As a woman physician, I have a different perspective on many different health issues that are common, and even uncommon, to women. And, as the physician in the family, many of the women in my family come to me for my perspective on their health questions. That’s why I’m excited to start this monthly blog on women’s health to address some of the issues that I am asked about most often. I encourage you to ask your questions, too, in the comment section below.
This first blog’s discussion point will be one near and dear to my heart: Menopause. I have been treating menopause since I was a resident and my own mother was going through the climacteric. Even though I was in my early 30s, I figured eventually I would need the information myself. Twenty-five years of patient care and one national menopause practitioner certification later, boy was I right!
One of the many delights of being a mature woman is those wonderful hot flashes. They come at the most inconvenient times, like when you have to think. I was taking some online courses recently and every time I had a timed exam, I would have an incredible mind-stopping hot flash. Doctors call it cognitive dysfunction. That does not do justice to the dysfunction quality. Stress triggers hot flashes, as do other daily activities. Walking, sleeping, and even drinking coffee are all capable of making you feel smothered.
Night sweats are another pleasant surprise…not! I was about six months into being awakened several times a night when I realized it was not the hot flash that woke me up. I was waking up with a feeling that something was wrong (moms, you know what I mean) and then I would have the night flash. Shortly after I came to that realization, I learned that hot flashes are triggered in the thermoregulation centers of the brain – the part that helps you maintain your internal temperature. So, yes, those hot flashes are all in your head.
No matter what the temperature is outside or in, hot flashes don’t take a break. Even in subzero weather the covers come off. This can be downright frigid for any bedmate. The best thing to do is try to cope, consider hormone therapy (I will talk about that in my next blog, next month), experiment with ways to shorten the hot flash (breathing techniques help, by the way), and wait. Eventually they get better. Most of the time.
Marjorie DeMund, MD, FACOG, NCMP, has been practicing medicine for more than 24 years. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at St. Luke’s Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio. She completed an internship in general surgery from Fairview General Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio. She received her medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, Ohio. Dr. DeMund practices in Clyde, Fremont and Fostoria, Ohio.