Menopause Questions
Testing, Contraception, HRT, Irregular Periods

Menopause questions and answers

Menopause: Frequently Asked Questions

Menopause Questions

Contents

Can I Test For Menopause?
I'm In My Late 30s. Could I Be Menopausal?
Will I Lose My Libido?
Do I Still Need To Take The Birth Control Pill?
How Do I Know If I've Reached Menopause If I'm On The Pill?
Could Irregular Vaginal Bleedings Be Cancer?
Is HRT The Only Treatment For Menopause?
Will HRT Make Me Fat?
Is It True Women Don't Have To Worry About Heart Attacks?
Do Most Women Get Depressed In Menopause?
What Is Induced Menopause?
I'm Suffering Brain Fog, Could It Be Alzheimer's?


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Menopause Guide

Can I Test For Menopause?

There is no medical test yet which can accurately determine if a woman is approaching menopause. In fact, usually the best indicator is a woman's own body - if periods become irregular, mood swings start occurring and hot flashes become the norm - it is quite reasonable to assume menopause is on its way. However some women, mainly those still hoping for a pregnancy after 35, may need more concrete information than this. One option is to ask your doctor to perform a blood test to check your hormone levels (menopause testing). Estradiol (estrogen), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels can be checked. Test results may give some indication, but as hormones have a habit of fluctuating it cannot be conclusive.

I'm In My Late 30s. Could I Be Menopausal?

Yes, it is quite possible. Although most women experience menopause on average between the ages of 45 and 55, experiencing signs earlier than this is not uncommon. Symptoms such as hot flashes, crying, mood swings and depression can start as early as your late 30s. They are more accurately called perimenopause symptoms and can occur 10 years before your final period stops. If you start skipping periods completely at this age, talk to your gynecologist as it can indicate other underlying problems. Untreated thyroid problems for example can result in premature menopause. You might find it useful to read our article on the effects of menopause on the body. Knowledge is power.

Will I Lose My Libido?

Not necessarily. In fact 50 percent of polled menopausal women declare they are still happy with their sexual life. Some find they even enjoy it more because they are relaxed since the children have left home, pregnancy is no longer an issue and financially they may be in better position. That said a low libido in menopause is still an issue for many women. Often it happens when sex becomes painful due to vaginal atrophy (the vaginal walls have become thinner and more sensitive). Shifting hormone levels, exhaustion from sleepless nights and hot flashes may all contribute. Fortunately a low libido is highly treatable problem; discuss options with your gynecologist. See also, why have I lost my sex drive? for another perspective.

Do I Still Need To Take The Birth Control Pill?

When your periods have stopped for one complete year, you have reached menopause. Until that time, throughout the perimenopause phase when periods may still be occurring but irregularly, you should still use a method of birth control. Although fertility significantly declines in our 40s, pregnancy is still possible. You should discuss with your doctor about switching to a lower dosage pill which may be safer, if you're not already on it. Regular birth control pills contain between 30 and 50 mg of estrogen, while lower dosage pills contain about 20 mg (read also, is it safe to take the contraceptive pill after 35?). Contraceptive pills have the added benefit of helping to curb some of the effects of menopause including hot flashes and irritability. They are also linked with lowering osteoporosis risk factors and ovarian cancer.

How Do I Know If I've Reached Menopause If I'm On The Pill?

You will need to stop taking the pill to see if you get a period. Always use an alternative contraception while you try this just in case it turns out you are still in the perimenopause phase.

Could Irregular Vaginal Bleedings Be Cancer?

Most irregular vaginal bleedings in perimenopausal women are related to approaching menopause. Menstrual cycles can become extended or shorter. So instead of having a bleed every 28 days, you may bleed every 25 days or every 35 days. If however you go through more than one super absorbent tampon or pad every few hours; or if you bleed after intercourse or you bleed more than every 3 weeks, contact your doctor. Also if your periods have stopped for 6 months and you suddenly start bleeding again, this should be checked out. This kind of postmenopause bleeding is mostly caused by very treatable benign conditions. However in a small percentage of cases it could indicate womb cancer or its forerunner endometrial hyperplasia.

Is HRT The Only Treatment For Menopause?

Firstly it is important to remember that only about half of all women experience menopause symptoms which are annoying enough for them to seek treatment. Some women breeze through menopause without even so much as a hot flash. While others decide that the side effects are not bad enough to require medication. While estrogen replacement therapy is considered the most effective menopause treatment, it is not the only way. Exercise, a healthy diet and herbal remedies such as black cohosh can all have significant results.

Will HRT Make Me Fat?


Weight gain in menopause: No, it should not. Studies consistently show that HRT does not cause weight gain. In fact, women who took the placebo pills in trials were more likely to put on weight than those who took the real pill. Some doctors even report that women who start HRT sometimes lose weight because they can sleep better and are less prone to comfort eating. Yet, HRT can in some instances cause water retention, but this is not fat and can be treated by reducing salt intake. The main cause of weight gain in menopause is reduced physical activity combined with a slower metabolic rate.

Is It True Women Don't Have To Worry About Heart Attacks?

No it is not true, although there is a popular myth that heart disease in women is not a major issue. Yet 2.5 million American women are hospitalized every year for heart disease and nearly 500,000 die (see heart disease statistics). In fact the odds are that 50 percent of women will either die of a heart attack or stroke. Prior to menopause the risk of heart disease is slightly lower in women than men, probably because estrogen plays a protective role. Postmenopause, when estrogen levels decline, this gap narrows until it is indistinguishable.

Do Most Women Get Depressed In Menopause?

Menopause Depression: No, most do not get depressed. In fact women are more likely to suffer depression in their child-bearing years, especially after having a baby. That said, many women do suffer mood swings and irritability during perimenopause and it can be aggravated by hormone induced sleepless nights. The risk factors for severe depression are higher in women with a history of irregular periods, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) or previous cases of depression - read how to recognize the effects of depression in women. Do remember that perimenopausal symptoms are transient and will disappear again over time. Fortunately in the meantime, there are various treatment options.

What Is Induced Menopause?

This is where menopause has been artificially induced by some kind of medical intervention that damages or removes the ovaries. In most cases it is the result of surgery, and is known as surgical menopause or premature menopause. If both ovaries are removed by surgery this is called an oophorectomy, or if the whole uterus is removed it is called a hysterectomy. Once the ovaries are removed the woman instantly enters menopause. Ovaries can also stop working if they become damaged by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. This is known as medical menopause.

I'm Suffering Brain Fog, Could It Be Alzheimer's?


Memory loss or difficulties are quite a common menopausal symptom, yet it is less frequently discussed. Some women describe it like a brain fog when they forget words and can't finish a sentence. This is caused by declining estrogen levels which affects the brain's function. It is nothing to worry about; in fact you may already have experienced it after childbirth if you had children - another time when hormones fluctuate wildly. Alzheimer patients on the other hand are rarely aware of their condition. In most instances the first sign of Alzheimer’s is forgetting how to perform activities such as driving - it is not simply forgetting a few words.

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