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Most Common Questions From Our Community
It’s thought that the production of sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and their cyclic nature has a strong effect on appetite. Researchers found that an increase in progesterone production happens before your period and this is responsible for binge eating. Estrogen, on the other hand, peaks before ovulation and drops before your period, is acts as an appetite suppressant.
Sugar cravings are especially frustrating and happen as a result of low blood sugar. An increase in insulin sensitivity closer to your period will cause blood sugar levels to drop making brownies the food of choice during this time of month.
As a result of hormonal changes, bloating and bowel changes including gas and diarrhea are completely common and normal symptoms of PMS.
Excessive alcohol use can increase levels of estrogen disrupting hormones, dehydration, bloating and water retention making PMS symptoms intolerable. News flash…for women one drink /day is acceptable. This means one serving of a five oz glass of wine, one 12 ounce beer or one 1.5oz of hard liquor. Also if you take a day or two off from drinking each week this gives the liver time to recover from the negative effects of alcohol. Excessive amount of alcohol use would include drinking two or more drinks alcoholic beverages daily. One night of excessive drinking may give you a horrible hangover in the morning but it won’t disrupt your PMS unless it becomes a daily occurrence.
A history of depression, anxiety or other emotional problems can exacerbate typical PMS symptoms including mood swings, extreme depression, fits of anger and overwhelming anxiety one to two weeks before your period. Women with known psychological disease can make common symptoms of PMS unmanageable.
It is well known that stress and stressors directly affect our health, whether we want to admit it or not. Stress not only affects our body physically but also affects our emotions and behaviors. Stress exacerbates depression, anxiety, weight loss or weight gain and foggy brain. PMS, along with common stress symptoms, can make the one to two weeks prior to your period debilitating.
Exercise is great for just about any hormonal issues. Regular exercise 4-6 times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes is helpful to reduce bloating, weight fluctuation and water retention.
Many women love having period sex to help relieve period cramps and hormonal blues from PMS. For starters, it is harder to get pregnant on your period, but you still can especially for women with shorter period intervals and earlier ovulation. If having sex during your PMS cloud helps relieve some of your symptoms, go for it! Always play it safe and use a reliable birth control method even on your period.
Sometimes it’s your partner who will notice your PMS upheaval before you do. If your partner notices a new onset of irritability, anxiety and depression that starts to interfere with your life or relationship, it’s worth seeing your healthcare provider for guidance and treatment options. Once you understand what is happening with your body, emotions and hormonal chaos you can be more open and honest with your partner. Awareness, communication, understanding and, at times, medication and therapy is necessary.
As long as you have ovaries you are fair game for premenopausal symptoms. Women who have breast cancer and are receiving chemotherapy may experience Peri-Menopause symptoms earlier than the average woman. Also women who smoke cigarettes may also experience these symptoms sooner than women who do not smoke. Certain medications can make the ovaries not function properly bringing Peri-Menopause and menopause on sooner than later. Thin women, genetic predisposition, chromosomal abnormalities such as Turner syndrome may also bring on premature ovarian failure.
Regular exercise 4-6 times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes is helpful to reduce weight gain, fatigue, bloating and water retention. Ideally, exercise should be part of your daily routine. When you exercise there is a release mood boosting endorphins and serotonin which are the “feel good” hormones. Exercise helps women emotionally and physically during Peri-Menopause.
It can be challenging to know the difference between these two normal hormonal cycles. The conversation starts with knowing your symptoms and adding in lab tests including your FSH and Estradiol levels. Since many of these symptoms overlap, the key differentiator is once your period stops for an entire year the diagnosis of Menopause is at the top of the list.
The reality of being single and sexually active as a menopausal woman is that the rules have changed quite a bit. Communication between you and your new partner is so important and it’s best to have the serious sex talk before getting into bed together. I would suggest you talk about your sexual histories, if your new partner has any sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and if he or she is monogamous. Your new male partner must wear a condom during vaginal or anal intercourse. Safe sex would also include your male partner wearing a condom during oral sex. Women really have to be knowledgeable and aware. They have to carry condoms in their purse and insist that they are used.
