Find a Location

Find a Location

  Use My Current Location

    Low Estrogen May Increase the Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

    Low Estrogen May Increase the Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

    Low estrogen levels during menopause may put you at risk for type 2 diabetes. Hormone changes during menopause can cause a lot of worrisome and frustrating changes, from disrupting symptoms to higher risks for certain health conditions. Diabetes is a common but serious condition that can impact your overall wellbeing, and estrogen may play a role in your risk factors for this health condition. In this article, we’ll explore the connection between estrogen and diabetes. 

    Low Estrogen During Menopause May Affect Your Health

    woman with low estrogen smiling because of treatment solutions from HerKare

    Low estrogen can cause many symptoms and health risks, but treatment solutions are available from our providers.

    Menopause is a natural stage of life for women, but that doesn’t mean it comes without any risks. Unfortunately, declining and fluctuating hormones during menopause can lead to many symptoms and health risks. 

    For instance, some of the symptoms you may experience because of low estrogen and progesterone during menopause include:

    • Mood changes
    • Hot flashes
    • Night sweats
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Sleep problems
    • Weight gain
    • Brain fog

    Each of these symptoms can affect your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Many believe hormone levels are the cause of menopause symptoms. 

    Decreased estrogen can also affect your health in many different ways. After menopause, your risk increases for many health conditions. Some of these include heart disease, osteoporosis, and type 2 diabetes. Let’s look at how estrogen affects your risks for diabetes after menopause. 

    Low Estrogen May Increase Your Risk for Developing Type 2 Diabetes

    What many women don’t realize is that their risk for type 2 diabetes increases after menopause. Everyone’s risk for diabetes goes up with age, regardless of gender. However, women may be more at risk for diabetes after menopause. Researchers have theorized for years that hormone changes during menopause may play a role in that risk. Several studies suggest there may be a link between type 2 diabetes and low estrogen levels. There may be several factors at play in the connection between estrogen and diabetes. Research is still ongoing, but there are some potential explanations backed by scientific study.

    Estrogen May Affect How Your Body Uses Insulin

    Diabetes is a condition where your blood sugar is too high. With type 2 diabetes, this is typically because your body makes less insulin and because your cells become more resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells use sugar, but if your cells are more insulin resistant, glucose (sugar) may stay in the blood unused for energy instead. Recent research led by a team from Texas A&M University found that estrogen may affect how your body responds to insulin

    Several studies have found a potential link between low estrogen and type 2 diabetes. Yet, many couldn’t explain why. The researchers found this may be due to estrogen’s effects on liver-specific FOXO1. FOXO1 is a protein that basically binds to DNA and helps turn certain genes on or off. This particular protein helps your body regulate insulin to control blood sugar. Estrogen may help reduce how much sugar your body produces by acting on this protein. As your estrogen levels decline during menopause, FOXO1 proteins may not work as effectively to control insulin levels, which may explain the increased risk for type 2 diabetes after menopause. 

    Estrogen & Glucagon

    However, there may be other explanations behind why the risk for type 2 diabetes increases after menopause. For example, another study found that estrogen may actually target certain cells in your body that may help reduce diabetes risks. The researchers in this study found that estrogen may act on cells in the pancreas and gut that help improve your ability to use glucose. Some of the cells studied release a hormone called glucagon. Glucagon helps increase blood sugar to help prevent it from dropping too low, such as while you sleep, to help prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). However, if your body releases too much glucagon, you may have chronically high blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes. 

    The study actually found that estrogen affects the cells responsible for making and releasing glucagon. They saw estrogen helped reduce glucagon production and increased GCP1 levels, which help increase insulin in your body, block glucagon secretion, and can also help you feel full. This is another way estrogen may help keep blood sugar levels in check and reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes. However, since estrogen levels decline during menopause, women may lose some of this protection against high glucagon levels. 

