Menopause is defined in the medical literature as the permanent end of menstrual cycles, determined after a woman stops her menses for 12 months. However, women in menopause, know this is a much more complex definition. The wonderful time of life without menses is also often accompanied by hot flushes known as vasomotor symptoms, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and decreased libido. Many women are hesitant to use hormone replacement therapy because of poorly designed research studies showing adverse side effects and increased health risks. Thankfully, there are many non-hormonal treatments available.
Hot flashes are the result of thermoregulatory dysfunction that occurs from a drop in estrogen in menopause. Paroxetine, a commonly used anti-depressant, is a non-hormonal therapy that is used to treat hot flashes. However, in lower doses, this medication provides relief to women from these bothersome symptoms. Yoga, acupuncture, hypnosis, and even therapy sessions may help to deal with vasomotor symptoms. These can also help with the mood changes that are commonly mentioned by females in menopause.
Vaginal dryness is caused by the loss of estrogen that occurs in menopause. The tissue can become atrophic, fragile, and scarred. This can also be treated non-hormonally. In small studies, over-the-counter moisturizers such as Replens were shown to improve vaginal elasticity, moisture, and fluid volume. Using a water-based lubricant every time during intercourse can also reduce discomfort. Decreasing pain may increase the desire to have sexual relations.
You do not have to suffer silently through this change in life. Please reach out to your women’s health provider to discuss all the options available.
Berks Community Health Center