‘Nobody understood’: Online resource for early menopause

Amanda Lyons

4/11/2019 4:29:16 PM

Early menopause can be isolating and frightening, but the new resource aims to change that by sharing women’s stories and providing education.

Lonely woman
Early menopause is often described as ‘a very lonely experience’ with limited reliable and accessible information.

Early menopause, with onset occurring before age 45, affects a surprisingly high number of Australian women at 10%.
Yet the condition, which can have distressing symptoms and implications, is often under-recognised.
‘Early menopause can lead to infertility, psychological distress, and increased risks of bone and heart disease at a relatively young age,’ Associate Professor Amanda Vincent, an endocrinologist from Monash University, said.

‘It can also be a very lonely experience and there is a lack of reliable and accessible information for women experiencing early menopause.’
However, researchers from Monash University and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, working together with Healthtalk Australia, aim to change this situation with the launch of an online resource that provides information for patients and education for health practitioners on the subject of early menopause.
A centrepiece of the site is information offered by women aged between 28 and 51 who have experienced the condition themselves, who share their stories from diagnosis and treatment through to long-term management.
‘Women affected have told us heartbreaking stories about their experiences, and their difficulties finding information about early menopause, its impact on their health in the short and longer-term, and reliable treatments,’ Professor Vincent said.
One woman sharing her story on the website is Lorena Beatriz, who discovered she was affected by the condition at the age of 23. The news saw the end of her relationship, as her boyfriend wanted children, and the loss of two jobs due to her extreme symptoms and side effects of hormone replacement therapy.
‘I was going through something nobody else in my friendship group had experienced,’ Ms Beatriz said.
‘The hardest part was feeling like nobody understood what I was going through.’
Early menopause is challenging enough on its own, but can have additional health implications of which women and practitioners may be unaware, such as a heightened risk of conditions like cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Some women who shared their stories for the resource only learned about such long-term health effects of early menopause by participating in research studies.
Professor Renata Kokanovic, Director of Healthtalk Australia and Senior Research Fellow, Social and Global Studies Centre at RMIT University, is hopeful the resource, launched this week at Women’s Health Victoria, will prevent other young women from experiencing the same isolation, while also providing valuable education for health professionals.
‘We are delighted to have been involved in this partnership to create a high-quality digital resource to support and inform women and health practitioners grappling with a challenging and under-recognised health condition,’ she said.
‘We hope that this platform can help equip health practitioners and the wider community to better support women in their journey.’

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