Frequently Asked Questions about Menopause
- What is menopause?
- When does menopause usually happen?
- How will I know if I'm "starting" menopause?
- What is a hot flash?
- What are the common symptoms of menopause?
- Do all menopausal women experience symptoms?
- What is estrogen?
- What is estradiol?
- Can a hysterectomy cause menopause?
- Do I have to go through menopause?
- What can I do to reduce my symptoms?
- What types of estrogen therapies are available? How can I tell which kind is right for me?
- What should I know about the findings of the Women's Health Initiative?
- What should I know about compounded bioidentical hormones?
- Who should not take hormone therapy?
What is menopause?
Menopause is a perfectly normal and natural event in a woman's life marking the end of her menstrual cycle. During menopause, a woman's ovaries stop producing eggs, her body produces lower levels of estrogen and other hormones (like progesterone), and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping altogether.4
When does menopause usually happen?
Most women experience menopause between the ages of 40 and 58, with the average age being 51.4 A woman who has had both ovaries surgically removed may begin menopause earlier.
How will I know if I'm "starting" menopause?
There are certain symptoms associated with menopause: irregular menstrual periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and trouble sleeping, among others. If you think that you may be starting to experience menopause, talk to your healthcare provider about what you can expect. Before you start treatment, discuss the benefits and risks of any therapy with your healthcare provider.
What is a hot flash?
A hot flash is a common menopausal symptom caused by the decrease in estrogen level that naturally occurs in a woman's body with aging. A hot flash produces a feeling of heat and redness, primarily on a woman's face and neck. Her skin feels hot and she often sweats. Hot flashes can come on fast, be very intense for a few minutes, then gradually weaken and go away. They can occur anywhere from a few times a day to up to 15 times a day or more. Treatments such as hormone therapy can reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
What are the common symptoms of menopause?
The type and severity of menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman. According to the Mayo Clinic and the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), common symptoms include irregular periods, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, mood swings, and thinning hair.4 Elestrin is approved by the FDA for use in the reduction of moderate-to-severe hot flashes and night sweats due to menopause.
Do all menopausal women experience symptoms?
Not all women going through menopause experience symptoms, but many do. In some women, the symptoms are mild and they may not need treatment; in others, symptoms can be more severe.
What is estrogen?
Estrogens are hormones produced primarily by the ovaries that regulate the growth of female reproductive organs. Three main naturally occurring estrogens in women are estradiol, estrone, and estriol. During the years leading up to and including menopause, a woman's body produces less estrogen. Physicians may suggest in appropriate cases that you supplement the amount of estrogen in your body by taking estrogen therapy.3
What is estradiol?
Can a hysterectomy cause menopause?
Unlike when a woman has both ovaries removed, the removal of a woman's uterus (a procedure known as a hysterectomy) will not automatically cause menopause to start if her ovaries are still in place. A woman who has had a hysterectomy may, however, experience an end to her ovarian estrogen production approximately 2 to 3 years earlier than usual.4
Do I have to go through menopause?
All women go through menopause, but each goes through it in her own unique way.
What can I do to reduce my symptoms?
What types of estrogen therapies are available? How can I tell which kind is right for me?
There are 2 major types of estrogen therapy for the treatment of hot flashes due to menopause—oral estrogen (available in pills) or transdermal (through the skin) therapies (available as either a patch or a topical gel, cream, or spray). There are a number of factors to consider when deciding which option is best suited for you, including your medical history, lifestyle, personal preferences, and the benefits versus risks of each. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to determine which treatment option may be best for you.
What should I know about the findings of the Women's Health Initiative?
In 2002, results of a large study known as the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) were published. This nationwide study looked at nearly 162,000 menopausal women to understand the role of hormone therapy in protecting the heart.
Some women received a combination of estrogen plus progestin in pill form. Other women received estrogen alone in pill form. In both cases, the estrogen given was conjugated equine estrogen, meaning that it was a mix of several different estrogens produced from the urine of a pregnant mare. The study found that oral estrogen therapy alone was associated with an increased risk of stroke while estrogen-plus-progestin was linked with an increase in breast cancer.3,6
Since the WHI, new lower dose and transdermal (absorbed through the skin) forms of estrogen have come on the market. The active ingredient in many transdermals is estradiol, which is an exact copy of the principal form of estrogen made in the female body. The risks of all estrogen therapies should be assumed to be the same as oral forms.
Today, associations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), North American Menopause Society (NAMS), and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advise that hormone therapy should be given at the lowest dose that helps, for the shortest time needed.7-9
Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about whether estrogen therapy may be right for you.
What should I know about compounded bioidentical hormones?
The term bioidentical can be confusing. Elestrin and many other FDA-approved treatments are considered bioidentical because they contain an estradiol hormone that is either the same or similar to the principal form of estrogen in a woman's body.3 However, some products that are commonly referred to as bioidenticals are actually prepared, or compounded, at pharmacies and may contain nonbioidentical elements. To read more about these compounded bioidenticals, click here.
Who should not take hormone therapy?
Not everyone is a candidate for hormone therapy. Estrogen products have risks and most importantly, should not be used in women who have a history of breast cancer, certain heart conditions, abnormal vaginal bleeding, or blood clots. Additional important risk information may be found at the bottom of this page. Always talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about whether hormone therapy may be right for you.