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Menopause symptom relief and treatments
Working with your doctor
If you have concerns about symptoms and treatments related to menopause, it is important for you to be comfortable talking with your doctor. You should be able to share honestly and get clear answers to your questions. How to talk to your doctor or nurse (PDF, 193 KB) can help. You might also want to print out our Menopause symptom tracker (PDF, 166 KB) for recording symptoms that you can discuss at your next appointment. If you don't feel comfortable with your doctor, you can consider switching or getting a second opinion. You can learn more in How to get a second opinion (PDF, 262 KB). Remember, too, that your decision about treatment options is never final. Your needs may change, and so might menopause treatments.
Learning about menopause treatment options
Most women do not need treatment of menopausal symptoms. Some women find that their symptoms go away by themselves, and some women just don't find the symptoms very uncomfortable. But if you are bothered by symptoms, there are many ways to deal with them, including medications and lifestyle changes. Read here about how to deal with specific symptoms and what medication options are available. If you're interested in learning more about menopausal hormone therapy (formerly called hormone replacement therapy) and natural alternatives, you can jump to those sections.
You may find it hard to decide about treatment options like menopausal hormone therapy because of the possible side effects. Talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits so you can choose what's best for you. No one treatment is right for all women.
When you talk about treatment options with your doctor, discuss issues like:
- Your symptoms and how much they bother you
- Your personal risks based on your age, your overall health, and your risk for diseases such as heart disease or cancer
- Whether you have used a treatment like menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) before
- Whether you have already gone through menopause and, if so, how long ago
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Dealing with specific menopause symptoms
Below are some symptoms that women may have around the time of menopause and tips for dealing with them.
- Try to notice what triggers your hot flashes and avoid those things. Possible triggers to consider include spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress, or being in a hot place.
- Dress in layers and remove some when you feel a flash starting.
- Use a fan in your home or workplace.
- If you still have menstrual periods, ask your doctor if you might take low-dose oral contraceptives (birth control pills). These may help symptoms and prevent pregnancy.
- Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is the most effective treatment for hot flashes and night sweats. Ask your doctor if the benefits of MHT outweigh the risks for you.
- If MHT is not an option for you, ask your doctor about prescription medicines that are usually used for other conditions. These include antidepressants, epilepsy medicine, and blood pressure medicine.
- Try taking slow, deep breaths when a flash starts.
- If you’re overweight, losing weight might help with hot flashes, according to one recent study.
- A water-based, over-the-counter vaginal lubricant like K-Y Jelly or Astroglide can help make sex more comfortable.
- An over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer like Replens can help keep needed moisture in your vagina if used every few days and can make sex more comfortable.
- One of the best ways to get a good night's sleep is to be physically active. You might want to avoid exercise close to bedtime, though, since it might make you more awake.
- Avoid large meals, smoking, and working right before bedtime. Avoid caffeine after noon, and avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
- Try drinking something warm before bedtime, such as caffeine-free tea or warm milk.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
- Avoid napping during the day, and try to go to bed and get up at the same times every day.
- If you wake during the night and can't get back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you’re sleepy.
- Talk to your doctor about your sleep problems.
- If hot flashes are the cause of sleep problems, treating the hot flashes will usually improve sleep.
- Getting enough sleep and staying physically active will help you feel your best.
- Avoid taking on too many duties. Look for positive ways to ease your stress.
- Talk to your doctor. He or she can look for signs of depression, which is a serious illness that needs treatment. You also could consider seeing a therapist to talk about your problems.
- Try a support group for women who are going through the same things as you.
- If you are using MHT for hot flashes or another menopause symptom, your mood swings may get better too.
- Some women complain of memory problems or trouble focusing in midlife. But studies suggest that natural menopause has little effect on these functions. Women should not use MHT to protect against memory loss or brain diseases, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
- Getting enough sleep and keeping physically active might help improve symptoms. Mental exercises may help too, so ask your doctor about them.
- If forgetfulness or other mental problems are affecting your daily life, see your doctor.
Other symptoms that might bother you around this time are having less interest in sex and having trouble holding in your urine. Learn about sex-related concerns
and treatments for urinary incontinence
in our Urinary incontinence fact sheet.
