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Lehigh Valley Children's Hospital

Menopause and Perimenopause

Menopause marks a major milestone in your life when you stop menstruating and can no longer have children. Every woman will experience it. If you need help managing symptoms during your change of life, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) provides compassionate, comprehensive care during menopause.

Menopause, also known as the “change of life,” refers to the stage when your hormone levels begin to change, which signals the body to slow or stop menstruation. Menopause starts when your ovaries stop releasing eggs and ends when you have been without a menstrual cycle for one full year.

At LVHN, you have access to the most advanced menopause care available, provided in a convenient location, close to home.

When does menopause occur?

Menopause naturally occurs in women over the age of 40, typically between the ages of 45 and 55.

Perimenopause

This phase begins years before menopause when the ovaries begin to slow their production of estrogen.

Premature menopause

When menopause occurs before age 40, it is considered premature menopause. Risk factors associated with premature menopause include:

  • Smoking
  • Radiation exposure
  • Exposure to chemotherapeutic drugs or surgery that impairs the ovarian blood supply

Surgery-related menopause

Surgery-related menopause results in an abrupt menopause, with women often experiencing more severe menopausal symptoms than if they were to experience it naturally. It can follow:

  • The removal of an ovary or both ovaries
  • Radiation of the pelvis, including the ovaries, in premenopausal women

Postmenopause

The years following menopause are known as postmenopause. The symptoms associated with menopause ease or disappear during this time, but can contribute to conditions like:

Am I menopausal or perimenopausal?

There are no unique physical findings or laboratory tests to diagnose menopause. Signs that menopause has begun include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Vaginal dryness 

LVHN providers recommend you keep a diary of menstrual cycles and the physical and psychological changes you experience over the course of several months. If necessary, your provider may use the information to evaluate any additional care you might need.

In some circumstances, your provider may use a blood test to check the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone. Low thyroid hormone levels can cause symptoms similar to those of menopause, such as swelling, mood changes and hot flashes.

Menopause-related care and support

Menopause is not a disorder, so you will likely never need treatment. Your provider may recommend complementary therapies to help you in your menopause transition.

When symptoms are severe, your LVHN provider may suggest symptom-alleviating medications such as:

Hormone therapy

Estrogen and progesterone hormone therapy are prescribed in pill form and as transdermal skin patches and vaginal creams.

Non-hormonal treatment

The use of over-the-counter creams that do not contain estrogen may relieve some of the symptoms associated with menopause.

Estrogen alternatives

Estrogen alternatives, so-called "synthetic estrogens," may offer the benefits of estrogen like osteoporosis prevention, without associated risks like endometrial cancer.

Alternative therapies

Homeopathy and herbal treatments may offer some relief from some menopause symptoms.