Depending on your age, you may be preparing for it. Or it may have already passed you by. It can be accompanied by several symptoms, or you may not notice many changes at all. But if you’re a woman, your body is expected to go through it. It’s menopause.
Historically, women have been known to call menopause “the change” because of the many changes the body can go through during the time it prepares to stop menstruating. Some of these include hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping and mood changes. Women also report other symptoms such as irritation and pain with intercourse, poor lubrication, urinary urgency and pain or burning with urination. The clinicians at the Center for Intimate Health and Wellness at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) want you to know there are treatment options for a lot of these symptoms, which are now known collectively as Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM).
GSM is a new term that came about to describe these symptoms and to validate the fact that they are part of a real medical condition.
“Overall, the term ‘menopause’ is associated with cultural beliefs that make some women feel they’re older than they are,” said Roger Lefevre, MD, Director of the Center for Intimate Health and Wellness at BIDMC. “People use terms like ‘drying up’ and those terms have negative connotations that are traditionally or culturally part of menopause. GSM emerged to give medical terminology to this phase of life and the symptoms that accompany it. These are real symptoms and a lot of them have real treatment options.”
Lefevre believes that more work needs to be done to remove the stigma attached to menopause so that women are not viewing it as negatively and they feel more comfortable talking about it to their physicians.
“We’re not there yet,” Lefevre said. “There’s still a negative connotation to menopause. People, like myself, who work in women’s health will continue to work on educating primary care physicians to inquire about symptoms of GSM so they can counsel their patients about GSM and inform them that it is treatable. Right now we’re putting a lot of effort in the women’s health realm but we need to expand and reach out to other parts of medicine and spread the knowledge.”