If you’re considering hormone therapy for menopause symptoms, you may have noticed that most doctors recommend taking progesterone replacement therapy with estrogen unless you’ve had a hysterectomy. Many people wonder why this is. You might wonder if you really need progesterone to treat menopause symptoms like hot flashes. Let’s talk about why our providers frequently prescribe both progesterone and estrogen for women in menopause.
What is Progesterone Replacement Therapy?
Progesterone replacement therapy may be an important part of your menopause care plan.
Progesterone replacement therapy is just like any other hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in that it supplements and replaces natural levels of a hormone in your body. In this instance, the hormone is progesterone. Like other types of HRT, it comes in many forms and doses. For women who still have their uterus, progesterone is almost always prescribed with estrogen therapies.
What Does Progesterone Do?
Progesterone is a type of sex hormone in your body, like estrogen and testosterone. Many people refer to progesterone as the “pregnancy hormone,” as it’s important for making the uterus a good environment for a fertilized egg. It also does many other things during pregnancy, like helping your breasts get ready to produce breast milk.
However, progesterone has many other functions in the body. Progesterone and estrogen work in tandem to regulate the menstrual cycle before menopause. Estrogen grows the uterine lining (the endometrium) and helps your body get ready for ovulation. Progesterone, on the other hand, helps prepare the uterus to receive a fertilized egg and, if you don’t become pregnant, levels drop and cause you to have your period.
During menopause, both estrogen and progesterone levels drop and become more sporadic. This is what causes irregular periods and other symptoms associated with perimenopause. As you produce less and less, you stop having periods altogether and reach menopause.
Progesterone Replacement Therapy Paired with Estrogen for Menopausal Women
Fluctuating and declining hormone levels are the cause behind menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and sleep problems. These symptoms can range from bothersome to debilitating for some women. If you experience symptoms that interfere with everyday life, our hormone doctor may recommend starting a hormone replacement therapy regimen to help reduce your symptoms. If you still have your uterus, you will likely need to take both progesterone and estrogen for menopause treatment. This is also known as combination hormone replacement therapy.
Why You Need Both Estrogen and Progesterone if You Still Have Your Uterus
You might be wondering why progesterone replacement therapy is so important if you still have your uterus. The reason is that estrogen alone, while effective for treating many menopause symptoms, can cause the lining of your uterus to become too thick. Before menopause, the uterine lining thickens and then your body sheds it during your period, but this process stops after your last period. The problem is, if the uterine lining becomes too thick, it can increase the risk for endometrial cancer. Therefore, estrogen-only therapy may increase your risk for uterine cancer.
Progesterone comes to the rescue here because it stops the thickening process. This hormone keeps estrogen in balance to reduce the uterine cancer risks associated with estrogen replacement therapy. Therefore, if you still have a uterus, progesterone replacement therapy is essential for reducing risks associated with estrogen-only treatments.
Are There Risks of Estrogen and Progesterone Replacement Therapy?
Like any other medication or treatment, there are risks to taking combination hormone replacement therapy. Specifically, researchers believe that higher progesterone levels can increase the risk for breast cancer. Data from the Women’s Health Initiative suggest that combining progesterone and estrogen can increase a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer by about one-tenth of a percent per year.
While the risk is relatively low, it’s important to weigh this drawback against the potential benefits of combination therapy. Also, many experts suggest not taking progesterone unless needed to reduce risks of uterine cancer from estrogen-only treatments. Though, it’s important to understand that hormone replacement therapy is a really individualized treatment. There is no one approach that fits all women. Therefore, you should talk about your individual circumstances with our providers.
Is Progesterone Replacement Therapy Ever Prescribed On Its Own?
We’ve talked a lot about combining estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy to treat menopause symptoms. However, you might be wondering if progesterone is ever used on its own for menopause. This isn’t a very common treatment plan because most menopause symptoms are due to low estrogen levels. However, some studies have found that progesterone alone can help reduce hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and other common symptoms of menopause. Still, estrogen replacement therapy is currently the most effective option for treating these symptoms for menopausal women, which makes it the go-to treatment solution.
Who Doesn’t Need Progesterone Replacement Therapy for Menopause Symptoms?
Not everyone needs to take progesterone with estrogen for hormone replacement therapy. In fact, estrogen alone comes with fewer long-term risks for women who do not have a uterus. In these cases, our providers may recommend estrogen-only therapy because there is no need to worry about the increased risk for endometrial cancer. As we mentioned, the risk of adding progesterone to your treatment regimen is a slightly increased risk for breast cancer. Therefore, if you have had a hysterectomy, typically we recommend estrogen-only options to reduce this risk.
