Here at Evernow, we know all too well that healthcare for menopausal women is sorely lacking. It’s why we started this company, with the mission to provide care and relief to millions of women suffering from the multitude of symptoms that begin in perimenopause and persist for years after menopause. Symptoms like weight changes, mood changes, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, low libido, painful sex, thinning skin and hair, sleep disturbances, and more.
In an “In Her Words” interview with the New York Times out this month, Dr. Stephanie Faubion, Director of Mayo Clinic’s Center for Women’s Health and Medical Director for the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), discusses why healthcare providers overlook menopause, and the consequences. Namely, that women who go to their doctors looking for help for their symptoms are not able to get the care they need because most doctors do not even consider their case in the context of menopause.
This can lead to women thinking that something is very wrong with their health or their bodies; to a slew of unnecessary tests; a failure to identify the root causes; and a subsequent lack of effective treatment. In the article Dr. Faubion says, “Women are coming to the Mayo Clinic and saying: ‘Dear God, something is horribly wrong. I’ve put on 30 pounds, I’m losing my hair, I’m anxious. I’m a mess. I have palpitations.’ Literally, they think they’re dying.” The process of trying to get care for their symptoms is long, frustrating and usually fruitless, leaving women feeling hopeless and demoralized.
Why doesn’t our healthcare system provide adequate care to menopausal women? Dr. Faubion thinks there are a few factors at play. First, there is no existing standard of care for menopause, and no specialty that owns the responsibility. Dr. Faubion calls this the “menopause management vacuum.” Even gynecologists, who might seem the obvious candidates for helping women through menopause, are more focused on procedural areas like infertility and fibroid treatment, which also tend to be lucrative conditions to treat. There is simply a lack of focus on menopause, and a corresponding lack of ownership by physician specialty.
A second contributing factor is the dearth of education about menopause provided in medical schools, leading to a general lack of knowledge and awareness among physicians. In a survey conducted by Dr. Faubion and her team of internal medicine, family medicine, and gynecology residents, 20 percent said they’d had no menopause education whatsoever, and the rest said that they’d had a total of 1-2 hours of education. And finally, the lack of a standard age at which women enter and reach menopause makes creating a standardized care protocol (like HT, using estrogen and progesterone) more complex.
So how can we bring about the necessary changes to our healthcare system to ensure that women receive the education and care they need to help them thrive through the menopausal transition and beyond? Dr. Faubion believes the change will come from increased awareness, consumer demand, and from specialized telehealth providers: “I think women as consumers will help push this along. Pressure from the menopausal woman to get something better out there has done more in the last couple of years than anything else.” Read the full interview with Dr. Faubion here.
Reviewed by Cynthia Krause, MD