While you probably associate gynecologists with pregnancy and fertility, they can actually be great partners to lean on while you go through menopause as well. Whether you’re just now beginning to experience menopause symptoms or have been having hot flashes for years, staying in good communication with your gynecologist can make the transition much smoother. Here are eight questions to ask about menopause relief at your next gynecology appointment:
- Am I too young to be going through menopause?
While we associate menopause with middle age, perimenopause can begin as early as your late 30s — and even earlier if it has a specific medical cause, such as having your ovaries removed due to the risk of cancer. If you think that you are experiencing menopause symptoms in your 30s and 40s, that is definitely a possibility, even if it seems unlikely. Your doctor will work with you to pinpoint your exact symptoms and your family history to determine if you are going through menopause or if something else is causing it.
- Could my symptoms be caused by something else?
Many women don’t realize they have entered perimenopause because so many of the initial symptoms (trouble sleeping, night sweats, etc.) are associated with stress or other health issues. So, yes, they might be caused by something else, which is why your doctor will help you narrow down potential causes to determine whether or not you’re actually entering menopause. Unfortunately, menopause can be difficult to diagnose precisely because it involves fluctuating levels in your hormones, so hormone tests are not very useful in this regard. Instead, your doctor will discuss your current symptoms and your menstruation history to determine whether or not you might be going through menopause.
- What’s the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
You’ve definitely heard of menopause, but you might not have heard of perimenopause, which is the period of time that comes before you officially enter menopause — the one-year mark after your last period. During perimenopause, you may experience symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats while still getting your period either regularly or infrequently. Your doctor can explain the commonalities and differences between perimenopause and menopause are and help you figure out which phase you are experiencing.
- What lifestyle changes should I be making to manage my symptoms?
Lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and sleeping schedules often have the biggest impact on your menopause symptoms. Your gynecologist will want to talk with you about your current habits as well as the symptoms that are causing you the most problems. Then, they will make recommendations for other changes that could have a beneficial impact and improve your quality of life during menopause.
- What should I know about medical options? Can you talk to me about different methods and side effects?
Sometimes, lifestyle changes just don’t cut it, and your hormone fluctuations continue to affect your daily life — no matter how much sleep you get or how many vegetables you eat. In this case, you might be a candidate for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which can help alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. There are several methods for delivering hormone replacement therapy, including vaginal creams and oral pills. Your provider can discuss various options and their side effects with you and help you determine if you are a candidate for HRT.
- What can I do to help my sex drive recover?
One of the most unfortunate side effects of menopause is the way it makes your sex drive drop, which can have ramifications for your romantic relationships as well. While it can be uncomfortable to discuss intimate matters with your gynecologist, they can be a great resource for offering practical tips to help you get your sex drive back and experiment with new things in the bedroom. Whether it’s using a vaginal moisturizer, trying more foreplay, going on medication, or talking with a sex therapist, there are solutions worth exploring.
- What is happening to my vagina?
Alterations in your menstrual cycle aren’t the only thing that you’ll have to contend with as you enter menopause. You might find your vagina changing, even when you’re not on your period. Vaginal dryness is a common complaint during menopause. This occurs because falling estrogen levels result in a thinning of the vaginal walls. You might also find yourself experiencing changes in the color, smell, or volume of your vaginal discharge as a result of these hormone changes. Describe your specific symptoms to your gynecologist and they can make recommendations for what products to use to alleviate them.
- Do I still need to use birth control, and for how long?
Just because your period is irregular doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant. As long as you’re getting your period, however infrequently, that means that your body is ovulating, which means that you can get pregnant. You’ll need to continue using some form of birth control, whether that’s the pill, condoms, an IUD, or something else until you have gone a full year without having your period. As you get older and start experiencing hormone fluctuations, you may need to reconsider contraceptives that contain high levels of estrogen, as these can make your symptoms worse. Your gynecologist can walk you through your options and discuss the pros and cons of switching.
Menopause is often treated as a taboo subject, but if there’s one person you should be able to discuss it with, it’s your gynecologist. Do your research ahead of time, keep track of your symptoms, and come prepared to your appointment with a list of things that you want to discuss. If you need some help, use this list of eight questions as a starting point.