How Does Combination Estrogen and Progesterone Replacement Therapy Work?
If your hormone doctor prescribes combination hormone replacement therapy, this means you will take both estrogen and progesterone to help treat your menopause symptoms. There are a couple of different ways to go about this. One may work better for you than the other. Our doctors can discuss your individual needs and find a treatment plan that works best for you. However, here are some things to know about continuous and cyclical menopausal hormone therapy:
Continuous combination hormone therapy means you take both estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy for treatment. This option is where you take both bioidentical hormones every day to reduce symptoms and health risks during menopause. This often makes treatment simpler and easier to use for many people, as the treatment is the same each day. Continuous HRT also reduces or eliminates vaginal bleeding, which can occur with cyclical hormone therapy.
Cyclical hormone therapy looks a little different for everyone, and there are many ways to go about this treatment plan. For instance, some women take estrogen only for a certain period of time, usually about 14 days, then use progesterone and estrogen for about 11 days. For the remaining three to five days, they do not take hormones. The idea is to mimic hormone levels during an average menstrual cycle. However, other women take estrogen every day for several months (usually about three months) and then take progesterone replacement therapy with estrogen for about two weeks or so after that time. Your hormone doctor can help you determine if this type of hormone replacement therapy is right for you.
One of the benefits of cyclical HRT is that it can reduce your exposure to progesterone over time, which may help offset some of the risks associated with progesterone replacement therapy. However, some of the disadvantages include a more complicated treatment plan to remember and maintain, as well as possible menstrual-like bleeding on the days you take progesterone and estrogen together. So, it’s important to discuss the options with our providers and find the option that works best for you.
Get Individualized Care from an Experienced Hormone Doctor at HerKare Women’s Clinics
Our professionals at HerKare are here to help you improve your health and quality of life through personalized treatment plans. We understand the need for individualized care tailored to you and your lifestyle. Our providers work hard to find underlying causes of your symptoms and identify treatment solutions that work well for you. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, know that our team is here to help you find relief. Book an appointment today at one of our convenient locations to talk to our doctors about your symptoms and treatment options!
Menopause is a natural phase of life for women. However, it can come with many changes, including unwanted symptoms that affect daily life. If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, it’s important to understand that there are many ways our women’s health care providers can help, from providing treatments and suggesting lifestyle changes. Our team is also here to answer all your questions, so you are prepared and empowered over your own health. One common question you may have is whether menopause symptoms ever go away. The simple answer is yes. However, keep in mind that menopause is anything but simple. We’ll discuss how long menopause symptoms last, what factors affect symptom duration, and other complexities of menopause in this article.
Talk to our women’s health care providers about what to expect from menopause.
Ask Your Women’s Health Care About What to Expect During Menopause
One of your best resources during menopause is your women’s health care provider. Our team can answer your questions and help you understand what to expect during menopause. Every woman is different, but there are some common experiences many women have during menopause that we can discuss and strategize for based on your individual circumstances.
Understanding the Phases of Menopause
It’s important for women to understand the different phases of menopause. While many people use the term “menopause” as a catch all for symptoms and health conditions related to low hormone levels as we reach middle age, there are actually three distinct phases in the transition from pre-menopause to post-menopause. They are:
Perimenopause is the period leading up to your last period. During this time, hormones like estrogen and progesterone start to decline and fluctuate. With these changing hormone levels, you may experience several symptoms associated with menopause. You may also experience irregular periods because of changing hormone levels. This is the transition into menopause. On average, perimenopause starts at age 47 and lasts approximately 4 years before reaching the next phase. However, every woman is different, and some may have longer or shorter timelines for perimenopause. You can also start perimenopause earlier or later.
Menopause is the next phase in the transition. This is actually a point in time, rather than a time span like perimenopause. Menopause is when you reach the 12-month mark from your last period. Immediately after reaching this part of the phase, you are considered postmenopausal.
Postmenopause is the time that comes after you haven’t had a period for 12 months and lasts the rest of your life. During early postmenopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels may keep declining and some women continue to experience symptoms during postmenopause. However, typically symptoms do typically go away at some point during postmenopause.
