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Understanding Menopause

Menopause marks the point where you’ve gone 12 months in a row without a period. The average age for this is around 51. During the months or years before menopause, your body goes through many changes. It may be helpful to understand these changes and what you can do about the symptoms that result.

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Symptoms

Perimenopause occurs in the months or years before menopause. It may first occur when you reach your mid-40s. During this time, your estrogen levels decrease. As a result, you may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • Periods that come more or less often than usual

  • Periods that are lighter or heavier than normal

  • Increased premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

  • Hot flashes

  • Night sweats

  • Mood swings

Controlling Symptoms

Your doctor may suggest pills that contain the hormone progesterone. This can make your periods more regular and prevent excess bleeding. If you have symptoms due to lower estrogen levels, your doctor may suggest pills that contain estrogen and/or progesterone. This is called hormone therapy (HT).

Other ways for you to deal with symptoms are listed below.

  • Hot flashes. Wear layers that you can remove. Try all-cotton clothing, sheets, and blankets. Keep a glass of cold water by your bed.

  • Pain during sex. You can buy a water-based lubricant in the drugstore that may help. Your doctor may also prescribe an estrogen cream for your vagina.

  • Mood swings. Talking to friends who are going through the same changes can sometimes help.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eder, Scott Evan, MD, FACOG, FACS
Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph, Marilyn S, MD, FACOG
Last Review Date: 3/21/2012
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