Your (Very Personal) Health at 20, 30, 40, 50
This transition period into menopause can last up to 10 years as estrogen
and progesterone levels shift. While the average age of onset is between 47 and
52, perimenopause can start as early as 35 (this is more likely if your mom
experienced early menopause or if you have certain health conditions such as
heart disease). Signs include hot flashes, low libido, mood swings, and erratic
Let's face it: Perimenopause is no fun — but you can get relief. Taking the
Pill can lessen hot flashes and night sweats and reduce menstrual
irregularities. Another reason to use birth control: Four in 10 pregnancies
among women in their 40s are unplanned, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Remember, if you are still ovulating, you can have a baby — no matter how wacky
your periods are.
Lifestyle changes can also help ease perimenopause symptoms. Getting at
least 30 minutes of exercise on most days has been shown to help relieve night
sweats and anxiety. Thacker also advises eating fish, walnuts, and other foods
rich in mood-lifting omega-3 fatty acids. And to increase desire, "don't
focus on the genitals," suggests Whipple. Instead, enjoy other sensual
experiences with your partner: Feed each other forkfuls of dessert or watch a
provocative film. "Your desire has a good chance of naturally returning
when your focus is elsewhere," she says.
Vaginal yeast infections are common to women of all ages; about 75 percent
of us will experience some of the telltale signs — itching, excess discharge,
and painful urination — at least once during our lifetime. They're caused by an
overgrowth of the yeast that occur naturally in the vagina, and many factors
can contribute, including stress, lack of sleep, taking the Pill or
antibiotics, or pregnancy.
If you suspect you have a yeast infection, an over-the-counter (OTC)
antifungal treatment such as Monistat may be all you need. But OTC treatments
may not be properly formulated to treat the types of yeast causing your
symptoms. What's more, two thirds of women purchasing these products don't have
a yeast infection at all, according to the CDC: Yeast infections can be hard to
distinguish from bacterial infections such as bacterial vaginosis (see below).
Before self-treating, try taking the Fem-V at-home vaginal-infection test
($7.99, drugstore.com) — a positive result suggests bacterial infection and the
need for prescription antibiotics. If the test indicates yeast infection and an
OTC treatment doesn't clear your symptoms within a week, or if you have repeat
infections, see your doctor.
The most common vaginal condition in women of childbearing age, bacterial
vaginosis (BV) occurs when there's an overgrowth of "bad" bacteria
found normally in the vagina. Symptoms are similar to those of a yeast
infection, though typically milder. While researchers aren't sure what causes
the bacterial imbalance that leads to BV, they do know it tends to happen to
women in their 20s and 30s who are very sexually active or who have a new
sexual partner or multiple partners. Douching can also disrupt bacterial
balance, so don't do it, says Thacker. If you suspect you have BV, see your
doctor for antibiotics. Left untreated, the bacteria can increase your
susceptibility to STDs or UTIs, or cause complications if you're pregnant.