The Question of Hormones
These days you hear a lot about whether you should use hormones to help relieve some menopause symptoms. It's hard to know what to do, although there is some information to help you.
During perimenopause, some doctors suggest birth control pills to help with very heavy, frequent, or unpredictable menstrual periods. These pills might also help with symptoms like hot flashes, as well as prevent pregnancy.
If you are bothered by symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, or vaginal dryness, your doctor might suggest taking estrogen (as well as progesterone, if you still have a uterus). This is known as menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). Some people still call it hormone replacement therapy or HRT. Taking these hormones will probably help with menopause symptoms. It also can prevent the bone loss that can happen at menopause.
Menopausal hormone therapy has risks. That is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests that women who want to try MHT to manage their hot flashes or vaginal dryness use the lowest dose that works for the shortest time it's needed. Your symptoms may come back when you stop taking hormones.
Here are some ideas that have helped some women:
- Try to keep track of when hot flashes happen—a diary can help. You might be able to use this information to find out what triggers your flashes and then avoid those triggers.
- When a hot flash starts, try to go somewhere cool.
- If night sweats wake you, sleep in a cool room or with a fan on.
- Dress in layers that you can take off if you get too warm.
- Use sheets and clothing that let your skin "breathe."
- Have a cold drink (water or juice) when a flash is starting.
You could also talk to your doctor about whether there are any medicines to manage hot flashes. A few drugs that are approved for other uses, for example, certain anti-depressants, seem to be helpful to some women.
Questions to Ask
- What tests do you recommend I have to determine how menopause is affecting my body?
- Are there any medications or treatments I should take to help with my menopause symptoms?
- How can I avoid problems that menopause may cause to my heart and bones?
- What changes, if any, do I need to make in my exercise and diet to stay healthy?
- Should I consider menopausal hormone therapy and why?
- How will I know when menopause is over?