Perimenopause (the months and years leading up to menopause) and menopause can cause various side effects, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, anxiety, depression and weight gain.
If you're experiencing mild menopause side effects that aren't affecting your everyday life, you may be able to manage them on your own. Below are a few tips to try:
- Wear layers. Wear multiple layers of clothing so you can easily cool off when a hot flash hits.
- Avoid hot flash triggers. You can decrease the occurrence of hot flashes if you learn the things that trigger yours. Possible hot flash triggers include warm air temperatures, spicy foods, hot beverages, alcohol, caffeine and stress.
- Keep your bedroom cool. Control night sweats by turning down the thermostat before you go to bed.
- Practice paced respiration. Paced respiration (a relaxation method that involves slow, deep breathing) may help reduce hot flashes. Try practicing the technique twice a day for 15 minutes. Slowly inhale and exhale six to eight times per minute.
- Use a vaginal lubricant. A water-based lubricant like Astroglide or K-Y or vaginal moisturizer like Replens can relieve vaginal dryness.
- Make healthy lifestyle changes. Eat a healthy diet and exercise to prevent weight gain; reduce anxiety and depression with massage or other relaxation techniques; avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can disturb sleep; and stop smoking as it can increase hot flashes.
Medical therapies for menopause side effects
Some menopause side effects may require medical treatment. Your doctor may recommend a medical therapy if you have:
- Severe hot flashes. Your doctor may recommend hormone therapy to treat severe hot flashes. If you can't undergo hormone therapy for health reasons, a drug used to treat seizures called gabapentin and some antidepressant medications may help.
- Abnormal uterine bleeding. Birth control pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can treat abnormal uterine bleeding during perimenopause. If these therapies do not work, surgical treatments may be considered.
- Severe vaginal dryness. Estrogen therapy can treat severe vaginal dryness and relieve painful intercourse. The estrogen is administered directly to the vagina via a cream, ring or tablet. We also offer a laser therapy treatment called Mona Lisa Touch.
- Severe depression. Your doctor may recommend an antidepressant medication if you're experiencing severe depression.
Talk to your doctor if you aren't sure if your menopause side effects are normal or if they're interrupting your daily life.
Click to learn more about women's health services at The Christ Hospital Health Network.