The rocky road through menopause

Traveling through menopause can be a rocky road for many women.  Others may say it was a day at the beach.  I am not so fortunate as to be one of the latter.  I know there are a lot of you out there just like me.  I told my co-worker that anticipating a hot flash is like anticipating a labor contraction.  You can feel it coming on and there is nothing you can do as you feel it gradually consume your body.  Once it is over it leaves you wondering—when will the next one be?  If you’re lucky, you have escaped your hair getting damp and droopy, your clothing isn’t soaking wet and hopefully your makeup is still in place.

According to an article posted in the June 2012 issue of  American Journal of Nursing, there is really no way to foresee what symptoms will arise as a woman goes through menopause.  The most common symptoms are hot flashes and night sweats, sleep disturbances, depression and anxiety.  Sleep disturbances are common during and after menopause.  Forty percent to forty-eight percent of peri- and post-menopausal women report having problems sleeping.  Sleep time, quality and efficiency drop in women over the age of 50.

While there are medications that can be prescribed for the different menopausal symptoms, many women turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for relief of their menopausal symptoms.  According to the article in the American Journal of Nursing, there is little scientific evidence to support the use of CAM approaches in managing hot flashes and insomnia.  However, a 2007 systematic review found that St. John’s Wort and black cohosh appeared to be effective in relieving depression and anxiety.  A 2010 study found that red clover also alleviated depression and anxiety in postmenopausal women.

It’s important for women to be educated on what to expect as they approach menopause.  Menopause and the symptoms associated with it can be very challenging for women to handle.  Women need to know the difference between normal changes of aging and those associated with menopause.  For example, it is common for women to experience subtle cognitive changes during peri-menopause, but a significant change would warrant further evaluation with a healthcare provider.  Regular exercise should be encouraged in all women unless they have a medical condition that would contraindicate it.  When seeing your healthcare provider, tell them any over-the-counter natural supplements that you are taking.  These supplements can have serious adverse effects or may interact with other medications you are taking.  CAM products are very popular.

The above information was taken from the article “Managing Menopausal Symptoms” in the June 2012 issue of American Journal of Nursing.  For more detailed information, please refer to this article.

Written by:  Mary Sue Land RN, BSN, Clinical Educator

Staff and Organizational Development at Agnesian HealthCare

About Agnesian HealthCare Womens Health

Addressing the physical, emotional and educational needs of women, Agnesian HealthCare's Women's Health Services offers the resources that apply to your life, in all its wonderful complexity. With a Health Resource Center, Obstetric Services, a Domestic Violence Program, Behavioral Health Services and programs serving women in mid-life, a number of options are available in the Fond du Lac, Ripon and Waupun areas.

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