Question of the Month
My last period was 3/01-however, I recently went through PMS again and had a
period in July of this year. I am 54 yrs old and have been having hot flashes
for the past 5 years. The hot flashes have been less frequent in the last 2
months. I had my last gyn check-up and pap smear in April. Does this mean it
will take another year before I end menopause? Also, my prior periods were
coming every 3 months.
It used to be thought that menopause was sudden:
you had regular periods, then perhaps fewer and then one day they stopped. It
was also thought that all symptoms related to menopause would go away in a year
or so. If they didn't, they were blamed on psychological problems.
We now know none of this is true. The ovaries do not turn off suddenly. Rather
they slow down over several years. Even after periods stop, many women's ovaries
continue to make estrogen. This is why some women have fewer symptoms -- their
ovaries are still functioning after their periods stop.
During perimenopause, estrogen levels may fluctuate widely and bring mood swings
and other discomforts. Estrogen replacement usually helps this dramatically but
of course many women are understandably worried about using estrogen. Oral
contraceptives are another approach in women under 50 or 52 who are nonsmokers
and do not have other OC risk factors.
It is hard to predict how long symptoms related to menopause will last. Other
treatments can be tried for hot flashes including soy milk or tofu and black
cohosh. Antidepressants are claimed to sometimes help.
These are important but difficult decisions so there is no one right way for all
women. Best is to inform yourself, then discuss with a knowledgeable physician.
Hope this is helpful.
Geoffrey Redmond, MD
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