You should ask if your partner has ever had any STIs which include chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea and human papillomavirus (HPV). The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most commonly passed STI and condoms do not completely protect against its transmission.
Recent studies have revealed statistics that might shock you:
- The rate of STIs in those over the age of 45 has doubled.
- One in five sexually active singles reported using condoms regularly. Only 12 percent of men and 32 percent of women said they used one every time.
- Those over the age of 45 had the lowest rate of condom use.
- Older immune systems are less effective at fighting infections, which can increase the risk of STIs.
- Older women have less natural lubrication and thinning vaginal tissue, leading to tears, which then create a higher risk of transmitting STIs.
- The number of older people diagnosed with HIV has nearly doubled. Fifteen percent of new diagnoses of HIV were in people over the age of 50.
- Delays in diagnosis and treatment are more common in the older population, allowing infections to become more advanced and harder to treat.
The bottom line is that quality of life, especially in the bedroom, is incredibly important and should be a priority. Expect the unexpected as your body transitions into menopause, Vulva-Vaginal Atrophy (VVA). Menopause is a natural process and everyone goes through it differently. Take good care of yourself through diet and exercise. Communicate openly with your partner so they know what you are going through. If you are physically suffering with painful intercourse don’t be afraid to use vaginal estrogen. VVA does not have to ruin a sexual relationship with your partner
Many women suffering from vaginal atrophy have usually not had regular vaginal penetration. That lack, combined with VVA, can result in a shrinking of the vaginal opening, which may be combatted with the use of a vaginal dilator. A survey found that 45% of women have never actually had an honest conversation about their vaginal dryness with their health care provider. They may have resigned themselves to sexual intercourse only once or twice a month or on “special occasions,” giving the term “birthday sex” a whole, new despairing meaning.
To begin the process of opening up again, literally (and perhaps figuratively), vaginal dilators may be employed to stretch the vaginal opening. Usually the process involves use of a dilator for 20-30 minutes, three to five times weekly, gradually increasing the size, with the goal of making vaginal penetration easier on the tissue. Used in combination with weekly estrogen cream therapy, symptoms related to vaginal atrophy may be reversed, allowing painless (and, with luck, enjoyable) intercourse. As long as you’re at it you might try soaking in an Aveeno bath for 20-30 minutes a day as a pampering addendum to treating dry skin, not only in the vaginal area, over your entire body.
Alternatives to conventional dilators can be found not only at a local sex toy store in the form of dildos and vaginal vibrators, they’re also at your local farmers market, in the form of cucumbers or zucchini. If you do however choose a ubiquitous form of produce, make sure you use a condom on it to avoid unwelcome bacteria. A pea-size dollop of topical lidocaine applied to the entrance of the vagina also helps in avoiding pain when introducing anything into a sensitive vagina, be it vegetable or mechanical. Because some of my shyer and less adventurous patients don’t know where to begin, I have gone online in my office with them in order to scroll through dildos on goodvibrations.com, a great, accommodating online sex store that caters to women. While we’re perusing the endless array of toys, I ask these shyer patients of mine to try and approximate their husband or partner’s “size.” I tell them to decide on a color—No, what color do you prefer? I ask them to choose a special lube, to pick a vibrator. “What else?” I ask. “What else is on your wish list here?”
I’m glad to say that most of these patients report back with promising results after conventional vaginal therapy combined with a little fun (perhaps in the form of a classic purple dildo). Realize that when you enter Menopause it’s not just the vaginal pain and dryness that can ruin a perfect date night, it’s the worry of vaginal collapse from infrequent intercourse. If you are having problems not only with dryness, but vaginal shrinkage and pain, please talk to your health care provider. Keep in mind that creative strategies are not only fun, but may be a necessity!