Menopause isn’t as straight-forward as we’re led to believe, which is why experts from all around the world want to define it as something more fitting.
A team of international experts led by Professor Susan Davis, the head of Monash University Women’s Health Research Program, found through their analysis of 200 sources over a 71-year period that ‘menopause’ is only one part of the equation.
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Davis and her team are calling for, “a proposed new definition for menopause as ‘final cessation of ovarian function‘.
“Among other things, this would encompass those without regular periods before menopause, who used certain types of contraception like IUDs, and had hysterectomies,” the review stated.
“Menopause is the cessation of ovarian function, with loss of reproductive hormone production and irreversible loss of fertility. It is a natural part of reproductive aging. The physiology of the menopause is complex and incompletely understood,” the review explained.
“Globally, menopause occurs around the age of 49 years, with geographic and ethnic variation. The hormonal changes of the menopause transition may result in both symptoms and long-term systemic effects, predominantly adverse effects on cardiometabolic and musculoskeletal health.
The team of authors from Australia, Italy and the US want “healthy ageing” to be a focus for more researchers, so better treatment options for women on all walks of ‘final cessation of ovarian function’.
“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,” Davis and her team wrote.
“Recognition that menopause, for most women, is a natural biological event, does not exempt the use of interventions to alleviate symptoms. Optimising health at menopause is the gateway to healthy ageing for women.”
Davis herself said treatments should also be individually tailored because not all women suffer from the same symptoms or impacts. “Optimal menopause-related care involves shared decision making which means quality, evidence-based information needs to be available for the general community and health care providers.”
Again, this comes down to the period of life being more complex and diverse than we’re led to believe.
Other key findings from the report included the following:
- The timeline of menopause phases vary from person to person, so age restrictions on prescriptions and therapies are problematic and not always logical.
- Menopause treatments range from hormone therapies to lasers, and even plant products, but few have been researched adequately.
- Each treatment type has potential side effects and health concerns. Even the most effective, like hormone therapy targeting oestrogen, isn’t the best solution for all.
- Symptoms vary widely, from severe to none.
- Socio-economic factors can have a negative impact on menopausal symptoms.
- Regular exercise and maintaining a protein-rich nutritious diet can reduce the likelihood of symptomatic health complications from menopause.