By Julia W. – RN, BSN
With Google and medical information at the tip of our fingertips, it can be hard to determine when answers online are sufficient to diagnose your health concerns. People in menopause particularly struggle with this question, “Should I see a doctor, or is this normal?” This guide will help you navigate this question as you sail through the unpredictable seas of your menopause journey.
How Do I Know What Is Normal And What Isn’t?
There are at least 34 symptoms related to the hormone fluctuations that occur during menopause. For example, women in menopause may experience heart palpitations, depression, dizziness, and fatigue. Yet, these symptoms may not necessarily be from fluctuating estrogen levels.
Most of us turn to the internet when we have questions about our health. In fact, we often use the internet as a buffer between ourselves and our doctor. We know our doctors are busy, and it is often hard to get a timely appointment. If we aren’t sure if our symptoms are normal or not, it can make us feel apprehensive about taking our doctor’s time.
Learning as much as you can about perimenopause and menopause can help you start to weed out what is normal and what isn’t. Find your information from credible resources, such as healthcare organizations, hospitals, and medical professionals. Because perimenopause can start before age 40 in some women, it is never too early to learn what to expect during this transition. Your best resource, however, is your doctor.
When Should I See My Doctor?
Most people do not see their doctor unless they are sick or are concerned about something. However, being reactive when it comes to your body does not foster overall health and wellbeing. Therefore, it is necessary to stay current with your preventative health screenings and check-ups to ensure that you are on the path to avoiding preventable diseases and catching chronic conditions early.
Regular preventative screenings
Women should see their doctor annually for preventative exams and screenings unless they have chronic health conditions requiring frequent monitoring. Your doctor should check your vital signs, listen to your heart and lungs, and look at your eyes, ears, nose, and throat. They should also feel your thyroid and abdominal organs, perform a breast exam, and pelvic exam. You may need blood work to monitor your cholesterol levels and check your thyroid hormones. Annual exams can help you feel more confident when unexpected symptoms like dizziness or heart palpitations occur.
Seeing your doctor at the start of your menopause journey
When you suspect you are in perimenopause, it is a great time to check in with your gynecologist. Ideally, it is helpful to see a gynecologist specializing in menopause. Be prepared for your visit by presenting a log of your symptoms (especially any changes in your menstrual period) and come with questions in hand. Some women use either their gynecologist or primary care doctor to perform all of their health care needs. If you prefer to work with one doctor, make sure your doctor is agreeable as some doctors may not feel comfortable providing comprehensive full-body care.
When to see your doctor about worrisome symptoms
Given the nebulous nature of menopause symptoms, it is hard to know when you should talk with your doctor. However, when you have consistent annual exams and have connected with your gynecologist about starting menopause, it can make it much easier to discern when you need to be concerned about symptoms. A good rule of thumb is if you are concerned, your doctor will want to know. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor’s office and speak with a nurse or leave a message for your doctor. Based on the information you provide about your symptoms, your doctor will guide you on whether you should be seen for a focused exam (say, to check in on your heart palpitations).
What if my doctor doesn’t think I am in menopause?
Unfortunately, some women find that their doctors are not receptive to symptoms of menopause. To strengthen your case with your doctor and provide all the information they might need to give you a proper diagnosis, track your symptoms on an app like Caria over a period of time. With Caria, you can also export a report of your symptoms and share a PDF or printout with your doctor. If you find your doctor is still not listening to you or you feel disregarded, seek a second opinion. Many outstanding healthcare providers love helping women thrive in menopause and beyond.