Diagnosis of postmenopause
In most cases, a woman is able to tell on her own when she is transitioning into menopause and postmenopause. If you are at all uncertain about your symptoms, find they are disrupting your quality of life, or don’t know where you are in the transition, it is wise to contact your doctor.
In some cases, your doctor will run blood tests to check your hormone levels. They will be checking for follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen (estradiol). These hormone levels decrease with menopause. It is also important to keep in mind that your hormone levels are constantly fluctuating, so a hormone test cannot always reveal where you are in the menopausal journey.
Your doctor may check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) as well to rule out an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), which can cause symptoms that mimic menopause and postmenopause.
The treatment during postmenopause, as well as perimenopause, is primarily in the form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This therapy is prescribed to provide you with additional estrogen to help reduce the symptoms that come with all stages of menopause. In addition to HRT, treatments include:
- Vaginal estrogen – A cream, ring, or tablet that will releases estrogen directly into the tissue of the vagina, relieving dryness, and improving urinary symptoms.
- Antidepressants – In a low dose, antidepressants can relieve hot flashes.
- Gabapentin – An anti-seizure drug that is also effective in reducing hot flashes.
- Clonidine – A high blood pressure medication that can also be used to treat hot flashes.
Together, you and your doctor will create a plan to help you navigate the challenges of postmenopause.
There is no preparation required when seeing your doctor beyond being ready to discuss your symptoms and asking any questions you have.
There is no recovery from postmenopause, as it is a natural process that the female body goes through. The best thing you can do for yourself is to live a healthy lifestyle that includes:
- A diet of whole, fresh foods and limited refined and processed foods
- Plenty of cardiovascular exercise and strength training
- Good stress management
- Regular checkups with your doctor
- Plenty of sleep
With the decrease in reproductive hormones, various systems in a woman’s body can be affected. Potential complications associated with postmenopause include:
- Osteoporosis: Women lose an average of 25 percent of their bone mass yearly from the time of menopause until age 60, increasing the risk of broken bones. To protect your bones, eat a diet that includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Get regular physical activity; weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running, and using weights help your bones stay strong. Ask your doctor about taking a calcium supplement. If your risk of osteoporosis is high, your doctor may also suggest prescription medication.
- Urinary problems: Bladder leakage and urge incontinence (suddenly and urgently needing to use the bathroom) are both common during postmenopause. If you experience either of these, let your doctor know. Treatments such as bladder training and prescription medication can help.
- Sexual problems: Some women find sex uncomfortable after menopause, often due to vaginal dryness. Over-the-counter lubricants can help, as can prescription estrogen creams, applied vaginally. Your interest in sex may change after menopause, too.
- Heart disease: After menopause, a woman’s cholesterol levels increase, along with the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. You can modify this risk by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping your blood pressure within normal limits, and getting plenty of exercise. Your doctor can help by checking your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and, if needed, prescribe medication. Your doctor can also connect you with one of our nutritionists who can help you manage your weight and learn to eat a healthy diet.
- Emotional well-being: Some women experience feelings of distress, anxiety, and depression around menopause. Life is not ending, but merely entering a new season filled with challenges and joyful surprises. If feelings about postmenopause interfere with your ability to function and enjoy life, talk to your doctor.
- Weight gain: A slower metabolism results in increased weight gain. Even to maintain your current weight, it will likely require an increase in exercise and a decrease in caloric intake.