How Can Women Navigate Menopause for a Smoother Transition?

Menopause is a stage of a woman’s life that one can forget is approaching until it’s hard to ignore. There are a lot of factors to it that can be considered jarring, so it’s important for our team at Memphis Obstetrics and Gynecological Association to answer this question: How can women navigate menopause for a smoother transition?

Defining Menopause

Menopause is a natural biological period that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles and reproductive years, usually occurring in their late 40s or early 50s.

  • It is mainly defined by a gradual decline in the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones by the ovaries, leading to the cessation of menstruation.
  • The transition to menopause is called perimenopause. This is what we’ll be focusing on today.

Symptoms of Perimenopause

A wide variety of symptoms can arise during this time. It’s important to note everyone’s body is slightly different. Your doctor might be able to provide some insight into why yours might manifest in a particular way.

  • Irregular Cycles: Changes can occur in length, frequency, and intensity of menstrual cycles. They can also become longer, shorter, longer, heavier, or lighter.
  • Hot Flashes or Night Sweats: Sudden feelings of intense heat, often accompanied by sweating and flushing of the face and body, are common symptoms. These often disrupt sleeping patterns.
  • Sleep Issues: The aforementioned hot flashes are one cause of this, as well as hormonal fluctuations and other factors.
  • Mood Changes: Hormonal changes can lead to irritability, mood swings, anxiety, depression, or sensitivity.
  • Vaginal Changes: Decreased estrogen levels can result in vaginal dryness, itching, discomfort during intercourse, and an increased risk of urinary tract infections.
  • Changes in Libido: Some individuals may experience a decrease in libido or changes in sexual desire and arousal during this time.
  • Cognitive Changes: Difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, or similar symptoms referred to as “brain fog” can be anticipated by most.
  • Fatigue and Low Energy: Decreased energy and motivation can be enhanced by sleep disturbances and other symptoms.
  • Changes in Weight Distribution: This often is most visible in the abdominal area, when metabolism shifts.

How to Navigate It

First and foremost, it will be a journey—one that varies, but also unites women. Here are some of the key ways to help yourself along the way:

  • Educating Yourself: Learn about the signs, symptoms, and changes associated with this time. Understanding what to expect can help you to manage the transition effectively.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to the signals your body is sending mentally and physically. Keep track of these, as well as changes in your menstrual cycle, mood, sleep patterns, and other symptoms.
  • Stay Active: Regular exercise is a great solution to alleviate symptoms like mood swings, hot flashes, and sleep disturbances. This should be a mixture of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises to help your overall health and well-being.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Regardless of how busy your life may be, you must find time to care for yourself. These behaviors can promote relaxation instead of stress, like yoga, meditation, or spending time outdoors. 
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats should be staples of your diet. You can do independent research or contact a specialist to help discern the best course of action for your body. Try to limit consumption of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and processed foods.
  • Seek Support: Connect with family, friends, family members, or support groups who can offer empathy, understanding, and encouragement in this period of transition. Sharing experiences is often a powerful way to validate your own feelings.
  • Consider Hormone Therapy: Talk to your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of hormone therapy (HT) or other medications to manage symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. HT isn’t suitable for everyone, so it should be discussed in depth.
  • Stay Proactive: Schedule regular check-ups with your provider to monitor overall health and discuss any concerns or symptoms. Stay up to date on recommended screenings, vaccinations, and preventative care measures.
  • Be Kind and Patient to Yourself: Remember that this is a natural phase of life, and it’s okay to seek support and take time to adjust. Practice self-compassion whenever possible. Seeing a therapist is also a great way to help learn good habits.

We Are With You

We hope that you feel confident and have absolute trust in all of your primary healthcare providers—including members of our team you may be a patient of. Our providers are especially sensitive to these changes, as we have a high level of understanding as to how they affect women and their lives. The important thing is not to worry too much. You are in good hands. Feel free to contact one of our offices (WolfchaseEast MemphisGermantown, and Southaven) at 901-843-1500 to schedule an appointment.