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Penn State Health Women’s Care Promotes Menopause Myth-Busting

For many women, their understanding of what menopause is and how it will affect them has been distorted by the media’s inaccurate portrayal of this important life stage. Instead of seeing menopause as a natural process, much like puberty, it has become something that many women fear. For that reason, the providers at Penn State Health Women’s Care spend a lot of time educating patients on how to separate fact from fiction.

The discussion usually begins with defining perimenopause. This is the transition period leading up to menopause, which marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. While the timing of this phase is unpredictable, it generally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and lasts for several years. Once a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without menstruating, she has reached menopause.

Common symptoms during the transition include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Changing sleep patterns
  • Mood swings
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Urinary incontinence

It is important to understand that while roughly 70% of women will have some of these symptoms, most of the symptoms will not be extreme, according to Dr. Jessika Kissling of Penn State Health Women’s Care.

“Many women find relief simply by making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep,” she says. “In addition, dressing in layers and keeping a fan nearby are helpful.”

When that is not enough, the next step would be to discuss with your physician whether hormone therapy is a good idea.

“Deciding whether to use hormones depends on each patient’s unique medical factors. If hormone therapy is not safe, such as in the case of a woman who has had breast cancer, other medications can help ease menopause symptoms,” Kissling explains. “When these symptoms interfere with day-to-day function, work, sleep or interpersonal relationships, it is important to schedule a visit with your physician to talk about them. If you experience heavy bleeding or spotting after sex, don’t wait for your annual visit. Call your physician to share your concerns.”

Keeping an open line of communication with your physician is not only helpful when you want relief from your symptoms, it can help your physician identify if there is an alternate cause. For instance, while weight gain is sometimes attributed to menopause, it could be the result of decreased muscle mass and slowed metabolism that occur naturally as we age. Different medical conditions can also be the source of mood swings and hot flashes.

The multiple physicians, urogynecologist and multiple midwives on the staff of Penn State Health Women’s Care, offer a full spectrum of obstetrics and gynecologic care —including minimally invasive gynecologic surgery and pelvic floor physical therapy — that supports women of all ages, at every stage of life. Set aside any preconceived notions you have about menopause and call 610-378-2899 to start an open discussion.

Appointments are available at three convenient locations: Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Office Building, 2494 Bernville Road, Reading; Penn State Health St. Joseph — Exeter Ridge, 3970 Perkiomen Ave. Exeter Township; and Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Campus, 145 N. 6th St., Reading. Virtual care is available through the Penn State Health OnDemand app, which is free to download to any device.

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