You’re all set for your doctor’s appointment, but when you get there you find it difficult to talk about menopausal symptoms. It is not easy to accurately talk about how you feel. Ever try to describe ‘pain’ to someone else? Make your next visit easier for both you and your healthcare professional by coming prepared with a menopausal symptoms journal.
If the thought of keeping a journal seems daunting, think of tracking your menopausal symptoms as your personal ‘road map’ through menopause. Just a few minutes a day is all it takes to jot down how menopause is affecting you.
Think of your last doctor’s visit. You likely tried to put into words just how severe your hot flashes are, or how insomnia is taking its toll. Most likely, your doctor asked you for more specific details. You tried to remember when the hot flashes started and how many occurred, but found it almost impossible to find the right words. Tracking your menopausal symptoms helps both you and your doctor have a better idea of what you mean when you try to describe those hot flashes over the last few months.
A menopausal journal does not have to be some complicated chart. Just pick up an inexpensive notebook that has pages big enough to record your symptoms. Don’t worry about format – just get the details down. Set aside a few minutes a day, perhaps at lunchtime, before bed, or even while watching TV. to record your menopausal symptoms. After a few months or a couple of years you will have an accurate record of how menopause is affecting you.
Tracking your periods
Part of your journal can track any changes to your monthly cycle. Try to be as specific as possible by noting the following:
*Length of period from beginning to end
*Whether periods are more or less frequent than in the past
*Flow amount – are you using more or fewer pads or tampons
*Cramps – how long do they last; is the pain mild enough to just be annoying or severe enough to interfere with your daily activities
*Any other vulvar or genital discharges that are unusual or spotting between periods?
When tracking your menopausal symptoms, write down every detail no matter how small you might think it looks on paper. You want to be as specific as possible so you can avoid vague recounts of what you have been going through.
Hot flashes and night sweats – how many you experience and whether they are a nuisance or really affecting your life
Sleeping patterns – are you waking up more during the night, or sleeping well but still feeling tired the next day?
Sensuality and intercourse patterns – are you less interested in intercourse than before? Do you have vulvar or feminine dryness? Is intercourse more painful than in the past?
Headaches – record how often they happen and describe the pain, for example a dull ache across the forehead, or sharp pain behind the eyes
Moods – are you more irritable than usual, or do you find yourself crying more than before? Do you go from extreme highs to extreme lows over the course of a day?
Breast changes – are your breasts more tender or swollen? Have they changed in appearance?
Bowel movements – are you experience constipation or noticing any changes in how often you have bowel movements during a day and throughout the week?
Weight gain – are you noticing extra weight even if you exercise regularly? Or are you experiencing bloating due to water retention?
Eating habits – be honest! How much are you eating and when – list every last cookie. Sometimes we can easily forget just how much we are eating or whether we are eating to cope with stress.
Tracking your menopausal symptoms will take some dedication and patience. But as you record the details while they are still fresh in your mind, you will get more clear insight into the ways that menopause is affecting you. On your next doctor visit, you will come in prepared to work with your doctor. Letting your journal do the talking will put menopause into a much better perspective.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You