    Low Estrogen May Increase Visceral Fat in Your Body

    You may know that obesity is a common risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. However, many don’t realize that how fat is distributed in your body may also play a role in your risk for diabetes. For instance, some researchers believe that large amounts of visceral fat increases the risk for metabolic syndrome, which can cause insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Visceral fat is fat found in the abdominal cavity around your organs like the stomach, liver, and intestines. You might be wondering what this has to do with hormones and menopause. Well, lower estrogen levels after menopause can affect how fat is distributed in your body. You may have more visceral fat if you have decreased estrogen levels, increasing the risk for diabetes and many other health conditions. 

    Gaining more visceral fat doesn’t even necessarily mean that you gain weight. Hormone changes during menopause may simply affect how your body distributes fat. So, even if you don’t gain weight, you may find that you have more visceral fat after menopause, which can also increase your risk for diabetes.

    Other Symptoms that Affect Your Blood Sugar

    In addition, several of the symptoms of menopause can affect your blood sugar, which may increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. For instance, many women gain weight during menopause. Being overweight or obese can raise your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, as it can make you more resistant to insulin. 

    Poor sleep is another symptom many women experience during menopause that may affect your diabetes risks. Sleep deprivation from issues like insomnia or sleep disturbances from night sweats can negatively affect your blood sugar levels.

    Therefore, there may be several different factors that affect your diabetes risk during menopause. Some of the symptoms you  might experience during menopause may indirectly affect your risks. 

    Can Hormone Imbalance Treatment Help Reduce Diabetes Risk?

    Fortunately, evidence suggests that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause may help reduce risks for diabetes. Several studies have looked at the effects of hormone replacement on diabetes risk with positive results. 

    HRT is a type of treatment many women use for symptoms of menopause. This treatment helps supplement your hormone levels as they start to decline during menopause. Generally, menopausal hormone therapy includes estrogen and progesterone, though women who have had a hysterectomy may only need estrogen. The goal of hormone therapy is to keep your hormone levels in ranges that help reduce menopause symptoms. 

    Another potential benefit of using HRT after menopause is that it may help reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Several studies suggest that estrogen or combination therapy may actually help prevent diabetes and also help with glycemic control. While most medical professionals recommend using HRT only if you have troubling menopause symptoms, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes may be a secondary benefit for some women. Our treatment providers can help you weigh the benefits and risks and help you decide if hormone imbalance treatment is right for you. 

    Quality Care and HRT Solutions for Women at HerKare

    When you need holistic healthcare solutions, visit a HerKare clinic near you. We provide quality care for women at every stage of life. Whether you’re interested in discussing hormone therapy options for menopause or need preventative well woman care, our team is here to help. Our goal is to help you feel your best and help you prioritize your lifelong health. Make an appointment today to learn how our providers can help you address your health and wellness.

    Kick-Start Weight Loss with Lipotropic Injections

    Kick-Start Weight Loss with Lipotropic Injections

    The CDC estimates that over 73% of American adults are overweight. Most of us have heard of the many risks of being overweight, such as an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers. Carrying around extra pounds can also affect how many people feel about themselves, causing low self-esteem and other issues. If you’re ready to start your weight loss journey, you might wonder if there’s anything that can help you lose weight and shed fat. Lipotropic injections might be just the answer.

    What are Lipotropic Injections?

    woman running for weight loss with lipotropic injections treatmetn

    The vitamins and amino acids in lipotropic injections may help with your weight loss strategies.

    Lipotropic injections are a mix of vitamins and amino acids delivered by injection. This blend of vitamins and amino acids may help with weight loss. In most cases, lipotropic injections include a mix of B vitamins and amino acids that may help improve metabolism, energy, and the breakdown of fat in your body. The base for lipotropic injections is vitamin B12, which is an important vitamin for energy and metabolism. 

    While research is still ongoing for lipotropic injections and weight loss, many patients notice positive results after beginning a lipotropic injection treatment plan. Our providers generally recommend one injection each week for 12 weeks. It’s important to discuss the specifics of your situation with one of our treatment providers before beginning lipotropic injections.

    How do Lipotropic Injections Work?

