Coping With Menopause
Menopause isn't really a medical condition. It's a natural state of being and often requires no treatment. Sometimes, though, the symptoms wrought by fluctuating hormones can be severe. Symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, foggy thinking, heavy periods, and mood swings can be too rough to bear without help. A health care professional can provide solutions in the form of treatments that make the transition more comfortable.
But first things first: it's a good idea to assess your lifestyle to see what changes you can make. Reducing stress, making sure you get regular exercise, improving your diet, eliminating caffeine and cigarettes, and lowering the amount of alcohol you use can make you feel much better and reduce your menopause symptoms, as well. If your symptoms are still ruling your life, it's time to expand your options.
Low dose birth control pills can help as long as you're still having periods, no matter how irregular they may be. Also known as low dose hormone therapy, or HT, this treatment can be helpful in a case where there are many symptoms, or the symptoms are severe. HT is not recommended after menopause is complete, because this is a higher dose of hormones than is recommended at this stage. A very low dose of hormone therapy can be used for short term treatment after menopause is complete when symptoms are severe.
Often times, a woman will be experiencing a single or just a few symptoms, for instance, vaginal dryness, or hot flashes. In this case, a specific treatment, such as vaginal estrogen cream can be most helpful. For some women, an alternative approach works well, for instance, you may just find that meditative breathing can bring relief. Many women find that adding soy to their diets make them feel better, since the soybean is packed with plant-based estrogen, the female sex hormone. Other women may find that black cohosh, an herbal supplement, does the trick.
Lack of libido is sometimes thought to be a symptom that is associated with menopause, but more often, sex drive is affected by the thinning of the vaginal walls and the decrease in vaginal moisture. Estrogen cream and commercial lubricants can help. A lowered sex drive may also be due to the moodiness that some women experience with menopause. In general, it is thought that sex drive has more to do with overall mental health and physical wellbeing than with menopausal changes.
Some doctors have prescribed testosterone for decreased sex drive though this is considered an off-label use of the hormone. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not given their approval for testosterone treatment as a treatment for lowered sex drive in postmenopausal women. For one thing, testosterone doesn't exist in doses that are appropriate for women. Also, only very short term studies have been performed on testosterone treatment for women, with none lasting longer than 6 months. The FDA isn't ready to give its stamp of approval to testosterone treatment for low postmenopausal sex drive until more is known about the long term risks of such treatment.
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