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    Do I Need to Get Mammograms After Menopause?

    Do I Need to Get Mammograms After Menopause?

    Mammograms may not be your favorite thing to do, but they’re still an important part of women’s health care. Mammograms are special x-rays that look at the breast tissue. They can be a helpful screening tool to look for signs of breast cancer. Now, you may have a lot of questions about mammograms, including whether you still need them after menopause and what to expect. So, let’s talk about mammograms in general, why you need them, when you need them, and how they work. 

    Why are Mammograms Important for Women’s Health Care?

    Woman smiling after menopause because of quality women's health care from HerKare

    Women’s health care helps you stay healthy after menopause, so make sure you schedule mammograms and other screenings to address your health.

    Why do doctors recommend getting regular mammograms? Essentially, they can help with screening and early detection of breast cancer.

    Mammograms can help detect abnormalities before you can even feel them during a breast exam or experience symptoms. Early detection is important because it can help reduce risks, increase the chances of survival. It can also help open up more treatment options.

    Therefore, most health experts recommend regular mammograms as an important breast cancer screening tool. Also, since mammograms can help with early detection, many insurance plans cover these screenings (though you should always check your specific policy to be certain). 

    What Does my Women’s Health Care Provider Look for During a Mammogram

    What exactly does the radiologist look for in the mammogram images? There are many things they may be on the lookout for, including: 

    • Calcifications
    • Masses
    • Abnormal changes

    Calcifications are mineral deposits in the breasts. These are pretty common and can be either benign or malignant. Things like aging, injuries, and benign cysts can all cause calcifications. However, they can also be caused by dead abnormal cells building up and becoming hard, which may be an early indication of breast cancer. 

    Masses include cysts and tumors. Once again, these can be fairly common and don’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer. In fact, most breast cysts and tumors are benign. However, since some can be cancerous, the radiologist will look for signs of these masses in your mammogram. 

    Also, if you have records of previous mammograms, the radiologist may also compare them to look for changes that might be concerning. Having these past images may help the radiologist detect changes that might require additional screenings. Therefore, if you change to a different women’s health clinic, you may want to request your records be sent to your new provider to help with this process.

    Do I Still Need Mammograms After Menopause?

    Now, you might wonder if you still need mammograms after menopause. The answer is typically yes.

    As we mentioned, you should talk to one of our medical professionals about your personal situation. However, it’s important to understand that the risk for breast cancer increases as we age. In fact, research estimates most breast cancers are found in women who are over 50. So, mammograms are still important after menopause for most women. 

    Talk to a Women’s Health Care Provider about How Often to Get Mammograms After Menopause

    Of course, not every woman has the same needs, even when it comes to mammograms. So, talk to one of our doctors about mammograms and how often you need one after menopause. 

    General mammogram guidelines for women with average breast cancer risk recommend:

    • 40-44 years old: Optional annual mammograms
    • 45-54 years old: Annual mammograms
    • 55-75 years old: Mammograms every 1-2 years
    • 75+ years old: Mammograms based on your individual health status and risks

    However, these recommendations don’t fit every single woman’s individual risks, benefits, and needs. Therefore, it’s important to discuss mammograms and mammogram frequency with your health care provider based on your situation. One of our women’s health care providers can discuss your medical history, risk factors, overall health, and more to help create a personalized plan for mammogram frequency. 

    Your age and menopausal status may help you and our health care provider determine how often you should get mammograms. After menopause, you might be able to switch to getting mammograms every two years instead of every year. This depends on many different factors. However, some research suggests that after menopause, women tend to have slower-growing breast cancers than premenopausal women. This may mean that you can reduce mammogram frequency to every two years, though you should talk to our doctors about your risks and individual circumstances. 

    What to Expect During a Mammogram

    If you’re going in for your first mammogram, you might feel a little nervous. Knowing what to expect can help, so let’s talk about what to expect before, during, and after your mammogram.

    How to Prepare for a Mammogram at your Women’s Health Clinic

    There’s not much you need to do to prepare for a mammogram after you schedule the appointment. Most women find it’s more comfortable to wear a two piece outfit that day, as you’ll have to undress from the waist up for the mammogram. 

    Also, it’s important not to wear deodorant, powder, lotion, or perfumes anywhere on or around the breasts the day of your mammogram. This is because these products can leave behind small particles that can show up on the mammogram and may look like calcifications or other potential concerns. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is not to apply anything to your breasts, underarms, or surrounding areas the day of your mammogram. 

    Now, of course, this is a routine for many women. If you forget and realize you have deodorant or other products on, just let us know during check-in. In some cases, you may be able to remove the products enough with a cleaning cloth to still go ahead with your mammogram. 

