Can I do Keto in Menopause? (Your doctor might Disagree)
Finding the Right Menopause Doctor
Practical tips on how to find (and what to look for in) a menopause doctor
By Myrna E Watanabe
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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Menopause can be a challenging time in your life, but having the right menopause doctor can make a big difference in how successfully you'll be able to cope with the symptoms. According to a recent survey by OWL (the Voice of Midlife and Older Women), 60 percent of women would feel most comfortable discussing menopause with their physician. Only 13 percent said they would speak with close friends or family about it. Clearly, finding a doctor you can trust and rely on is invaluable in dealing with the physical and emotional changes that come with menopause..
Most often, women struggling to cope with the effects of menopause approach their doctors for help in relieving fatigue, hot flashes, and night sweats. In one survey of 210 family doctors, conducted by the Florida Behavioral Health Research Consortium, 40 percent of the doctors said that they had female patients between 45 and 65 years old who came to them with symptoms of fatigue, and nearly 39 percent said they saw women who sought relief from hot flashes and night sweats. Other commonly reported symptoms were emotional changes, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, decreased libido, and vaginal dryness.
It might help to know that there are things you can do to ease your menopause symptoms. Physiological effects such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and decreased libido may be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or herbal remedies. And simple lifestyle changes or prescription medications can alleviate emotional symptoms, including sleep disturbances, mood fluctuations, and fatigue.
Finding the Right Menopause Doctor
So, how do you find a knowledgeable, sympathetic doctor with whom you can discuss your menopause symptoms and possible treatments?
No medical accrediting group designates menopause as a specific subspecialty. However, a licensed medical practitioner can be credentialed by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) as a menopause doctor by taking a special competency exam. (A list of credentialed menopause doctors, searchable by city and state, is available on the home page of the society's Web site: .)
But you can also seek help successfully from other types of specialists, including doctors you already see. One survey of health providers in the Midwest, conducted by the HealthPartners Research Foundation in Minneapolis, found that gynecologists were the doctors most often approached by women who wanted to discuss hormonal treatment of menopausal symptoms. Family physicians were next, followed by internal medicine doctors.
Communication Is Key
The next step after finding a menopause doctor is learning how to communicate with him or her. It’s very important that you and your doctor understand each other and can talk openly about any concerns you may have. Here are some tips to help you start the conversation:
- Get validated."I think that the most important characteristic that a healthcare provider should have is an ability to really listen to the patient and validate what she is going through," says Nancy F. Petit, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the St. Francis OB/GYN Center in Wilmington, Delaware. That doesn't always happen, however. In fact, a survey of 269 doctors from four countries found that whether they were in Lebanon, Spain, Morocco, or the United States, women and their doctors were not communicating well with each other. The researchers noted that there were "discrepancies between physicians' perceptions and patients' reports about the reasons why women consult a doctor during menopause."
- Give your doctor a check-up.Dr. Petit advises that you look for a menopause doctor who sees a lot of older women in his or her practice, has knowledge and interest in endocrinology (the study of hormones), and keeps up with the latest developments related to menopause, including information on the use and safety of HRT.
- Focus your search.If you are interested in pursuing complementary, or alternative, therapies to relieve your menopause symptoms, the menopause doctor you choose should also know about the pros and cons of using compounded bioidentical hormones (hormones made in a lab to match those your body makes) and alternative therapies. Nutritional changes, vitamins, herbal remedies, and acupuncture are among the alternative therapies that many women in menopause want to consider and need knowledgeable advice about.
- Speak up.Don't be afraid to speak up and be heard. Your menopause doctor is your partner in helping you live your best life during this transitional time. It can be helpful to prepare a list of questions before your visit. Write them down and bring the list with you to your appointment. Before you leave the office, be sure you understand the answers the doctor has given to your questions. If you don't, ask for clarification.
- Listen to your gut.Petit says that among the most common questions she hears from her menopausal patients is, "When will these symptoms go away?" But finding an answer to that, and the rest of your questions, requires confidence and trust in your menopause doctor. If your doctor is dismissive or too rushed to pay attention to your questions, or if your gut says the trust is not there, keep looking until you find a better fit for you.
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