Some of the most pressing questions about menopause you’ve asked us is include, “What tests should I have to confirm I’m going through menopause? “How will menopause affect my sex life?” and “How can I manage hot flushes?” We asked gynaecologist and author Heather Currie to tackle these issues…
What tests should I have to confirm menopause?
- There’s no certain test, says Dr Currie. The best diagnosis is from the history of your period pattern and symptoms. If you have a Mirena or coil fitted, you might not know if you’re becoming menopausal as you’ll have no period pattern to follow.
- Go by symptoms such as hot flushes, and by assessing your response to a trial of treatments such as HRT. The same applies to women who’ve had a hysterectomy and still have their ovaries – if flushes or other symptoms are a problem, your doctor may suggest HRT.
- Have general health tests such as blood pressure and cholesterol level – heart disease increases in women after menopause, plus thyroid function, since disordered thyroid problems are common and may cause similar symptoms to menopause.
How can I treat hot flushes?
- Eat healthily, don’t smoke, reduce alcohol and caffeine intake and exercise. Wear loose, thin layers of cotton clothing that are easy to peel off and keep your bedroom cool at night by leaving a window open or invest in a fan.
How will menopause affect my sex life?
- Some women feel sexier once they’re freed from having periods, or are at a stage in life when they have more confidence, and more time to spend with their partner.
- After menopause, oestrogen deficiency causing dryness of the vaginal tissues can cause sexual discomfort. This can be effectively treated with vaginal oestrogen in the form of small vaginal tablets and pessaries (Vagifem), creams (Ovestin) or a vaginal ring (Estring). All are available on prescription. This can be used even if you can’t or don’t want to take HRT, since the oestrogen is very low dose and concentrated in the vagina. We’re not aware of side-effects such as stimulation of the womb lining. There are non-hormonal lubricants, too, available on prescription or over-the-counter.
- Women who have had their ovaries removed, will experience “surgical menopause” and may have low levels of testosterone as well as low oestrogen, since ovaries produce half of our testosterone. They may benefit from a testosterone as well as an oestrogen replacement.
- Any relationship problems, worry, stress and tiredness can also affect your libido.