10 Questions To Ask Your Doctor
Whether you’re just beginning to experience symptoms, or you’re ten years into postmenopause, doctors can be valuable allies for us during this time of transition. Each phase of menopause means different things for everyone and presents new questions. Our bodies are always adapting and evolving, just like we are. Setting an annual exam can help us better prepare for and navigate any changes that come our way.
1. What if I’m not experiencing any symptoms at all?
While many women experience symptoms, there are plenty of us for whom menopause is business as usual. If you’re not experiencing symptoms, this transition can be a great time to focus on other elements of your life. Maybe it’s time to swap from cardio to muscle strength training or vice versa. Ask your doctor if there are any easy changes you can make to better prepare for this next phase of life.
2. I’m not experiencing symptoms, but how is my overall health?
Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms, menopause is still a great excuse to check in with the rest of your body during an annual checkup. Your doctor will typically check your vital signs including blood pressure, but as you reach middle age there are other tests they might recommend as well. Beginning at age 40, doctors recommend a cholesterol screening and mammogram.1 Beginning at age 50, doctors recommend a colonoscopy and bone density test, specifically for women at or approaching menopause.1 If your tests are already done, set up a time to discuss what your results mean for you during this new stage of life.
3. What should I expect given my family history with menopause?
Some women may enter menopause at the same time as their mother or grandmother, but that doesn’t always predict what their unique experience will be. It's not all hereditary, but there may be some things we can learn from our family’s past to make this transition easier. Talk to your doctor about the aspects of your family history that are on your mind. They may have some helpful information about how to better manage this time or what other families have experienced. Even if it’s not the exact same story as your own, every detail can help.
4. I am feeling different and may be experiencing symptoms. Can we talk about how I’m feeling and if this is normal?
Menopause can manifest itself in a range of emotional, physiological, and psychological responses. If you’re feeling emotionally out of control, finding it harder to sleep, suffering from muscle aches, or experiencing a loss of sex drive—these can all be exacerbated by estrogen loss. Let your doctor know about any health changes you’re experiencing and ask how menopause might be affecting other areas of your life as well.
5. Is it possible my symptoms are tied to other health related conditions?
Menopause symptoms can also often mask the signs of other age-related health conditions. These health issues, while not always related to menopause, could make our symptoms more severe. Conditions like arthritis or endocrine disorders can make it difficult to follow common relief tips like working out or eating certain foods. Even if we’re already aware of our health conditions, it can help to have a straightforward conversation with our doctors about the effect they could have on our symptoms.
6. How long should I expect my symptoms to last?
Perimenopause can last 2–8 years, but for some women the symptoms feel like they never end.2 While our doctors will most likely not have a hard end date for our menopause, it can help to ask anyways. They’ll have our health records on hand, and can help us see whether or not certain symptoms are subsiding with time (even if it doesn’t feel like it).
7. Could any of my dietary or lifestyle habits be making my symptoms worse?
Whether we like it or not, our body is in tune with itself. Every small decision we make can have big impacts on our menopause experience. Ask your doctor if there are any potential dietary or lifestyle habits that may be adding to or negatively impacting how you experience symptoms. For example, spicy foods and alcohol are known to exacerbate hot flashes. This could also be an opportunity to optimize dietary and wellness routines to prepare for any challenges this loss of estrogen may present.
8. Does my personal health history increase my risk of developing other age-related health conditions?
Estrogen is a powerful hormone. It plays an important role in the health of many vital tissues and organs including our bone, heart, liver, and skin. These previous conditions might make us more sensitive to health risks proven to be tied to estrogen loss, such as osteoporosis or cardiovascular disease. It’s important to ask our doctors how this loss of estrogen might uniquely affect us according to our specific health history.
9. Should I switch to a different dosage or form of birth control?
Hormone fluctuations and period disruptions are totally normal during the years leading up to menopause. Some women in perimenopause choose birth control with a lower estrogen dosage to help them cope with those fluctuations. Others may want to switch to another form of birth control entirely if vaginal dryness makes it more difficult to insert a menstrual cup or occasional brain fog leads to more missed pills than usual. Even if you decide to stick with your tried and true contraceptive method, it’s worth starting the conversation to see if there are other options better suited to you during this time of life.
10. What can I do to support my overall health during this time?
Regardless of how we choose to manage our menopause symptoms, the important thing is that we choose. Too many women opt to suffer through their symptoms, or grow tired after a few ineffective attempts at treating them. While the internet is an incredible source of community and education, our doctors know our unique medical history. They may be able to suggest options that are more effective, or offer insight as to why other treatments didn’t work.
Our bodies need us now more than ever. Menopause is a sprawling new world with landmarks and paths unique to each of us. It’s an opportunity to draw a new map through life, reevaluate our self-care routines, and develop new ones if needed. We deserve to know what all of our options are, and to explore every uncharted path that calls to us. Take charge of the change and schedule your annual exam today.
We know annual exams can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to remember a myriad of topics to discuss in a finite period of time. We want to help you be prepared.
Download our “10 Questions To Ask Your Doctor” guide to print out and bring with you to your next visit.
- Medline Plus. “Health screenings for women ages 40 to 64.” 2019. US National Library of Medicine. Accessed on October 16, 2019. <https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007467.htm>
- US Office of Women’s Health. “Menopause Basics: How long does the transition to menopause last?” 2019. Accessed on October 16, 2019. <https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics#1>