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Researchers Suggest New Model for Menopausal Women Empowerment to Combat Overmedicalization

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These researchers want to normalize menopause before treating symptoms with medicine.

Menopause is an inevitable part of life for half the world’s population. Almost one billion are currently postmenopausal.

In higher-income countries with more age and gender bias, menopause is treated as an endocrine deficiency and physicians will prescribe medication. For example, the neurokinin B receptor antagonist fezolinetant is effective in treating vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes. In other cultures, such as in Indigenous communities in Australia, aging is met with more respect and menopause is not as drastic of a change.

A global team of researchers led by Martha Hickey MBChB, M.D., a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Newborn Health at The Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, are suggesting alternate methods that focus on normalizing menopause.

The study was published online and is the first in a four-part series about menopause in The Lancet.

The team used information found via databases including MEDLINE, Embase, BioMed Central, Cochrane and Google from Dec. 2020, to July 2023 to find the most recent menopause treatment guidelines and their effectiveness.

“Many women navigate menopause without the need for medical intervention, but some experience symptoms that affect function and quality of life. Those seeking medical care are often looking for information rather than drug treatment unless their symptoms are severe,” the researchers write.

A woman is considered post-menopausal after 12 months without a menstrual period. There is also no universal menopausal syndrome, meaning that everyone experiences it differently. There are common symptoms though. The biggest complaints from women are about vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes with 60% to 80% experiencing them within 2 years of their final menstrual period. This is followed by vaginal dryness which 10% to 40% of women endure.

The team suggests a multifaceted approach to menopause empowerment. The keys are:

  • Shared decision-making about treatment with a provider.
  • A menopause-friendly work environment that includes uniforms with breathable fabrics and access to fans.
  • Challenging age-based stigma and ageism.
  • Access to an informed and supportive provider that gives realistic information and access to non-hormonal treatment methods.

“Women need easy access to unbiased, accurate information in a form they can understand, created without industry influence and without any hidden agendas to sell a drug or service,” the researchers write. “Normalizing menopause and providing realistic and balanced information about the likely nature, severity, and duration of symptoms can be empowering for women and help them to make decisions about management.”

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