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Health Information Unexpected Midlife Changes, Summer 2008

Addressing Unexpected Midlife Changes

Although every woman experiences the journey to and through midlife differently, some women may encounter the following health issues.

Exacerbation of Asthma

Progesterone seems to have a calming effect on the airways, so when it decreases in midlife, asthma symptoms can get worse. In fact, 20 to 30 percent of women experience worsening asthma symptoms during the perimenopausal years (the time leading up to menopause when you begin noticing menopause-related changes and the year after menopause, or when you haven’t had a period for 12 months in a row).

What you can do: You may be able to get relief by adjusting your asthma medication. You can also undergo allergy testing to identify triggers that contribute to your asthma. Talk to your obstetrician/gynecologist or primary care physician, who can work with an allergist to help you find relief.


Although sometimes a signal of irritable bowel syndrome or another gastrointestinal condition, constipation is usually the result of a more sedentary lifestyle and paying less attention to diet as we get older.

What you can do: Get active, drink plenty of water and focus on eating high-fiber foods. If those changes don't work, a specialist from the Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health at Rush University Medical Center can help diagnose and treat the problem.

A Racing Heart

Do you feel as if your heart is going to jump out of your chest? For perimenopausal women, the constant fluctuation of hormone levels can cause the heart to try to adjust by beating faster or slower, resulting in palpitations and hot flashes.

What you can do: Although these symptoms may go away in a matter of months, have your heart checked by a cardiologist who specializes in women’s health, such as a member of the team at the Rush Heart Center for Women.

Unpredictable Ovulation

Perimenopausal women ovulate earlier in their cycle, which can result in unplanned pregnancies.

What you can do: If you are sexually active but don’t want to risk pregnancy, continue using birth control until you reach menopause.

Decreased fertility

At age 40, a woman’s risk of a miscarriage doubles (from 25 to 50 percent) and the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus increases. By age 45, most women no longer have abundant and/or healthy eggs, making conception far more challenging.

What you can do:If you’re approaching or are in your 40s and want to have a baby, see your ob/gyn or a reproductive specialist to have your ovarian function checked and discuss whether fertility treatments may be right for you.

Dry sinuses

Crusty sinuses can also occur as women get older, which makes us more susceptible to sinus infections.

What you can do: Buy an over-the-counter product that contains saline solution to keep your sinuses moist.


With the loss of estrogen and progesterone comes a cascade of events that can stimulate allergy cells and lead to symptoms of autoimmune thyroid disease (a condition in which the immune system attacks and damages the thyroid).

What you can do: Since your thyroid may be the culprit, have it checked out. The solution could be as simple as taking thyroid replacement medications.


Women’s Health Services at
Rush University Medical Center in Chicago

Rush University Medical Center offers comprehensive health care services for women of all ages.

At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, medical science blends with a sincere commitment to provide women with the absolute finest, most compassionate care. Specialists and subspecialists work together to address the special needs of women, from common to complex to the everyday needs of women and their families.

We offer direct access to the latest innovations and options — from prenatal care for high risk pregnancies, to diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of abdominal and pelvic disorders, to leading-edge research.

For more information about health services and medical care for women at Rush visit the Women’s Health Services home page.

Looking for Other Health Information? 

Visit Discover Rush’s Web Resource page to find articles on health topics and recent health news from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. You will also find many helpful links to other areas of our site.

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Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, is a leader in caring for people of all ages, from newborns through older adults.

Just phone (888) 352-RUSH or (888) 352-7874 for help finding the doctor at Rush who’s right for you.


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