5 Tips for Managing Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause is a natural condition experienced by almost all women, everywhere, throughout history, as they ease out of their reproductive years. But that doesn’t mean it’s a breeze to get through. In fact, it’s a condition that has long been ridiculed and misunderstood. According to Dr. Wendy Wolfman, the Carol Mitchell Chair in Mature Women’s Health and the Director of the Mature Women’s Health Clinic at Sinai Health, the historic lack of knowledge about menopause has resulted in unnecessary discomfort and stigma during what could otherwise be some of the best years of women’s lives.
“One of my goals in establishing this clinic was to enable women to utilize all their gifts and skills that they’ve developed over the years, and live free from symptoms,” says Dr. Wolfman.
Symptoms of menopause can range from mild to severe, and include hot flashes, insomnia and vaginal changes. According to Dr. Wolfman, about 20 per cent of women experience severe symptoms and another 60 to 70 per cent have mild to moderate symptoms.
For those women, here are some tips to help make menopause more comfortable.
- Be prepared for hot flashes. Hot flashes can occur in some women from a few times a day to up to 25 times a day, disrupting work, social engagement and sleep. If you’re prone to hot flashes, try lowering the temperature of your room, office or home, dressing in layers and keeping extra clothes, deodorant and/or a towel on hand in case of profuse sweating.
- Avoid hot flash triggers. Hot drinks, spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol and stressful situations are known to cause hot flashes in some women, but it’s also important to learn your own unique triggers. You might want to keep a journal to help you identify your personal triggers so that you can avoid them in the future.
- Practise good sleep hygiene. The inability to fall asleep, or stay asleep, is another common condition of menopause. If you’re affected, try to practise good sleep hygiene by sticking to a bedtime routine, don’t watch TV or screens in bed and limit alcohol intake. If you’re still tossing and turning, try not to get upset. Go read in a chair, do a puzzle or play solitaire until you feel tired again. Some women might also want to consider using relaxation apps on their smartphone or trying cognitive behavioural therapy.
- Be proactive in maintaining your vaginal health. Hormonal changes during menopause can cause vaginal dryness, irritation and discomfort during intercourse, among other challenges. Regular sexual activity during menopause helps maintain the vaginal tissues, decreasing the likelihood of painful intercourse. Pelvic floor physiotherapy can help alleviate pain and urinary incontinence. In addition, many women find some relief by using over-the-counter vaginal lubricants, vaginal moisturizers and often topical estrogen products.
- Don't suffer in silence. Dr. Wolfman advises women to take their symptoms seriously and seek help if they don’t feel their symptoms are well managed. “If a woman perceives a problem, if these symptoms are affecting her quality of life, if she can’t concentrate or she can’t work, then I think she needs some options for coping,” says Dr. Wolfman. “We can help.”
Dr. Wolfman’s work treating and speaking about menopause is a global first — and one way in which Sinai Health is fulfilling its mission of treating people across the life course. To learn more about her work, visit: maturewomenshealth.ca
Written by Nancy Carr | Illustration by Louise Reimer