How to Talk to Your Doctor About Menopause Symptoms

Million of women are going through "the change" and dealing with menopause symptoms that can last a long time. The four-to-six years leading up to your final period are called Perimenopause.  The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists  (ACOG) says, " Menopause happens around age 51, but every woman's body has its own timeline . . . . [and may] occur anywhere from the early 40s to mid-50s. You know you have reached menopause when menstrual periods have stopped for one year

While menopause itself is normal and healthy some infamous perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms can be uncomfortable, disruptive and downright confusing: irregular periods and spotting, hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, night sweats and vaginal dryness. It's important to see your doctor annually for basic preventative health care but don't hesitate to make an appointment if your menopausal symptoms get out of hand.  There are many treatments and remedies available including hormone replacement therapy, herbal supplements, acupuncture, exercise, meditation  and others that will make menopause symptoms easier to live with.

Make a doctor's appointment and get ready to talk about the changes your body is going through.  Don't be shy. You can't shock a gynecologist but they're not mind readers. Tell your doctor about your sex life, energy level, relationships, moods, and how your vagina and breasts feel.  Ask lots of questions.

How can you help your doctor evaluate your menopausal status and symptoms?  Keep a calendar with the days your period or bleeding starts and stops (if you're still having them) along with any other menopause symptoms for several months. The Mayo Clinic offers these tips:

  • Keep track of symptoms you're experiencing. 
  • Write down how many hot flashes you experience in a day or week and how severe they are.
  • Make a list of all medications and vitamin supplements you take, their doses and how often you take them.
  • Take a notebook with you and take notes.
  • Prepare a list of questions.  Examples to consider:

What kind of tests might I need?

What treatments are available to minimize my symptoms?

Is there anything I can do to relieve my symptoms?

What steps can I take to maintain my health?

Do you have any printed material or brochures I can take with me? What Web sites do you recommend?

What will your doctor check during your exam?  ACOG says annual exams should include an evaluation or discussion of height, weight and BMI (body mass index), Pap Smear, HIV testing (routine until age 64), breast exam, pelvic exam, mammogram, lipid and cholesterol blood testing, bone density testing, blood pressure, colon cancer screening, fasting glucose test and thyroid stimulating hormone blood test.  Other tests, including hormone levels may be indicated depending on your specific concerns.  Ask about complementary and alternative therapies that might be appropriate for you including herbal remedies, yoga, acupuncture and meditation.  Studies indicate many are very helpful in relieving menopausal symptoms. 

Your doctor is there to support you during your transition to life beyond menstruation.  Talk to him/her about your menopause symptoms and ease on through to the other side.