    During the Mammogram

    The mammogram itself takes typically around 30 minutes. The mammographer will place your breast onto a plate and another plate compresses the breast to help with imaging. Some women might feel some discomfort with the compression, but speak up if you feel pain, especially if you experience severe pain. The compression lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a little less than a minute for each image. Most mammograms include at least two images for each breast.

    Getting Your Results

    After your mammogram, the images go to a radiologist who “reads” them. The office will typically contact you within a week to give you your results. The results might include explaining your breast density score, any areas of concern, or simply when the doctor recommends you have your next mammogram.

    Getting Called Back After a Mammogram

    Sometimes, you may need to come back for additional imaging, such as another mammogram, a breast ultrasound, or even a breast MRI. This is actually fairly common, with an estimated 5-15% of women getting called back for more images. So, while it might be concerning to you, try not to worry too much and work with your women’s health care provider to schedule the extra screening to learn more. Most repeat mammograms and breast images don’t detect cancer, so keep this in mind if you get called back after your mammogram.

    Often, if the mammogram images aren’t clear, parts of the breasts were left out of the images, or if the radiologist sees an area that might be a concern, then they’ll recommend additional tests to look at the area more closely.

    In some cases, if you have dense breasts, then your provider may also recommend additional imaging. Dense breasts are essentially breasts that have a higher ratio of breast tissue to fat. Dense breasts are fairly common, but they can make detecting issues on mammogram images a little more difficult and they also increase your risk for breast cancer. Therefore, in many cases, you may need additional tests done as part of your breast cancer screening. Your doctor will help you determine next steps based on your specific situation and risk factors. 

    Quality Women’s Health Care at Every Stage of Life from HerKare

    Looking for a women’s health care provider that understands? We’re a women’s health clinic owned and managed by women for women. Our goal is to help you address your wellness at every stage of life. We are here to help empower you to take control of your health today. Whether you need a well woman check up or are dealing with concerning symptoms, make an appointment today to discuss your health with our medical team.

    Can HRT Help with Menopause Brain Fog?

    Can HRT Help with Menopause Brain Fog?

    Where did I leave my keys? What’s their name again? I know I walked in here for a reason… Brain fog is a common menopause symptom that can be frustrating for many women. It can cause issues remembering things, difficulty concentrating, and confusion. An estimated 60% of women experience brain fog during menopause. However, HRT may be able to help reduce brain fog and help you feel more like yourself. Let’s talk about why hormones might affect your brain. 

    Can HRT Help with Brain Fog?

    Woman looking into the distance due to brain fog during menopause who may benefit from HRT

    Brain fog can be difficult to deal with for some women, which is why doctors may recommend HRT to help with your symptoms.

    Brain fog is a serious issue for many women. Some women experience mild symptoms and some won’t experience it at all. However, others may start to notice it interferes with their lives. Brain fog can be frustrating and isolating for many women during menopause. Some may even be alarmed and wonder if they’re showing early signs of dementia when brain fog is particularly bad. Brain fog has been associated with the menopause transition, which has led many researchers to consider whether hormones play a part in brain fog. Some studies are also looking at whether hormone therapy can help improve brain fog symptoms.

    What is Brain Fog? 

    Brain fog is different from memory changes that come with normal aging. Most people will experience forgetfulness and other cognitive changes as our bodies and brains change with age. These changes, much like normal aging, can come on gradually. 

    Brain fog, on the other hand, often happens suddenly with the beginning of perimenopause. Most women describe it as an increase in forgetfulness, whether forgetting someone’s name, why you walked into a room, or the password to your phone. Several studies have found that women during menopause score lower on tests for:

    • Verbal learning
    • Memory
    • Motor function
    • Attention
    • Working memory

    Brain fog may be to blame for these lower cognitive scores. With brain fog, you might notice it begins around the time of perimenopause and symptoms can continue into early menopause. The good news is that brain fog typically isn’t permanent and most women notice the symptoms fade away after some time. However, they may still deal with frustrating symptoms for several years, much like other menopause symptoms such as hot flashes. Depending on your symptoms and overall health, our providers may recommend HRT to help with perimenopause and menopause.

    Why Does Brain Fog Happen During Menopause?

    So, what does menopause have to do with brain fog? It turns out, quite a lot. 

    First of all, menopause can cause a whole host of symptoms, some of which can affect our brains. For example, night sweats can hinder normal sleep. Lack of sleep can make it feel like you’re walking through a fog and can affect your cognition. Mood changes, depression, and anxiety can all also affect your memory and attention. 

    However, researchers have found that there may be more at play than sleep and mood disturbances when it comes to menopausal brain fog. During menopause, our hormones start to fluctuate and decline, leading up to our very last period. Estrogen is one of the main hormones involved in this process. Some researchers believe decreasing estrogen levels may have an impact on memory and learning, which might explain why many women experience brain fog during menopause. 

