Coping with perimenopause and menopause
I encourage women to take better care of themselves in every aspect of life: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In perimenopause the body goes through substantial changes and requires additional resources to complete the process. Taking extra good care of yourself during this time pays dividends.
Physical Wellness: Because hormone levels are decreasing, there will be fluctuations in the symptoms women experience. Vaginal bleeding and hot flashes come and go. There is no set time when these symptoms will stop. Some women experience these symptoms for over a decade of their lives.
Hormone or Estrogen replacement therapy taken orally or applied topically may be prescribed by a doctor in order to help alleviate symptoms of hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Whether you choose hormone replacement therapy or not it is important to manage your own treatment and research the best kinds of medical or natural interventions for your situation. Recent research discouraged the use of the combined hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone). This is something you should discuss with your doctor. Vaginal dryness can be alleviated by using estrogen cream or K-Y jelly prior to sexual intercourse.
Lifestyle changes should include quitting cigarette smoking, curtailing alcohol intake, exercising regularly, and consuming a balanced diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D. Such changes are beneficial for increasing physical wellness and preventing complications such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Emotional and Mental Wellness: When you are experiencing the symptoms of hormone loss, from time to time you will feel blue. Hormonal changes can increase emotional fragility and lower your confidence. Combined with a lack of sleep menopause can cause irritability, confusion, sadness, angry outbursts, tears and disrupt relationships.
While estrogen therapy may be recommended to help elevate mood, women should also incorporate natural methods of elevating mood such as: lowering stress and increasing recreational and exercise programs. I encourage women to consider a new venture, pursuing education or career goals. Try learning a useful pursuit such as photography, writing or computer technology. Start participating in meaningful recreational and social activities. Begin hiking, biking, bird-watching, join a book club, start a new hobby. Add some more fun to your schedule.
Spiritual Wellness will bring the greatest stability when women enter this new stage of life. Take time to read scripture, the Psalms and pray. Focusing on the spiritual aspect of your life will bring the hope and faith which can alleviate depression and anxiety caused by menopause. Memorizing scripture can change your attitude about life.
Self-Care Tips To reduce the discomfort of hot flashes, try these tactics:
- Wear lightweight clothes made of natural fibers.
- Limit or avoid beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol.
- Avoid rich and spicy foods and heavy meals.
- Have cool drinks, especially water, when you feel a hot flash coming on and before and after exercising. Avoid hot drinks.
- Keep cool. Open a window. Lower the thermostat when the heat is on. Use air conditioning and/or fans. Carry a small fan with you (hand or battery operated).
- Try to relax when you get a hot flash. Getting stressed out over one only makes it worse.
- Use relaxation techniques such as meditating on scriptures, prayer.
- Take 400 international units of vitamin E daily, but consult your doctor first.
If you suffer from night sweats, (hot flashes that occur as you sleep):
- Wear loose fitting cotton nightwear. Have changes of nightwear ready.
- Sleep with only a top sheet, not blankets and keep the room cool.
To deal with vaginal dryness and painful intercourse:
- Don’t use deodorant soaps or scented products in the vaginal area.
- Use a water soluble lubricant such as K-Y Jelly, Replens, etc. to facilitate penetration during intercourse. Avoid oils or petroleum-based products. They encourage infection.
- Ask your doctor about intravaginal estrogen cream.
- Remain sexually active with your spouse. Having sex often may lessen the chance of having the vagina constrict, help keep natural lubrication and maintain pelvic muscle tone.
- Avoid using antihistamines unless truly necessary. They dry mucus membranes in the body.
To deal with emotional symptoms:
- Exercise regularly. This will help maintain your body’s hormonal balance and preserve bone strength.
- Talk to other women who have gone through or are going through menopause. You can help each other cope with emotional symptoms.
- Avoid stressful situations as much as possible.
- Use relaxation techniques such as meditating on scripture and prayer and listening to soft music.
- Eat a healthy diet. Check with your doctor about taking vitamin/mineral supplements.