Menopause might be a challenging time for many women but according to SWAN 2022, the latest Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, in the USA Black and Latina ladies enter menopause earlier and experience more severe symptoms than others. Basically, our biology is the same, but the experience is not.
Of course, genetics may be playing a role, however, there are many factors that go into why this is so: the new research shows that stress and socioeconomic status likely play a role in the difference in duration and onset.
According to the SWAN, Black and Latina women enter menopause earlier and have longer-lasting, more intense symptoms. Hispanic women are more likely to report feeling bothered by vaginal dryness, urine leakage, and increased heart rate, whereas Black women frequently cite hot flushes and night sweats.
The study, in particular, shows that systemic racism, including poor access to healthcare, toxic work environments, unsafe neighbourhoods, socioeconomic challenges, and more, can weather the body, over-taxing various hormonal and biological processes and fueling chronic inflammation. This can lead to long-lasting health ramifications, including an earlier, more challenging menopause.
So, how women of colour can advocate for their health?
Finding a menopause specialist can be very helpful, as these providers receive special training and have a passion for caring for women in this life stage. It is also important not to ignore any signs or symptoms of menopause.
Dr Nanette Santoro, who has contributed to the research in SWAN advises bringing someone with you to your doctor appointments. That extra person in the room can reiterate and reinforce what the patient is saying. “We have all seen that it doesn’t matter who you are, even if you are Serena Williams, you risk not being listened to, and not having your symptoms receive appropriate attention – she explains-. Many experts still don’t know about symptoms in different types of women so advocate for yourself and with your doctor”.
It is also important to bring your doctor a list of your symptoms in order of importance to you beyond the obvious ones that you think may be related to your menopause transition. As Santoro notes, “Sometimes there are oddball or nontraditional symptoms that women have that respond well to hormone therapy or other treatments, and it’s good to get them out in the open from the start.”
Yet again, the key to preparing for menopause is knowledge, no matter what your heritage (or Country).
“It’s about finding the right support wherever you are on this journey. Every woman is individual, and you need someone who can personalise your care and give you the right advice“, said Dr Tonye Wokoma of the My Menopause Centre during the WACL’s -The Menopause in Colour March event in London.
“There are all sorts of things you can do to manage this period of life – she continued-. It’s not just about having meds, it’s about lifestyle – the complete picture, lifestyle changes, exercise, diet are all crucially important when it comes to how menopause impacts each individual“.
Whatever your ethnicity, stay connected. Find support through your family, friends, local community, and even online communities of diverse women who are in menopause. Connecting with people can have tremendous physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.