Re: Normalising menopause
We are appalled and quite frankly saddened to read this article that is peddling a very dangerous narrative – that because menopause is a ‘natural’ part of the ageing process, that women should avoid any medical treatments. The core of the problem is women’s choice. For too long women have not being listened to, they have been undermined and belittled, they are being told to put up with symptoms that can lead to women leaving their jobs, partners and suffering with horrendous symptoms affecting their quality of lives. The menopause is known to be associated with an increased risk of important diseases including heart disease, diabetes, clinical depression, osteoporosis, dementia and early death. Also for many women the menopause is not “natural” as it occurs due to surgery to remove ovaries or damage to the ovaries from drugs or radiotherapy. Many young women experience menopause which is known to be associated with an even greater risk of developing these diseases.
It is vital that the menopause is recognised as a female hormone deficiency with health risks and not simply a lifestyle change that doesn’t need medication. Menopause care should be holistic – HRT is not the only treatment we give as menopause specialists, we also give nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, wellbeing, psychological advice – but the fundamental thing that women should be offered is choice. If we want to promote choice, we have to start with the ingrained misconceptions and prejudices that surrounds women’s health.
Just because something occurs ‘naturally’ doesn’t make it good. This is a version of the naturalistic fallacy, applied to over a billion menopausal women worldwide.
We often see the same thing in the objection to ‘medicalising birth’. Yes pregnancy is a beautiful natural process, but helping women have safe pregnancies is not medicalising their experience, it reduces their risk and improves outcomes for babies and mothers.
It’s not a coincidence that the medicalising charge is directed against women both when pregnant and when menopausal. Society seems to have a hard time accepting that women are embodied, they are not ethereal beings, that they have medical needs which have to be addressed, funded and provided to ensure equity and ease of access. There is now a generation of women standing up and demanding change. Telling them what they’re experiencing is just normal part of ageing is frankly medical gaslighting.
There is a national HRT shortage as more women are requesting HRT. We have clearly reached a crisis point as the demand by women to receive evidence based treatments has escalated.
Many healthcare professionals are still confused, understandably, about evidence-based menopause care and treatments, including safe HRT prescribing, because there have been so many confusing articles in the medical literature and inadequate menopause education for many. We have already had over 25,000 downloads of our free Confidence in the Menopause education course which was developed by the not-for-profit company, Newson Health Research and Education. This highlights that so many healthcare professionals are keen to learn more which is going to really help improve the future health of women and reduce their suffering.
It is essential that all educators are consistent in their messaging and refer to the recent evidence and research which clearly show that the health benefits of taking HRT are very real and apparent. We certainly are not stating that all women should be forced to take HRT but all women who want to take HRT should be allowed to have it in a very easy and accessible way. They should not have to be fighting to have their own hormones replaced.
Competing interests: Dr Louise Newson is Founder of Newson Health Menopause Society and Director of Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre. Since opening her menopause clinic in 2018 she has received no money from pharmaceutical companies. She created the not-for-profit company Newson health research and education in 2019. The society was launched last year. We do not do any paid work with any pharmaceutical companies. In addition, our society receives no money from pharmaceutical companies. All the people contributing to this response are associates of the society and have no competing interests.