Ask the Nurse

How will I know when I have officially entered menopause?

There is no such thing as a “menopause test.” Once a midlife woman has gone without having her period for 12 consecutive months, she is medically defined as menopausal. Your physician can confirm menopause by analyzing symptoms associated with estrogen deficiency and performing a thorough history and physical exam. It is helpful if you have kept an accurate record of your menstruation, including the number of missed periods. Your physicians also will ask you about classic symptoms, like hot flashes. The physical exam should include an assessment of vaginal tissue, which is particularly sensitive to estrogen loss. A bone density may also be needed, since the bone is very sensitive to the loss in estrogen.

Menopause shouldn’t be a time of mourning. Despite its bad reputation, menopause isn’t all bad! The truth is that many of the problems associated with midlife can be controlled with relative ease by eating well, exercising regularly, protecting the skin from sun damage, taking the right vitamins and supplements (particularly vitamin D3 if you live in a northern climate), and staying actively involved in life as you work with your physician to design a personalized care plan. Many women feel most comfortable in their skin during midlife and beyond. You’ve acquired wisdom and experience, and perhaps more confidence. Your life perspective and interpersonal skills are sharpened. Nagging symptoms or body changes may have inspired you to clean up your act and take care of your body. Now’s the time to adopt healthy habits for the rest of your life.

All My Best,
Speaking of Women's Health Nurse

October 24, 2011 at 12:01pm