Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman's reproductive period. It can be associated with significant physical and emotional changes. Despite being a universal experience for women, menopause is still a topic surrounded by stigma, misinformation, and lack of research.
Working with women to inform menopause research is a critical step towards improving our understanding of menopause and addressing the needs and experiences of women during this significant life stage.
There is still much to learn about perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause. To fill this gap, we need to engage women in the research process and seek their input on research questions, research design, and research methods. By involving women in the research process, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the physical, psychological, and social factors that impact women during menopause.
Public Patient Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) is an approach to research that recognises people, in this case women, as experts in their own experiences. It promotes their active participation in shaping research by ensuring that research is carried out with or by members of the public rather than ‘to’, ‘about’ or ‘for’ them.
PPIE has helped the Menopause Taskforce to identify research gaps and priorities that are relevant to women's lives. It has ensured that the voice of women has informed the design and development of projects, as well as interventions that address specific needs and preferences, thus improving women’s quality of life during menopause.
Working with women to inform menopause research can promote gender equity and diversity in research. Women have historically been underrepresented in research studies, and menopause research is no exception. By engaging women in research, we can increase the representation of women's voices and experiences and ensure that research findings are relevant and applicable to diverse populations of women.
Recent research highlights the vital roles filled by women across society:
This makes understanding and supporting women through the menopause all the more pressing. In the last few years, however, there has been progress in efforts to address the lack of research:
If you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, it’s really important to know where you can get support. My mantra is TTT (Talk, Track, Treat)
It’s important to be able to talk about your symptoms, whether you’re talking with a group of friends, at a menopause cafe, with your family, with your employer, or with an occupational health adviser. Here at Essex, please see our guidance on Menopause Advice and Support.
Learn to track your symptoms by using the Menopause Support Pack and get to know what is happening to your body. More evidence-based information to reassure women is available at the Women’s Health Concern. Many women are also using apps like Balance.
Many women manage well through the menopause and just need to adjust. However, some of us may experience symptoms that do affect our everyday lives, and there are many options to help treat the symptoms of menopause. So, once you’ve learnt to track your symptoms, and you start to see a pattern of change, you should read up on the information at Women’s Health Concern. Then, when you are ready, seek advice from your GP.
You can find out more about this approach in my Talk, Track, Treat blog.
The theme of World Menopause Day this year is cardiovascular disease. The International Menopause Society are sharing the White Paper, ‘Reproductive milestones across the lifespan and cardiovascular disease risk in women’ by Professor Cynthia Stuenkel, and a variety of related resources.
You can find them on the International Menopause Society website.