A New Series: You have "Peri" What?
One lesson I’ve learned in life is that you can’t be afraid to walk down unfamiliar paths, or be resistant to changing your course, if the path you’re on begins to lead you in an unfamiliar direction.
When I began blogging about my personal experience with perimenopause, I did not expect I would become a women’s health writer. I also did not expect that it would lead to a career in healthcare consumer advocacy. But then, I also did not expect I would discover a systemic problem in a medical system, which fails to adequately educate physicians in the area of women’s hormone health.
A New Post Series
But, serendipity has its way, and as a result, I would like to launch an important series of posts to address this issue which, in my opinion, is not being spoken to enough. The catalyst for the series is an email conversation I had recently with one of my readers.
She reached out to me because she was frustrated at not being able to receive a proper diagnosis of perimenopause from her physician(s), even though she is in her early 40s, and displaying classic perimenopause symptoms.
She was an articulate woman who had clearly done her home work. It was clear she had also smacked head-on into a wall of resistance from physicians who suggested she needed a psychiatric evaluation rather than treatment for perimenopause, which she insisted was the real problem.
It’s Not Just Men
But, lest you think it was only male physicians who were treating her this way, the biggest offender, and the one who actually suggested she see a psychiatrist, was a female physician whose area of expertise is perimenopause. Shocked? I’m not. It was a female physician who handed me a prescription for Prozac 15 years ago, when I fell apart in her examining room trying to explain to her that I thought I was in perimenopause.
It’s the System, Stupid
I can’t say enough that I do not blame (entirely) physicians for their failure to understand and adequately treat perimenopause. I blame the system. So did my reader.
“What kills me,” she wrote, “is that these guys aren’t hearing the ‘PERI’ part of perimenopause. All they are hearing is ‘menopause.’ I believe the reason doctors know nothing about it, is because they are not taught it in school!”
It was Dr. Steven F. Hotze, MD, author of the book, Hormones, Health, and Happiness: A Natural Medical Formula for RediscoveringYouth with Bioidentical Hormones,who first brought to my attention the institutional sexism ingrained in medical students toward women’s health issues.
“During my first semester of medical school, I took a course called History and Physical diagnosis, where we learned to perform a review of the systems of the body. The professor instructed us that if a woman in midlife had more than one complaint during the review of systems, she was a hypochondriac and should be placed on an antidepressant.
Every man in that room had already experienced numerous problems with a girlfriend or a spouse. Now they knew why. The professor was asserting that women were emotionally unstable. It was a seed which would sprout years later, the first time they would interview a middle-aged female patient describing a long list of complaints. “Viola,” they would think. The professor had been right about women. And of course, they knew exactly what to do: prescribe an antidepressant” (Hotze, 2005, pp. 10-11).
David Only Had a Slingshot
I’m not exactly sure where this series is going to lead. However, I cannot ignore the increasingly clear path which points to a chronic and systemic problem in the medical community toward women’s hormone health.
I also do not harbor grandiose delusions that I will be the one to take down this Goliath. However, unless someone steps up and actually addresses the problem, it will not change. They way I see it, if a wall is built one brick at a time, then it can also be dismantled one brick at a time.
To be continued...
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women’s health and a women’s freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.