    Estrogen May Help with Memory, Learning, and Cognition for Menopause Treatment

    Most of us associate estrogen with things like periods, puberty, and pregnancy. However, this important female hormone may also help our brains. Some researchers believe that estrogen can also help with memory and cognition. For instance, researchers have noticed that female mice notice major declines in memory when they lose estrogen. However, when that estrogen is replaced, mice in studies often improve. Therefore, there may be a link between estrogen and memory. This may also mean that HRT may help fight brain fog during menopause.

    One potential explanation of why estrogen may affect memory is that it might affect the hippocampus. Estrogen may influence many functions of the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory formation and learning. 

    Estrogen’s Effects on the Hippocampus

    We have known for a while that estrogen is neuroprotective. In other words, it helps protect nerve endings. Therefore, estrogen may help protect the hippocampus from damage. In turn, this might help protect against brain fog and cognitive decline. 

    Also, there may be several other ways estrogen can affect the hippocampus. Researchers are still studying the effects of estrogen on the brain and hippocampus. However, what they have found is that estrogen may help increase the number of spines in the brain. Spines branch off of nerve cells in the brain and are essentially how brain cells communicate with each other. So, estrogen may help improve communication between brain cells in the hippocampus, which may also assist with memory. 

    HRT Can Help Replace Estrogen Lost During Menopause

    Estrogen replacement is often used as a form of menopause treatment. The idea is to help replace the estrogen that’s lost during menopause. This can help relieve some of the unpleasant and frustrating symptoms of menopause. 

    Some researchers theorize that if estrogen affects the hippocampus and other parts of the brain, then HRT may also help with brain fog. This may be due to estrogen reaching the receptors in the brain. Also, if brain fog is due to things like fatigue or mood changes, then estrogen may help reduce these symptoms which, in turn, helps reduce brain fog. For example, hormone therapy can help relieve night sweats that keep many women up at night and can cause foggy, tired thinking. 

    So, if you’re dealing with brain fog and other menopause symptoms, talk to one of our providers. You’re not alone, and there are many treatments available that may help you feel better. In addition to menopausal hormone replacement therapy, we can also help you design a treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes like diet and exercise to help you address and relieve your symptoms. 

    Quality Care for Women at Every Stage of Life

    Looking for quality health care from a caring team of doctors and health professionals? Our team at HerKare is here for you. We offer quality women’s health care at every stage of life. Whether you’re dealing with brain fog from menopause or need well woman care, we are here for you. We believe in empowering women to address their health by listening to your concerns and providing quality care to help. Book an appointment at one of our convenient locations today and let’s talk about your wellbeing.

    Menopause Could Put You at Risk for High Cholesterol

    Menopause Could Put You at Risk for High Cholesterol

    Do you know your cholesterol levels? If not, it’s time to talk to our women’s health care provider about them! You may not realize, but menopause could change your cholesterol levels and put you at a higher risk for high cholesterol, which can put your health at risk. Even if your cholesterol levels have been healthy before, menopause is a critical time to get screened and talk to your doctor about strategies to help you stay healthy.

    mature woman sitting on couch with iPad looking at strategies for lowering cholesterol after menopause

    Staying healthy after menopause means knowing your cholesterol levels!

    Talk to Your Women’s Health Care Provider About Your Cholesterol Levels

    High cholesterol usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. It’s a silent condition, but it can put your health at risk in many different ways. So, it’s important to know whether you have high or elevated levels and learn strategies to lower them or keep them in healthy ranges. 

    Here are the current cholesterol screening recommendations for women with low risk:

    • 20-55: Cholesterol screening every 4-6 years
    • 55-65: Cholesterol screening every 1-2 years
    • 65+: Cholesterol screening every year

    However, if you do have certain risk factors, our women’s health care provider may recommend more frequent screenings.

    Here are some general cholesterol goals for most healthy adults:

    • Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL
    • LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
    • HDL cholesterol: more than 60 mg/dL

    The key to remember is you want your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels low and your HDL (good cholesterol) levels to be high. This is because LDL sticks to and builds up in the arteries, like hair clogging a drain in your home. HDL, on the other hand, is sort of like a drain cleaner, taking cholesterol out of the bloodstream and back to the liver.

    Menopause Can Increase Your Risk for High Cholesterol

    If you’re going through menopause, now may be an important time to get a cholesterol test. LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise and HDL levels tend to decrease around this time. There may be a link between low estrogen levels and this cholesterol change during menopause. Other changes during this time can also contribute to the risk for high cholesterol.

    How Estrogen Affects HDL Cholesterol Levels

    While both men and women can have high cholesterol levels, women are more at risk later in life after menopause. This is because estrogen drops off pretty dramatically during menopause. Estrogen is a hormone that has been linked to higher HDL cholesterol levels. Remember, HDL cholesterol is the good kind, that helps remove the LDL from your arteries and back to the liver. However, lower estrogen levels after menopause can mean your HDL levels start to decline and your LDL levels start to increase. Therefore, even if you’ve never had high cholesterol levels before, these hormone changes can have a significant impact. 

