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Race, Ethnicity & Menopause

We want to take a moment to acknowledge the fresh pain many are feeling in the wake of losing RBG and the injustice surrounding Breonna Taylor’s tragic death. We can’t say anything to make it better but we’re holding space – and hope – for kindness and healing. And to fight for what is right.

Changing the narrative

Every menopause journey is different, but one important factor is how race and ethnicity can affect the experience. Data, research, and resources are sadly lacking in this area, but we’re excited to start the conversation. And to amplify the voices of those fighting for change.

As more information comes to light on the devastating consequences of systemic racism on healthcare outcomes and longevity, it’s critical that menopause and women’s health are part of that conversation.

Race, Ethnicity & Menopause

Omisade Burney-Scott, founder of Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause, gets it right:

“We are committed to creating content and spaces for open conversations about “the change”, shapeshifting, menopause, love, and life. It’s the guide we wish we all had access to no matter our age.”

With that, here are three areas where we see progress and momentum, despite the obstacles:

1) Data & Research

We need more thoughtful, well-funded research to understand how menopause impacts women of different ethnic backgrounds. One example to hold up as an example is the SWAN study, which prioritized women’s health observations across ethnic and racial groups. As a result, SWAN researchers found women of color experience perimenopause & menopause “at earlier ages than their white peers, have longer transition periods, and experience more intense hot flashes and vaginal symptoms.” SWAN showed that African American women experience the worst vasomotor symptoms, i.e. hot flashes and night sweats, while, Asian women reported the lowest.

Serena Williams Vogue cover

SWAN researcher and OBGYN, Dr. Nanette Santoro commented “I have practiced medicine in environments where the menopausal experience of Black women was simply not appreciated.” Dr. Santoro goes on to say that clinicians who diminish their patient’s symptoms are often less likely to offer treatment or recommend appropriate screenings (e.g. bone density test). The result: poorer outcomes for women including increased osteoporosis, heart disease, and stroke is risk. The minimization of Black women’s medical needs is, sadly, a persistent theme in American medicine (read: Serena Williams’ story post-childbirth).

2) Representation matters

So how can we change this? Research shows that health outcomes improve when a patient’s caregiver/provider “looks like” them. Sadly, only 23% of African Americans and 26% of Latinx Americans have a physician who shares their race or ethnicity. Compared to white Americans’ 82%, it’s no wonder BIPOC women’s symptoms are being ignored. More on this in a succinct but powerful piece about antiracism and academic medicine in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

Dr. Danielle Lane

While only 4.8% of US physicians identify as African-American or Black and 6.3% as Latinx, we’re excited to highlight a selection of talented healthcare leaders who are making waves to change the conversation. These MDs are using their positions and platforms to expand health education and increase representation. Collectively we are better for their advocacy!

Dr. Danielle Lane, fertility specialist and TikTok phenom, often co-starring her adorable daughter, dances her way through fertility and gynecology recommendations (pictured above). Not to be missed!

Race, Ethnicity & Menopause

Dr. Erica Montes advocates for more conversation and resources to support Latinx women’s reproductive health.

Dr. Erica Montes, OB/GYN and robotic surgery expert whose bilingual blog, Modern Mujer, answers questions women want to know but don’t ask (ex: how is COVID affecting your vagina).

Dr. Michelle Wan, Emergency medicine MD and frontline worker whose breastfeeding photo and open letter to moms went viral, landing her on Good Morning America.

Dr. Sharon Malone, OB/GYN and longtime friend of former First Lady Michelle Obama, co-hosted a frank and funny conversation about menopause on Obama’s new podcast.

Dr. Charis Chambers, a.k.a the Period Doctor, who educates young women and girls on topics related to their reproductive health in a bold and unapologetic style.

Check out our Instagram for more fantastic women’s health experts to follow!

3) Organization, activism & awareness

What better way to push for change than to put your time, attention and dollars where they count? There is a long list of BIPOC women we are excited to elevate and promote at Elektra, but for now we’re leaning on this terrific list of 150+ wellness brands compiled by our friends at Well+Good.

In June, we highlighted and raised funds for the terrific Black Women’s Health Imperative, which serves Black women and girls in the U.S. In our research, we found few organizations solely dedicated to exploring menopause and race issues (if you know of one we didn’t mention, please respond to this email – we’re very eager to expand our community). But we were fortunate to connect with the visionary Omisade Burney-Scott and her organization, Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause, which is an incredible resource (and which wins “best email account name”: [email protected]).

A note from the Elektra team: Today’s topic is too large to be contained by a single post. We’ll return to this space again over time and look forward to reflecting your contributions in the future. With that, we invite you to email us at [email protected] if you have a story, information, or opinion to share that can help us further smash this important race & menopause taboo.

Updated: Oct 11, 2020