March is Women’s History Month – a time to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of women all over the world. Older women, however, might personally celebrate their bodies if they’re approaching menopause and saying a final goodbye to their periods.
“A lot of women are excited that they’re not going to have their periods any more, but there are symptoms and complications that come with menopause and that transitional time that needs to be discussed,” said OB/GYN Dr. Cadesa Ramharrack.
Ramharrack was one of many specialists who participated in State Senator Roxanne Persaud’s exclusive conversation on Menopause Awareness, held virtually on Thursday, February 23rd.
The chat was much needed on this major life change that typically occurs in women 50 and older and lasts anywhere from four to seven years. A slew of hormonal, physical and psychological changes take place during menopause (which is marked by no menstrual cycle for 12 months) – some symptoms can completely alter a woman’s quality of life.
Gastroenterologist Dr. Cynthia Quainoo agreed that there is a shortage of education on this transitional time and noted it is hard to find a cohesive guide to menopause that is understandable.
“For example, women may not realize there can be a change in their digestive habits. We found that menopause affects the GI tract and along with bloating, you can have other stomach issues,” she said.
The doctors also said that many women, without common knowledge, are misled by many of the rumors they hear or have had passed down to them. Dr. Ramharrack said it’s important to bridge the gap between people of color, as some women in Caribbean communities are reluctant getting help with managing how their bodies change.
Rev. Gayle Taylor was a part of the forum and shared her personal journey with menopause, as she’d had a hysterectomy in her early 40s and changes came about quicker than normal. She also said that her body went on a roller coaster when she got COVID-19 in the midst of her changes.
“I found that the symptoms tapered off for a while until I got COVID-19 and then menopause came back with a vengeance,” she said.
Senator Persaud dug deeper into who women should turn to when they hit their menopausal stages.
“Which doctor should a woman seek help from – their regular practitioner or should they always go to their OB/GYN?”
Dr. Ramharrack said in many instances, the symptoms you’re having may be handled by different specialists.
“If I had a patient who was transitioning and had, for example, stomach problems or discomfort, I would refer them to the GI doctor. Most women will come to a gynecologist in general, but I think it’s about finding the right doctor to address the specific symptoms you’re experiencing,” she said.
Sharing information during the session and creating a “safe space” to talk about one’s body without judgement was the goal. Suggestions to Senator Persaud on generating more menopause discussions included the idea to dole out resources during her health events and screenings. Persaud was receptive to all of the feedback and hoped her open dialogue served as a catalyst for future discussions.