    One study found that cholesterol levels rose dramatically anywhere from one year before to one year after the last period for women who participated in the study. That’s why it’s important to talk to your women’s health care provider about cholesterol and how to keep it in healthy ranges during and after menopause. 

    Why Care about Cholesterol Levels?

    It’s a common misconception that only middle-aged men need to worry about cholesterol, but women are at risk for high cholesterol as well, particularly after menopause. The problem with high cholesterol is that, even though it doesn’t necessarily have any symptoms, it can cause other serious health conditions. Some of the most concerning and life-threatening are cardiovascular problems from high cholesterol.

    Increases Risk for Heart Disease, Heart Attack, and Stroke

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, especially for women after menopause. Unfortunately, cholesterol awareness is particularly low among women. One survey from the American Heart Association found that most women, about 76%, didn’t know their cholesterol levels. However, cholesterol can put your health at risk. 

    High cholesterol levels can increase your risk for conditions like:

    • Heart disease
    • Atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries)
    • High blood pressure
    • Heart attack
    • Stroke

    The main problem with cholesterol is that it can clog your arteries. Cholesterol can become sticky plaque that sticks to the arteries and blood vessels. Over time, this can harden your arteries and make them narrower, meaning less blood can flow through them. This can make your heart work harder and even damage the heart muscle from all the overwork. 

    Also, the plaque can break off and cause clots that block blood flow. If the blood clot blocks blood flow to your heart, you have a heart attack. If it blocks blood to the brain, you have a stroke. Therefore, it’s incredibly important for your heart health to keep your cholesterol levels in check. 

    Where does Cholesterol Come From?

    To understand how to keep your cholesterol levels healthy, you need to know what cholesterol is and where it comes from.

    First, what is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance in your blood. Cholesterol isn’t all bad, and you actually need it to make many different things in your body, like bile, sex hormones, cortisol, and vitamin D. 

    Since cholesterol is so necessary for many different processes in your body, your liver actually makes most of the cholesterol you need. About 80% of cholesterol comes from your liver. The other 20% of cholesterol comes from your diet. 

    It’s a common misconception that dietary cholesterol increases your blood cholesterol levels. This isn’t necessarily the case. Actually, dietary cholesterol is unlikely to significantly increase your risks for high cholesterol. However, trans fats and saturated fats certainly can. 

    Some things that play a role in your risks for high cholesterol include:

    • Genetics
    • Diet
    • Age
    • Activity level

    Why Get Regular Cholesterol Screenings from your Women’s Health Clinic?

    Getting your cholesterol tested is a simple blood test we perform at our women’s health clinic. Our team can check your cholesterol levels as part of your annual health exam. We can also talk about strategies for keeping your cholesterol levels healthy. Even if you don’t have high or elevated levels, we can talk about things you can do to keep them low. 

    If you do have unhealthy cholesterol levels, we’ll work with you to create a treatment plan to help you stay healthy and reduce your risks. So, make sure you get regular cholesterol screenings as part of taking care of your overall health.

    Treatment Solutions for High Cholesterol After Menopause

    If you do have high cholesterol levels after menopause, our women’s health care team can help you find treatment solutions for how to lower cholesterol. Treatment for high cholesterol can look different for different people, and it all depends on your specific situation. 

    For instance, some women are able to lower cholesterol with diet and lifestyle changes, like cutting out trans and saturated fats and increasing how much they exercise. In other cases, you may need medications to help lower your cholesterol. Many women require all of these strategies. Our medical professionals will work with you to personalize your treatment and help you reduce health risks from high cholesterol. 

    Quality Women’s Health Care to Help You Take Control of Your Health

    Our team at HerKare is here to empower you by helping you take care of your health. We listen, understand, and help you take steps to improve your overall wellness. We’re with you at every stage of life to help you stay healthy and help you feel great. Whether you have a specific health concern or just need a checkup to get necessary screenings to help with early detection of serious conditions, our team is here for you. Make an appointment with one of our women’s health care providers today!

    Hormone Imbalance Treatment May Help Reduce Appetite

    Hormone Imbalance Treatment May Help Reduce Appetite

    Does menopause have you feeling hungry all the time? Hormone imbalance treatment may help curb your appetite! Many women gain weight during menopause, particularly around their midsection. Unfortunately, this weight gain may lead to being overweight or obese, which can cause some serious health consequences. However, our health providers can help you design a personalized strategy to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight.

    woman in kitchen cutting up vegetables after hormone imbalance treatment helps with her appetite

    Hormone imbalance treatment may help regulate your appetite after menopause by increasing estrogen levels in your body.

