Dr. Kristine Graettinger, associate professor and chair of the College’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, provided the December presentation for the Women’s Leadership Alliance Lunch & Learn.
The Women’s Leadership Alliance is part of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.
“One of my favorite things about obstetrics and gynecology is guiding women through important transitions – adolescence, pregnancy and menopause,” Graettinger said.
Graettinger, who also practices at University Medical Center, which is operated by the College, focused much of her presentation on the topics of perimenopause and menopause.
Perimenopause typically begins several years before menopause and is the time when ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. Perimenopause lasts until menopause, the point where ovaries stop releasing eggs.
The average age for women to experience menopause, defined as 12 months with no menstruation, is 51. The most common indicators of menopause are less predictable menstrual cycles and hot flashes.
Graettinger said hot flashes are a normal response to decreased estrogen in the body. She said keeping cool by dressing in layers that can be removed and using relaxation techniques can help. “And maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, don’t smoke, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of good nutrition. Lots of fruits and vegetables, good fats, fiber, iron, calcium and plenty of water.”
Graettinger said while menopause is a normal transition and can be managed without medication, there are times when hot flashes become disruptive to daily life. She said there are medications that can help, as well as hormone replacement.
She said menopause is often associated with forgetfulness, irritability, mood changes, depression and anxiety, “but these aren’t clearly linked to menopause.” She said women going through menopause are often juggling busy families, careers and caring for others. “They are wearing many hats. That fogginess and irritability can be related to life stressors and sleep disruption because of hot flashes.”
Graettinger encouraged audience members to spend time caring for themselves. “Menopause is a normal transition and it can be managed. Keep a healthy lifestyle, and regular annual checkups. Know your body. Care for yourself like you do your loved ones.”