    Of course, many of us have fallen for weight loss scams that promise amazing results with little delivery. So, what makes lipotropic injections different? For starters, unlike the products we just described, these treatments are overseen by treatment providers at our clinics. 

    Studies have found an association between certain vitamin deficiencies and being overweight. For instance, some research indicates that low B12 may increase the risk for obesity. Therefore, some researchers theorize that boosting these common deficiencies may help decrease risk factors for being overweight. 

    In addition, while research continues for lipotropic shots, evidence suggests that the ingredients in lipotropic injections may help increase metabolism and energy levels, both of which can be beneficial for weight loss. 

    Increasing Metabolism

    One of the ways lipotropic injections may help with your weight loss goals is increasing metabolism. Specifically, the ingredients in lipotropic shots may help improve fat metabolism in the liver. These vitamins and amino acids may help the liver remove fat from the body, turn fat into energy, and also reduce fat production. Essentially, in some cases if your body doesn’t have the vitamins and amino acids it needs, the liver may not be very effective at processing fat from your diet. This can lead to unnecessary fat storage, which can increase weight and body fat percentage. Lipotropic injections can help improve this fat metabolism in the liver, which may aid with weight loss. 

    Boosting Energy Levels

    Also, some people notice they have more energy after beginning lipotropic injection treatments. This is important, as when you’re dealing with low energy levels and fatigue, it can be hard to follow a lifestyle that promotes healthy weight. 

    Think about the last time you had less-than-stellar sleep at night. It likely felt like you were dragging yourself through the day. You might have reached for some sweets or comfort foods to help keep you going. Also, you likely didn’t work out that day (or not as much as you had planned) because you felt tired. 

    When we’re tired and have no energy, it can feel almost impossible to eat right and exercise. Many people unconsciously grab for foods that aren’t as healthy for one reason or another. For instance, you might be more likely to eat processed foods rather than cook a healthy meal from scratch because of the energy needed for cooking. In addition, sometimes our bodies crave sugar or carbohydrates for a quick energy source when we’re feeling drained. If this is a frequent occurrence, it might sabotage your weight loss goals. And let’s not even mention how hard it is to exercise regularly and to the proper intensity for weight loss if you feel exhausted all the time. 

    Fortunately, many of the vitamins and amino acids in lipotropic injections can actually help boost energy levels. For instance, one of the main ingredients in lipotropic injections is vitamin B12, which is also known by some as “the energy vitamin.” Boosting energy can make it easier to follow your weight loss plan.

    Using Lipotropic Shots for Weight Loss

    If you’re interested in beginning lipotropic injections for weight loss, the first step is scheduling an appointment to talk with one of our treatment providers. They can help you understand what you need to do for treatment, potential side effects, and discuss the treatments more in-depth based on your individual circumstances. 

    It’s also important to understand that lipotropic injections aren’t a substitute for weight loss strategies. These treatments may aid with your weight loss journey. They may help you burn fat easier and faster. However, it’s still important to follow a weight management program. You can talk to one of our doctors about your weight and recommended weight loss strategies based on your health and lifestyle.

    Pairing Lipotropic Injections with Weight Loss Strategies

    In most cases, if you’re taking lipotropic injections, you’ll need to follow weight loss programs for optimal results. Once again, this may vary depending on your personal situation. However, for most healthy adults, losing weight the healthy way includes exercising and eating a balanced diet. The CDC states that people who lose weight gradually are often more successful at maintaining a healthy weight after achieving their weight loss goals. For most people, this means aiming to lose one to two pounds a week. 

    Therefore, if you’re interested in beginning lipotropic injection treatments, it’s important to understand that these injections won’t do all the work for you. Instead, make sure you have a healthy weight goal in mind and a plan to achieve it. Lipotropic injections may help you burn fat when paired with weight management programs.

    Are there Other Benefits of Lipotropic Injections?

