At the turn of the century, women approaching menopause had few choices for dealing with this natural life transition. They simply had to cope with their changing body as best they could. Today, there are many options to help make this life change comfortable and positive. In fact, so many women in the “baby boomer” generation are now facing menopause that there has been a surge of interest in the appropriate medical management of this stage of life.
Menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer function normally and the body stops producing the female hormone, estrogen. Then, the monthly cycle of menstrual bleeding comes to an end and childbirth is no longer possible. Most women experience a gradual decline in the levels of estrogen between ages 35 and 58. However, menopause can also result earlier from the surgical removal of the ovaries and from some medical treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Because estrogen has many protective health benefits after menopause women are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis, a progressive condition that makes the bones more susceptible to fracture. The drop in hormone levels may also bring on classic menopausal symptoms – hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, depression, insomnia, urinary disturbances, gastrointestinal changes, vaginal dryness, loss of sex drive and more.
While each woman’s situation is different, Dr. Wood may recommend the use of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy with FDA approved formulations for the treatment of these symptoms. Current research suggests that hormone replacement therapy, when begun near the time of menopause beginning, may actually be protective against cardiovascular disease. More research is underway, but Dr. Wood feels that estrogen absorbed through the skin or vaginal tissues is the safest type for long-term use. In addition, natural progesterone agents are used to prevent uterine cancer in women with a uterus.