Should I see a gynaecologist for menopause?
2-6 September 2019 is Women’s Health Week.
The two biggest barriers for women not maintaining a healthy lifestyle is ‘lack of time’ and ‘health not being a priority’. Women’s Health Week is the time to do something for your health and start making positive changes that can last a lifetime. At Jessie McPherson Private we wanted to take this opportunity to talk to you about Menopause.
A natural sign of aging, menopause can make any woman nervous. Knowing what to expect can help alleviate concerns. Menopause affects each woman differently — symptoms and timing vary by individual.
Knowing the facts about menopause can help make the transition less worrisome.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is defined as the final menstrual period. It occurs when there has been a change in a woman’s reproductive hormones and her ovaries no longer release any eggs. Once a woman reaches menopause, she can no longer become pregnant.
Most women reach menopause between 45-55 years of age. The average age for women in Australia to reach menopause is 51-52 years.
Some women will have a later menopause – at up to 60 years of age, especially if there is a family history of late menopause – while some women will have an earlier than expected menopause, as a result of cancer treatment, surgery or unknown causes.
During the lead-up to menopause, and the menopause transition, symptoms such as menstrual irregularities, hot flushes and anxiety are common.
Not all women will have symptoms and for those who do, they will be different for everyone.
Symptoms of menopause can include:
- hot flushes, night sweats, feeling hot
- vaginal changes such as dryness and pain during sex
- joint or muscle aches and pains
- mood swings, such as low mood, anxiety or irritability
- sleep disturbance
- a feeling of crawling or itchy skin.
What about Perimenopause?
The lead-up to menopause is called perimenopause. Perimenopause typically starts in a woman’s 40s*, but can occur during a woman’s 30s. Symptoms can come in waves, increasing and decreasing for months at a time. Though 4-6 years is the average length for most women’s perimenopause, it can be as short as a year, or last more than 10 years.
Women younger than 40 who experience symptoms seemingly related to menopause should make a doctor’s appointment to rule out any other conditions.
For every woman, the experience of perimenopause and menopause is different. About 20% of women will have no menopausal symptoms, 20% will have severe symptoms and the remainder will have mild to moderate symptoms.
What can I do to feel supported?
Knowing about the process of perimenopause and menopause can help you, your family and your relationships. All women respond differently to menopause and for some, it can have a major impact on their lives. As well as the symptoms she may have, it may affect how she feels about herself. This life phase can be difficult for both the woman and her family. Some things partners and families can do to help are:
- Open and supportive communication – this can help to maintain a strong relationship during this time
- Letting her sleep alone when necessary – some women prefer this due to the hot flushes and other sleep issues that can accompany menopause. This can help everyone sleep more comfortably.
What are the options for managing symptoms?
Treatments may help some symptoms, but the changes that menopause brings will still occur.
Some things a woman can do to feel good through the menopause include:
- Taking care of your general health. Have regular check-ups with your GP and talk to them about how you are feeling with a check-up for both partners.
- Aim for a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthily. Be physically active. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink alcohol, but if you do, don’t drink too much. Take care of your emotional wellbeing.
- For some women who have bothersome symptoms, the most effective treatment is menopause hormone therapy (MHT – formerly called hormone replacement therapy, or HRT). You should talk to your doctor about your options, your family history and your own health history. In general, for women under the age of 60 when starting MHT, the benefits outweigh the risks. There are many different therapies available; one may suit better than another.
- There are a number of other ways including lifestyle changes, natural therapies and medications for women who have mild symptoms and don’t want to, or can’t take, MHT. Speak to your GP, or a gynaecologist, about any symptoms or concerns you have.
How can a Gynaecologist help?
The main reason to see a gynaecologist is for symptom management, Jessie McPherson Private Gynaecologist Dr Haider Najjar explains below.
“Treatments vary by symptom, for example you could discuss using birth control during perimenopause to alleviate irregularity or heavy flow. Hormone replacement (MHT) can be discussed in detail, especially as the use of hormones can clash with other health conditions. Complimentary or alternative treatments can also be explored.”
“The low levels of estrogen and progesterone caused by menopause can raise the risk of certain health concerns, including heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis. For this reason it’s a good idea for women to see a gynaecologist once a year to monitor for those conditions but also to look at lifestyle choices. When you enter menopause, hormones and metabolism shift. A healthy lifestyle can ease the transition. Taking the time to assess individual behaviours like smoking, diet and exercise level, can help with the menopause change. ” Says Dr Najjar.
Search through the Jessie McPherson Private specialist directory for gynaecologists, including Dr Haider Najjar here.
Information in this article was taken from the Jean Hailes Supporting Women through Menopause Factsheet. The fact sheet is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.