Common Menopause Symptoms
Low estrogen and progesterone levels during the menopause transition can cause many different symptoms. In fact, an estimated 80% of women experience some menopause symptoms. Common symptoms you may experience include:
Mood changes like anxiety and depression
Many women will see symptoms during perimenopause in the three to five years or so before reaching the menopause stage. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, sometimes even interfering with day-to-day life. Each person is different, so you may experience different symptoms or different levels of severity compared to others. If you’re experiencing symptoms of menopause, talk to our women’s health care providers about options for relief.
How Our Women’s Health Care Providers Help with Menopause Symptoms
The good news is, you don’t have to suffer with your menopause symptoms. There are many ways our women’s health care team can help you address your symptoms. For some women, simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in alleviating menopause symptoms. For example, eating a healthy diet, taking part in exercise, and reducing stress levels can all help with your symptoms.
However, in many cases you may need menopause treatment with hormones to relieve your symptoms. As symptoms are typically due to low and imbalanced hormone levels, hormone replacement therapy is a common treatment option that can reduce or eliminate your symptoms. We generally recommend taking the lowest dose of estrogen (and progesterone if you still have your uterus) that helps your symptoms. Our providers can help you determine if this treatment solution is right for you.
How Long Do Menopause Symptoms Last?
If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, you might wonder if they ever go away. The good news is, menopause symptoms do typically fade away with time. While there is no straightforward answer for how long menopause symptoms last, there are studies that show the average duration to expect.
In the past, many women’s health care providers believed that symptoms like hot flashes usually disappeared within six to 24 months. However, more recent research suggests that the timeline for menopause symptoms is longer than this. One study from 2015 looked at how long vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats) lasted for menopausal women. The researchers found that the average duration of hot flashes and night sweats was 7.4 years, with 4.5 of those years occurring during postmenopause after the last period. However, it’s important to note that some women have symptoms for a shorter amount of time and others a longer amount of time. For instance, some of the women in the 13 year follow up still had symptoms.
The researchers in the study recommended that doctors advise women to expect symptoms for about 7 years because that was the average amount of time for the women in the study. However, there are health and lifestyle factors that may affect how long you experience menopause symptoms.
Factors That Affect the Length of Menopause Symptoms
The 2015 study also found that certain factors were associated with longer timelines for menopause symptoms. For instance, they found that women whose symptoms started earlier, such as when they were premenopausal, tended to experience hot flashes for longer, with an average time of 11.8 years total and 9.4 years after their last period. By contrast, women who only experienced symptoms after their last period tended to only have them for an average of three and a half years. They also found that African American women tended to experience symptoms longer than white women.
Some other factors that seemed to be linked to having menopause symptoms for longer included being overweight, smoking, having high stress levels, and having anxiety or depressive symptoms.
Each woman has her own “schedule” for menopause and its symptoms. However, genetics also seems to play a role. Specifically, typically your menopause transition will look similar to your mother’s and grandmother’s for age and timeline. Therefore, there are many things that can affect how long you experience menopause symptoms. Our women’s health care providers can help you look at many different factors and make a plan for how to manage your symptoms now and in the future.
Discuss Strategies for Managing Menopause With Our Women’s Health Care Providers
Considering that menopause symptoms can last years, it’s helpful to discuss your symptoms with our health care providers. As we mentioned, there are many options for relieving your symptoms. Our team can create personalized treatment solutions based on your specific needs. We are your partners in improving your overall health and wellbeing, during every phase of life.
Quality Women’s Health Care for Menopause at HerKare
As a women’s health clinic owned and operated by women, we are here to empower you to live a healthier life. Our team at HerKare is here to help you create a roadmap for lifelong health. We offer a variety of women’s health care services, from birth control counseling to menopause treatments to help you feel your best at any age. Make an appointment today to discuss your symptoms and get quality, individualized care from our health care providers.
Menopause comes with many changes. Many women experience disruptive symptoms like hot flashes and insomnia. Another issue that people don’t seem to talk about as much is anxiety. Anxiety during menopause may be due to several factors, including hormone fluctuations during and after menopause. Because hormones can have such an impact on mood and anxiety, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help alleviate your symptoms. Let’s talk about menopause, anxiety, and HRT.
HRT Can Help Alleviate Menopause Symptoms
Say goodbye to menopause symptoms with HRT to balance your hormones.
Before we get into HRT for menopausal anxiety, let’s go over what HRT is and why you may need it during menopause. Hormone replacement therapy refers to medications that supplement your natural hormone levels. During menopause, women may have a regimen of estrogen and progesterone to help even out hormone levels. Many women also take testosterone replacement therapy.
