip area under the skin. The pellet would then steadily release hormones. A pellet usually lasts three to five months before needing to be replaced.
Would you like to learn more about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to alleviate symptoms of menopause? Contact us today at the Georgia Center for Female Health!