Menopausal Care

Menopause is a normal, natural progression in your life as a woman. During menopause, you stop producing eggs making ovulation less regular, your body produces less estrogen and progesterone, and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping altogether. Menopause usually happens between the ages of 42 and 55.

When you permanently stop having a menstrual period for one year, you will have completed menopause. Often called the "change of life," this stage signals the end of your ability to have children.

Symptoms of Menopause

The enormous drop in estrogen levels causes most menopausal symptoms. While each woman may experience symptoms differently, the most common effects of this transition include:

  • Hot flashes: About 75 percent of all women experience sudden, brief, periodic increases in their body temperature. Usually hot flashes start before a woman's last period and last for two years or less. This symptom may also involve heart palpitations and dizziness.
  • Vaginal atrophy: Vaginal atrophy involves the drying and thinning of the tissues of the vagina and urethra. This can lead to pain during sexual intercourse, as well as vaginitis, cystitis, and urinary tract infections.
  • Relaxation of the pelvic muscles: Relaxation of the pelvic muscles can lead to urinary incontinence and also increase the risk of the uterus, bladder, urethra, or rectum protruding into the vagina.
  • Cardiac effects: Intermittent dizziness, heart palpitations, and abnormal sensations such as numbness, prickling, tingling, or heightened sensitivity may occur as symptoms of menopause.
  • Hair growth: Changing hormones can cause some women to experience an increase in facial hair and/or a thinning of the hair on the scalp.
  • Mental health: While some think that mental health may be negatively affected by menopause, several studies have shown that menopausal women suffer no more anxiety, depression, anger, nervousness, or feelings of stress than women of the same age who are still menstruating. Psychological and emotional symptoms of fatigue, irritability, insomnia, and nervousness may be related to both the lack of estrogen, the stress of aging, and a woman's changing role.

Symptom Management

St.Vincent Women’s Hospital offers a range of treatment options tailored to the unique needs of women going through menopause including:

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Hormone replacement therapy provides the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. HRT is most often prescribed in pill form. However, estrogen can also be administered with transdermal skin patches and vaginal creams.
  • Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT): Estrogen replacement therapy provides estrogen alone. ERT is often prescribed for women who have had a hysterectomy. Estrogen is prescribed as pills, patches and vaginal creams.
  • Non-hormonal treatment: This type of treatment often involves the use of over-the-counter creams that do not contain estrogen to relieve some of the symptoms associated with menopause.
  • Estrogen alternatives: Estrogen alternatives are the so-called “synthetic estrogens,” such as raloxifene, which may offer the bone-building benefits of estrogen without many of the possible risks (i.e., an increased risk of endometrial cancer).
  • Alternative therapies: Homeopathy and herbal treatments may offer some relief from some symptoms of menopause.

When approaching menopause, every woman should discuss her options, including the potential risks and benefits of treatment methods, with her doctor. For more information about the options available to you at St.Vincent Women’s, call (317) 338-4HER.