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Getting the Best Medical Care During Menopause

While menopause has its challenges and ups and downs, you DO have the power to get help and significantly reduce or eliminate many of its impacts. Finding the right care providers who are menopause experts is critical. Below Menowar provides recommendations for you to do so. For other tips on how to eat right during menopause, please also see Menowar’s blog Changing Your Diet During Menopause.

Being Your Own Advocate

An AARP study surveyed more than 400 women about their experiences with and attitudes toward menopause. There were some shocking findings:

  • Nearly 1/3 of women 40-89 don’t receive any information on menopause
  • 84% said that their symptoms interfere with their lives; 12% indicated that they were debilitating
  • 42% never discussed menopause with their healthcare provider

The more you are educated on menopause, find the best caregivers for you, and ask the right questions of these individuals, the better you will be! Menowar can also provide customized coaching to help you be informed and serve as your own advocate.

Aren’t Most Doctors Educated on Menopause?

Most people find it very surprising that many OB/GYNS do not have the training to properly treat women in menopause. The AARP found that “Just 20 percent of ob-gyn residency programs provide any kind of menopause training. Mostly, the courses are electives. And nearly 80 percent of medical residents admit that they feel ‘barely comfortable’ discussing or treating menopause.”

Some of what medical students are taught is also outdated, based on the infamous World Health Initiative that was started in 1993 and abruptly halted in 2002. Worldwide PR communicated that women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) had an increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, stroke, and blood clots. This created panic among doctors and HRT users; the use of HRT dramatically declined by 46% in the USA and by 2009, insurance claims for HRT dropped by more than 70%! The study had major flaws including an older sample population (average of 62.7 years), pre-existing health conditions in some participants, and the use of older forms and higher doses of HRT. A more recent analysis of the same study with additional research revealed that HRT usage for women younger than 60, or within 10 years of menopausal onset, could alleviate many menopausal symptoms and improve long-term health. It is important to note that some health conditions might prevent women from using HRT, and it is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.

Why is a Menopause Expert Needed?

As with any health change or life stage, you need a doctor who specializes in menopause. They need to understand the profound hormonal changes and resulting physical, emotional, and cognitive impacts. It is critical that they provide you with the right information and expectations, and actively help you navigate the proper treatment protocol.

Finding the Right Doctor

If possible, it is highly recommended that you pursue a medical professional (GYN or Nurse Practitioner) who is a member of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). NAMs is the largest non-profit organization devoted to menopause and is composed of experts in medicine, nursing, sociology, psychology, nutrition, epidemiology, and more. NAMS-Certified Menopause Practitioners (NCMPs) have passed a competency examination, have demonstrated their expertise in the field, and are awarded the credential of NCMP, which is valid for three years. Click HERE to see if your provider is a NCMP, or to find ones in your area.

Given the limited number of NAMS providers, there are other ways in which to find the right doctor for you. Most importantly, get personal recommendations from people you trust so you can pre-screen doctors who you believe will listen to your concerns and honor your preferences. Prepare in advance with your personal goals, treatment preferences, and notes on your most troubling symptoms. Be sure to take notes while talking with potential doctors. Below are specific questions to better understand the doctor’s menopause expertise and ensure you are comfortable with his or her approach. 

  1. Are you certified by NAMS? If not, why not?
  2. If not, what specific training have you had in menopause?
  3. What percentage of your practice is composed of women in menopause?
  4. What forms of treatment options do you provide to your patients? The best menopause doctors discuss diet, lifestyle, prescription options, and mind/body therapies – and will listen to your preferences.
  5. What is your position on HRT? All qualified menopause providers will at least present HRT as an option for those whose medical histories permit.
  6. How do you evaluate what stage of menopause I am in? Most menopause professionals base this largely on symptoms rather than blood, urine, or saliva tests.
  7. How much time will you spend with me, and will our visits be virtual or live? Make sure you will not be rushed and hopefully, you have a hybrid care experience.
  8. Will you help me navigate the psychological and cognitive impacts of menopause, as well as the impact on my sex life, in addition to the physical symptoms?
  9. How will you track my progress and determine if different treatment options are needed?

It’s important to understand the doctor’s perspective, but also to feel comfortable sharing your health history and be brutally honest with your provider on how you’re feeling and the impact it is having on your life. If your questions aren’t answered in one visit, schedule another, or understand if you can continue the conversation via a portal. If the doctor is too rushed – this could be an early warning sign.

Why Regular Doctor Visits are Critical

Whatever provider(s) you choose, make sure to visit them at least annually. During menopause treatment, expect more frequent appointments, as often the mix of therapeutic and/or prescription options take some time to have their full impact. Plus, it’s unusual to hit the right mix and dosage the first time. In addition, your menopause symptoms may change over time, so regular consultations are important. Lastly, it’s critical to have your doctor be aware of other health conditions that can sometimes be mistaken for menopause and screen/examine you thoroughly. You want to have someone whom you can confide in and trust through mid-life and beyond.

If you have any questions or want to work with Menowar on a customized menopause plan for you, schedule a free consultation here.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.