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Doctors warn against over-medicalising menopause after UK criticism

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Doctors have hit back at critics saying they are failing menopausal women, and said that treating menopause as a hormone deficiency that requires medical treatment could fuel negative expectations and make matters worse.

Writing in the British Medical Journal they said there was an urgent need for a more realistic and balanced narrative which actively challenges the idea that menopause is synonymous with an inevitable decline in women’s health and wellbeing, and called for continued efforts to improve awareness about the symptoms and how to deal with them.

“Menopause is a natural event for half of humankind. While media attention in the UK may give the impression that growing numbers of women are struggling to cope with menopausal symptoms and are seeking hormonal treatment, there is no universal experience and most women prefer not to take medication unless their symptoms are severe,” wrote Martha Hickey, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues.

They added that over-medicalisation of the menopause risked collapsing this wide range of experiences into a narrowly defined disease requiring treatment.

“It tends to emphasise the negative aspects of menopause and, while effective treatments are important for those with troublesome symptoms, medicalisation may increase women’s anxiety and apprehension about this natural life stage.”

Women’s experiences of menopause were strongly influenced by personal, family and social factors, they said. For instance, a recent review found that negative attitudes and expectations before menopause predicted the likelihood of women experiencing distressing symptoms.

“Changing the narrative by normalising menopause and emphasising positive or neutral aspects such as freedom from menstruation, pregnancy and contraception, together with information about managing troublesome symptoms might empower women to manage menopause with greater confidence,” Hickey said.

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Source: The Guardian, 15 June 2022

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