Menopause happens as a natural process of aging and refers to the time when a woman's menstrual period ends. Menopause occurs as ovaries gradually decrease producing a hormone called estrogen and then stop releasing eggs.
- Premature menopause describes menopause before age 40 and may incur heart and bone health risks
- Perimenopause refers to the time leading up to complete menopause, during which periods become irregular
- Natural menopause occurs when a person has had no periods for a year
- Surgical or induced menopause occurs with the removal or damage of ovaries
- Postmenopause describes the time after menopause
The signs and symptoms of menopause often start in a woman's 40s. About 90 percent of women experience 4 to 8 years of irregular periods before their periods disappear permanently. Symptoms may include:
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Trouble sleeping
- Vaginal dryness and pain with sexual intercourse
- Dry skin
- Decreased interest in sex
- Frequent urination or leaking of urine
- Increased risk of urinary tract infections
Menopause Treatment at UVA
Healthy improvements to your behaviors can help you manage some of the discomforts of menopause. Ways to lessen the effects of hot flashes include:
- Reducing your body temperature with fans, cold packs under a pillow, cold water, fans
- Maintain a healthy weight; hot flashes increase with body fat
- Stop smoking; smokers have more severe hot flashes
- Relax with meditation, yoga, tai chi, quigong, massage, deep breathing; anxiety can increase hot flashes
- Deal with depression through counseling and antidepressants
- Exercise to help with above items
- Watch food triggers; some foods like caffeine, alcohol, hot or spicy foods can trigger hot flashes
Integrative & Complementary Medicine
Some alternative approaches, like acupuncture, may prove useful in improving your well being during menopause. We can help you access nontraditional therapies to complement or supplement traditional treatment.
Hormone Therapy (HT)
When lifestyle changes don't work, hormone therapy can provide an effective solution.
Learn about your options for hormone therapy.
Most studies do not show that nonprescription remedies work, but some women report finding short-term relief from:
- Soy, isoflavone, S-equol
- Black cohosh and other herbal remedies
- Topical progesterone cream
Since these products do not fall under regulation and may interact with other medications or have adverse affects, we recommend talking to your doctor.
Nonhormone Prescription Medications
Some antidepressants can help ease hot flashes, as well as:
- Certain blood pressure medications
- Antiseizure medications
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Vaginal moisturizers and vaginal lubricants can alleviate vaginal dryness.
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, is an OBGYN at UVA and the director of Midlife Health. Menopause happens as a natural process of aging and refers to the time when a woman's menstrual period ends. View Transcript