Take Control of Menopause

Menopause….do you cringe at the word? We typically associate this word with aging, weight gain, hot flashes, bloating, vaginal dryness, thinning hair, among other things. But what if we looked at it like a right of passage? My goal in writing this is to empower you with ways that you can take control to mitigate some of these changes that your body is facing. I want you to move forward with confidence, peace, and strength so you can embrace all the things that bring you joy in life.

What is menopause? Menopause marks the end of your menstrual cycle and is diagnosed after you have gone 12 months without a period. The national average is 51 years old, but it can happen throughout your 40’s and 50’s. It is caused by the natural decrease in the production of estrogen and progesterone, which are the reproductive hormones that regulate menstrual cycles.

What can you do about it? From a pelvic health perspective, the reduction in estrogen changes our pelvic floor and perineal lubrication and elasticity. Some doctors diagnose this as vaginal atrophy and this may cause urinary incontinence, pain with intercourse, and organ prolapse, among other things.

But there are a few simple steps that you can take to reduce or prevent these from occurring.

  1. Lubrication. Not only with intercourse but daily. If you are not allergic to coconut, coconut oil is my favorite vaginal lubricant. You can apply it to the perineal region, labia, and in the vaginal canal. You can also combine this with vitamin E oil. There is a product called V-Magic that also works great, but it costs a bit more. Maintaining sexual activity, along with these products will keep your muscles stronger, more elastic, and more lubricated.
  2. Maintain a healthy pelvic floor with both strength and relaxation. Pelvic floor therapy is largely focused on helping you connect with the muscles we cannot see. They provide blood flow for arousal, closure for continence, and support of our organs. Performing a ‘Kegel’ is equally important to relaxing that same muscle group. Here are two exercises I would recommend. #1 – imagine closing the urethra and vagina with a strong contraction and a full release. Like your pupil contracting and dilating. You can repeat this 10-20x. #2 – slowly exhale while gently contracting the same muscle group looking to feel a lift (you may also feel your abdominals contract gently), once you have exhaled, inhale and relax those muscles. You can repeat this 10 times.

Additional considerations: Diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications should also be considered when it comes to menopause.

  • Promote Bone Growth: Our bones have cells that build and cells that break down. Estrogen slows this breakdown process so with menopause it is important to take intentional steps to prevent osteoporosis. Bone growth is best achieved with both Calcium and Vitamin D. Bone growth is also stimulated with load to the bone, so walking and low-resistance exercises aid in bone density.
  • Choose Phytoestrogen Foods: Some food sources that are high in phytoestrogens, such as soy products and flax seed, can reduce some of the side effects of menopause.
  • Reduce hot flashes: Limiting spicy foods and caffeine as well as adding soy products to your diet (in moderation) and practicing relaxation can reduce hot flashes.
  • Try Yoga: It aids in stress reduction, bone growth, pelvic floor and abdominal strength, and balance. Yoga is a great way to both strengthen and relax your body!

Pelvic Physical Therapy: I know that this sounds like a lot to consider, but once you have a moment to absorb the information, you will see that it only takes a few lifestyle modifications to support your beautiful body through this transition. If questions arise, pelvic floor physical therapy is a great resource to learn more about your body and how you can reach your goals. Our bodies are an amazing work of art and each function and phase are for a purpose. Let us celebrate every step of the way!

Schedule a pelvic floor physical therapy appointment at Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy by calling 616-256-8679 or visiting bit.ly/38E25fr


Endocrine Society. “Menopause and Bone Loss I Endocrine Society.” Endocrine.org, 16 January 2024.

Kronenberg F, Fugh-Berman A. Complementary and alternative medicine for menopausal symptoms: a review of randomized, controlled trials. Ann Intern Med. 2002 Nov 19;137(10):805-13

Patisaul HB, Jefferson W. The pros and cons of phytoestrogens. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Oct;31(4):400-19. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2010.03.003. Epub 2010 Mar 27.

Learn More About
the Author

Shayna Budres, DPT, PRPC, CLT