By Tori Hebert
Women are always changing. We change our hair, our style, and even our bodies change as we grow. As children, our bodies develop and make us ask questions about what’s happening. Once we become young women, we learn about menses and reproduction; and finally, in our middle age, some of us experience perimenopause before entering menopause and post menopause. Each of these phases brings their own symptoms that can be uncomfortable to experience. Each phase is also a result of hormone changes. Dr. Lee Monlezun, OBGYN, and his team understand the complex nature of the woman’s body and strive “to make women normal”. No two patients are the same, but by understanding a patient’s family history and individual needs, Dr. Monlezun’s office has helped women for over 40 years live comfortably with menopause.
The most notable hormone women produce is Estrogen. This hormone affects many parts of the body such as the menstrual cycle, muscle strength, vaginal health, and skin tone. Dr. Monlezun discusses the processes of releasing Estrogen, “First you make an egg and then you release the hormone. It’s all in the verbs, not the nouns.” This fundamental act of the body makes understanding perimenopause and menopause a little easier.
Women are born with a certain number of eggs in the ovaries. “Menstruation begins when a girl reaches 100 pounds. This is usually around the age of 12 or 13. We average that a woman has about 28 years of reproduction, so when you do the math for 12 months a year and one egg a month for 28 years, God gave you more than enough eggs” says Dr. Monlezun. As the ovaries begin to use the last eggs, hormone levels drop. At this point, women are considered to be in perimenopause.
“Perimenopause is when a woman is almost in menopause but is not quite there just yet. Menopause begins when a woman has not had a period for 12 months. In the U.S., the average age for menopause is 52.” explains Constance Darbonne, APRN, FNP-C. Some women may immediately experience symptoms as their hormone levels decrease, and some women notice changes over a period of time. Mrs. Darbonne says, “I always ask my patients how their cycles are going. As they become older, my patients begin to tell me they experience mild hot flashes and other menopause-like symptoms and they don’t understand why. So, I say have your periods been irregular, any vaginal dryness? And they say ‘you know, now that you mention it yes’ and then I begin to talk with them about entering perimenopause.”
Many symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are the same, but once Estrogen levels are at the lowest, symptoms intensify. After twelve months without a period, a woman is considered to be in postmenopause. As these symptoms persist, hormone replacements become a discussion topic. Dr. Monlezun restates, “Other doctors often say that we ‘make women normal’. Being normal is good. It helps women feel good even as they experience all of these changes.” Megan McAtee, APRN, FNP-C follows up this comment with, “We help women through every phase. We have patients who see us as young women and keep coming to us throughout their lifespan.” Postmenopause also raises concerns for Osteoporosis. Estrogen helps keep your bones strong and healthy, but as this hormone is produced less calcium is lost from bones. Hormone replacement coupled with exercise, a balanced diet, and enjoying life as normal can make experiencing the stages of menopause easier as well as prevent Osteoporosis.
Though Dr. Monlezun, Mrs. Darbonne, and Mrs. McAtee spend time getting to know their patients, they recommend that women have a primary care doctor. “It’s important to have a primary care doctor because that person really knows who you are. You see them on a regular basis unlike our office that you probably visit once a year” says Mrs. Darbonne “Both Megan and I have backgrounds in family practice, but ultimately what we are doing here is focused on the women’s health.” It’s important to keep in mind that all of your healthcare providers communicate about your needs, but each office has a specialized field. Your primary care physician can give you referrals, keep records on your overall health, and acts as a home base for all of your other healthcare providers.
Dr. Monlezun’s office offers Gynecology, Infertility, procedures, and skin care and weight loss programs. Everything this team does is specifically designed for you. Like you reach out to friends for help, consider getting a wellness exam each year and discuss your health questions with your OBGYN. Women often forget to take care of themselves, but as we age it becomes a necessity to have a place to go to help us continue living life to the fullest.