Last week, you celebrated your 29th birthday for the 20th time. For the last three months, you’ve only had your period once. Snow is blanketing the ground and yet sweat is pouring down your face and neck. And your sex life? You don’t even want to think about it. It’s happening to you. Menopause is coming.
These are just a few of the symptoms that may begin to affect you as menopause approaches. Your life is often suddenly and dramatically affected. The transition is often physically and emotionally draining.
However, you don’t have to suffer in silence and you certainly don’t have to just “live with it.” These symptoms are a green light for you to talk to your doctor. While it could be the beginning of menopause —especially if you are over 40— it could also be another condition of hormone imbalance. Regardless, your doctor can help.
According to Mayo Clinic, the medical definition of menopause is when a woman’s menstrual cycle has not occurred for 12 consecutive months. This is because the ovaries cease to create normal levels of estrogen and progesterone. Common menopausal symptoms, such as fatigue, lack of energy, night sweats, hot flashes, and memory issues may occur as hormones take a nosedive.
Luckily, there are many doctors who are equipped to help you through this often-uncomfortable stage of life. Before visiting your doctor to talk about hormone imbalances during menopause, it can be helpful to prepare a list of questions to ask.
Dr. Anita Petruzzelli, Medical Director of BodyLogicMD of Hartford, Connecticut, believes that one of the primary steps in preparing for your first doctor’s appointment to discuss menopause is to be aware of the symptoms.
Menopausal symptoms may include sleep disturbances, mood issues, decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness, night sweats and hot flashes, she said.
Once you make note of which symptoms you are experiencing, you can confirm with your doctor whether or not those symptoms are related to hormone imbalance caused by menopause.
It might be helpful to write your symptoms down on paper, along with other important health information you want to share with your healthcare provider.
Dr. Petruzzelli also suggested that you pick your top three concerns to address at your first appointment, since there is usually not enough time during an appointment to address every concern.
Start tracking your period prior to your appointment as well, including any noticeable changes.
For example, answer these questions regarding your menstrual cycle:
- When was your last period, and when was the period prior to that?
- How many days did your period last?
- How many days are there between periods?
- Do you have heavy or light periods, and are they accompanied by pain?
Dr. Petruzzelli has her patients fill out a questionnaire online prior to their first appointment. It’s about 15 pages of questions related to symptoms, medical history, family medical history, surgical history, periods, medication, supplements, social history and allergies.
If your doctor has this option, Dr. Petruzzelli advises women to complete any paperwork ahead of time.
“Sometimes doctors will do their own research on a patient and see why the patient is coming to see them ahead of time,” she said.
You should also be prepared to talk about different potential treatment options, including bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).
“If people are having symptoms consistent with menopause, and hormonal testing is consistent with imbalances of hormones ... bioidentical hormones are safe and effective and can help with menopausal symptoms,” Petruzzelli said.
There is no reason for you to suffer from symptoms of menopause, especially when symptoms can start 10 years prior to menopause and last 14 years afterward, she said.
Be prepared to discuss treatment costs. You may want to call your insurance companies ahead of time if you are not sure whether hormone replacement therapy is covered.
“It’s important for people to be educated about menopause, about their body, and about hormone replacement, and if their doctor does not want to discuss hormone replacement or just says, you know, just deal with it, it’s part of life, they really should explore people that are trained with bioidentical hormones that can tell them the risks and benefits of any type of hormone replacement,” Petruzzelli added.
What questions do you think are important to ask a doctor about menopause, especially in the early stages? How did you prepare for your first appointment? Please share in the comments section below.
Petruzzelli, Anita. Phone interview. May 31, 2015. http://www.preventativewellnessmd.com/about-us
Womenshealth.gov. Office on Women’s Health. What is menopause? Symptoms. Web. June 2, 2015. http://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics/index.html
Menopause. Mayo Clinic. June 3, 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/definition/con-20019726
Reviewed June 3, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith