Menopause is the point in your life when you permanently stop having menstrual periods. After one year of having no periods, you have reached menopause.

For a virtual menopausal consult with Dr. Helen McCullough, call 302-623-2580.

In most cases, menopause happens around age 50. But everyone’s body has its own time line. You may stop having periods in your mid-40s. Or you might have them well into your 50s.

Having cancer treatment or surgery to remove the ovaries can cause menopause to start early.

What can you expect?

Before reaching menopause, you go through perimenopause. During perimenopause, your hormone levels will go up and down unevenly. This causes changes in your periods and may cause other symptoms too. You may have lighter or heavier periods. Your menstrual cycle may be longer or shorter. You may skip periods.

Perimenopause can start as early as your late 30s or as late as your early 50s. How long it lasts varies. But it usually lasts from two to eight years.

In time, estrogen and progesterone levels drop enough that the menstrual cycle stops. Common physical effects of menopause:

  • Bone loss increases with menopause, when ovaries stop making estrogen.
  • Heart disease risks increase.
  • Skin may become thinner and drier.

What are the symptoms?

A drop in estrogen around the time of menopause can cause symptoms such as:

  • Hot flashes. You may have a sudden feeling of intense body heat. Your head, neck, and chest may get red. Your heartbeat may speed up, and you may feel anxious or irritable.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Vaginal dryness.

Symptoms related to mood and thinking may also happen around the time of menopause. These include:

  • Mood swings, or feeling depressed or worried.
  • Problems with remembering or thinking clearly.

You may have only a few mild symptoms. Or you might have severe symptoms that disrupt your sleep and daily life. Treatment can help.

How are menopause symptoms treated?

Lifestyle changes

  • Choose a heart-healthy diet. It should include plenty of fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, and high-fiber grains and breads. Be sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D to help your bones stay strong.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise can help you manage your weight. And it can lift your mood and help keep your heart and bones strong.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking can increase hot flashes and long-term health risks.


If your symptoms bother you, talk with your doctor. You may want to try prescription medicines, such as:

  • Hormonal birth control before menopause.
  • Hormone therapy.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Clonidine.
  • Gabapentin.
  • Veozah is a new medication that can help some people with hot flashes and night sweats.

All medicines for menopause symptoms have possible risks or side effects. And there’s a very small chance of serious health problems from taking hormone therapy. Be sure to talk to your doctor before you start a treatment for menopause symptoms.

Other treatments

Talk with your doctor about whether these treatments may be right for you:

  • To reduce hot flashes: Cognitive-behavioral therapy; hypnosis; mind and body relaxation, such as breathing exercises.
  • To reduce vaginal dryness: Over-the-counter vaginal lubricants.
  • To reduce stress: Yoga or biofeedback.

Menopause is a journey and your care team is here to help you along the way. Call 302-623-2580 or click here for more information and to make an appointment.