The goal for HRT is to alleviate menopause symptoms, which are typically brought on by low and imbalanced hormone levels. During menopause, our bodies start to produce significantly less estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Levels may fluctuate leading up to our last period, sometimes being higher or lower than normal. After we reach our last period and enter post-menopause, our ovaries produce much less of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
These hormone changes can cause many symptoms, some of which you’re probably familiar with. They include symptoms like:
Low sex drive
Low hormone levels after menopause can also increase the risk for many health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Our providers may prescribe HRT to help relieve your symptoms during menopause, particularly if you experience hot flashes, as hormone therapy is one of the most effective treatments for menopausal hot flashes, also known as vasomotor symptoms. However, HRT may also help with many other symptoms, such as mood changes, including depressive and anxiety symptoms.
The Link Between Menopause and Anxiety
Many women say they feel more anxious during menopause. In fact, an estimated 23% of women experience anxiety symptoms during menopause. Therefore, it’s no surprise you might be wondering if menopause can cause anxiety or whether there is a connection. Anxiety is a pretty complex condition, so there may be many factors at play. However, hormone and life changes may contribute to feeling anxious during menopause.
Some symptoms of anxiety include:
Increased heart rate
Tingly or numb hands
Every woman is different, but generally if you have past history of anxiety symptoms, your risk for experiencing anxiety-like symptoms in menopause may be higher. However, there does appear to be a connection between menopause and anxiety, as some studies show that menopausal women are more likely to experience anxiety symptoms and panic attacks compared to pre- or post-menopausal women of the same age.
Some factors that may explain the increased rates of anxiety during menopause include hormone levels and life changes that are common during this time.
Hormone Changes and Low Estrogen May Increase the Risk for Anxiety Symptoms
One reason you may experience anxiety during menopause is due to changing hormone levels. As we mentioned, hormones during menopause typically start to fluctuate, change, and decrease. Low estrogen levels during this time are likely responsible for many menopause symptoms, like hot flashes and mood changes. Many believe estrogen also plays a role in anxiety during menopause. Many women notice their anxiety symptoms get better after beginning HRT with estrogen for their menopause symptoms. In fact, one 2009 study in Gender Medicine journal looked at the relationship between estrogen and behavior linked with anxiety and depression. The researchers found that higher scores for anxiety and depression were associated with lower estrogen levels. Therefore, low estrogen and hormone imbalances during menopause may contribute to anxiety during this stage of life.
Other Reasons for Anxiety During Menopause
However, there may be other factors at play if you’re feeling anxious during menopause. The average age of menopause in the U.S. is 51, which is also an age where many of us experience other life changes as well.
For instance, many women become empty nesters at this time, which can change many family and relationship dynamics. You might be caring for aging parents and dealing with the stressors that come along with it. This is often also a time of high stress in many people’s careers. Some also go through a period where they are re-discovering themselves and may struggle with insecurity. Therefore, many life changes that often happen during the time of menopause can also contribute to mood changes and feelings of anxiety.
Can HRT Help with Anxiety During Menopause?
Since menopausal anxiety may have a hormonal component to it, you might wonder whether HRT can help relieve anxiety symptoms during menopause. Some studies do suggest that estrogen may have some anti-anxiety properties. Of course, you should talk to our providers to find personalized treatment options based on your specific circumstances. However, research from Harvard and Emory University suggests estrogen may play a big role in anxiety.
HRT with Estrogen May Lower Fear Response & Anxiety
According to The Harvard Gazette, recent research shows that estrogen levels may affect how susceptible some women are to anxiety. The article explains that depression and anxiety disorders are about twice as common in women than in men, with times of higher anxiety often linking up with hormone changes, such as puberty, certain periods of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and during menopause.
Both studies looked at fear response in relation to estrogen. They found that estrogen may have a calming effect on the fear response, including for women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, there is some evidence that increasing estrogen may reduce anxiety-like symptoms. Researchers are still studying the effects of HRT on anxiety in menopausal women, but many women notice improvements in their mood symptoms after beginning an HRT regimen.
Why Might HRT Help with Anxiety During Menopause?
Estrogen is a sex hormone, so you might be wondering what it has to do with anxiety and why hormone imbalance treatment may help with anxiety symptoms. Scientists are still studying the connection. However, it may be due to estrogen receptors in the brain that can increase the risk for anxiety. For instance, estrogen receptors may affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is basically the relationship between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland. The key detail to note here is that this axis has a large impact on your body’s response to stress. Some researchers also believe estrogen receptors in the brain can impact serotonin levels, which may also explain the link between estrogen and anxiety.