    Most people who start lipotropic injections primarily do so to help with weight loss and to help jump start fat burning. However, there are some other benefits you might notice after beginning this treatment. In addition to the benefits we’ve already mentioned (helping improve metabolism and energy), lipotropic injections may also:

    • Boost memory and focus
    • Improve mood
    • Reduce water retention
    • Improve liver detoxification
    • Promote healthy hair, skin, and nails

    Therefore, if you’re interested in lipotropic injection therapy, talk to one of our treatment providers to learn more and discuss your individual circumstances. 

    Weight Loss Strategies from HerKare Women’s Health Clinic

    Our team at HerKare is here to help women improve their health. We believe in empowering women through quality healthcare. Whether you’re looking for lipotropic shots to help aid weight loss or need preventative well woman care, we’re here to help. Our team is here to help provide you with friendly, comfortable care so you can be proactive about your health. Book an appointment today at our women’s health clinic owned and operated by women for women. 

    Gynecological Exams After a Hysterectomy

    Gynecological Exams After a Hysterectomy

    Even if you have had a hysterectomy, gynecological exams are still important! Many women don’t realize that they still need regular gynecological care even after a hysterectomy. Skipping your exams may mean skipping important health screenings and preventative care. Talk to one of our treatment providers about your situation. They recommend regular gynecological exams based on your circumstances and risks. 

    What’s Included in a Gynecological Exam?

    gynecological exams help you stay healthy even after hysterectomy

    Gynecological exams help you address your health, even if you have had a hysterectomy.

    Before we discuss why you may still need gynecological exams after a hysterectomy, let’s talk about what a gynecological exam is. These exams address the female anatomy and reproductive system. They are an important part of regular well woman care.  

    Gynecological exams may be different for everyone and tailored to your individual risks. They may include a pelvic exam, a pap test, and other well woman care like general health questions and screenings. One of our treatment providers can discuss your medical history, family history, and other factors with you to determine appropriate screenings and exams during a gynecological exam. 

    Pelvic Exam

    A pelvic exam involves a few different steps to assess the health of your pelvic organs. The exam may start with an external exam of the vulva, vagina, and surrounding area. This can help detect visual signs of things like cysts, abnormal discharge, irritation, and other potential gynecological issues. The doctor may also look for signs of warts or potentially cancerous skin growths.

    The pelvic exam may also include a manual exam where your provider will put one or two gloved and lubricated fingers into your vagina and press on your abdomen with their other hand. This can help assess a few things, such as the size of your ovaries and fallopian tubes. The manual exam may help detect signs of ovarian cysts or tumors. Also, it may help assess for any pain or tenderness, which might be the result of an infection or another condition.

    In addition, your pelvic exam might also include a speculum exam. The speculum is a tool made of metal or plastic that helps open the vagina. This can help allow our treatment provider to see the walls of your vagina and the cervix (if you still have a cervix after a partial hysterectomy). During the speculum portion of the pelvic exam, your provider may also take samples of discharge from your cervix. This can help with testing for things like sexually transmitted infections. In addition, they may also take samples of cervical cells for a pap test or HPV test.

    Pap Test

    A pap test is a screening used to look for signs of cervical cancer. The test involves collecting cells from your cervix and analyzing them in the lab for abnormalities. Abnormal cervical cells can be one of the first signs of cancer or precancerous cells. In some cases the doctor may also use the same sample from the pap test to perform an HPV test to look for the HPV virus, which can increase the risk for cervical cancer. 

    In some cases, you may not need pap tests after a hysterectomy. For instance, if you have had a complete hysterectomy (where the surgeon removed both the uterus and the cervix) for reasons not related to cancer and you have a history of normal pap tests, then you may not need to continue getting pap tests. This is a conversation you can have with one of our providers based on your health, history, and risk factors. 

    Other Healthcare Screenings

    Depending on your unique circumstances, your gynecological exam may also include other screenings. For instance, our providers may recommend a breast exam, bone density screening, and other tests to address your health. 

    Breast exams can help screen for breast cancer. The doctor feels the breast and may do a visual exam to look for changes in the breast tissue and skin. For example, lumps or abnormal discharge that might point to breast cancer. For women over 45 years old, most doctors recommend regular mammograms to screen for signs of breast cancer as well. In some cases a mammogram may require a separate appointment from your annual gynecological exam.

