You’re sitting in a meeting when, out of nowhere beads of sweat begin to form on your upper lip, and you feel sweat slowly rolling down your back. Everyone else seems comfortable around you, yet you feel like you’re in a sauna. What’s going on?
Ah, hot flashes. One of the most unwelcome “perks” of perimenopause, the transitional state in a woman’s reproductive life before menopause. Your hormones begin to change, causing all kinds of moderate to severe symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal pain and mood changes.
Jennifer Hofmeister, PA-C, a specialist in the area of obstetrics and gynecology at Banner Health Center in Loveland, explains what is exactly happening to your body during perimenopause and shares some tips to help you manage the change. With a little help, you can coast into menopause, no sweat (mostly).
Hormone Highs and Lows
“Beginning somewhere in your 40s, you will begin to notice fluctuations in your period,” Hofmeister said. “While some women can coast right through into menopause without noticing anything besides changes in their periods, others can have debilitating symptoms.”
Hofmeister suggests trying the following things:
1. Supportive Measures
Hofmeister says the first line of defense is nutrition and lifestyle habits. She suggests women start with moderate exercise (roughly 30 minutes) most days of the week, make healthy food choices, limit alcohol, caffeine and other sugary snacks that could affect blood sugars and insulin, get good night’s sleep and dress in layers. Hofmeister also recommends upping your calcium and vitamin D as well.
“Roughly one year before menopause and a few years into menopause, women can experience significant bone loss,” Hofmeister said. “So, it’s important for women to get 1500mg of calcium daily and take a vitamin D supplement.”
2. Hormone Therapy
If diet and lifestyle changes fail to improve symptoms, hormone therapy may be considered. Hofmeister says hormone therapy or low-dose birth control pills can help. For women who cannot take hormones, there are non-hormonal medications that can ease symptoms.
3. Vaginal Estrogen
To relieve vaginal irritation and dryness, estrogen can be administered directly to the vagina using a vaginal cream, tablet or ring. This treatment doesn’t carry the side effects that taking an oral estrogen pill might because it is only absorbed by the vaginal tissues.
4. Low-dose Antidepressants
“If you are unable to take estrogen for health reasons, a low-dose antidepressant may decrease your menopausal hot flashes,” Hofmeister said. “Talk to your health care provider about what management option is best for you.”