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Women's Health

Escape From Hormone Horrors — What You Can Do

From PMS to perimenopause and on into menopause, hormonal ups and downs can wreak havoc on a woman's life. Here’s how to escape the horror hormones cause.
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Hormone horrors: The perimenopause years continued...

If you do all those things but are still not finding relief, Goldstein says a low dose birth control pill might be the answer. The Pill works differently than hormone replacement therapy, which adds more hormones on top of the ones that are already fluctuating, sometimes making the imbalance worse. "The Pill," he says, "shuts down your hormone production completely and gives you a small, even, metered dose that is the same day in and day out. That way, he says, "you don't feel the bumps in the road as much."

According to Northrup, some women can also benefit from natural progesterone supplementation, which works to replace the hormone lost when ovulation stops. "For some women," she says, "this can have an amazing calming effect that ameliorates all the major symptoms."

Menopause and beyond - What you can do

Because menopause is defined as 12 months or more without a menstrual cycle, it's easy to assume that once you enter the Big M, hormonal activity - including the ups and downs - is pretty much over. For many women this is the case. But because there is always some level of reproductive hormones left in the body, fluctuations and at least some symptoms can continue for years beyond your last period.

"It's not that unusual to find a woman who has entered menopause and is still fighting the hot flashes and some mood-related problems," says Goldstein. Moreover, while women in perimenopause may find wild fluctuations in their desire for sex, some women in menopause experience a kind of flat lining of desire - at least for a while.

The good news: There are things you can do. For many the answer lies in natural herbs and supplements, like black cohosh and red clover. Though medical studies remain conflicted over the effectiveness of these remedies, some women report relief. And while HRT was found to have a laundry list of nasty side effects, Goldstein says that for some women, short term use can still be the appropriate answer, particularly for hot flashes.

For some women, a good lubricant is all that is needed to ease vaginal dryness and make sex pleasurable again. And for a select group of women, Amaru says off-label use of small doses of male androgen hormones - such as testosterone - can put the flame back in the fire.

Ultimately, according to Northrup, "The most important thing to keep in mind is that no woman has to suffer with hormone horrors at any stage in her life. There are answers for every woman at every stage."

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Reviewed on November 19, 2008

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