Hormone Imbalance Treatment from HerKare
If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, visit our providers at HerKare for help. We are a women’s health clinic dedicated to empowering women through quality health care. Our team takes a holistic approach to health care and provides treatment solutions personalized to you. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a hormone imbalance, our team may prescribe bioidentical hormone therapy to help alleviate your symptoms. Make an appointment at one of our convenient locations today!
If you have symptoms of an ovarian cyst after you reach menopause, you should schedule an appointment at our women’s health clinic. While these are often harmless, they can cause serious symptoms, complications, and may even point to cancer. In this article, we’re going to discuss ovarian cysts after menopause and some things you need to know to stay healthy.
Your women’s health clinic can help you address your health if you have ovarian cysts after menopause.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries. About 7% of women will experience an ovarian cyst in their lifetime. They come in many different forms. They are more common before menopause when the ovaries are more active. There are a couple of different functional ovarian cysts associated with the menstrual cycle for pre-menopausal women that often go away on their own and don’t cause any symptoms.
However, after menopause, it’s less likely that you will experience ovarian cysts, and frequently these are different from the functional cysts you may have experienced in your pre-menopausal years. This is because the ovaries stop releasing eggs and produce less estrogen and progesterone, meaning they’re less active after menopause. Therefore, if you think you might have an ovarian cyst after menopause, it’s important to discuss it with one of our treatment providers.
Seek Care from Our Women’s Health Clinic for Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts
While ovarian cysts are less common after menopause, they can still develop as long as you have your ovaries. Ovarian cysts can cause many different symptoms, including:
If you’re experiencing these common symptoms of ovarian cysts, it’s important to make an appointment with our women’s health care providers for diagnosis and treatment.
In some cases, ovarian cysts can cause complications. For instance, they can increase the risk of ovarian torsion, which is where the ovary begins to twist and may cut off blood flow to the area. Ovarian cysts can also rupture, which can cause dangerous internal bleeding. Some symptoms you need immediate medical care for an ovarian cyst include:
Severe, sudden pain
Heavy vaginal bleeding
Ovarian Cysts After Menopause: Important Information to Know
If you’re a post-menopausal women, there are several things you should know about ovarian cysts after menopause. Of course, everyone is different, so it’s important to talk to the providers at our women’s health clinic about your specific circumstances. However, we have some general information to help you if you think you may have an ovarian cyst after menopause.
Ovarian Cysts After Menopause May Increase Your Risk for Ovarian Cancer
One important reason to seek treatment from our women’s health care providers if you suspect you have an ovarian cyst is that cysts are more likely to be cancerous if you experience them after menopause. While most ovarian cysts after menopause are benign, there is a higher risk for ovarian cancer as we age. Therefore, we recommend getting care if you think you might have an ovarian cyst. While a suspected ovarian cyst is no reason to panic, it is something you should take seriously and visit our women’s health clinic to help rule out malignant cysts.
How Your Women’s Health Clinic Diagnoses Ovarian Cysts After Menopause
If you think you have an ovarian cyst and you’ve already gone through menopause, there are several ways our providers may diagnose you. Understanding what to expect can help you feel more prepared and at ease before and during your appointment.
Our women’s health care professionals may conduct a pelvic exam to look for signs of the cyst. Often, the doctor can feel the cyst during an exam, and it also allows them to examine the vagina, cervix, and uterus for signs of other causes of your symptoms.
Another way your provider may diagnose an ovarian cyst is with imaging. This is frequently through ultrasound to look at the ovaries for signs of cysts.
Our team may also recommend a blood test to look for higher levels of cancer antigen 125 (CA125), which could be a sign of ovarian cancer. However, keep in mind other conditions can also raise CA125, like pelvic infections, fibroids, and endometriosis.
How Our Women’s Health Clinic Providers May Treat Ovarian Cysts
After diagnosis, we can discuss different treatment options based on our findings. In many cases, we may recommend monitoring the cyst for changes. If the cyst is small and benign, we may not need to remove it or do anything further. These cysts often go away on their own. However, our women’s health clinic may recommend regular monitoring to see if the cyst changes in size or appearance.
For larger cysts, cysts that cause you symptoms, or cysts that may be cancerous, our team may recommend surgically removing them. There are several approaches to this. One is to simply remove the cyst from the ovary. Another option is an oophorectomy, where the surgeon removes the affected ovary. In some cases, you may also need a hysterectomy.
