Chicago Experts Help Close the Menopause Knowledge Gap

Women and their doctors simply don’t know enough about menopause and perimenopause. A leader at UChicago Medicine works to change this — in Chicago and globally.

If you are a woman who hasn’t yet experienced menopause, your time will come. How much do you know about menopause? Is menopause a topic you discuss with your doctor on a regular basis, no matter your age? Most women reach perimenopause — those years when your body transitions toward menopause — with a lack of education about what to expect.

And that’s largely not their fault.

According to The Menopause Society, about 90 million U.S. women will be postmenopausal by 2060 — yet many specialists graduate from residency programs with gaps in their knowledge about the management of menopause symptoms. A 2023 survey shows that just over 31% of OB/GYN residency program directors report having any type of menopause curriculum as part of their residents’ training.

Menopause research has not progressed much beyond treatments for symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, says Monica Christmas, M.D., director of the menopause program and Center for Women’s Integrated Health at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Supporting those undergoing menopause — and filling knowledge gaps

It’s important to know that women in Chicago can access care that brings together experts to meet women’s health and wellness needs — including those related to menopause and perimenopause. UChicago Medicine’s Center for Women’s Integrated Health provides a holistic approach to women’s health with physicians who are educated in issues related to menopause.

Most importantly, they’re not afraid to talk about menopause. In fact, UChicago Medicine is one of just three medical organizations in the world — and the only in the U.S. — to inform future research by surveying women’s most pressing questions and concerns surrounding menopause.

On World Menopause Day (Oct. 18, 2023), the Menopause Priority Setting Partnership (MAPS) launched a global survey to learn from those with lived experience of menopause and the medical professionals who care for them. Through MAPS, UChicago Medicine joins the EGA Hospital Charity in the UK and the University of Melbourne in Australia to learn the unanswered questions about menopause.

The survey, which was open for six weeks, collected information about women’s top three concerns or questions about menopause. Clinicians who work in the field and anyone who has experienced menopause, including gender diverse men assigned female at birth, were encouraged to respond to the survey. Those who underwent menopause due to surgery or medical treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, were all encouraged to participate.

What will happen with the menopause survey answers?

In the MAPS survey, individuals are asked to write in their top three concerns or questions about menopause and any age and residency information they want to share. The survey is an initiative designed to inform future medical research — based on what individuals and clinicians want to know.

“Very little is known about the long-term health outcomes of hormones or surgery-induced menopause at a young age, or how hormone therapy should evolve as a person reaches natural menopause,” says Dr. Christmas.

The top 10 list of questions will be determined during the 19th World Congress on Menopause in October 2024, to be held in Australia. The questions will be reviewed by an international committee of researchers and clinicians from advocacy groups. The result will be new priorities to be pursued when research funding is allotted.

5-bothersome-menopause-symptoms-graphic

What top concerns will the survey show? From her experience working one-on-one with individuals with lived experience of menopause and perimenopause, Dr. Christmas predicts weight gain, mood changes and cognitive problems will be in the top 10. Currently, these issues are not ranked as high with regard to research priorities, according to information from UChicago Medicine.

And, because there are distinctly different menopause experiences based on circumstances, Dr. Christmas foresees the committee creating three research priority lists that focus on natural menopause, premature menopause and gender diverse/transgender menopause.

Expertise provided by UChicago Medicine. Learn more about MAPS and the Center for Women’s Integrated Health at UChicagoMedicine.org.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Chicago Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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