Menopause Hormone Therapy
Female Menopause and Peri-Menopause
A woman knows her body. She understands the continuous ebb and flow of fluctuating hormonal levels in her body, from the time she enters puberty until the end of her last menstrual period. This complex interplay of hormones continues after menopause until she reaches her early 50's. Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy offers a solution to the many physical symptoms of menopause. The regular cycling of these hormones can begin to change in the mid-thirties and symptoms likely begin in the mid-forties as women begin the process known as peri-menopause. It is the time when levels of key hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone begin to fluctuate and other hormones such as growth hormone, DHEA and thyroid begin to decline. Peri-menopause continues until periods stop and the woman enters menopause. Although menopause is often treated as a disease by doctors, women know menopause is a natural and inevitable transition from one stage of life to another. Puberty marks the beginning of reproductive life -- menopause marks the end.
Menopause is the transition period in a woman's life when her ovaries stop producing eggs, her body produces less estrogen and progesterone, and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping altogether. In some women, menstrual flow comes to a sudden halt. More commonly, it slowly stops over time. During this time, the menstrual periods generally become either more closely or more widely spaced. This irregularity may last for 1 - 3 years before menstruation finally ends completely. Before this the cycle length may shorten to as little as every 3 weeks.
Menopause is a natural event that normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Once menopause is complete (called post-menopause) and you have not had a period for 1 year, you are no longer at risk of becoming pregnant. The symptoms of menopause are caused by changes in estrogen and progesterone levels. The ovaries make less of these hormones over time. The specific symptoms and how significant (mild, moderate, or severe) they are varies from woman to woman. A gradual decrease of estrogen generally allows your body to slowly adjust to the hormonal changes. Hot flashes and sweats are at their worst for the first 1 - 2 years. Menopause may last 5 or more years. As a result of the fall in hormone levels, changes occur in the entire female reproductive system. The vaginal walls become less elastic and thinner. The vagina becomes shorter. Lubricating secretions from the vagina become watery. The outside genital tissue thins. This is called atrophy of the labia.
Common symptoms of menopause include:
- Heart pounding or racing
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Skin flushing
- Sleeping problems (insomnia)
Other symptoms of menopause may include:
- Decreased interest in sex, possibly decreased response to sexual stimulation
- Forgetfulness (in some women)
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Mood swings including irritability, depression, and anxiety
- Urine leakage
- Vaginal dryness and painful sexual intercourse
- Vaginal infections
- Joint aches and pains
- Heart palpitations
- Loss of bone density (osteoporosis)
Surgical menopause is the removal of both ovaries in women. It almost always occurs with hysterectomy (removal of the uterus). Chemotherapy and anti-estrogen treatment for breast cancer are other examples of sudden drops in hormone levels that can send a woman into sudden, early menopause. The ovaries are the main source of estrogen, progesterone, and androgens in the body. When they are gone, the hormone levels fall and changes associated with menopause occur. Surgical menopause occurs very suddenly; one day a woman is having menstrual cycles, and the next day, after surgery, she is postmenopausal. Women with surgical menopause often experience more intensity in their symptoms than women with natural menopause including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, palpitations, mood swings, depression, fatigue and changes in sexual desire.
Steps women can take to reduce symptoms:
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods
- Dress lightly and in layers
- Eat soy products or take a soy supplement (a natural source of estrogen)
- Get adequate calcium and vitamin D in food and/or supplements
- Get plenty of exercise
- Perform Kegel exercises daily to strengthen the muscles of your vagina and pelvis
- Practice slow, deep breathing whenever a hot flash starts to come on (try taking six breaths per minute)
- Remain sexually active
- See an acupuncture specialist
- Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation
- Use water-based lubricants during sexual intercourse
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is a widely accepted and successful way to treat the symptoms and negative effects of menopause and should be started at the onset of menopause to reach maximum benefits. For more information on the superiority of bio-identical hormones, click here (this should link to Bio-identical.html)
Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density and is a serious threat to a woman's long term health. Our bones contain cells that are capable of growing new bone tissue and reabsorb old bone. This process continues throughout our lives. Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone help our bodies absorb calcium from the intestinal tract. Specifically, estrogen slows the cells that break down bone matter and progesterone and testosterone stimulate the cells that grow new bone tissue. Another hormone (growth hormone) helps rebuild lost bone. Growth hormone can begin to decline in the mid-twenties and continues to decline as a person ages. During peri-menopause, women can lose 1% to 6% of their bone mass each year.