What is the difference between Peri-menopause and Menopause? Peri-menopause is the time in which your body begins its transition into menopause. Symptoms can last from 2-8 years as your estrogen levels rise and fall, sometimes causing irregular menstruation, hot flashes, night sweats and changes in sleep patterns. For some women peri-menopause starts when they are in their 40s, while others notice a change in the mid-30s. It is always helpful to know your mother's menstrual history so you have an idea of what could happen to you.
Once you have gone an entire year without a period you are now considered post menopausal and you have successfully transitioned through perimenopause. Being post menopausal does not mean your life is over, in fact some women feel very librated with the cessation of their periods. Other women unfortunately continue to suffer with symptoms that started during perimenopause. Women often complain of vaginal dryness and urinary tract infections, which can be common menopausal symptoms.
Not only is it important to look at the female hormones during peri-menopause, but it is also important to look at Cortisol and Thyroid hormones. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is a key factor in energy levels and can be a contributing factor in poor sleep. Thyroid hormone helps regulate metabolism, weight, and temperature. Since the hormones are all linked it is important to monitor all of them if we start working with one.
Having a clear picture of your hormone cycles including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and Cortisol is an important step in determining which therapies will give you the easiest transition through menopause. Saliva testing gives us a picture of what is free or bio-available for the body to use, and should be tested over the course of a month to show the entire cycle. Urine testing is a great way to monitor people who are currently on hormones or are using natural treatments, because the urine allows us to see what is being eliminated from the body as metabolites.
Bio-identical hormones can be a helpful way to support the body as you go through the transition into menopause. Bio-identical hormones are yam based and have been formulated to be identical to our body's own hormones. Using a compounding pharmacy, we are able to give you the specific amount of hormone that you need as determined by your labs. Some people need a little more progesterone, while others need estrogen, progesterone and testosterone to get things back in balance.
As you transition through the changes associated with peri-menopause there are many natural treatment options for your unique symptoms. What might have worked for your friend might not work for you and vice versa. Herbal remedies can be helpful for all of the common symptoms relating to menopause including hot flashes and insomnia. Herbal tinctures work best when they have been individually tailored and can help to balance estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. I have often used herbs in my practice to effectively calm mood swings. Utilizing hormone testing, a specific herbal prescription can be formulated that will not interfere with your current medications.
Diet and exercise also play a huge role in symptom relief. As we get older dietary needs change and nutritional deficiencies show up, which can make symptoms worse. Simple changes to ones diet and exercise plan can help to manage symptoms along with giving you lifelong anti ageing benefits. Nutritional supplements help to balance deficiencies and support the body in the millions of metabolic processes it does each day. Blood testing is available to create a targeted approach to nutritional supplementation.
One of the best things you can do is to maintain a positive outlook, knowing that perimenopause is only a transition. There are many natural options to help support your body and your sanity as you go through this transition. You do not have to go through this transition on your own.
Once you are post menopausal it is very important to get any unexplained "periods" or bleeding checked out by your doctor. It is better to be cautious and make sure you are properly examined, than to just dismiss unexplained bleeding, which can be the first sign of something more serious. Continue to receive your pap screenings along with yearly mammograms. Your doctor will know the correct screening schedule for you.
Along with regular pap screenings, DEXA scans give vital information about bone density. Our bones are the strongest at age 30 and slowly start to lose mineralization as we get older. The DEXA scan measures bone strength and can determine whether supplemental treatment is necessary for prolonged health.
Changes in your body can seem overwhelming, but remember to enjoy the transition, the freedom, and the wisdom that comes as you continue to grow as a woman. Menopause is not the end of life, but rather the beginning of a new chapter. It is a time where you can celebrate the end of your menstruating years and the start of a new adventure as a non-menstruating woman.
Please know that you do not need to suffer with hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, or any other uncomfortable symptoms. There are many natural options available. Call (415) 912-9934 to book a free 15 minute consultation with Dr. Larrow and learn how a focused approach to alternative medicine can improve your health.