    Appetite Out of Control? Hormone Imbalance Treatment May Help

    A lot of changes happen during menopause, including appetite changes for some women. Many notice that they feel hungrier or even experience more cravings as they transition into menopause. This could be due to many different things, such as increased stress levels or emotional changes. What many people don’t realize is that hormone changes can also contribute to appetite changes during menopause

    Fortunately, if hormone imbalances are to blame, hormone imbalance treatment may be able to help regulate your appetite. For instance, low estrogen is a common issue for women during perimenopause that can cause a whole host of symptoms, from sleep issues, mood changes, and hot flashes. Estrogen also plays an important role in appetite and metabolism. So, low estrogen may increase your appetite and slow down your metabolism.

    How Estrogen Affects Appetite

    Declining estrogen levels are often to blame for many of the changes we experience during menopause. Therefore, many women choose to start an estrogen replacement therapy regimen during menopause. 

    You’ve probably heard of some common symptoms low estrogen levels during menopause can cause, like hot flashes and mood changes. Evidence now suggests that estrogen can play a role in increased appetite during menopause

    While many women have said for years that they felt hungrier after menopause, researchers weren’t sure why. Now there have been several studies about how estrogen helps regulate appetite, both during the menstrual cycle in premenopausal women as well as during and after menopause. It’s important to understand how estrogen affects appetite to understand why you might feel hungrier and how you might be able to help control your appetite and cravings.

    Estrogen Curbs Appetite in the Brain

    Scientists are still researching how estrogen affects appetite. However, some studies, including one from the Yale School of Medicine, have found that estrogen may act similarly to the hunger suppressing hormone leptin.

    Researchers in the Yale study found that estrogen regulates your metabolism, likely through the estrogen receptors in the brain. Estrogen may even use the same pathways in the brain as the hormone leptin to help reduce appetite. The study’s author theorized that low estrogen might be responsible for changes in metabolism during menopause, such as burning fewer calories and increased appetite. They also mentioned that estradiol may play a key role in helping reduce the risk of weight gain by helping regulate the appetite, especially for those who are leptin resistant.

    Estrogen can mimic a lot of the same effects of leptin, but what does that mean? First, let’s go over what leptin actually is. Leptin is a hormone made of fat cells. The more fat you have in your body, the more leptin you should have. Since fat is your body’s version of energy stores, the leptin hormone helps signal that you don’t need to continue storing as much fat. Basically, it tells your brain to cool it on appetite and ramp up your metabolism to help burn some of those energy stores. Estrogen can also help reduce appetite and increase metabolism similar to how leptin does.

    Essentially, for most women when estrogen is higher, they feel full and satisfied sooner and many have fewer cravings because of the amount of estrogen reaching the receptors in the brain. However, during menopause, your body produces less estrogen, which can make your appetite higher and your metabolism slower, as well as causing other menopause symptoms. Therefore, hormone imbalance treatment to help keep estrogen balanced may help reduce these symptoms. 

    Estrogen May Affect Hunger Hormones

    Estrogen levels can also affect your hunger hormones. For instance, chronic low estrogen levels, such as after menopause, can cause leptin resistance. Estrogen may also affect other hunger hormones like ghrelin and cholecystokinin (CCK). Ghrelin is a hormone that helps tell you when you’re hungry and need to eat. Estrogen may help suppress ghrelin, which can help reduce how hungry you feel. CCK is a hormone that helps tell you when you’re full. Estrogen can also increase the potency of CCK in your body to help you feel full and satisfied longer. Low estrogen levels can throw these hormones off as well, which can also increase your appetite during menopause. 

    Other Ways Menopause May Affect Hunger and Appetite

    Of course, there may be other reasons why many women have increased appetite during menopause. For instance, sleep deprivation can not only make you feel hungrier, but also have you reaching for fast energy, but low nutrient foods like sodas and sweets. Sleep issues are also common during menopause, especially for women who suffer from night sweats, or hot flashes at night. 

    In addition, other menopause symptoms can also cause lifestyle changes that might increase your appetite. Things like reaching for comfort foods due to mood changes, or feeling like you don’t have much energy can hold you back from getting exercise can also make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight and control your appetite and cravings. 

    Hormone Imbalance Treatment Can Help Reduce Appetite During Menopause

    If you’re struggling with symptoms of menopause, our medical team may recommend hormone replacement treatment to help. Taking estrogen may help bring your hormones back into balance to help alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and sleep disturbances that interfere with your life and overall well being. Since estrogen may play such an important role in appetite, estrogen replacement therapy may also help your body regulate appetite and boost metabolism as well. 

    Other Lifestyle Changes to Consider

    In addition to hormone therapy, our providers may also recommend healthy lifestyle changes to help you improve wellness during menopause. If you’re dealing with increased appetite during menopause, there are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of overeating.

