With less access to resources, Black women often suffer in silence during menopause.
Menopause, once considered a dreaded and isolating experience that women had to endure on their own, has now transformed into an empowering milestone and a thriving wellness industry seemingly overnight. Whether one dreads or cherishes passing this landmark, it’s essential to talk about it, especially for Black women.
Recently, Oprah Winfrey opened up about her personal experiences with the “Big M.”
“You cannot outfox the Big M,” said Winfrey. “The menopause train is coming no matter what.”
Inspired by the book “The Wisdom of Menopause” by Dr. Christiane Northrup, Winfrey became one of the first media personalities to discuss the topic candidly. In her latest “The Life You Want” class, she became a menopause advocate developing a comprehensive curriculum to provide individuals with the necessary tools to take charge and navigate through perimenopause and menopause confidently. To kick off Oprah Daily’s menopause guide, she invited Drew Barrymore, Gayle King, Maria Shriver, and menopause experts Sharon Malone, MD, Heather Hirsch, MD, and Judith Joseph, MD, for an open, thought-provoking discussion.
Over the years, the media mogul experienced some distressing symptoms. She shares in an op-ed how at 48, she experienced restlessness and extreme heart palpitations that led to multiple doctor visits, a heart monitor, and medication. Although 40% of women share Winfrey’s experience, not one medical professional explained that her heart palpitations and sleeplessness were consequences of menopause.
“Until that point in my adult life, I don’t recall one serious conversation with another woman about what to expect. Sure, I’d heard about hot flashes. But I wasn’t prepared for palpitations,” Winfrey wrote.
“And, after my menstrual cycle stopped for good, at 53, I wasn’t prepared to have such difficulty concentrating. Reading, my favorite pastime, became a chore. Suddenly my attitude toward most things was ‘whatever.’ I wasn’t vibrant. My whole world dulled down a couple of notches.”
Menopause is marked by a woman not having her period for an entire year. Leading up to menopause, perimenopause kicks in as a natural part of aging. Unfortunately, this phase becomes a real challenge due to the hormonal shifts in estrogen and progesterone production.
These changes can cause a slew of pesky symptoms like hot flashes, interrupted sleep, dryness below the belt, and even weight gain. However, Winfrey describes it can feel like more than just the aforementioned symptoms.
“It’s not just hot flashes!” Dr. Kathleen Jordan, who specializes in helping women through their hormonal transition, told People magazine. “It’s not just your uterus losing estrogen and your periods stopping. The rest of your body feels the crashing hormone levels, too.”
Hot flashes and night sweats to lesser-known symptoms like mental health issues, loss of concentration, heavy bleeding, weight gain, and joint pain are some of the perimenopausal and menopausal traits identified. Ultimately, these indicators can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life. In Winfrey’s experience, estrogen hormone replacement therapy saved her from falling into depression. But, the reality is most Black women suffer in silence.
Research indicates that Black women experience menopause about 8.5 months earlier than white women and also suffer from more severe symptoms, including hot flashes, depression, and sleep disturbances. However, Black women are less likely to receive hormone therapy and have limited access to medical and mental health services, exacerbating their struggles during this transition.
To tackle these issues, Omisade Burney-Scott created “The Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause,” a multimedia initiative shedding light on the unique challenges and triumphs of Black women and femmes during the menopausal transition.
“The experience of menopause is unique for everyone, and it can have both physical and psychological effects. That’s all the more reason why we need to talk about it,” Burney-Scott’s website reads.
To learn more about menopausal resources catered to Black women, visit blackgirlsguidetosurvivingmenopause.com.
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