Dr. Renita White
The Aging Well Issue

Tracking Your Health During Menopause and Beyond

If I could give women only one piece of health advice as they age, it would be this: Put the responsibility for your health in your hands. If you don’t advocate for yourself, how can you expect others to? 

As a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist in the Atlanta area, I have had the opportunity to treat women at every pivotal life transition. And while each life stage comes with its own set of questions and challenges, the menopausal stage for women may feel like an accumulation of all the stages packed into one.

During menopause, overall wellness is the sum of all the parts of physical and mental health, so it’s crucial for you to work with your healthcare providers to manage this stage of life. 

Put the responsibility for your health in your hands.

Creating a Healthy Relationship With Your Healthcare Provider

Equipping yourself to navigate a transitory stage in your health—and life—starts with learning to trust your own voice.

You know your body and health better than anyone else, so sharing that knowledge with your healthcare provider helps strengthen that relationship. 

The following are some questions to think about or jot down before you head to your next appointment to help guide the conversation:

  • Is this [symptom or change] normal for me and my body? If it’s not, how can I jot it down or retell it to my healthcare provider to get help? 
  • Does my healthcare provider speak about generalities only, or do they include my specific health details in their time with me? 
  • Do I feel comfortable speaking up during a healthcare appointment? 
  • Do I feel like I will be taken seriously during my healthcare appointment? 

Once you’ve jotted those down, at the top of your list, write down and underline: “What are my next steps?” This is crucial because you want to break the habit of walking out of an appointment not exactly knowing what you and your healthcare provider have agreed upon.

You know your body and health better than anyone else, so sharing that knowledge with your healthcare provider helps strengthen that relationship.

Jotting down notes on your cell phone or a piece of paper can help keep you on track to feeling empowered and heard. 

Navigating Your Sex Life

While many issues can occur due to aging and menopause, decreased sex drive, painful sex, and vaginal dryness are common concerns. 

Something to keep in mind: Just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s bad. 

Your sex life may shift as you age, but there is absolutely the opportunity for it to be better than ever. Noticing how your libido has been impacted can help you chart out a roadmap for what enhancements will be helpful to bring joy and love back into your life. 

Some ways to take charge of your sex life as you age include: 

  • Schedule sex so you can retrain your brain to enjoy it
  • Include more foreplay
  • Turn to a sex therapist who can help you unlock new ways to bring pleasure back to the rotation
  • Speak with your healthcare provider to find the right supplements that may increase your own libido 

If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness and/or pain during sex, do not keep it to yourself. If you don’t bring it up, your healthcare provider won’t know it’s happening, and they can’t help you. 

Understanding Treatment Options

The more details you can provide your healthcare provider about your menopausal symptoms, the better they can direct you to helpful treatment options that may include: 

  • Hormone therapy: This is a big staple piece of menopausal care, but when approaching it, it’s important to understand the risk and benefits that come with it. In many cases, hormone replacement is used to treat hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, sleep issues, and other symptoms that can come along with menopause. However, for other women, the benefits of treating those symptoms may be outweighed by other drawbacks that adding hormones may have in their life. For example, those who are at high risk for blood clots, like people living with cancer, may not be good candidates for hormone therapy. This is why it’s key to bring these questions and concerns to your healthcare provider. 
  • Pelvic floor therapy: This can help women working to tighten and strengthen the floor that holds the muscles that hold the bladder, bowel, and rectum. Understanding your body will help to determine if you need to do something preventive or more reactive given your symptoms.

No matter your symptoms, age, or circumstances, you’re entitled to a medical experience that will leave you feeling good when you walk out of the healthcare provider’s office. Practicing and preparing for that medical interaction will help ensure you get what you need and deserve from every encounter.

By Renita White, MD
Renita White, MD, FACOG, is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist. She practices at Georgia Obstetrics and Gynecology, and cares for women all over the metro Atlanta area in Georgia.