Am I going through the change?



Dr. Jose E. Baez of Health Quest Medical Practice discusses perimenopause

You wake up doused in sweat, your clothes don’t fit, and you’re literally crying over spilled milk. Dr. Jose E. Baez, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist at Health Quest Medical Practice in Poughkeepsie, knows you’re not on the verge of a breakdown; but, you may be entering perimenopause.

The road to menopause
Menopause is classically defined as one year without a period, generally occurring between the ages of 48 and 52. “Perimenopause, on the other hand, is everything else leading up to menopause,” says Dr. Baez. This procession to menopause is called perimenopause. During perimenopause the ovaries gradually begin to produce fewer hormones. This imbalance sends the body into flux causing side effects similar to those associated with menopause: fatigue, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, and mood swings.  Dr. Baez says the best way to survive perimenopause is to be educated about the changes occurring in the body.

The hormonal shift
The changes that occur in a woman’s period are usually age related.  “When a patient in her 30s comes in because she’s missed her period, we think pregnancy,” says Dr. Baez. “Once we rule that out, we start thinking about the thyroid, hormone levels, and anatomical defects like polyps.”  Conversely, when a patient in her 40s comes to see Dr. Baez about missed periods, he thinks perimenopause.  At this point, Dr. Baez will perform hormone level tests to determine if the patient is approaching menopause.   

Managing the symptoms
“Hormone replacement therapy is the most common form of treatment,” says Dr. Baez. Most women in perimenopause are prescribed low dose birth control pills to counteract the effects of the body producing less estrogen and progesterone.

The link to breast cancer
In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) released a study, claiming women using hormone replacement therapy to treat menopausal changes have a 30 percent increased risk of breast cancer.

“If 1,000 women choose to be miserable and not take hormone replacement therapy, three would develop breast cancer,” says Dr. Baez. “If the same number of women chose to treat and manage their symptoms with hormone replacement therapy, four would develop breast cancer.” So while there is an increase, it’s very minute.

A holistic approach
Women who want a holistic approach can take supplements like black cohosh to ward off night sweats. “Soy, found in edamame, can also help ease classic symptoms,” says Dr. Baez. “Studies have also shown that medications typically administered for other ailments can also aid in perimenopause relief… For example, anti-depressants can also ward off hot flashes!”

Dr. Baez speaks English & Spanish and sees patients in HQMP Fishkill & Poughkeepsie OB/GYN offices. He delivers at Vassar Brothers Medical Center.



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