Friday, February 24, 2012

How to Find a Menopause Specialist

By Ellen Sarver Dolgen, (aka "E")

Did you know that 50 million women are currently dealing with menopause in the United States? For how permeated menopause is (6,000 women enter menopause daily, to give you a scope), it seems as though menopause symptoms should be written on every other billboard (gender equality). If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms or just transitioning into perimenopause—the six- to ten-year symptom-laden time before the big ‘M’—you don’t need a billboard to tell you that you’re not quite feeling right. What you need that billboard to say is, “MENOPAUSE SPECIALISTS: NEXT FIVE MILES!”

According to, menopause occurs when the ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone, eventually causing the complete cessation of the menstrual period. However, hormonal changes and subsequent symptoms in a woman’s body start several years earlier, during perimenopause. Generally, women hit this change between 38 and 48. During perimenopause, periods become as unpredictable as a Real Housewife’s next move. They can be shorter or longer than usual, and lighter or heavier than usual. Symptoms are directly related to hormone changes in the body, and of over 34 possibilities, some of the most common are hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats, memory loss, vaginal dryness, unexplainable irritability, mood swings, weight gain and a sex drive lower than saggy pants in the ’90s. Other concerns, as identified by Women’s Health, include osteoporosis.

Finding a perimenopause and menopause specialist can be a daunting task. How do you know you’ll be satisfied? What if you don’t agree with your doctor? With all the trash floating around the Internet, where do you even begin to look for one? Keep in mind this may not be the doctor that delivered your babies. First, check the Menopause Doctor Directory here on It has a list of doctors recommended by YOU—satisfied patients—and finding one is as easy as typing in your zip code. If you can’t find a doctor close enough in our directory, ask your friends or family if they have any recommendations, ask a doctor that you know excels in his or her field, use local media like magazines or message boards, or check the practitioners at the North American Menopause Society. The great thing about doctors is that if you’re unsatisfied, no divorce papers are needed to go on to the next one! (If you have a doctor you’d like to recommend that isn’t in the directory already, email his/her information to!)

Because every woman’s body is different, experiences in perimenopause and menopause vary. The approaches to treatment are as different as ice cream flavors and even if rocky road works for close friends and family, you may be more of a neapolitan kind of gal. Depending on your menopause symptoms, doctors will recommend different methods (“I hope I get mint chip!). The most important thing to remember when entering this stage in your life is that you know your body best and you have the final say.

Start by tracking your symptoms on a Menopause Symptoms Chart (found in Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness) so you can easily detect patterns in your body. Take it to your specialist to more accurately communicate your needs, and ask about these blood tests so you can more easily highlight your path to hormone happiness. Generally, doctors suggest educating yourself about perimenopause and menopause to help you understand your journey, as well as exercise, ample sleep, and a healthy diet.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a very popular measure that women take for relief from common symptoms. Bioidentical hormones have the same makeup as the body’s natural hormones. There has been a lot of discussion on HRT in recent years, and you should research all the options with your specialist before making a decision. Here’s a great article from the Huffington Post on hormone replacement therapy in the past year.

Some women would rather adhere to natural remedies, such as soy products. Soy products contain isoflavones that may be beneficial for symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and night sweats. Their effectiveness is not 100% proven, but some women do attest to their soothing qualities.

The intensity and duration of symptoms vary from person to person. For some women, these symptoms go away over time without treatment, and other women need to take a more proactive approach. There are several options available to women and with the help of a specialist; you can find the right one. Unfortunately, there won’t be any billboards telling you which exit to take, but once you program your personal GPS, you’ll be living the menopausal dream in no time!

Remember: Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT!

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About the Author:
"E" is the pen name of Ellen Sarver Dolgen, author of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness -- a cut-to-the-chase book on perimenopause and menopause, filled with crucial information and hilarious and heartfelt stories. It condenses a confusing, daunting medical topic into an easy-to-understand, purse-sized guide which can be used as a reference throughout your PM&M experience. Reading Shmirshky is like getting a big, comforting hug from a dear friend, who happens to know a lot about menopause!

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