Learning about menopause treatment options

Most women do not need treatment of menopausal symptoms. Some women find that their symptoms go away by themselves, and some women just don’t find the symptoms very uncomfortable. But if you are bothered by symptoms, there are many ways to deal with them, including medications and lifestyle changes. Read here about how to deal with specific symptoms and what medication options are available. If you’re interested in learning more about menopausal hormone therapy (formerly called hormone replacement therapy) and natural alternatives, you can jump to those sections.

You may find it hard to decide about treatment options like menopausal hormone therapy because of the possible side effects. Talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits so you can choose what’s best for you. No one treatment is right for all women.

When you talk about treatment options with your doctor, discuss issues such as…

  • Your symptoms and how much they bother you.
  • Your personal risks based on your age, your overall health and your risk for diseases such as heart disease or cancer.
  • Whether you have used a treatment like menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) before.
  • Whether you have already gone through menopause and, if so, how long ago.

Dealing with Specific Menopause Symptoms

Below are some symptoms that women may have around the time of menopause and tips for dealing with them.

Hot Flashes

  • Try to notice what triggers your hot flashes and avoid those things. Possible triggers to consider include spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress or being in a hot place.
  • Dress in layers and remove some when you feel a flash starting.
  • Use a fan in your home or workplace.
  • If you still have menstrual periods, ask your doctor if you might take low-dose oral contraceptives (birth control pills). These may help symptoms and prevent pregnancy.
  • Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is the most effective treatment for hot flashes and night sweats. Ask your doctor if the benefits of MHT outweigh the risks for you.
  • If MHT is not an option for you, ask your doctor about prescription medicines that are usually used for other conditions. These include antidepressants, epilepsy medicine and blood pressure medicine.
  • Try taking slow, deep breaths when a flash starts.
  • If you’re overweight, losing weight might help with hot flashes, according to one recent study.

Vaginal Dryness

  • A water-based, over-the-counter vaginal lubricant such as K-Y Jelly or Astroglide can help make sex more comfortable.
  • An over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer like Replens can help keep needed moisture in your vagina if used every few days and can make sex more comfortable.

Problems Sleeping

  • One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to be physically active. You might want to avoid exercise close to bedtime, though, since it might make you more awake.
  • Avoid large meals, smoking and working right before bedtime. Avoid caffeine after noon, and avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Try drinking something warm before bedtime, such as caffeine-free tea or warm milk.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
  • Avoid napping during the day, and try to go to bed and get up at the same times every day.
  • If you wake during the night and can’t get back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you’re sleepy.
  • Talk to your doctor about your sleep problems.
  • If hot flashes are the cause of sleep problems, treating the hot flashes will usually improve sleep.

Mood Swings

  • Getting enough sleep and staying physically active will help you feel your best.
  • Avoid taking on too many duties. Look for positive ways to ease your stress.
  • Talk to your doctor. He or she can look for signs of depression, which is a serious illness that needs treatment. You also could consider seeing a therapist to talk about your problems.
  • Try a support group for women who are going through the same things as you.
  • If you are using MHT for hot flashes or another menopause symptom, your mood swings may get better too.

Memory Problems

  • Some women complain of memory problems or trouble focusing in midlife. But studies suggest that natural menopause has little effect on these functions. Women should not use MHT to protect against memory loss or brain diseases, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Getting enough sleep and keeping physically active might help improve symptoms. Mental exercises may help too, so ask your doctor about them.
  • If forgetfulness or other mental problems are affecting your daily life, see your doctor.

Other symptoms that might bother you around this time are having less interest in sex and having trouble holding in your urine.

Medications and Menopause

A number of medications can help with symptoms during the years around menopause.

  • Low-dose oral contraceptives (birth control pills) are an option if you are in perimenopause (the years leading up to your final period). Low-dose contraceptives may stop or reduce hot flashes, vaginal dryness and moodiness. They can also help with very heavy, frequent or unpredictable periods. Your doctor may advise you not to take the pill, though, if you smoke or have a history of blood clots or certain types of cancer.
  • Prescription medications that are usually used for other conditions may help with hot flashes and moodiness. These include medications for epilepsy, depression and high blood pressure.
  • Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) can be very good at helping with moderate-to-severe symptoms of menopause. It has certain possible risks, though. Learn more about MHT and whether it may be right for you.
  • Over-the-counter medicines can treat vaginal discomfort. A water-based vaginal lubricant such as K-Y Jelly can help make sex more comfortable. A vaginal moisturizer such as Replens can provide lubrication and help keep needed moisture in vaginal tissues.
  • Prescription medicines for vaginal discomfort may be an option if OTC treatments don’t work. These include estrogen creams, tablets or rings that you put in your vagina. If you have severe vaginal dryness, the most effective treatment may be an MHT pill or patch.