    Our providers may also recommend other health exams or screenings when you come in for a gynecological exam. These may be based on your individual circumstances and risks. For example, they may recommend bone density scans to look for early signs or risk factors of osteoporosis. Other screenings might include cholesterol screenings, hormone level tests, or body composition assessments to help you address your health as a whole. 

    Why Do I Still Need a Gynecological Exam After a Hysterectomy?

    A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes all or part of the uterus. There are a few different types of hysterectomy procedures. Depending on the type of hysterectomy, the surgeon may also remove the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, the upper part of the vagina, and nearby lymph nodes. It’s a common misconception that women who have had a hysterectomy no longer need gynecological exams. However, regular pelvic exams are still an important part of preventative care for many women, even if they no longer have a uterus.

    Cancer Screenings

    One important reason to talk to your doctor about whether you need regular gynecological exams is because providers may perform several cancer screenings during the exam. Even if you no longer need a pap test after a hysterectomy to look for signs of cervical cancer, our providers may perform other cancer screenings during a gynecological exam. For instance, providers may look for signs of cancer on the vagina, vulva, ovaries, and other organs. While a hysterectomy can decrease your risk for some types of cancer, you may still need regular screenings. For instance, even if your ovaries were removed, there is a small chance that leftover ovarian cells could become cancerous after the hysterectomy.

    Sexual Health

    Another reason our treatment providers may recommend regular gynecological exams after a hysterectomy is to help monitor your sexual health. This may include treatment plans for vaginal dryness that makes intercourse uncomfortable, regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and other care to help you have a safe, healthy, and enjoyable sex life. 

    Screenings for Pelvic Organs 

    Gynecological exams also check many other pelvic organs, such as the bladder, rectum, and other organs in the pelvic area. Gynecological exams may be part of a multifaceted strategy for checking pelvic organ health. One common condition that your treatment provider may detect during a gynecological exam is pelvic organ prolapse, where the pelvic floor weakens and allows the pelvic organs to slip down and bulge into the vagina. 

    Some Symptoms that May Warrant a Gynecological Exam

    In addition to regular well woman appointments with gynecological screenings, you may also need to schedule an appointment for a gynecological exam due to symptoms you experience. Some of these symptoms may be signs of a health condition, so our providers may recommend a gynecological exam to help identify underlying causes of your symptoms and to help rule out other health issues. Some symptoms to talk to our medical providers about include:

    • Abnormal bleeding
    • Abnormal discharge
    • Pelvic pain
    • Vaginal odor
    • Vaginal soreness, itching, or irritation
    • Sores in the genital area
    • Urinary symptoms
      • Frequency
      • Urgency
      • Leaks

    Healthcare At Every Stage of Life from HerKare

    As a clinic operated by women for women, our team at HerKare is here to offer compassionate care at every stage of life. Whether you need regular well woman exams and birth control management or are wondering what types of exams you need after menopause, we are here to help. Our goal is to help empower you to prioritize your health by providing quality health care and a team that listens. Book an appointment now to discuss your health with our providers!

    Can Progesterone Replacement Therapy Help Hot Flashes?

    Can Progesterone Replacement Therapy Help Hot Flashes?

    Hot flashes and night sweats are a serious problem for many women during perimenopause and menopause. Fortunately, there are several treatment options that may help ease your symptoms. Some new research suggests that progesterone replacement therapy may be an option to reduce the severity and number of hot flashes and night sweats for some women. 

    Woman doing yoga after Progesterone Replacement Therapy reduced hot flash symptoms

    Progesterone replacement therapy can help ease hot flash symptoms so you can keep doing the things you love.

    Hot flashes can cause many issues for menopausal women. They can reduce quality of life and interrupt day-to-day activities. Hot flashes at night, also known as night sweats, often make it difficult for women to get good quality sleep. Hot flashes and night sweats are some of the most common symptoms of menopause. However, there are many treatment options available! Our providers can help find personalized treatment solutions based on your symptoms and lifestyle. In some cases, this may include hormone therapy with estrogen and/or progesterone as well as lifestyle changes and other treatments.