    For instance, eating more slowly can help you better pick up on signals that your body is full. Also, eating a healthy diet with plenty of low calorie and high fiber foods may also help you control how many calories you’re taking in. Starting an exercise program can also help you burn more calories to help you manage your weight during menopause. 

    Our team takes a holistic approach to healthcare, which means we help design treatment and wellness plans that suit your lifestyle and take underlying causes of your symptoms into account. We may recommend multifaceted approaches as part of your treatment plan to help you tackle your unwanted symptoms head-on. 

    Hormone Replacement Treatment at HerKare

    When you need quality women’s health care, choose our team at HerKare. We specialize in providing treatment solutions to women at every stage of life, including during menopause. We also offer bioidentical hormone therapy to help keep your hormones in balance before, during, and after menopause. Make an appointment today and let’s talk about how you’re feeling and what we can do to help.

    HRT May Boost Serotonin to Help With Depression

    HRT May Boost Serotonin to Help With Depression

    Did you know an estimated 20% of women will experience depression during menopause? If you’re experiencing depression symptoms during menopause, HRT may be able to help. Estrogen injections may help increase the serotonin in your body, which may help boost your mood and reduce your risk for depression. 

    woman smiling with arms open because HRT helped boost her mood during menopause

    If you’re feeling depressed during menopause, treatments are available! Even HRT can help increase serotonin to help boost your mood.

    Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the United States, and women are about twice as likely to experience it than men. In some cases, this can be attributed to changes in serotonin due to fluctuating or low estrogen levels. For example, premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and postpartum depression have all been linked to estrogen levels. Women who experience these or have been diagnosed with depression in the past may be more likely to experience depression during menopause. However, it’s important to understand that help is available!

    HRT May Help Relieve Menopausal Depression

    There have been many studies that explore how hormones may affect depression during menopause. In many cases, hormone replacement treatment has helped women feel better and improve their mood during menopause. These treatments help replace and stabilize your hormones as your body begins to transition to post-menopause. This may help alleviate your depression symptoms if they’re tied to the hormonal changes you experience during menopause. In fact, many doctors see hormones as a first line treatment for menopausal depression because of the link between estrogen and mood.

    Estrogen may play a complex role in depression for women. For instance, there are several areas of the brain that are rich in estrogen receptors, such as the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the hippocampus. Each of these parts of the brain plays a role in regulating your emotions. They all also have estrogen receptors. In fact, some studies have found that women using hormones for menopause symptoms may have larger hippocampuses. 

    However, another potential link between low estrogen levels during menopause and depression is its relationship with serotonin. Serotonin is an important chemical for mood and estrogen levels may play a key role in your serotonin levels during menopause.

    Why Might Menopause Bring on Depression?

    Menopause is complex, so there are many different reasons why you might experience depression during this time. Low levels of estrogen and serotonin may contribute to depression during menopause. 

    First, it’s important to define depression. You might think of sadness when you think of depression, and that can definitely play a role! However, sadness doesn’t always mean depression. For instance, you might feel sad when you’re under a lot of stress, or not getting a promotion you’ve been vying for. It’s also completely normal to feel sad when your children leave the nest. This type of sadness, while unpleasant, is normal. It typically doesn’t last long periods of time and you can often find relief from talking to someone, journaling, or even crying. 

    Depression, on the other hand, is a mental health problem that can last for long periods of time and may interfere with your life. For example, you may not enjoy the activities that you used to, or have a hard time focusing on work. 

    Generally speaking, if your low mood lasts for more than two weeks, it’s important to talk to a health care provider about your symptoms. 

    Some symptoms of depression include:

    • Low mood for most of the day, almost every day
      • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability
    • Appetite changes
    • Sleep changes
    • Fatigue
    • Lack of motivation
    • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
    • Lost interest in activities you previously enjoyed

    If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, then it’s time to book an appointment with one of our health care providers. Hormone levels might be contributing to your depression during menopause. 

    How Estrogen Affects Serotonin

    One of the main culprits for many different menopause symptoms is estrogen. For some women, low or fluctuating estrogen levels may increase the risk for depression. Estrogen may even impact your serotonin levels, which may explain why many women find HRT helps their menopausal depression symptoms.

    Researchers are still studying the complex relationship between estrogen and serotonin. However, estrogen may increase serotonin levels in your body, the number of serotonin receptors you have, and even how quickly and effectively the receptors use serotonin. Therefore, fluctuating or low estrogen during menopause may decrease serotonin in your brain and lead to low mood or even depression.

    What is Serotonin?

    Many of us have heard of serotonin, but a lot of us don’t know exactly what it is. Serotonin is a hormone that plays a really crucial role in your mood, among other things. It’s often called the “feel good” hormone, and many antidepressant medications work by increasing the amount of serotonin in your body.

