A Black Woman’s Menopause Journey (By Deon Hall Garriques)
While the menopause journey for each woman is personal and unique, research shows that race and culture can influence a woman’s menopausal experience.
The Research Results
Most women start to experience perimenopause symptoms in their 40s, but some studies have found that Black women start at an earlier age. For Black women, menopause can last longer, their symptoms can be more severe and may be different from those of other races. Studies show black women experience hot flashes for an average of 10 years when compared to Latina women for an average of 8.9 years; and white women for an average of 6.5 years.
In February 2022, a paper was published in the Women’s Midlife Health Journal that reviewed the differences in the experience of the menopause transition and midlife health outcomes between Black and White women who participated in the study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a multi-cultural cohort study. The results of the study indicate that the disparities in menopause symptoms between Black and white women might be explained by “structural racism” that led to “a greater disease burden” for Black women. The Black women in the study indicate that these burdens could be further exacerbated by discrimination, encounters with the authorities, and other violence.
Finding a Practitioner to Support Menopausal Women
In general, most practitioners are not equipped to support menopausal women and as such are more likely to dismiss them. A 2019 Mayo Clinic survey of medical residents found that 58% received only one class on menopause as part of their training and 20% had no training. However, finding a menopause specialist can be a challenge as there are about 1,500 around the world who are certified by the Menopause Society.
Even when a menopause specialist is found, studies also found that black women are less likely than white women to receive a prescription for hormone therapy, which can help to alleviate some of their symptoms.
According to Dr. Monica Christmas, director of the Menopause Program at UChicago Medicine and a co-author of the study, “unconscious racial biases” may be the cause of the discrepancy in prescriptions where providers do not think that a black woman’s symptoms may not need treatment.
Other studies have also shown that Black women are more often dismissed by their medical practitioners when they complain about menopausal symptoms they are experiencing. I personally experienced this dismissal by several practitioners and I was left frustrated and overwhelmed and had to figure it out on my own.
The Results of Not Addressing Menopausal Symptoms
Menopausal symptoms that are not effectively managed can lead to different long-term health risks such as heart diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and dementia. A study done in 2021, found that women with persistent hot flashes that were not being treated had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including strokes and heart failure, versus women with fewer or no hot flashes.
While Black women’s menopausal experience may be different from women of other races, the disparities in treatment and care should not exist. As a menopausal woman, you should educate yourself on menopause, symptoms, and treatment by reading books, listening to podcasts/talks, join and women’s group on related topics so that you will have a better understanding of what you are experiencing so you can talk with your provider as an informed patient.
For more educational information on menopause, you can join my Facebook Group, Naturally Alleviating Perimenopause and Menopause Symptoms
In Good Health,
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to provide medical advice. The purpose is to provide education and a broader understanding to my readers. Always seek the advice of your qualified healthcare provider before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. I do not recommend or prescribe, or recommend changing dosage or discontinuing, any prescription medications or pharmaceutical drugs.
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