    What is Progesterone Replacement Therapy?

    Progesterone replacement therapy is hormone therapy using the female hormone progesterone. There are several reasons why your hormone doctor may recommend using progesterone. Typically, progesterone and estrogen are both used for menopausal hormone therapy. This is because estrogen alone can make the lining of your uterus thicker, which can increase the risk for endometrial cancer. Of course, in some cases you might take progesterone on its own without estrogen. For instance, some women use progesterone therapy during menopause when they cannot use estrogen. Bioidentical progesterone comes from plants like soy and wild yams. It’s then made into a medication your body can metabolize.

    What Does Progesterone Do?

    Progesterone plays several important roles in your body. Progesterone is a steroid hormone produced in your ovaries, like estrogen. Estrogen and progesterone are kind of like partners, performing slightly different functions and balancing each other out.

    For example, during your premenopausal years, estrogen helps thicken the lining of your uterus after your period, while progesterone helps thin the endometrium lining in preparation for pregnancy. Progesterone levels generally start to rise around ovulation, usually near the middle of your menstrual cycle. By contrast, estrogen levels usually rise following your period and begin to decline leading up to your period. Therefore, you can almost think of estrogen and progesterone as the yin and yang of female hormones. 

    Of course, while most of us know these hormones as reproductive hormones, they also do other things in your body. For instance, progesterone is a natural diuretic, which can help reduce fluid retention. Also, it may help increase the effectiveness of other hormones, like estrogen, thyroid, and testosterone. Some research even suggests that progesterone may have a calming, sedative effect on the brain. Therefore, some researchers believe it’s important for helping with good quality sleep and also improving mood. 

    More interestingly for women in perimenopause and menopause is that progesterone replacement therapy by itself may also help improve symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.

    Studies Suggest Progesterone Replacement Therapy May Help Alleviate Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

    While progesterone hasn’t been as extensively researched for menopause symptoms as estrogen has, many researchers are starting to consider how progesterone can play a role in menopause symptom relief. Several recent studies have looked at progesterone-only therapy for hot flashes and night flashes, also known as vasomotor symptoms. For instance, one study, published in the North American Menopause Society’s journal, Menopause, found that women saw approximately a 58% improvement in their hot flash symptoms with progesterone compared to just over 23% for the group who received placebo. 

    Another study from 2018 saw similar results. The study, published in the journal Climacteric, mentioned that several studies have found women’s hormone care with both estrogen and progesterone have been more effective than estrogen-only options. They also reviewed evidence from progesterone-only menopause treatment and participants who used progesterone replacement therapy saw a 55% drop in their vasomotor symptoms, as well as other evidence that progesterone alone may help with hot flashes.

    Therefore, several researchers have suggested that progesterone only treatments may help with hot flashes and sleep disturbances from night sweats. Some even explain that progesterone therapy may be an option for women who cannot take estrogen, though it’s important to discuss treatment options with one of our treatment providers to find treatments recommended for your individual circumstances. 

    Why Might Progesterone Replacement Therapy Help with Hot Flash Symptoms?

    How can we explain why progesterone may help with some women’s hot flashes and night sweats? As we mentioned, research is still ongoing, so there’s no definitive evidence. However, there are some potential explanations. 

    Menopause symptoms are frequently considered to be the result of declining hormone levels. While estrogen is most often blamed, it may be that low levels of both estrogen and progesterone may lead to uncomfortable hot flashes and night sweats. After all, both of these hormones start to decline during perimenopause, and both play some pretty vital roles in several functions, including the menstrual cycle. 

    Also, in some cases women with low progesterone levels during menopause may actually have elevated estrogen levels because progesterone cannot keep estrogen in check in the body. This may result in estrogen dominance, which may also lead to vasomotor symptoms. In these cases, taking progesterone may help bring your hormones back into balance to help reduce your symptoms. 