Conditions that May Increase Your Risk for Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts can happen to anyone. However, there are some things that can increase the risk of developing an ovarian cyst that you should be aware of. These include:
History of ovarian cysts (if you have had one before, you’re more likely to get another)
Severe pelvic infections
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
If you experience these conditions, talk to our women’s health care providers about your risks for ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer, as well as what to do if you think you have an ovarian cyst.
Types of Ovarian Cysts You May Experience After Menopause
There are several types of ovarian cysts you can develop. We mentioned functional cysts in an earlier section, which are associated with your menstrual cycle before menopause. After menopause, ovarian cysts typically fall into one of three categories:
Dermoid Ovarian Cysts: Dermoid ovarian cysts are a sac of tissue on the ovaries. They often appear during your reproductive years but may get larger over time. These cysts are rarely cancerous and are usually made up of other types of cells, such as skin, teeth, or hair cells.
Cystadenoma Ovarian Cysts: These cysts are generally on the surface of the ovary and are filled with water-like fluid or mucus. They are typically benign but can be malignant.
Endometriomas Ovarian Cysts: Endometriomas are cysts caused by a growth of endometrial (uterine lining) cells on the ovaries. These are most common for women with endometriosis, which is a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. Like other cysts, they can be cancerous but are generally benign.
Convenient Health Care from Our Women’s Health Clinic
Whether you’re experiencing symptoms of an ovarian cyst or want to discuss options for maintaining a healthy lifestyle after menopause, our professionals at HerKare are here to help. We are a women’s health clinic managed by women for women to help you address and improve your overall wellbeing. Our team offers quality, compassionate health care at every stage of life, pre-menopause to post-menopause. Schedule an appointment at one of our clinics today!
Low estrogen levels during menopause can cause many different symptoms and health concerns. As you may know, declining estrogen is responsible for symptoms like hot flashes and mood changes during menopause. However, many people don’t realize that low estrogen during menopause can also lead to other issues like overactive bladder. Let’s discuss the link between estrogen and overactive bladder (OAB) and what you can do to help with OAB during menopause.
Low estrogen might cause changes in your pelvic muscles and bladder that affect your everyday activities.
Low Estrogen During Menopause Can Lead to Overactive Bladder
Many people experience overactive bladder. However, overactive bladder is more common in women, and the risk for OAB increases as we approach middle age. This is also the time where our hormone levels begin to fluctuate, eventually leading to menopause.
Overactive bladder is a health condition an estimated 33 million Americans experience. This condition affects your bladder control and can cause unwanted symptoms that affect everyday life. Overactive bladder is a type of urinary incontinence and is also known as urgency incontinence. OAB is different from stress incontinence, which can cause you to leak urine when there’s extra pressure on your bladder, such as when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. Instead, overactive bladder generally means you experience frequent and urgent feeling that you need to pee, often at inconvenient times.
Symptoms of Overactive Bladder
Overactive bladder can cause many symptoms. You might have overactive bladder if you:
Experience sudden urges to urinate immediately
Can’t “hold it” until you can make it to the toilet
Experience urine leaks right after a sudden urge to urinate
Wake up at night frequently to pee
Urinate more than eight times in a 24-hour day
As you can see, overactive bladder can be a disruptive condition that may affect your overall quality of life. Fortunately, there are treatments available.
It’s important to understand that overactive bladder is not a normal part of aging. Our providers can help you find treatment solutions based on your needs and lifestyle, including increasing estrogen levels in your body if low estrogen is to blame for your OAB.
Low estrogen can cause many changes in the body, including weaker pelvic muscles and a thinner urethra lining. These changes may increase the risk for overactive bladder and poor bladder control after menopause.
Low Estrogen Weakens the Pelvic Muscles
The higher estrogen levels we have in our bodies before menopause may have a protective effect on the pelvic muscles. Estrogen can help keep the pelvic muscles strong before menopause. Strong pelvic muscles support the bladder and also assist with the ability to hold in your urine until you can make it to the bathroom.
Low estrogen during and after menopause can cause pelvic muscles to become weaker, reducing bladder support and your ability to hold in your urine. In turn, this can cause overactive bladder symptoms, like frequent and strong urges to urinate or not being able to make it to the restroom in time.
