Improvements needed in the care of women diagnosed with early menopause: Health Practitioners’ perspectives

The health practitioners we interviewed shared their reflections on the changes and improvements they would like to see in the care of women experiencing early menopause (EM). Several health practitioners spoke of the need to raise awareness of EM among doctors and women, and improve access to specialised services such as menopause clinics (see Menopause clinics). Some also noted that online sources of information on EM were needed for both women and health practitioners; as endocrinologist Dr D said: ‘We need information for the health practitioner. And we need the health practitioner to know that there’s information for women…’ (see Resources for women diagnosed with early menopause).

Improvements needed in the care of women diagnosed with EM

A better understanding of menopause and women’s health in general was viewed as necessary by health practitioners.

Professor Kulkarni, a psychiatrist specialised in women’s mental health reflected on the lack of resources for women’s health, and sociocultural ideas on women and menopause.

Some health practitioners commented that more awareness of EM was needed among their colleagues, and among general practitioners in particular given they are often a woman’s first point of contact.

General practitioner Dr Ee felt that GPs need more awareness of EM and support to help women diagnosed with EM.

Dr W, an endocrinologist, shared her thoughts on the medical training of health practitioners about EM and the information sources needed for women.

A few health practitioners said that a lack of awareness of spontaneous EM or Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) and its emotional impact on women was preventing better care (see Personal and emotional impact of early menopause on women).

 Obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Baber commented on the training of medical students about POI and the emotional impact of the diagnosis on women.

Health practitioners remarked that doctors need to be aware of the stigma that some women may feel related to EM. In particular, reducing the isolation that women from different cultural backgrounds with EM may experience was viewed as important. In addition, some noted that support groups for women diagnosed with EM could help address the stigma that can be associated with both EM and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). For obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr C, HRT ‘always [has] a different stigma attached to it…’

General practitioner Dr Goeltom shared her thoughts on stigma and the improvements needed in the care of women from different cultural backgrounds.

Care of regionally-based women

Several health practitioners commented on the importance of improving access to health services for women based in regional areas, particularly access to menopause clinics. As endocrinologist Dr W explained: ‘there’s very limited specialist care in a lot of rural areas for anything, let alone something like [menopause clinics].’ Health practitioners noted that they find ‘telehealth’ services, where available, useful for consultations with regionally-based women experiencing EM.

For Dr Barker, a general practitioner based in a regional area, health services in regional areas need more resources to support women.

However some health practitioners reflected on the positive aspects of caring for women diagnosed with EM in regional areas.

Ms Hay, a breast care nurse, shared her reflections on the positive aspects of caring for women diagnosed with EM in a smaller, regional health service.

Care of women diagnosed with EM following cancer treatment

Health practitioners commented that women diagnosed with EM after cancer treatment need access to a range of services for support in managing their EM symptoms (see Symptoms of early menopause) and Lifestyle changes following early menopause). Dr S, a medical oncologist, added that because few pharmacological therapies are available for women after oestrogen-positive cancer (see Non-hormone based medications for early menopause symptoms after oestrogen-sensitive cancers), symptoms of EM can sometimes be ‘under recognised because … doctors might feel that there is not much you can do for many women’. She also noted that women need ‘somewhere where [they] can get some good advice, credible advice, meet other people who are experiencing these symptoms and that normalises things and some practical assistance … I think you can never underestimate the value of different providers repeating the same advice about lifestyle, diet, exercise…’

For medical oncologist Dr Richardson, women experiencing EM after cancer treatment need online resources as well as improved access to allied health services.

A few health practitioners felt that communication about EM symptoms (see Symptoms of early menopause) after cancer treatment between women and their health practitioners needed improvement, particularly in relation to discussions about ovarian suppression therapy.

Dr S, a medical oncologist, explained that in her view, ‘dogmatic’ approaches to cancer treatment are not helpful for women.

Breast care nurse Ms Lewis emphasised that health practitioners need to understand the impact of EM following cancer treatment on women.

Further information

Talking Points (Health Practitioners)

Talking Points (Women)

Other resources