Menopause Drugs: What Are Your Drug and No-Drug Menopause Options

April 09, 2014
Yoga is only one of the drug free therapies for menopause

Unfortunately, menopause comes with many negative side effects—from hot flashes to vaginal dryness-but fortunately, there are a number of options to help get you through menopause symptom free. There are prescription options like taking estrogen, a low dose SSRI (for hot flashes) or ospemifen (for vaginal dryness), but there are also ways you can treat yourself without a prescription. Each woman is different and must choose what is right for her, and sometimes that can be a combination of both prescription and non-prescription treatments.

Having told you about the prescription options you have, I also have to say that the majority of women choose not to take drugs. In fact, only 7% of women with hot flashes ultimately accept a prescription for estrogen. The majority of women just "tough it out," which works out for some women (like those living in the North Pole!), but it leaves others totally blind-sided by debilitating hot flashes throughout the day and night.

If you're in the "tough it out" camp, you may need to make some lifestyle changes to combat symptoms—like dressing in layers or strategically placing a few extra fans throughout the house. But I will warn you that many women are not prepared for just how severe hot flashes can actually be —or for how long they last. While the average woman can expect to experience moderate to severe hot flashes for 3-5 years, in some women they continue forever. In these cases, I recommend saying yes to drugs. However, hot flashes are not the only symptom you must combat during menopause.

Vaginal dryness affects almost 50% of post-menopausal women. Those who suffer from vaginal dryness also experience painful intercourse, so many women have abandoned sex as a result of dry, thin vaginal walls.

Many women have discovered that long lasting vaginal moisturizers like Replens help replenish vaginal moisture to address dryness symptoms to make intimacy possible again. I am also a fan of silicone lubricants for sex since they tend to be the longest lasting and least irritating type of lubricants. Silicone lubes are a little pricier than water based lubes, but a little goes a long way so it is well worth it.

Menopause symptoms can vary drastically depending on the woman, and how a woman chooses to address her symptoms is ultimately her own choice. But, even if you choose to go drug-free, don't forget to get advice from your doctor on the best, unique options for your situation.

Every once in a while someone will say, "my grandmother didn't take anything for hot flashes, why should I?" Well, grandma was more likely to be baking cookies at home than working at a job that required a good night sleep and the ability to think clearly. Grandma was unlikely to be starting a second marriage or a new relationship in her 50's. Grandma likely did not live nearly as long as you will. The average age of menopause is 51, which means most woman will live more than one third of her life post menopause.

So, you now have options, and you owe it to yourself to know you have choices.

Dr. Lauren Streicher
Dr. Lauren Streicher is an Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University’s medical school, The Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago. Considered a thought leader in her field, Dr. Streicher has appeared in numerous national and local media outlets discussing all aspects of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She's an expert contributor to The Oz Blog, and her “What’s Up Down There” segments were seen weekly on NBC’s In The Loop With iVillage. Her book, The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy, remains the #1 book on hysterectomy on She is currently working on a book about sexual health after menopause. For more information on Dr. Streicher, visit Follow her on Twitter @DrStreicher or visit her on Facebook.

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