Low Estrogen May Thin the Lining of the Urethra
Declining estrogen levels during menopause can also affect the lining of your urethra, which is the tube that connects your bladder to the outside of the body. The lining of the urethra is made up of muscle tissue that allows it to contract and expand. When you use the restroom, the lining relaxes while the bladder contracts to let the urine out of your bladder and into the toilet.
However, low estrogen can cause this lining to become thinner and less elastic. This may also explain the connection between menopause and overactive bladder, as a thinner lining may make it more difficult to prevent urine leaks when you experience the urge to urinate.
Other Explanations for the Link Between Estrogen Levels and Overactive Bladder
There may also be other explanations for why low estrogen levels can increase the risk of overactive bladder. For instance, lower estrogen during menopause can lead to more frequent urinary tract infections, which is where a bacteria builds up in the urinary tract and causes an infection. UTIs can also cause inflammation and irritation throughout the urinary tract and bladder, which may cause some of the same symptoms as overactive bladder like frequency, urgency, and incontinence. However, without treatment, UTIs can lead to issues like permanent kidney damage or even sepsis. Therefore, your symptoms of OAB could actually be an infection that may turn life-threatening if left untreated. If you’re experiencing symptoms of overactive bladder, it’s important to seek help from one of our providers to rule out a UTI and get treatment.
Another potential reason many women experience overactive bladder after menopause is due to increased pressure on the bladder. It’s common for women to gain weight around the time of menopause. Those extra pounds can also put added stress on the bladder and make it harder to control urges to urinate or hold in your urine until you can reach the restroom. Therefore, menopausal weight gain could also be part of the problem when it comes to overactive bladder.
Women’s Hormone Care May Help with Overactive Bladder
Because of the association between estrogen levels and overactive bladder, many researchers have been studying the effects of hormone therapy on overactive bladder. One 2020 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that vaginal estrogen may help relieve overactive bladder symptoms. The researchers believe this is due to a type of good bacteria called Lactobacillus.
Lactobacillus is a type of bacteria found in the gut, vagina, and also in the bladder. Yet, low estrogen levels can reduce the amount of this good bacteria in your body. The study looked at the number of Lactobacillus bacteria in the bladder for women using estrogen replacement therapy. They found that those using vaginal estrogen had more of the bacteria in their bladder and also saw some improvements in their overactive bladder symptoms.
Therefore, women’s hormone care may help with your overactive bladder symptoms. For example, it’s common to use vaginal estrogen to help strengthen the muscles and tissues in the pelvic area and urethra, which may work well for your overactive bladder.
Other Treatments for Overactive Bladder
There are also many other treatment options available for overactive bladder which may work well for you. When you discuss your symptoms with our team, we may recommend some of these treatments to help you improve bladder control and symptoms.
For example, our providers may recommend lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight to reduce the pressure on the bladder. We may also recommend Kegel exercises, which can strengthen the pelvic muscles. Also, scheduled bathroom breaks, even if you don’t feel the urge to go, can help retrain your bladder to prevent those strong and sudden urges to urinate.
Other treatment options include medications. Typically, the medications are designed to relax the bladder to help with the symptoms of urgency. These often come in pills or patches you use each day. However, some people also receive small doses of Botox in the bladder to help relax the muscles. Our providers can discuss personalized treatment options for you.
Healthcare for Women at HerKare
Our team at HerKare is dedicated to providing quality healthcare for women. We are a clinic owned and managed by women and are here to help you improve your health. Whether you need a hormone doctor for your menopause symptoms or need preventative well woman care, our providers listen, understand, and help you take care of your overall wellbeing. Make an appointment today at one of our convenient locations.
For comprehensive women’s health care, women should get regular gynecological exams. Yet, many women do not get regular exams after menopause because they believe they no longer need them. We’re here to set the record straight and explain why you should continue to schedule gynecological exams and what to expect from these exams once you have reached menopause.
Women’s Health Care After Menopause is Important
Gynecological exams after menopause are important, so talk to our women’s health care providers about your gynecological health.
It’s a commonly held misconception that women no longer need gynecological exams or well woman checkups after menopause. Most experts recommend continuing annual gynecological exams after menopause (yes, even if you’ve had a hysterectomy). Gynecological exams are part of preventative women’s health care. Just as you should continue seeing your dentist for checkups, it’s also important to continue to visit your gynecologist for preventative care and treatment. Taking part in health care can help you stay healthy and feel your best as you age.
Gynecological Exams are Essential for Women’s Health Care at Every Age
Gynecological exams are important health exams for women. Most health experts recommend getting a gynecological exam at least once per year for women of all ages. Even after menopause, regular gynecological exams are important for getting the health screenings and care you need to continue to stay healthy and help with early detection of health conditions.