    In any case, it’s important to work with a healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms, medical history, and treatment options. Help is available for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. 

    Get Quality Women’s Hormone Care from Our Team at HerKare

    When you need high quality healthcare, our team at HerKare is here to help. We are a health clinic owned and operated by women for women. Our goal is to empower you to take control of your health. Whether you’re dealing with troubling menopause symptoms or need preventative well woman care, our providers are here to help you find personalized solutions. Book an appointment today at one of our convenient locations. 

    What You Need to Know About Perimenopause & Birth Control

    What You Need to Know About Perimenopause & Birth Control

    Birth control is something many women take to prevent pregnancy and help with other conditions. However, as you enter perimenopause, you might have some questions about birth control. Our providers are here to answer your questions and help you make decisions about your health before, during, and after perimenopause. It’s important to discuss the particulars of your situation with one of our medical providers. However, we do have a general guide to help answer some common questions about birth control and perimenopause.

    woman in perimenopause holding hands on the beach with a man

    You may still need birth control during perimenopause to prevent pregnancy.

    What is Perimenopause?

    First, let’s clarify what we mean by “perimenopause.” The terms perimenopause and menopause are often used synonymously, but they are actually different stages of your life. Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause. Menopause is when you have gone 12 consecutive months without a period.

    During perimenopause, your hormones may start to fluctuate more, but you’re still producing a fair amount of both estrogen and progesterone. When you reach menopause and postmenopause, your ovaries produce very little of these hormones and stop releasing eggs. Perimenopause typically begins in your 40s. It usually lasts around four years before you reach menopause. However, this can be longer or shorter for different women, even up to 10 years or more. The average age for menopause is 51 years old, though it can come earlier or later.

    Symptoms of Perimenopause

    There are many symptoms that can point to perimenopause. While there is no one test or sign that you’ve started perimenopause, some symptoms can signal that you may be in perimenopause. 

    Some symptoms of perimenopause include:

    • Irregular periods
    • Fatigue
    • Spotting or breakthrough bleeding
    • Breast tenderness
    • Headaches
    • Low libido
    • Difficulty concentrating (“brain fog”)
    • Hot flashes
    • Night sweats
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Mood changes

    If you’re dealing with these symptoms, then it may mean that you’re starting the transition to menopause. You can talk to one of our treatment providers about your symptoms to determine whether you might be in perimenopause and how we may be able to help reduce or relieve your symptoms.

    Can You Still Get Pregnant During Perimenopause?

    Now, it’s a common misconception that you can’t get pregnant during perimenopause. This is incorrect. You can absolutely still get pregnant during perimenopause. Your body typically still ovulates during perimenopause. While periods might be irregular or different during perimenopause, pregnancy is still a risk with unprotected sex. Therefore, many women still need contraception in the years leading up to menopause if they don’t wish to become pregnant. The risk of becoming pregnant generally doesn’t go away until after you’ve reached menopause, one year after your last period. Hormonal birth control is one of the most common forms of contraception, so many women continue to take these medications up until they reach menopause.

    Birth Control May Mask Symptoms of Perimenopause

    It’s important to note that hormonal birth control, like the pill, can actually mask symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Hormonal birth control uses synthetic versions of female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which control menstruation, pregnancy, and more. Hormonal birth control can help regulate hormone levels to control periods and reduce the risk of pregnancy.

    Symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are typically caused by fluctuating and declining levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body. Therefore, if you’re taking hormonal birth control, it may mask some of the symptoms of perimenopause by replacing your natural hormones with synthetic versions. Your symptoms may not be as noticeable if you’re still on hormonal birth control when you start perimenopause.

    Also, many women who do experience symptoms may not associate them with perimenopause, as birth control side effects can be very similar to perimenopause. For instance, changes in mood and sex drive can be side effects of birth control and symptoms of perimenopause.

    Even after menopause where your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, birth control can make it appear that you are getting regular periods. When taking combination birth control with both estrogen and progesterone, you may experience withdrawal bleeding that mimics your period, even though you’ve reached menopause. 

