Menopause often brings uncomfortable symptoms, such as hot flashes and fatigue. The Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN team of physicians knows how these troublesome symptoms can negatively impact a woman’s quality of life. They provide the highest standard of health care before, during, and after menopause with treatments centered on improving your quality of life and reducing your symptoms. Visit one of our two locations in Newton or Walpole, Massachusetts for medical support through this significant time of transition.
Menopause is when menstruation ends. A woman is considered to be going through menopause if she hasn’t had a menstrual period for over a year.
For most women, menopause begins between 40 and 60, but it can begin earlier or later. While rare, some women go through premature menopause before the age of 40.
The average age for menopause in the United States is 52.
Causes of Menopause
Menopause is the natural decline of reproductive hormone production in your body.
While it’s a natural part of aging, other factors can induce menopause, such as:
- A total hysterectomy
- Chemotherapy and radiation cancer therapies
- Underlying medical conditions and autoimmune diseases
There are three stages of menopause – perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Perimenopause is the time period leading up to menopause, beginning anywhere up to 8 years before when your ovaries slowly start to produce less estrogen.
For some women, perimenopause only lasts a few months, but typically, this phase lasts about 4 years. Perimenopause lasts up until your ovaries stop releasing eggs.
Perimenopause, the transition to menopause, usually starts in a woman’s mid-to-late 40s.
You can get pregnant during this time, and you can also start to experience menopausal symptoms to varying degrees.
Transitioning from Perimenopause to Menopause
Sometimes it can be hard for you and your doctor to tell whether you are in perimenopause or not, but you might be if you have
Symptoms – hot flashes or trouble sleeping
Irregular Periods – you may not ovulate every month, so you may start experiencing irregular periods. You may even skip a few months or have unusually long or short menstrual cycles. Your period may even be heavier or lighter than before. Track your periods and note any changes to your normal cycle.
Hormone levels – during the transition to menopause, your hormone levels go up and down in an unpredictable way. Your doctor may order a blood test to test the number of hormones in your blood.
Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain
- Night sweats
- Thinning hair
- Lower energy
- Vaginal dryness
- Poor sleep quality
- Slowed metabolism
- Abnormal menstrual cycles during perimenopause
Treatments for Menopause
Menopause treatments focus on reducing or alleviating symptoms. Many treatments also help manage chronic conditions associated with menopause and aging, such as osteoporosis.
Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN physicians offer a full range of menopause treatments, including:
- Hormone therapy to restore hormonal balance
- Medications to reduce risks like bone loss or high blood pressure
- Vaginal estrogen, typically applied directly to the vagina as a topical cream
- Low-dose antidepressants or SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
Your doctor may also encourage you to try healthy at-home treatments to relieve your symptoms, such as:
- Quitting smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a balanced diet
- Getting enough sleep
Genetic Testing FAQs
To help you assess whether you may benefit from hereditary cancer testing, you need to discuss your risk of cancer with your healthcare professional and ask for further evaluation.
Genetic tests are performed on a sample of blood, hair, skin, amniotic fluid (if you are pregnant), or other tissue. The sample is then sent to a lab that specializes in genetic testing. The technicians look for specific changes in chromosomes, DNA, or proteins, depending on the suspected disorder. The lab returns the test results to the doctor who requested the test. It may take several weeks or longer to get the test results.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to pay for both genetic counseling and breast and gynecological cancer testing (e.g., Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) testing) for women who meet certain criteria. For these patients, insurance companies must cover the entire cost of genetic counseling and breast and gynecological cancer testing with no out-of-pocket costs to the individual.