Menopause is most often a natural event that normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.
Menstrual periods will slowly stop over time. During this time, your periods may become either more closely or more widely spaced. This pattern may last for 1 - 3 years.
Your menstrual flow may come to a sudden halt after surgeries to remove your ovaries, chemotherapy, or certain hormone treatments for breast cancer.
Hot flashes and sweats are at their worst for the first 1 - 2 years after your last period. Menopause symptoms may last 5 or more years.
Your doctor may have prescribed hormone therapy to relieve symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, sleep problems, and vaginal symptoms.
Take these hormones the way your doctor prescribed them. Ask your doctor what you should do if you miss a dose.
When taking hormones:
To help control hot flashes:
Watching what you eat or drink can improve your symptoms and help you sleep:
Nicotine stimulates the body and will make it harder to fall asleep. This includes both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
See also: Smoking - tips on how to quit
Once you have not had a period for 1 year, you are no longer at risk of becoming pregnant. Before that, use birth control to prevent pregnancy.
Vaginal dryness may be relieved by using a water-soluble vaginal lubricant during intercourse. Do not use petroleum jelly. Avoid mineral oil, or other oils if you use condoms, as these may damage latex condoms or diaphragms. Over the counter vaginal moisturizers are also available and can help to improve vaginal dryness. Ask your doctor about estrogen creams for the vagina.
Kegel exercises can help with vaginal muscle tone and help you control urine leakage.
Reach out to other people. Find someone you trust (such as a friend, family member, neighbor, or clergy member) who will listen to you and offer support. Often, just talking to someone helps relieve some of the anxiety and stress of menopause.
Get plenty of exercise. It can help you feel healthier and will keep your bones strong.
You need enough calcium and vitamin D to prevent bone thinning (osteoporosis):
After menopause, a woman's risk for heart disease and stroke goes up. Ask your doctor about what you should do to control your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart disease.
Call your doctor if you find you are unable to manage your symptoms of menopause with home care only.
Also call your doctor if you have any unusual menstrual bleeding, or if you have any spotting or bleeding at all 1 year or more after your last period.
Perimenopause - self-care; Hormone replacement therapy - self-care; HRT- self-care
Daley A, Stokes-Lampard H, Macarthur C. Exercise for vasomotor menopausal symptoms. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 May 11;5:CD006108.
North American Menopause Society. Estrogen and progestogen use in postmenopausal women: 2010 position statement of The North American Menopause Society. Menopause. 2010 Mar;17(2):242-55.
Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.