    Serotonin can affect many different health factors, including:

    • Mood
    • Sleep
    • Social behavior
    • Sexual desire

    Essentially, serotonin is a pretty important chemical for your brain. Low serotonin levels may be linked to clinical depression. Therefore, there may be a link between low estrogen and serotonin levels during menopause and depression. 

    Estrogen HRT May Help Increase Serotonin to Help Fight Depression

    During menopause, your estrogen levels can fluctuate wildly and become much lower than your body is used to. This is because your ovaries are slowly transitioning to the post-menopausal state where they produce significantly less estrogen. These hormone changes can also wreak havoc on your serotonin levels. 

    If you’re experiencing depression during menopause, hormone imbalance treatment with estrogen (and progesterone if you still have your uterus) may help increase serotonin and decrease your risk for depression. Many women start hormone therapy to help with physical symptoms like hot flashes, but hormone replacement may also help alleviate emotional symptoms like depression symptoms and mood changes. Therefore, if you’ve noticed some of the signs of depression during your transition into menopause, consider talking to one of our providers about treatment options. 

    Other Possible Treatments for Depression During Menopause

    However, keep in mind that even if you’re not a good candidate for HRT, there are still treatments available! You don’t need to suffer through depression, and there’s no shame in seeking help when you need it. Depression is a serious health condition, so it’s important to address it as soon as possible. If you’re not a good candidate for hormones, some other treatment options include lifestyle changes, talk therapy, and antidepressant medications. In some cases, you might even experience depression because of other common health conditions, like an untreated thyroid disorder. Therefore, if you think you’re suffering from depression, talk to one of our health care providers about treatment options that suit your situation. 

    HRT and Treatments for Other Health Conditions at HerKare

    At HerKare, we’re a women’s clinic here to help you address your hormonal and overall wellness. We offer individualized care based on your needs. Whether you’re dealing with menopause symptoms, a hormone imbalance, or just need a well woman checkup, our team is here for you. Book an appointment today with our caring, compassionate medical team!

    Kegel Exercises & Menopause: Exercise the Pelvic Floor

    Kegel Exercises & Menopause: Exercise the Pelvic Floor

    Did you know doing Kegel exercises after menopause offers many benefits? Many women’s health care professionals recommend women do these pelvic floor exercises daily to help prevent many common issues during menopause. Talk to our provider about whether Kegel exercises are right for you and how to include them in your lifestyle.

    middle aged woman sitting on porch drinking coffee smiling after talking to a women's health care provider about her health

    Talk to our women’s health care professionals about Kegel exercises. They may help prevent uncomfortable symptoms and conditions during menopause.

    What Are Kegel Exercises? Why Might a Women’s Health Care Provider Recommend Them?

    Never heard of Kegel exercises before? These are essentially exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor helps support the organs in your pelvis, such as the uterus, bladder, rectum, and vagina. 

    With age, these muscles can start to become weaker. What’s more, lower estrogen levels during menopause can also contribute to a weak pelvic floor. This puts you at risk for many different issues, such as pain during sex, difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels, or even uterine prolapse. 

    Some other things that might contribute to weak pelvic muscles include:

    • Being overweight
    • Chronic cough
    • Chronic constipation

    Fortunately, Kegel exercises can help make your pelvic floor stronger and are fairly easy to incorporate into your every day routine. 

    Kegel exercises were developed in the 1950s by a gynecologist named Arnold Kegel. He studied the use of pelvic floor exercises for women with urinary incontinence. Today, many women’s health care professionals recommend Kegel exercises for women of all ages because of their many benefits. This is especially true for women during and after menopause who are more likely to experience pelvic floor weakening and related conditions.

    Benefits of Regular Kegel Exercises after Menopause

    So, why might you start doing Kegel exercises after menopause? Since your pelvic floor supports a lot of important organs, it’s important to keep these muscles strong. This can also help with the function of your pelvic organs. 

    Your Women’s Health Care Provider May Recommend Kegels to Help with Urinary Incontinence

    Millions of women experience urinary incontinence (UI), which can take the form of anything from small leaks when you sneeze or even having accidents because you’re unable to reach the restroom in time. Your risk for this condition increases with age and after menopause due to lower estrogen levels.

    Many women with urinary incontinence deal with a reduced quality of life. A lot of those with UI change a lot about their lives due to the condition, like avoiding going places due to fear of leakage. Many also feel embarrassed and isolated socially because of the condition.

    If you have UI, it’s important to talk to our women’s health care provider about causes and treatments. One common recommendation for urinary incontinence is doing Kegel exercises. Stronger pelvic muscles may help you hold your urine in more effectively until you can make it to the bathroom. 

    One study from 2018 even found that regular pelvic floor exercises helped improve quality of life for those with urinary incontinence. So, Kegel exercises may be used both as a preventative measure and a treatment for urinary incontinence. 

