How To Prepare For Menopause Gracefully (OBGYN Explains)

Are you getting older and wondering how you should prepare for menopause?

The changes happening in your body can be confusing and downright frustrating.

In this post, you will learn answers to common questions like:

  • When will menopause start?
  • What symptoms will I experience?
  • How long does menopause last?

Let’s get started.

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Disclaimer

***READ FIRST***

Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Ok, moving on.



What is the best way to prepare for menopause?

The best way to prepare for menopause is to educate yourself about the changes your body will go through and the symptoms you might experience.

Unfortunately, every woman will go through menopause, and it is important to have an open mind and be accepting of these changes.

That said, knowing that every woman experiences menopause differently is essential.

As such, try to avoid comparing your experience with your friends.

How Do You Know It’s Approaching?

There are a few ways to know if the menopausal transition is approaching.

1. Your menstrual cycle will become irregular 

There may be months where you will only spot and months where you do not bleed.

After 12 months of no menstrual periods, you are in menopause.

2. You may notice vaginal dryness, itching, and burning.

Vaginal dryness can manifest as painful intercourse, recurrent urinary tract infections, and yeast infections. 

3. You may experience hot flushes

A hot flush is the sensation of sudden warmth that spreads over your body, accompanied by redness in the face and neck. These episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.

4. You may have night sweats

In addition to these common symptoms, you may experience sleep problems, insomnia, and night sweats.

5. You may experience mood changes

Lastly, changes in hormone levels can trigger frequent mood swings and exacerbate anxiety and depression.

Thankfully, we have many ways to treat these symptoms!

menopause is occurring when you begin to have irregular menstrual cycles

What is the average age for menopause to start?

In the United States, the average age for menopause to start is 51 years. 

Remember that 51 is an average- meaning you could be menopausal in your late 40s or even in your mid-50s.

To get a rough estimate of when you might go through menopause, find out when your mom or sister went through it. 

If they went through early menopause, you might as well.

Are There Tests To Diagnose it?

One of the best tests to help diagnose menopause is the FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone blood test.

FSH is the hormone responsible for stimulating estrogen production in your body.

You see, during menopause, your estrogen level significantly drops as there is a diminished number of eggs left in your ovaries.

In response, your body ramps up FSH production to try and increase your estrogen levels.

A very high FSH is consistent with menopause, although we don’t diagnose you as menopausal until you have had 12 consecutive months of no periods.

How long does it take to go through Menopause naturally?

On average, women will experience symptoms of perimenopause for four years before their last period.

After that, menopausal symptoms may last only a few months for some women, while others could experience symptoms for ten years or more.

What are the signs that you need hormone replacement therapy?

The most common indication for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause is the presence of debilitating menopausal symptoms.

Debilitating symptoms include severe hot flashes, mood swings, and other signs of menopause that interfere with your everyday life.

If your primary complaint is vaginal dryness, you might benefit from vaginal moisturizers and lubricants as first-line therapy before considering HRT.

If the vaginal symptoms do not improve with the lubricants or if you are experiencing debilitating symptoms, you may be a candidate for hormone therapy.

What kind of HRT is available?

Hormone replacement therapy consists of estrogen and progesterone therapy. (Note: You don’t need a progestin if you have had a hysterectomy).

The estrogen therapy can come in the form of an oral tablet, patch, topical gel, topical spray, vaginal pill, vaginal cream, or vaginal rings.

Progesterone is available as a pill, suppository, or intrauterine device.

However, HRT is not without risks.

HRT can increase your risk of endometrial cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots.

Therefore, speak with your healthcare provider to see if HRT is right for you.

for severe menopausal symptoms you may be a candidate for hormone replacement therapy

What does your body need during menopause?

During menopause, it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Try to eat a well-balanced and healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help your body cope with the changes it’s going through.

There is also a bit of data that consuming soy foods like tofu and tempeh may help relieve menopausal symptoms. Soy contains phytoestrogens. This compound mimics estrogen in the body.

Lastly, you should also try to engage in regular weight-bearing exercises or strength training, as the decreased hormones can lead to a loss of muscle mass and weight gain.

What should you eat?

Ideally, it would be best if you ate a diet rich in the following:

  • fresh vegetables,
  • whole grains, and
  • lean proteins like chicken breast (or legumes if you avoid meat).

You can also incorporate more dairy to ensure you get enough calcium in your diet.

Are there any vitamins to prepare for menopause?

Menopause increases your risk of osteoporosis, bone loss, and bone fractures due to decreased estrogen hormone levels.

As such, you will need to take vitamin D supplements and calcium to help maintain your bone health.

You should take at least 600IU of vitamin D and 1200mg of calcium daily.

Otherwise, there are inconsistent data regarding the benefits of other supplements like flax seeds, ginseng, and St. John’s wort in treating hot flashes.

during-menopause take vitamin-d and calcium supplements

**At age 65, schedule a DEXA scan to measure your bone density and determine if you have osteoporosis. 

What are the signs that menopause is coming to an end?

Your menopause journey will likely end when your symptoms begin to decrease with a reduction in the severity and frequency of your hot flashes and night sweats.

You may still have vaginal dryness and atrophy, but these symptoms can be treated first with water or petroleum-based lubrication. 

Is There Anything I Should Avoid?

If you are struggling with menopausal hot flashes, it may be helpful to avoid eating foods that can trigger or exacerbate your symptoms. These foods include:

  • Spicy foods
  • Caffeine drinks
  • Alcohol

Otherwise, keeping your stress levels low might also be beneficial.

Final Words on The Menopause Transition

I hope that after reading this post, you will approach menopause differently.

Knowledge is power.

You now better understand the changes you might experience in menopause to help you prepare!

Now I want to hear from you.

When did you go through menopause?

What symptoms did you experience?

Comment below and let me know.


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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness, expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.



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References:

  1. Peacock K, Ketvertis KM. Menopause. [Updated 2022 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507826/
  2. Sullivan SD, Lehman A, Nathan NK, Thomson CA, Howard BV. Age of menopause and fracture risk in postmenopausal women randomized to calcium + vitamin D, hormone therapy, or the combination: results from the Women’s Health Initiative Clinical Trials. Menopause. 2017 Apr;24(4):371-378. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000775. PMID: 27801706; PMCID: PMC5365363.
  3. Maltais ML, Desroches J, Dionne IJ. Changes in muscle mass and strength after menopause. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2009 Oct-Dec;9(4):186-97. PMID: 19949277.
  4. Messina M. Soy foods, isoflavones, and the health of postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100 Suppl 1:423S-30S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.071464. Epub 2014 Jun 4. PMID: 24898224.