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Women's Health

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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 periods.

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.

Yeast Infections

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, — 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.

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