Majority Rules: Most Women Experience Menopause Symptoms

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: June 2, 2010

By James A. Simon, MD, CCD Clinical Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology George Washington University, Washington, DC

Nearly 6,000 women enter menopause every day in the United States. Though not all menopausal women will experience vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, results from a recent survey among members of the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) found that most survey participants of menopausal age experienced symptoms and 80 percent said that one or more of these symptoms were problematic in their daily lives.

What We Found

Survey participants included 622 women over the age of 35 who were experiencing menopausal symptoms at the time of the survey or had experienced symptoms in the past. Almost half of women surveyed said that menopausal symptoms were worse than expected. More than one-fifth said their symptoms were much worse than expected.

Although hot flashes (84%) and night sweats (77%) were the symptoms women experienced most frequently, menopause-related insomnia was reported as the most bothersome symptom.

Among the women who experienced menopause-related insomnia:

  • 72 percent said they experienced it at least once per week
  • 59 percent lost three or more hours of sleep each night
  • 88 percent of experienced fatigue during the day
  • 62 percent said they were irritable during the day

What We Heard

We also collected anecdotal information from NAFE members about their experiences with menopause. Here is one of the questions that we asked:

If you discussed your menopausal symptoms with anyone at work, what did you discuss?

  • The fact that I was having my own personal summers.
  • My inability to sleep, hot flashes, loss of physical relationship with my spouse.
  • I would joke about it when I would have a hot flash at work. Ask if anyone else was hot.
  • You name it, we’ve discussed it. I work with several women currently going through menopause. Fortunately, everyone has a sense of humor about it.
  • How the lack of sleep and disrupted sleep has made us both feel more fatigued during the day, so our ability to focus is decreased and our irritability and emotional vulnerability is increased.

Treatment Options

For women with moderate-to-severe menopausal symptoms, the standard approach is to prescribe replacement of some form of estrogen. Oral estrogen therapy is effective in reducing both the frequency and the severity of the hot flashes and night sweats. Oral estrogens have been available since 1942, and there are several new treatments on the horizon.

Many women are interested in learning more about ?natural? or plant-derived estrogen options especially as people have become aware that one of the most commonly prescribed hormone therapies is derived from equine urine. A new treatment option derived from soy beans is ENJUVIA? (synthetic conjugated estrogens, B); an FDA-approved therapy for the treatment of moderate-to-severe symptoms of menopause with demonstrated efficacy at low doses. ENJUVIA? uses a unique delivery system to provide a slow release of estrogens over several hours.

As with any treatment, there are benefits and risks associated with hormone therapy that should be addressed with a healthcare professional before a decision is made to use hormone therapy. The need for ongoing therapy should be re-evaluated frequently.

Before Your Next Annual Visit

Be ready to talk to your healthcare professional about the frequency and severity of any of the following symptoms:

  • Hot flashes, night sweats or chills, sleep disturbances, joint pain or stiffness or fatigue
  • Genital dryness, pain and/or burning, pain during sexual activity, decreased sexual desire, decreased sexual response or decreased sexual frequency
  • Anxiety, irritability, sadness or difficulty concentrating

Menopause is an important transition in every woman?s life. It’s a good time to reassess where you are and where you are going, health wise. Even if you have few menopausal symptoms, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about your overall health including weight management and long-term disease prevention.

Citations

Menopause at Work survey, conducted by Harris Interactive between March 21 and April 7 among 622 members of the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE), www.nafe.com

Utian WH, Lederman SA, Williams BM, Vega RY, Koltun WD, Leonard TW. Relief of hot flushes with new plant-derived 10-component synthetic conjugated estrogens. Obstet Gynecol. 2004; 103: 245-253.

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