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Medications and menopause
A number of medications can help with symptoms during the years around menopause.
- Low-dose oral contraceptives (birth control pills) are an option if you are in perimenopause (the years leading up to your final period). Low-dose contraceptives may stop or reduce hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and moodiness. They can also help with very heavy, frequent, or unpredictable periods. Your doctor may advise you not to take the pill, though, if you smoke or have a history of blood clots or certain types of cancer.
- Prescription medications that are usually used for other conditions may help with hot flashes and moodiness. These include medications for epilepsy, depression, and high blood pressure.
- Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) can be very good at helping with moderate to severe symptoms of menopause. It has certain possible risks, though. Learn more about MHT and whether it may be right for you.
- Over-the-counter medicines (OTC) can treat vaginal discomfort. A water-based vaginal lubricant like K-Y Jelly can help make sex more comfortable. A vaginal moisturizer like Replens can provide lubrication and help keep needed moisture in vaginal tissues.
- Prescription medicines for vaginal discomfort may be an option if OTC treatments don't work. These include estrogen creams, tablets, or rings that you put in your vagina. If you have severe vaginal dryness, the most effective treatment may be an MHT pill or patch.
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More information on Menopause symptom relief and treatments
Read more from womenshealth.gov
Explore other publications and websites
Bio-Identicals: Sorting Myths from Facts - This brochure alerts consumers and health care professionals to false and misleading claims of bio-identical hormone replacement therapies.
Bioidentical Hormone Therapy (Copyright © The North American Menopause Society) - This online publication briefly explains what bioidentical hormones are and how they are made. It also includes information on hormone testing.
Black Cohosh - This fact sheet provides an overview of the use of black cohosh for menopausal symptoms. It includes information on how effective it is, how it works, and what the possible risks are.
Facts About Menopausal Hormone Therapy - This brochure summarizes the risks and benefits of menopausal hormone therapy. It is designed to provide patients with information to help them communicate more effectively with their doctor or nurse and determine the best course of treatment on an individual basis.
Hormone Therapy for Menopausal Symptoms: The First Few Years (Copyright © The Hormone Foundation) - This publication explains menopausal hormone therapy. It discusses recent research and treatment alternatives for menopause symptoms. It also includes a list of questions to ask your doctor.
Hormones and Menopause - This easy-to-read publication presents information and guidelines for women who are experiencing troubling menopausal symptoms.
Menopausal Hormone Replacement Therapy Use and Cancer - This publication discusses the benefits and risks of using menopausal hormone therapy and how its use affects breast cancer risk and survival.
Menopausal Hormone Therapy Information - New findings from the Women's Health Initiative and other studies offer important information about the risks and benefits of long-term menopausal hormone therapy. The links on this website point to information resources, including the most current from the NIH, on both long-term and short-term hormone use, and other concerns related to women's health during and after menopause.
Menopausal Symptoms and CAM - Many women and their health care providers have become interested in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for menopausal symptoms. This fact sheet answers some frequently asked questions about CAM and lists resources for more information.
Menopause & Hormones - This fact sheet explains the benefits and risks of treating the symptoms of menopause with hormone therapy. It also explains the Food and Drug Administration's recommendations for menopausal hormone therapy.
Menopause (Copyright © Association of Reproductive Health Professionals) - This comprehensive website is a guide through the vast array of menopause and hormone therapy resources on the Web. It offers materials for doctors, the media, and the general public.
Menopause Guidebook (Copyright © The North American Menopause Society) - This guidebook explains the emotional and physical changes that often accompany menopause. It also explains what to expect and how to take care of yourself after menopause.
Menopause: Medicines to Help You - This fact sheet lists different types brands of medicines you can take for symptoms of menopause, and gives their warnings, side effects, and brand names.
Pros and Cons for Treatment of Menopause Symptoms (Copyright © The Hormone Foundation) - This publication lists the pros and cons of the different treatments used to relieve menopause symptoms.
What Can You Do for Hot Flashes and Other Menopausal Symptoms - This fact sheet discusses some of the possible symptoms of menopause and what you can do to deal with the discomfort.
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Content last updated September 22, 2010.
Resources last updated September 29, 2010.
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