What to expect during menopause

Women's Care
Aug 24, 2023

St. Joseph’s/Candler OB/GYN reminds women they don’t have to suffer with menopause symptoms

Whether you’ve been through it, are going through it or dreading it, menopause is a time in a woman’s life we all must face. But, you don’t have to face it alone or be miserable from its symptoms.

Menopause is when a woman stops having menstrual cycles for 12 consecutive months. You also have a decrease in estrogen, and it marks the end of your reproductive years, explains Dr. Michelle Gainty, St. Joseph’s/Candler OB/GYN.

Menopause typically occurs naturally, and the average age a woman goes through menopause is 51, Dr. Gainty says. However, there are cases where women may go into menopause much younger.

The years leading up to menopause is called perimenopause. During this timeframe, which can last anywhere from one year to 10 years, women may experience changes in their menstrual cycle, such as longer, heavier periods or missed cycles. However, when there’s no menstrual cycle for 12 straight months, a woman is considered to be in menopause.

Related Article: Surviving perimenopause: What women need to know

The stage after menopause is considered the post-menopausal period. You may continue to have some of the same symptoms as perimenopause and menopause, especially decreased libido and vaginal dryness, Dr. Gainty says.

Also during this time, because of decreased estrogen, you start to experience rapid bone loss that puts you at risk for osteoporosis. Additional, as women age and are post-menopausal, they are more at risk for heart disease and stroke.

What to expect during menopause

The symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are very similar. You may experience:

  • Hot flashes, which are feelings of a heat rush, mostly from the upper body to the face. They can last from a few second to several minutes and can occur randomly throughout the day.
  • Night sweats, some may be so bad you are drenching through your clothes, Dr. Gainty says.
  • Sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep or waking up long before your usual wake time.
  • Vaginal changes, such as the tissue becoming thinner, dryer or less elastic.
  • Urinary tract changes, where the urethra becomes dry and irritated. This may lead to more urinary tract infections, Dr. Gainty says.

Some women may experience other symptoms such as moodiness, anxiety or depression, achy joints and muscles and weight gain.

“All the fun stuff,” Dr. Gainty jokes.

But seriously, Dr. Gainty tells her patients while symptoms of menopause are common and to be expected, you can also seek out advice from your doctor on symptom management. It’s also important to make sure nothing more serious is going on, especially if you have abnormal bleeding.

“We can help woman going through menopause manage their symptoms so they can go through their daily lives without feeling miserable,” Dr. Gainty says. “I try to remind patients that a lot of these symptoms are normal and common, however, you should still consult with your healthcare provider because some of the symptoms, like abnormal bleeding, can be an indication of a problem. So while I say it’s normal, still come see me so we can figure that out.”

Treating symptoms of menopause

Depending on your symptoms, there are hormonal therapy options that may help manage them. That can include estrogen and/or progesterone that comes in the form of a pill or patch. There are also localized medications in the form of creams and gels.

For women who want to stay away from hormonal options, some anti-depressants can help with hot flashes, in addition to moodiness, Dr. Gainty says. Be sure to talk to your physician before taking anything over-the-counter.

If symptoms of menopause are impacting your daily activities, be sure to talk to your OB/GYN about the best treatment option for you.

If you are looking for an OB/GYN, Dr. Gainty sees patients at our midtown Savannah office and at our Pooler Campus. Request an appointment here. 


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