This Isn’t Your Mother’s Menopause

New treatments are transforming the experience of going through “The Change,” the decline in reproductive hormones that women typically see in their 40s and 50s as they go through menopause. 

“There has been exciting research in the last few years,” said Lisa Edmister, Benefis Health System certified nurse-midwife and women's health nurse practitioner. Lisa provides care for women at all stages of life.

Women tend to be good about seeing their providers during their childbearing years, she said, but as they raise children and beyond, they may neglect their own health. 

“My passion is to help women through all the transitions of life,” she said. “Women are the primary healthcare lead for their family, but they often neglect their own healthcare needs.” 

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Q&A with Lisa Edmister, APRN, CNM

When should women start thinking about menopause? 

The first phase is perimenopause, and the hormone fluctuations are even more extreme than during menopause itself. Perimenopause can begin any time from the late-20s to mid-30s. There are things we can do during this phase to treat symptoms. Menopause can last up to 10 years, with significant symptoms peaking around ages 50-53. Each woman is on her own path for this transition, but it’s also universal. 

What are some surprising symptoms of menopause? 
Most people are surprised at how menopause feels. They expect hot flashes and night sweats, but they may also have brain fog, fatigue, and joint pain.

What are some of the recent advances in menopause treatment? 
We have more evidence showing the benefits of hormone therapy for bones, for cardiovascular health, and for mental health. Women going through menopause often have a short fuse and are really bothered by how they’re feeling. The brain has estrogen receptors, so hormone therapy also helps with emotions. Thinning hair is common, too, and also something we can treat. We also have ways of helping women through vaginal symptoms such as thinner walls and dryness.

How is birth control handled during these transitions? 
Birth control does remain a factor until post-menopause. We can talk about surgical solutions, hormonal birth control, implants, and those all help with perimenopause symptoms, too. 

How do you encourage women going through menopause? 
I’ve been where they’ve been and validate their feelings. I assure them there is help, and we’ll tailor it to them individually. A focus on nutrition like the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet and exercise, which helps with joint stiffness, and supplements like fiber and magnesium are all steps they can take to make their experience better.