WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Menopause is a normal stage in a woman's life when her monthly periods stop. Menopause starts when the ovaries slowly stop making the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. A woman who has not had a period for a full year after the age of 45 is considered to be in menopause. Perimenopause is a stage before menopause that may cause signs and symptoms similar to menopause. Perimenopause can last an average of 4 to 5 years.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
- Manage hot flashes. Hot flashes are brief periods of feeling very warm, flushed, and sweaty. Hot flashes can last from a few seconds to several minutes. They may happen many times during the day, and are common at night. Layer your clothing so that you can easily remove some clothing and cool yourself during a hot flash. Cold drinks may also be helpful.
- Reduce vaginal dryness by using over-the-counter vaginal creams. Vaginal dryness may cause you to have pain or discomfort during sex. Only use creams that are made for vaginal use. Do not use petroleum jelly. You may need an estrogen cream to put in and around your vagina. Estrogen cream may help decrease vaginal dryness and lower your risk of vaginal infections.
- Continue to use birth control during perimenopause if you do not want to get pregnant. You may need to use birth control until it has been 1 year since your periods stopped. Ask your healthcare provider when you can stop using birth control to prevent pregnancy.
Lead a healthy lifestyle:
After menopause, your risk for heart disease and bone loss increases. Ask about these and other ways to stay healthy:
- Exercise regularly. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight. Exercise can also help to control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Include weight-bearing exercise for strong bones. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains (whole-wheat bread, pasta, and cereals), low-fat dairy, and lean protein foods (beans, poultry, and fish). Limit foods high in sodium (salt). Ask your healthcare provider for more information about a meal plan that is right for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Check with your healthcare provider before you start any weight loss program.
- Take supplements as directed. You may need extra calcium and vitamin D to help prevent osteoporosis.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine may worsen your symptoms.
- Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease, blood clots, and cancer if you smoke. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have vaginal bleeding after menopause.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.