BYLINE: Kelsie Sandoval

Newswise — Dr. Rajita G. Patil, OB-GYN, director of the new UCLA Health Comprehensive Menopause Program and certified menopause provider, has special expertise in treating the various aspects of health affected by hormonal changes brought about by menopause, including bone strength, heart issues, mental health and cognition concerns, genitourinary health, sleep and changes in libido.  She can also discuss medical and non-medical therapies that may help manage hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. 


Why don’t more women get the help they need?   

There is a stigma around getting old and aging, and it’s worse for women.  Most don’t want to talk about it, even to their friends.  In fact, about four in 10 women feel alone and unsupported while they are going through menopause.  Many feel a loss of their femininity, suffer from symptoms, and/or have difficulty navigating changes in their sexual health. 

But there is also a real lack of knowledge in the medical field.  Unfortunately, there is a huge knowledge gap in medical training about menopause with only 6.8% of recent medical school graduates feeling adequately prepared to manage women experiencing menopause, according to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Doctors don’t want to ask questions they don’t want to – or know how to -- answer.  And there is a lack of research in the field. It is understudied and underfunded, especially when it comes to studying menopause in people of color. 

We as providers of healthcare to women need to seek out medical information, ask questions, and help patients feel comfortable discussing menopause. 


What is the most common question you are asked? 

The most common question is “Do I need hormone therapy?”  The answer is:  it is not the same answer for everyone.  

Everyone comes into menopause with different symptoms of menopause, as well as different health, genetics, lifestyle, values, and preferences. All of these need to be taken into consideration before providing recommendations for hormone therapy. Also, many other nonhormonal therapy options exist and should be discussed as options to treat symptoms of menopause. That is why it is important to seek care from a menopause specialist who can evaluate your health in a comprehensive and individualized manner and provide recommendations that are specific to the individual. It is not one size fits all. 


What is the one thing you wish every woman knew about menopause? 

 Menopause occurs at midlife – when women are often at their busiest at home and at work – not at the end of life.  Most of us will live over 30 years as a post-menopausal woman.  The sudden biological effects of menopause in the short term can greatly impact one’s quality of life. In the long term, the loss of estrogen can change the risk profile for different chronic diseases. It is important to seek care from a menopause specialist or a provider comfortable in caring for menopause to improve your quality of life and optimize longevity. 


Who should treat women who are undergoing menopause?   

Primary care physicians and OB/GYNs generally are the front-line healthcare providers for women undergoing menopause, but we are now seeing more Menopause Society Certified Practitioners (MSCPs) who are providers who have sought out extra training and education and demonstrated expertise in the field of menopause by passing a competency exam and continuing with ongoing training in the field.  Patients should ask their healthcare providers and practitioners for this expertise.