Sep 14, 2023

A new definition for menopause? Experts want it changed

New research has called for the definition change as well as further investigation into the nature and treatment of menopause. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • The Monash University Women’s Health Research Program researchers looked at more than 200 sources across 71 years to synthesise current knowledge of menopause 
  • Last week’s Women’s Health Week also shone light on menopause and the extra resources needed to improve health outcomes for older women
  • More than half of the world’s population will go through menopause but there are still roadblocks stopping older women from quality health and well-being outcomes

How do you feel about the definition of menopause? A team of international experts is calling for a new one. 

In line with the theme of today’s National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) Summit Menopause and Beyond, a team of international experts has called for a new definition of menopause to be created as well as more research and improved treatments.

Led by Monash University Women’s Health Research Program head Professor Susan Davis,  their published comprehensive review summarised menopause knowledge and encouraged individualised, holistic treatment that addressed symptoms and systemic body changes. It also called for more education on the timeline and treatments of menopause as they are under researched.

Among other things, this would encompass those without regular periods before menopause, who used certain types of contraception like IUDs, and who had hysterectomies.

“The road to menopause is not difficult for all, but for some, symptoms may be severe or even disabling and disruptive to work and family,” the Australian, Italian and US-based authors wrote.

Other key takeaways include:

  • Problems with having age restrictions on prescriptions and therapies as the timeline of menopause phases isn’t well understood and varies from person to person
  • Each treatment type has potential side effects and health concerns
  • Symptoms vary widely, from severe to none. Some symptoms can be temporary or unnoticeable but some women experience “silent health consequences,” including bone loss and certain cancers
  • Regular exercise and maintaining a protein-rich nutritious diet can reduce the likelihood of symptomatic health complications
  • Socio-economic factors such as lower quality of life and the potential negative impact of menopausal symptoms on a woman’s work performance aren’t often acknowledged

The Australasian Menopause Society (AMS) have said safe, effective and evidence-based treatment options are available to treat menopausal symptoms, yet most women are not accessing them. 

“In previous generations, women were expected to deal with it quietly but today’s women expect information and treatment options.”

Professor Davis and her colleagues underlined the importance of research outside high-income countries, the impacts of menopause on working from home and in an office, as well as the impacts on people with less traditional career paths such as caregivers and volunteers.

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