As not to completely overload you with the top 10 questions I’ve recently been asked all at once, here are my responses to the remaining five questions to round out the Top 10:
Question six: What is the average age of menopause?
The average age of menopause in the United States is about 52. A good rule of thumb is to ask your mom or older sister(s) how old they were when they went through menopause, as these things tend to be familial; i.e., if your mom experienced menopause “later” in life, it’s highly likely that the same will hold true for you.
Question seven: Is there a blood test that can tell me when I will go through menopause or where I am in peri-menopause?
I get this all the time: “Dr. Angela, can you check my hormone levels and tell me when I will go through menopause?” Fact of the matter is, the only blood test I can draw is an FSH level. This solely tells me if you are or aren’t in menopause. It does not predict where you are in the “spectrum” of peri-menopause or when you will enter menopause. Your history, signs/symptoms tell me whether or not you are peri-menopausal. You don’t need a blood test or lab work for that 🙂
Question eight: Do I need to continue getting pap smears if I’ve had a hysterectomy?
Depends on the reason for the hysterectomy. If you had a hysterectomy for a benign reason; e.g., fibroids, endometriosis, heavy periods, etc., and you have no history of abnormal pap smears, then you no longer need pap smear screening. If, however, you have a history of abnormal pap smears, cancer, or some other condition that requires close follow up, then you will likely continue to get pap smears. Another indication for continued pap smears would be if you had what’s called a supracervical hysterectomy; i.e., your uterus was removed but your cervix was left behind.
Question nine: Is vaginal discharge normal?
As annoying as it can be, the answer is yes. As long as it doesn’t itch, burn, or smell bad (all of which might indicate that something, such as an infection, is occurring and needs to be evaluated by your ob/gyn), it’s likely physiologic or NORMAL. The thing is, ALL women have vaginal discharge. I’m really surprised more women aren’t talking about this…I guess this goes along with the taboos that have been promoted in society causing women to be embarrassed or ashamed of their bodies and its natural functions. As annoying as vaginal discharge is—I mean, who likes feeling this “stuff” oozing out of your vagina while you’re just sitting down or walking down the street no less?!—it does serve a purpose, specifically to help cleanse the vagina as well as lubricate during intercourse.
Question ten: Hot flashes and night sweats…What are my options?
Many! See your ob/gyn to discuss these. First off, if you are in menopause, there is always hormone replacement therapy. If you aren’t a candidate or are anti-hormone, there are non-hormonal options. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are possibilities. I have a fair number of patients who have done well with bioidentical hormones or have tried other non-traditional therapies such as acupuncture. Even more “natural” therapies such as soy, yam extract, black cohosh are considerations.
I am a huge advocate of lifestyle! Eating healthy, getting enough rest, and exercising cures more things than you could imagine. Just make sure that you are having the conversation, not just with your physician, but with your friends as well. There is no need to feel ashamed, or embarrassed. Women don’t need to suffer in silence from things that are a normal part of life.
Hoping this blog post adds value to your day!
Until Next Time,
Look Better. Feel Better. Be Better.
Wife, mother, Midwesterner, and award-winning OB/GYN, Dr. Angela is equal parts best girlfriend and bold professional, supporting women’s health with innovative approaches to care and heavy doses of humor. Dr. Angela has done more than launch a successful practice, she has defined herself as a voice for a new generation of womanhood, established her ASK DR. ANGELA brand committed to authenticity, and built a community rooted in trust, candor, and compassion.