And yet, with all of the advancements, information, and resources available to us, 9 out of 10 women still do not feel there is enough information about a physical change and health transition that virtually every woman will experience! In fact, nearly half of those women aren’t even aware that perimenopause exists. Not only is this a stunning revelation, but is also exactly what was revealed in a recent survey conducted by Healthspan, examining how women experience menopause.
Consider this: not only did nearly half of the women surveyed reveal that they were not aware that perimenopause, the 5-10 year transition period which occurs before actual menopause, even exists, but nearly a quarter of those same women said that they were forced to make changes in their lives in order to cope with the very real symptoms associated with perimenopause. How can this be? How can women be making changes to accommodate perimenopausal symptoms, and yet not even know that perimenopause exists? It’s bewildering, to say the very least.
So, what’s the problem?
Part of the problem may be due to the fact that the information available is often contradictory and confusing. For example, bioidentical hormone therapy is currently a very popular treatment for perimenopause symptoms. Said to be biologically identical to the hormones naturally produced in a woman’s body, bioidentical hormones are considered by many physicians to be a healthier alternative to the synthetic hormones used in traditional hormone therapy.
But many women still remember the mass hysteria which ensued in the early 2000’s, as a result of the Women’s Health Initiative study, which essentially resulted in the global medical community determining that hormone therapy puts women at a greater risk for heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. It should be noted that the study did not include the use of bioidentical hormones: synthetic forms of oestrogen and progesterone were used. But nonetheless, the message was loud and clear: hormone replacement therapy faces women with greater health risks.
Though there is currently a strong global movement to educate women on the differences between bioidentical hormone therapy and traditional hormone therapy, there is still not a consensus among physicians as to the safety and effectiveness of hormones for treating perimenopause symptoms.
HRT vs. natural alternatives
This uncertainty might help to explain why Healthspan also found that half of the women surveyed did not feel HRT was safe, and yet against the odds, just over a quarter would still consider it as a treatment option. Clearly, women are willing to consider different treatment options for their perimenopause symptoms, despite their struggles in finding out what is available, and whether an option is safe or not!
Other women surveyed, perhaps out of frustration, simply abandoned HRT as an option for treating perimenopause symptoms altogether. Roughly 87% said they preferred to treat their symptoms naturally, either by using natural supplements, or by making changes in their diet and exercise habits. Many others simply chose no treatments at all.
However, given the cognitive dissonance within the medical community, and lack of consensus on the safety of HRT in general, it is certainly not hard to understand why so many women are saying ‘Thanks, but no thanks’.
So then, what do women want?
As an interesting side note, Healthspan’s study also revealed that as women got older, between the ages of 50 and 55, they seem more likely to consider treatment and to seek help from the medical community for their symptoms, whilst younger women continued to hold out for more natural treatment options, or no treatment at all.
Though it is hard to know exactly why this is the case, a reasonable argument could be made that as women struggle through perimenopause, on the one hand, they are trying to make sense of the lack of information available, whilst grappling with contradictory information on the other: perhaps in their wearied state, they are willing to try anything to get relief.
And, in fact, Healthspan’s study revealed that despite the lack of good information available to them, and the ongoing disagreement among physicians regarding the safety of hormone replacement therapy, the preference among women to actually treat their symptoms, in addition to a desire for information to help them do that, is remarkably consistent across all age groups.
This should tell us one very important thing: women are experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, whether they understand what they are, or not. And despite their confusion or ignorance regarding HRT vs. natural treatments, women are actively engaged in their health. When and where they are suffering with perimenopause symptoms, women want accurate information to help them manage and treat their symptoms. Getting this information, however, appears to be a very daunting task.
If you are suffering with perimenopause symptoms and find it overwhelming trying to sift through confusing and contradictory information, you are certainly not alone. Though you might be tempted to throw in the towel: don’t. There are a variety of treatment options available. Whether you prefer HRT or natural treatments, you don’t have to suffer alone. Educate yourself and stay proactive. It is the best way to ensure that you find the help you need!
From Magnolia Miller
Magnolia Miller is a women’s health advocate and medical writer, and the founder and owner of Pink Zinnia Publishing and Health Communications, LLC, and runs the popular website The Perimenopause Blog, devoted to providing support to women going through perimenopause.