Menopause and perimenopause often come with disruptive symptoms due to fluctuating hormones. Evelyn Mitchell, MD, an OB/GYN at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, breaks down 3 common physical symptoms — and what can be done to make life easier.
1. Hot flashes
“A hot flash is a sudden feeling of intense heat that rushes to the upper body and face,” Dr. Mitchell explains. “It may last a couple of seconds to minutes and may occur daily or a few times a month. Hot flashes at night can cause night sweats, which can impact sleep.” Many women recommend carrying a personal fan (a simple cloth or paper fan will do) for daytime flashes. For night sweats, try a cool shower or slipping a cold pack into your pillowcase.
2. Irregular periods
“Fluctuating estrogen levels can influence your periods,” Dr. Mitchell says. “You may experience shorter or longer cycles with lighter or heavier flow. You may also skip periods. It’s important to discuss irregular bleeding with your gynecologist to rule out an underlying issue.” It’s also a good idea to keep tampons or pads in varied sizes with you — just in case.
3. Vaginal dryness
“Vaginal dryness is due to the tissue becoming thinner, drier and less flexible,” Dr. Mitchell states. “This may cause discomfort during daily activities or pain during sex. It also increases your risk of vaginal and urinary tract infections.” To counteract this, try a good personal lubricant.
There are several options available to help mitigate these and other symptoms.
“Estrogen replacement prescribed by your physician will help address these symptoms,” Dr. Mitchell explains. “While you wait, over-the-counter herbal remedies can assist with relief. These include soy, black cohosh, and Chinese herbal remedies. These are not regulated and only a few have been studied for complete safety, so it’s important to let your physician know you are taking them.”