    Reducing Your Risk for and Treating Uterine Prolapse

    Uterine prolapse is a somewhat common condition, and your risk for it goes up after menopause. This is where your uterus starts to sag lower than normal, sometimes entering the vagina (a partial prolapse) or even protruding outside of the vagina (complete prolapse).

    Some symptoms of uterine prolapse include:

    • Heaviness or pressure in the pelvis
    • Pelvic pain
    • Abdominal pain
    • Back pain
    • Painful sex
    • Frequent bladder infections
    • Unusual or excessive discharge
    • Constipation
    • Urinary leaks, frequency, and urgency

    These symptoms may also get worse when you’re standing or walking, as gravity can pull on the prolapsed uterus. 

    If you have uterine prolapse, Kegel exercises may be the recommended treatment for mild cases. In other cases, you may need surgery to remove the uterus or put it back in place. 

    However, Kegel exercises may also help reduce your risk for experiencing uterine prolapse. Generally, the reason the uterus slips down from its normal position is due to a weakened pelvic floor. Therefore, keeping these muscles strong may help provide the support needed to prevent uterine prolapse. 

    Improving Intimacy with Kegels

    Another issue Kegel exercises can help with is intimacy after menopause. As your estrogen levels start to fall, you might notice vaginal dryness or pain, especially during sex. Kegel exercises help in a few different ways. 

    First, a common reason you might experience pain during sex is due to tight vaginal muscles. Kegel exercises can help you relax these muscles so they’re not as tight and painful during sex. 

    Also, pelvic floor exercises can help increase circulation to the pelvic floor and vagina. Better blood flow to the area can help improve arousal and lubrication. In some cases, doing Kegel exercises regularly may even help improve orgasms. 

    All this can come together to help improve intimacy after menopause. So, Kegels may even help your sex life!

    How to Do Kegel Exercises

    Did you know about one-third of women who do Kegel exercises are actually doing them wrong? That means they may not get any of the benefits of doing Kegel exercises. Your women’s health clinic can help you determine whether you’re doing Kegel exercises right and offer some tips to help you with Kegels during your next checkup or appointment. However, here are some general tips that may help you learn how to do Kegel exercises.

    Find the Right Muscles

    Remember how we mentioned about a third of women aren’t doing their Kegels right? In many cases, this is because they’re actually flexing other muscles, like the buttocks, abdomen, or legs. Finding the right muscles for Kegel exercises can be a little difficult, but we do have a few tips.

    First, it might help if you lie down while you try to find the right muscles and get used to doing pelvic floor exercises. While you can do them in practically any position, like sitting at a red light, it’s much easier to contract the muscles when you’re lying down. 

    A lot of guides say that the easiest way to find the right muscles is to stop the stream of urine when you’re going to the bathroom. While this can help you find the right muscles, doing this can make it difficult to fully empty the bladder, which can cause other issues like urinary tract infections. Instead, we recommend pretending you’re trying to avoid passing gas, or to tighten your vagina around a tampon. This can help you find the right muscle group. 

    If you’re still having trouble finding the right muscles, lie down and insert a clean finger into your vagina and try to do a Kegel. You should feel the muscles tighten around your finger.

    Also, try placing a hand on your abdomen when doing your Kegel exercises. This can help you feel any unintended muscle contractions in your abdomen. If you’re contracting your abdominal muscles, there’s a good chance you’re doing your Kegel exercises wrong.

    How Often to Do Kegels?

    Once you have the hang of which muscles to contract, you can start doing them regularly to help reap the benefits of a strong pelvic floor. 

    If you’re just starting out, then you may need to work your way up to longer contractions and multiple reps. Generally, one rep is contracting the pelvic floor for three to five seconds and relaxing for three to five seconds. For most women, aim to do about ten reps two or three times a day. Once that becomes easier, you can even try mixing them up by holding for longer, like ten seconds, or even shorter, like two or three second bursts.

    Just keep in mind that doing Kegel exercises too much can make your pelvic floor muscles too tight. This can cause issues like:

    • Constipation
    • Incomplete bowel movements
    • Pelvic pain
    • Lower back pain
    • Painful sex

    If you notice these signs of a tight pelvic floor, then try giving your muscles a break from Kegels for a little while. If your symptoms don’t improve, visit our women’s health care team for help finding underlying causes, like overworking the pelvic floor muscles or even other health conditions.

    Talk to Your Women’s Health Care Providers About Staying Healthy

    At HerKare, we’re a women’s health clinic dedicated to your wellness. Our team is here to help you feel your best at every stage of life. Whether you’re looking for advice on maintaining a healthier lifestyle or need to talk about symptoms you’ve noticed, we take time to listen, understand, and work with you to find personalized health solutions for you. Be proactive about your health. Schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations today.