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Reframing the Conversation Around Menopause

It's a natural part of life that provides challenges and opportunities

Reframing the Conversation Around Menopause

Very few women love the idea of aging. That’s why there is a booming market of products centered around keeping women looking and feeling young. But, one area of aging that can’t be avoided is menopause.

“Society puts so much pressure on women when it comes to aging,” says gynecologist Susan Haas, MD, with Lehigh Valley Physician Group (LVPG) Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Because menopause is a sign of aging, women are often reluctant to discuss it. But it’s an important topic, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk to your doctor about any aspect of menopause.”

What is menopause?

Menopause is defined as 12 consecutive months without a period. While menopause naturally occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, the entire process may take years and is broken into three stages.

  • Perimenopause – The first phase of menopause can last up to four years. During this time, you may notice irregular periods and other menopause-like symptoms.
  • Menopause – Menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing estrogen and releasing eggs.
  • Postmenopause – After menopause, you will hit postmenopause, which is when symptoms will lessen or go away. During postmenopause you are at an increased risk for conditions like osteoporosis, heart disease, and bladder and pelvic floor issues.

In some cases, menopause may be prompted earlier by a surgery or radiation exposure.

“Since some menopause symptoms cause women embarrassment or discomfort, they are reluctant to seek help. It’s a shame because we have treatment options that are very effective.” Susan Haas, MD

What to expect

While there are positive aspects to menopause (no more periods!), Dr. Haas says you may also experience a range of side effects.

“During menopause your body is going through hormonal changes that can lead to some uncomfortable symptoms. It’s important to know the signs of menopause so that we can treat them effectively,” Dr. Haas says.

Some of the most common symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause include:

  • Hot flashes/night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain

Another common symptom associated with perimenopause and menopause is irregular periods or periods that are lighter or heavier than normal. Dr. Haas says period irregularity is due to the fact that you are not ovulating regularly.

Seeking help

Dr. Haas says it’s important to discuss menopause with your doctor so you can find a treatment that works for you. “Since some menopause symptoms cause women embarrassment or discomfort, they are reluctant to seek help. It’s a shame because we have treatment options that are very effective,” Dr. Haas says.

Treatments include lifestyle modifications, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and hormonal therapy. Your doctor will discuss your symptoms with you and decide the best course of treatment.

Most importantly, Haas encourages women to embrace menopause. “There are many benefits to menopause. Now free from the hassle of periods and the stress of caring for young families, you can focus on yourself,” she says.

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