1. Will these symptoms last for the rest of my life?
For most women, the symptoms of menopause last for a relatively short time. However, a woman’s level of estrogen naturally remains low after menopause. This can affect many parts of the body, including the sexual and urinary organs, the heart, and the bones. So in that sense, the changes of menopause will be lifelong. But eating right, exercising, and making other positive lifestyle changes can help a woman feel great and live a long, healthy life after menopause.
2. Is a change in sexual desire normal after menopause?
Many women say that their sexual desire lessens during the time of menopause. In many cases, the cause is physical. For instance, because lower estrogen levels sometimes cause physical changes in a woman’s sexual organs, having sex may become uncomfortable or painful so it is important to find out whether there is a physical cause for lack of desire. For some women, taking hormones called androgens can help restore sexual desire.
Some women find that sexual desire changes because of how they feel about themselves during menopause. Counseling and support groups can help women learn strategies for coping with the physical and emotional changes that occur during menopause.
3. What can be done to relieve pain during sex?
Intercourse may be painful when there is not enough moisture in the vagina or when the tissue lining the vagina becomes fragile because of lower estrogen levels in the body. Several methods are available to relieve pain during intercourse. It may sound surprising, but frequent sexual activity is one of the most effective remedies for vaginal dryness. Other remedies include taking a warm bath before intercourse or using lubricants. Short-acting, water-based lubricants, such as K-Y Jelly, supply moisture and are used immediately before intercourse. These products are readily available in grocery stores and pharmacies, usually at a low cost.
Long-acting vaginal moisturizers are also available, and can provide extended relief. Vaginal creams containing estrogen are very helpful in relieving the symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness.
To read more about the ayurveda approach towards intimacy, visit our Sex & Ayurveda.
4. If I have a period on estrogen therapy, will I also have PMS again?
Some women do experience PMS-like symptoms, including swollen or tender breasts, bloating, nausea, and sometimes even a blue mood. Some of these symptoms are linked to mild water retention, and may be relieved by a mild diuretic. Other things that can help include:
- Reducing salt intake
- Increasing exercise and activity
- Avoiding caffeine and chocolate
- Taking vitamin B6 or B complex
5. Since I began menopause, I’ve had an embarrassing problem – urine leaks when I laugh or cough. What can be done to prevent this?
Some women have problems with bladder control after menopause begins. This happens because the muscles that surround the bladder and hold the urine inside become weaker when estrogen levels are low. Fortunately, simple exercises – known as Kegel exercises – can strengthen these muscles. To perform a Kegel, contract the pelvic muscles as if trying to tighten or close the vaginal opening. Hold the contraction for a count of three and then relax. Wait a couple of seconds and repeat. Fast Kegels (squeezing and relaxing muscles as quickly as possible) can also help. Performing several Kegels a day (try for a total of 50 per day) can markedly improve bladder control – and may even enhance sexual pleasure! Taking estrogen can also help maintain the tone or strength of pelvic muscles.
6. My doctor has recommended hormone replacement therapy, but I’ve heard that I’ll have menstrual periods again if I take it. Is that true?
Estrogen therapy may cause vaginal bleeding in some women. This depends on the hormone that is selected and the dose taken each day, as well as each woman’s own unique response to therapy. Often, estrogen is taken in a cyclic regimen – that is, estrogen is taken for 21 to 25 days of the month followed by several days without estrogen. After menopause, low estrogen levels result in a thinning of the uterine lining, which, in turn, stops the monthly period. Taking estrogen after menopause thickens the uterine lining. This lining is shed on the days when estrogen is not being taken, resulting in vaginal bleeding similar to a period. About two-thirds of women who still have a uterus will have a period on the days when they are not taking estrogen. Similarly, most women who take continuous estrogen (that is, estrogen every day) plus progestin pills on some days of the month will have a period.
7. How will menopause affect my daily activities and lifestyle?
That all depends on you. Menopause is a natural part of life, not a disease or a health crisis. However, menopause may occur when many other changes are happening in your life. For instance, your children may be marrying or leaving home, your parents may be ill or dying, or you may be wondering what you’ll do when you retire from work. That’s why it is probably more helpful to think of how your daily activities and lifestyle will affect menopause. For instance, making sure that you exercise and eat right can make a real difference in how you feel and can even help prevent some of the long-term effects that are linked to estrogen deficiency (like heart disease or osteoporosis).
Physical changes do occur with menopause and with aging. But the changes that happen during this period can be minimized by healthy living and a sense of purpose in life.
8. Even though my eating habits have not changed, I’ve gained weight recently. Is that linked to menopause?
It may be. The body’s metabolism changes during and after menopause. Everyone’s metabolism begins to slow during the early to mid-30s. This change occurs slowly, so it may take a while for the impact of eating habits to affect weight. It is important to make a sensible, nutritious diet and healthy behaviors, such as getting enough exercise, a goal for life.
9. I seem to be very forgetful lately and I’m worried. What’s happening?
Many menopausal women have problems with short-term memory – like forgetting the location of car keys or eyeglasses, skipping appointments they didn’t remember, or losing the end of a thought when speaking or writing. These may be due to a busy lifestyle and/or stress at home or work. Notably, several medical studies have shown distinct differences in memory in women who have active ovaries producing estrogen or are taking estrogen replacement therapy compared to women with low levels of estrogen due to menopause.