The Signs and Symptoms of Menopause with Dr. Tori Hudson Final

by Jan on April 8, 2010

Often women ask me the question is, “How long is this going to last, Dr. Hudson?” and “When is this going to end Dr. Hudson?” and I wish I could answer that question. “It’s only going to last this amount of time”, but the truth is I can not discern this.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s different for all of us.  The severity is different for each of us, the duration is different for each of us, which symptoms we have on this long list of potential symptoms is different for each of us.

But, on an average, according to the research, menopause symptoms for seventy five to ninety percent of women last four to seven years.  Now, there’s the ten to twenty five percent of women for whom that’s different.  And we don’t know if at year three, at year four or at year seven if you are going to be on your way out of these symptoms or are you going to be one of these ten to twenty five percent that is going to last longer.  There is no way to really know that.

We are trying to get some understanding.  If you’ve had severe PMS, it seems to have some prediction on menopause being more severe.  That’s one thing we seem to see a correlation with now.  But unfortunately, we can’t really predict what your menopause is going to be like, let alone, can we predict how long it’s going to last.  But we can work with the law of averages and try to give some reassurance. And most symptoms are temporary in most women.

The problem is there’s the women that are not “most women” and the problem is that there are a few symptoms that tend to be progressive, like vaginal dryness, vaginal thinning, urinary incontinence, that set of symptoms tends to get worse with time because that tissue gets more consequences as it is deprived of estrogen for a longer period of time.  But most other things, symptoms, not bone loss, not some of those things, but symptoms, most of those are temporary in most women.

So far we don’t have any strong connections as to what your mother’s menopause was like in telling us what our menopause is going to be like.  And also, a lot of forty, fifty something year old women now who are just going through this key menopause time have mothers that in their generation, many health problems were solved by removing the uterus and the ovaries.  We have more progressive surgeries now, many more medical options, so the doctors and patients don’t have to choose that as often.  But, for some of us, we don’t know what our mother’s menopause would have been like anyway because she went through it in a rather unnatural fashion by having suddenly her ovaries removed.  And of course hormones were prescribed more easily, less judiciously, you might say, back in those days as well.  It’s more selective now, more weighing the benefits and the risk and more desire on the part of the practitioner to use hormones for the shorter amount of time mostly in this sort of temporary window of symptoms.

For men, if your partner is going through menopause, you might wonder what you can do to be helpful.  And the first thing I think to maybe look at it in terms of your previous experience with your partner is, have you already been through years or months or decades of PMS? And how that has been going and what that has asked of you.  It’s similar.

You know I think many men can find it very difficult and challenging to have empathy and really understand what is going on with their partner during this time of menopause changes.  And I empathize with that.  It’s a challenge, because often you don’t know what to expect, and you don’t know if it’s you or if it’s them.  If it’s them is it some character defect or is it a health problem.  I would just really encourage men to try to learn as much as they can about menopause and I would encourage men to ask their wives and partners questions and really kind of try to bring forth your best inquisitive self.  You’re curious.  You are asking questions, you are wanting to understand.  I think that’s a useful approach because chances are, she’s not faking it.  Chances are, she’s not lying to you about what’s going on with her. Chances are she’s really needing some help.  And if she’s had a difficult time with PMS, and that’s already been challenging for the family, it’s very similar here.  The mood swings…if it’s been difficult to deal with a teenager and their hormonal changes, it’s very similar.  It requires us being more patient, it requires us being more caring, maybe even anticipating, much like you would if someone you knew didn’t feel well.  You just try to do a little TLC.  You try to do a little bit to help out here and there and even just the littlest things can make a really huge difference.  A little piece of dark chocolate under the pillow, or “can I help you with the dishes tonight”.  “It looks like you’ve had a really hard day”.  Just a little extra and I would gather that would come back in a favorable way to you.

And I know that we want things to be balanced in relationships and you don’t want to feel like you are always trying to compensate for what seems to be not going well with your partner but men have hormonal changes too and generally that comes a little bit later and looks a bit different.  But I think just this inquisitiveness, trying to learn yourself, bring forth your best questions and empathy, I think that’s what my advice would be.

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