Beyond Hot Flashes: Dr. Karen Pike Discusses Varied Aspects of Menopause

Beyond Hot Flashes: Dr. Karen Pike Discusses Varied Aspects of Menopause

According to a study, about 6000 women in the US daily reach their menopausal or peri-menopausal stage. And about 2 million reach this stage annually. And yet, most of them are woefully unprepared about what to expect in this crucial stage of a woman’s life.

For the rest who have tried to reach an understanding of Menopause and its effects, Dr. Karen Pike must be a familiar name. She is the founder of the website Simply Menopause, which aims to educate older women about the implications of Menopause and how to prepare for it.

After spending years as chief of staff in one of the topmost hospitals in the US, Dr. Pike realized that many women did not have the knowledge or the resources to deal with the onset of Menopause. They are unaware of the changes that go through the body, and seeking help from medical professionals who are predominantly male leaves them more confused than ever.

In this interview, Dr. Karen Pike continues to spread awareness about what to expect during Menopause. Here are her thoughts about how to navigate the various issues that may suddenly arise beyond the hot flashes.

Interview with Dr. Karen Pike 

Hello Dr. Pike! Thank you so much for your time. So, without wasting any more of it, let us start with some of the pertinent issues that older women are most likely to face during Menopause.

Question: So, many women know about hot flashes. That is the most common symptom of the onset of Menopause. How exactly does it feel like?

Dr. Pike: Thank you for having me. Well, to get down to it, hot flashes seem like waves of heat coursing through your body. It is difficult to explain it to someone who has not experienced it.

You have this sudden heat wave rising in the center and spreading to your face and limbs. Your face may turn red, and you could start sweating profusely. Once it starts, it can take several minutes to subside. And then some more time for the effects to pass completely. But more than the discomfort, you feel a sudden sense of panic when you first start experiencing it.

Women who have no idea that they can suddenly feel immensely hot at times, or may not have the idea to the extent it could happen, might be wholly unprepared for it. It might even be embarrassing if you are in public or with friends and you start sweating profusely.

Question: Then how is one to deal with the problem?

Dr. Pike: Firstly, it is not a problem. It is a natural phenomenon that occurs as the female body regulates itself internally after menstruation stops.

One of the best ways to be on top of it is to try to track how soon your hot flashes are coming on. How many times a day are you feeling it? Is something triggering it even more? Experiencing hot flashes in itself can be stressful. Hence, try to stay away from stressful situations that can trigger it even more.

In addition, I would also advise you to keep ice packs and cool beverages in your fridge at all times. Sit down and practice deep breathing. Sip cold water and switch on the air conditioner if you have to. Once the episode passes, you can slowly resume your activities.

Question: Hot flashes themselves seem like a pretty intense issue to deal with. What else can one expect during this time?

Dr. Pike: Menopause can affect various women in different ways. The ethnic background and climate also play a major role.

Some other issues that women have to go through during this time are anxiety, insomnia, dizziness and nausea, UTI, dryness of skin and hair, difficulty concentrating, joint aches and pain, growth in facial hair, among others. In addition, hormonal imbalances could lead to reduced libido and vaginal dryness.

Question: That seems like an exhaustive list. Could you tell us about some of the ways to deal with these issues?

Dr. Pike: Firstly, anyone going through Menopause needs to stay in a positive frame of mind. That is easier said than done. Social construct has conditioned women to believe that once her child-bearing years are over, she has lost all her value. And in some communities, women are made to feel this a lot more than others.

My advice would be to speak to other women who have undergone Menopause to prepare themselves for it. Those who can should definitely seek medical help, preferably from a female doctor who has ample experience in treating menopausal women.

Therapy can help immensely during this time. In case that is not possible, you could at least try to be a part of a community that understands what you are going through. Female friendships are very important during this time.

Question: Can Menopause have an effect on a woman’s breast size?

Dr. Pike: Yes, it can. If you want to know how menopause affects your breasts, then you have to understand how hormones work. With menopause, there is a marked decreased in estrogen, then causes a loss of elasticity in the breast tissues. This will make the breasts sag and could also make them heavier. You have to wear the right supporting bra at this point to avoid tenderness and soreness of the breasts. 

On the other hand, for some women, the breasts may also grow bigger because of the resultant weight gain during menopause. There could additional fat deposits that could make the breasts larger and heavier. Maintaining an active lifestyle to keep your body healthy can help you keep your weight in check. 

Question: As you said, hormonal imbalances are very common during this phase. How do you deal with hormonal imbalances during this time?

Dr. Pike: Regulating your hormones is one of the key areas to keep healthy and active during this time. My work with Menopause started after a controversial study was published that women should steer clear of hormonal therapy at this phase.

However, it is crucial to keep your adrenals in good shape during this time. The estrogen and testosterone levels fluctuate immensely, and you may need hormonal therapy to stabilize them.

How much of it is required can only be said after conducting tests, but if left unchecked, it could lead to issues like osteoporosis, severe mood swings, and a plethora of other health issues.

Question: Can menopausal women live a healthy and fulfilling life despite these issues?

Dr. Pike: Absolutely! There is a common misconception that women are only plagued by health issues after Menopause, and they cannot do what they want, at least physically. However, this is entirely wrong.

Being mindful about staying active, reducing alcohol consumption, eating healthy, and staying on top of health check-ups can drastically reduce many health issues. Also, ensure that you seek therapy in case you feel too stressed during your post-menopausal years.

Ideally, these could be the best years of your life. You do not have to worry about period cramps, and you can pursue all your dreams that you couldn’t because you had to raise a family.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Karen Pike’s inspiring words are definitely uplifting for those who are going into Menopause or trying to navigate their post-menopausal years. Menopause need not be stressful. Indulging in self-care, pursuing your hobbies, and staying fit and active can reduce your mental stress.

As far as any physical ailments due to hormonal imbalances are concerned, you can keep them in check by consulting a doctor specializing in women’s health issues. Dr. Pike is a senior physician administrator and emergency room doctor, and her research on Menopause has been a bright light for elderly women.