Menopause and Hormones

What is menopause?

Menopause is a normal change in a woman's life when her period stops. That's why some people call menopause "the change of life" or "the change." During menopause a woman's body slowly produces less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This often happens between ages 45 and 55. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months in a row.

What is hormone therapy for menopause?

Lower hormone levels in menopause may lead to hot flashes, vaginal dryness and thin bones. To help with these problems, women are often given estrogen or estrogen with progestin (another hormone). Like all medicines, hormone therapy has risks and benefits. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about hormones. If you decide to use hormones, use them at the lowest dose that helps. Also use them for the shortest time that you need them.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Every woman's period will stop at menopause. Some women may not have any other symptoms at all. As you near menopause, you may have:

  • Changes in your period—time between periods or flow may be different.
  • Hot flashes ("hot flushes")—getting warm in the face, neck and chest with and without sweating. Gabapentin can be used to treat hot flashes.
  • Night sweats that may lead to problems sleeping and feeling tired, stressed or tense.
  • Vaginal changes—the vagina may become dry and thin, and sex may be painful.
  • Thinning of your bones, which may lead to loss of height and bone breaks (osteoporosis).

Who needs treatment for symptoms of menopause?

For some women, many of these changes will go away over time without treatment. Some women choose treatment for their symptoms and to prevent bone loss. If you choose hormone treatment, estrogen alone or estrogen with progestin (for a woman who still has her uterus or womb) can be used.