What Does a Gynecological Exam Include?
Our providers tailor gynecological services to you based on your medical history and other factors. However, generally a gynecological exam includes several different tests and exams rolled into one appointment.
One common part of your annual gynecological exam is the pelvic exam. This is where our provider examines your genitals, vagina, and pelvic organs both externally and internally. This exam is to help the doctor determine the overall health of your pelvic organs, such as your:
Typically our providers will also conduct a breast exam and may recommend mammograms. We also use the gynecological exam as an opportunity to talk about your overall health and take readings of your vital signs to look for any signs of potential illness. During this time, our women’s health care team also typically asks about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Your exam may also include several recommended health screenings, such as a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer. Therefore, a gynecological exam involves many different “pieces” to help address your health.
Why Visit Your Women’s Health Clinic for Gynecological Exams after Menopause?
You no longer have a period, so why continue to schedule gynecological exams after menopause? Well, these exams address much more than just menstrual or even reproductive health. According to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it’s important to continue to visit a gynecologist after menopause. Gynecological exams can help you address your health through regular health screenings and looking for underlying causes of symptoms you experience.
Important Health Screenings During Gynecological Exams
Scheduling regular gynecological exams at our women’s health clinic also helps you get the health screenings and preventative care you need. Screenings help assess your risk for certain health conditions and can also help with early detection and treatment. Many of the health screenings you receive during your gynecological exam look for signs of potentially serious or life-threatening conditions, which is another reason why experts recommend continuing gynecological care after menopause.
In many cases, you will also need regular Pap tests even after menopause. Current recommendations are to get a Pap test at least every three years between the ages of 21 and 65. After 65, you may be able to stop getting tests if you have had three consecutive negative Pap tests or at least two negative HPV tests in the last ten years. Our women’s health care providers can help you determine if you can stop getting regular Pap tests based on your individual risks.
Even if you no longer need a Pap test, you may still need regular pelvic exams. Regular pelvic exams can help find signs of issues with your pelvic organs. For instance, during a pelvic exam our doctor may look for signs of ovarian cysts, STIs, uterine fibroids, and cancer in your pelvic organs. Many experts recommend getting regular pelvic exams after menopause as part of preventative care.
Depending on your individual circumstances, our providers may also recommend other health screenings during your gynecological exam. We offer personalized services and recommendations to help you address your health.
Discuss Your Gynecological Symptoms with Our Women’s Health Care Providers
Another reason to continue scheduling gynecological exams after menopause is to talk about your symptoms with our health professionals. According to one study published in the North American Menopause Society’s journal Menopause, over half of women experience gynecological symptoms after menopause. Yet, many don’t seek help for these issues.
The study surveyed hundreds of post-menopausal women and found that 51% of them experienced symptoms such as itching, irritation, dryness, discharge, and odor. For 40% of those women, their symptoms caused emotional distress. Also, 33% said symptoms impacted their lifestyles. For those who were sexually active, 76% said symptoms interfered with their sex life. Despite these symptoms and effects, about one-third of the women hadn’t seen a gynecologist in two years. From the study, the researchers suggested getting regular gynecological exams and discussing any symptoms you experience.
In many cases, our women’s health care providers can help treat the underlying causes of your symptoms to help you find relief. For example, many women experience bladder symptoms such as frequency, urgency, urinary incontinence, or even burning while urinating. Many of these symptoms can be tied to vaginal atrophy, where the walls of your vagina become thin and dry, which is common after menopause.
Treating your vaginal atrophy can often help with not only your vaginal symptoms, but your bladder symptoms as well. This is just one example of how discussing your symptoms with our team can help you find treatment solutions personalized to you.
Not only can symptoms interfere with your quality of life, but they can also be a sign of something more serious. For instance, bleeding after menopause can be a warning sign of anything from non-cancerous polyps to endometrial cancer. Talking to our providers about symptoms may help with early detection of serious health conditions.
HerKare – Empowering Women Through Quality Women’s Health Care
Getting quality health care is important at every age, including after menopause. Our team at HerKare provides you with quality care at every stage of life. We are here to help you take care of your overall health, whether you need preventative care or are experiencing worrying symptoms. We believe in empowering women by providing them with the personalized health care solutions they need to feel their best. Schedule a gynecological exam at one of our convenient locations or make an appointment for our other treatment services to learn how we can make a difference for you.