Meet menopause with confidence
Once casually referred to as "the change," today's
women are commiserating about menopause over
coffee, even singing about it on stage. And, just as
attitudes about menopause have changed, so have
the ways its symptoms are treated.
Bruce J. Levine, MD, Virtua obstetrician and
gynecologist, is practical in assessing what women
face: "Menopause is a natural process, but when its
symptoms interfere with a woman's life or cause her
to suffer, treatment may be a reasonable option."
Menopause is clinically defined as one year
without a period. While 10 to 15 percent of women
do not experience any symptoms of menopause,
most women experience symptoms that range from
mild to life-disrupting.
Hot flashes and night sweats can lead to sleep
disruption and fatigue so severe it affects a woman's
ability to work, care for family members or drive.
Accompanying vaginal dryness and painful sex can
change a woman's physical relationship with her
partner and her view of herself.
Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, provides
relief for millions of women who struggle with
menopause symptoms, yet even the most intense
sufferers question the safety of HRT. And, like her
unique symptoms, Dr. Levine says a treatment plan
for each woman should be unique.
Weigh the options
"All HRT is not the same," says Dr. Levine. "Today,
estrogen and progesterone are available in forms and
combinations closer to what women lose in menopause."
HRT is administered in different ways as well.
Hormonal patches and gels, for example, are local
treatments that go directly to the bloodstream, bypassing
the intestinal tract and the liver and, therefore, lowering certain cardiovascular risks.
Alternative or complementary treatments such as
herbal complexes and soy, and anti-depressants also
play a role in the treatment of menopausal symptoms
for some women. However, this should be discussed
with a physician prior to use.
Start the dialog
"Given the complexities of menopause and the
options for treatment available, good communication
between a woman and her physician is essential," says
Dr. Levine, who works with women to develop an
individual risk profile based on her medical history.
While estrogen's role in certain cardiovascular conditions
and cancer has been questioned, Dr. Levine
cautions against overreacting: "HRT is not a 'one size
fits all' solution. It's important to develop a personalized
plan that is unique for each woman based on her
If you're in menopause or think it's fast approaching,
take a list of questions to your doctor and discuss
your options. Ultimately, your individual profile will
help you approach menopause with comfort and
confidence - and that's something every woman can