    Hormonal Birth Control May Help Reduce Symptoms during Perimenopause

    In a similar vein, some women notice that their perimenopause symptoms get better after beginning hormonal birth control. Some doctors may even prescribe birth control during perimenopause to help with symptoms even if you’re not looking for a contraceptive. Of course, this depends on your individual circumstances. Some women may not benefit from birth control during menopause, and for some the risks outweigh the benefits. However, the hormones in birth control may help some women feel better during perimenopause.

    As you transition into menopause, your hormone levels may fluctuate quite a bit. This can cause many symptoms that affect your quality of life, such as hot flashes and mood changes. Birth control can help regulate your hormones to reduce these fluctuations. This may, in turn, help alleviate some of your perimenopause symptoms. 

    How to Know if You’ve Transitioned to Menopause while On Birth Control?

    So, if you take birth control during perimenopause and it can mask symptoms and even cause bleeding that mimics a normal menstrual period, how do you know if you’ve reached menopause? In most cases, stopping birth control can help you determine if you have reached menopause. Just keep in mind that until you are sure you have gone for one year without a period, you may need other forms of contraception, such as condoms, to help prevent pregnancy. Even if you have gone several months without a period, you may still be perimenopausal and still able to get pregnant. Talk to one of our treatment providers about your specific circumstances.

    When Should Perimenopausal Women Stop Taking Birth Control?

    You might be wondering if there is a certain time you should stop taking birth control after you enter perimenopause. Once again, this is personal, so it’s important to discuss the specifics with one of our treatment providers. 

    However, many doctors do recommend some women stop birth control at the average age of menopause (51 years old) to determine if they’ve reached menopause yet. Also, it’s important to understand that with age, the risks of birth control can get higher. For instance, some hormonal birth controls can increase your risk for blood clots, stroke, breast cancer, heart attacks, and other health conditions. Therefore, our treatment providers may recommend stopping or switching hormonal birth controls based on your risks, even if you’re not in perimenopause.

    What’s the Difference Between Hormone Therapy and Birth Control?

    You may have heard of women taking hormone therapy during and after perimenopause. If birth control typically contains hormones, what is the difference between birth control and hormone therapy for menopause

    Hormone therapy and birth control have different purposes and do different things in your body. Therefore, one might be better than the other for your circumstances. 

    Generally speaking, birth control is primarily to prevent pregnancy (though you might also use it for other things like regulating your cycle, reducing PMS symptoms, or even to help with hormonal acne). Hormonal birth control typically contains synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone that are much stronger than you would find in the average hormone therapy medication. Also, most forms of hormonal birth control override ovarian function, meaning they tell your ovaries to take a break while they provide the hormones instead. 

    By contrast, hormone therapy is primarily used to help reduce symptoms of menopause. These medications help supplement what your ovaries naturally produce. HRT also typically provides much less estrogen and/or progesterone than birth control medications, providing the minimum amount needed to help with your symptoms. Hormone therapy also isn’t an effective form of contraception.

    Does Birth Control Delay Menopause?

    Another question you have is whether taking hormonal birth control delays menopause. After all, if you might have fewer symptoms and might continue bleeding each month while taking the pill, that certainly sounds like you’re not in menopause. However, this is another common misconception. 

    Birth control doesn’t stop, delay, or turn back the clock on menopause. Menopause is the end of your reproductive years, meaning your ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing as much estrogen and progesterone. As far as we know, there is nothing we can do or take to prevent menopause from happening. So, while birth control might mask the signs and symptoms, it won’t make your ovaries continue to function as they did in premenopausal years.

    Comprehensive Women’s Health Care from Our Providers at HerKare

    Our treatment providers at HerKare are here to help you address your health and feel your best. We can help you make important decisions around birth control, health risks, and symptom relief during and after menopause. Our team is dedicated to providing high quality women’s health care at every stage of life. Make an appointment today to learn more and discuss your health with one of our medical providers.