When can I expect to stop having periods and what will it be like?
Most women stop having periods somewhere between 48 and 52, but this may
occur earlier or later, depend-ing on lifestyle, heredity, and other factors.
Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and night sweats are the most common symptoms,
however many women also experience delayed or more frequent periods, heavy or
scant menstrual bleeding, and mood changes such as irritability or depres-sion.
These symptoms may occur fleetingly, or may last for several years or more.
I've seen a number of women who have made the transition through menopause
quite easily, with a mini- mum of symptoms. Other women, usually those who went
through menopause without knowing help was available for them, may have a
different story to tell and be very glad that it's all over. Many women think
they're starting menopause in their early forties, then discover that their
abnormal bleeding is caused by uterine fibroids (see the August, l990 issue of
The New Times for more information).
How can I be sure I'm going through menopause? If you are in your
late forties or early fifties, are having the symptoms mentioned above, and
your periods or changing or have stopped, it is highly likely that menopause is
occuring. It is important to consult with a physi- cian you trust, either a
gynecologist or an alternative practitioner such as a naturopath, or both, for
a number of reasons, rather than just going it on your own. If there is
abnormal bleeding, it may be important to rule out other causes besides
menopause, such as cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer or fibroids, which are
unlikely, but possible. In some cases, it is important to get very specific
information through measuring blood levels of the various types of estrogen ad
of progesterone. New tests are available to measure the amount of bone loss,
preferably during the first year after menopause, when up to 30% of the loss is
said to occur. Menopause is a very literally a change of life which
necessitates your making some choices. If you choose to take hormones, you need
regular gynecologic care. If you choose not to, there are definite dietary,
vitamin/mineral, and lifestyle recommendations which are very important for you
to integrate into your life. Choosing simply to avoid the issue entirely and
hope that all works out for the best is, in my opinion, not a responsible
What about hormones for menopause? The use of estrogen replacement
therapy (ERT) for women who have reached menopause with at least one ovary is
quite controversial and a very personal decision on the part of each woman.
Opinions on the subject range from the vehemently anti-hormone philosophy
espoused in Women and The Crisis in Sex Hormones by Seaman to the
attitude that, "Of course, you need to take hormones" of orthodox
gynecologists. I would estimate that 30 to 40% of my women patients
experiencing menopause choose to take estrogen. ERT is usually effective in
eliminating or improving hot flashes, vaginal dryness (often in conjunction
with a vaginal estrogen-containing cream), night sweats as well as preventing
osteoporosis. It may not address other symptoms such as wrinkling, aging, and
In the mid-70's, by which time ERT had been very popular for ten or
fifteen years, research began to indicate that ERT in post-menopausal women
could increase the risk of uterine cancer