Despite the fact that every woman will go through menopause at some point, diagnosing perimenopause can take years. A woman may see her doctor or visit an emergency room for palpitations, try sleeping pills for her suddenly sleepless nights, consider therapy for emotions that feel out of control and starve, or get expensive thyroid tests to get rid of her new layer of abdominal fat.
When a woman mentions menopause, she may hear that she is “too young” (although perimenopause can start as early as her mid-to-late 30s) or be offered hormone tests that just give her a snapshot of that moment – none exact portrait of their place in the perimenopausal transition. Many women leave their doctor’s office with a prescription for antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications and feeling like they can’t get real answers.
Why women deserve better
Menopause isn’t official until a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months. Many women are well into perimenopause – caused by years of hormone fluctuations – before they ever hear the word menopause. The years leading up to this last menstrual period can be a tumult of symptoms and changes. But because we’re not talking about menopause as a society, women are clueless and scared when their heart beats or their fingers tingle or their body odor changes.
So, if health care providers do not always recognize symptoms and there is little information because menopause still has such a stigma, what can a woman do?
Fortunately, the world is slowly beginning to recognize one of nature’s worst-kept secrets: women’s bodies change when procreation ends. And that change has systemic effects that affect quality of life and long-term health.
Menopause specialists. Perhaps the most important change is that doctors and other health professionals are beginning to understand that caring for a woman going through menopause requires specialized skills. While a menopause expert gynecologist is still a unicorn, telemedicine is expanding the reach of the few unicorns out there.
To find a telemedical menopause expert, visit the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Find a Menopause Practitioner page. NAMS is the premier nonprofit for women going through menopause. NAMS-certified gynecologists have completed exams to demonstrate expertise in menopausal care.
There are also online clinics that offer menopausal care and prescriptions. However, be sure to carefully review the selection. Find a NAMS certification, make sure the Doctors in Gynecology are board certified, and ask to speak with a doctor.
While filling out a form to get a prescription can be convenient, speaking to a skilled gynecologist is generally the safer route. They can have your questions answered, go through your medical history, learn about all of your options, and make a really informed decision. There are also a number of wonderful online resources for women, from online telemedicine clinics for menopause to educational blogs and podcasts to product-based websites.
The future of femtech
Another growing branch of care for women going through menopause is “Femtech”. The technology that women can use to track or deal with menopausal symptoms is still relatively new, but more and more innovators are investing time and money in menopause research and development.
In the United States, about 1.3 million women develop menopause annually. As menopause becomes more socially acceptable and women demand solutions to manage symptoms, companies are responding. For example, one company offers a personal comfort bracelet that women can use to warm up when it’s cold or cool down when they have hot flashes.
While femtech is still lagging behind other technologies, the pace is definitely picking up, so women may soon have symptom trackers and other personal care.
Increasingly, women are not interested in suffering in silence – they do not want their mothers’ embarrassment and discomfort. And innovative menopausal companies add to that void.
Given the growing shortage of gynecologists in the US, telemedicine may make menopausal care more accessible than ever. More women will understand their bodies better and know their options when it comes to symptom management and long-term health. In this way, they can enter a full after menopause, healthy and invigorated.
This resource was created with the assistance of Gennev.