Wicked mood changes, hot flashes, night sweats, dryness everywhere, and staring at the ceiling at 3 AM are just a few of the unpleasantries millions of women deal with daily.
I should know…I’m one of them.
And while I haven’t officially entered menopause, I have been dealing with perimenopause for three years, which comes with its own set of irritating symptoms. Fortunately for me, I have a doctor that I trust. It only took one visit for her to recognize that the spikes in my anxiety, sudden feelings of depression, fatigue, sore breasts, frequent spotting between periods, foggy thinking, and almost unbearable night sweats all pointed to one thing: perimenopause.
Unfortunately, though, it took me two years after the initial diagnosis to shed the stigma and feel comfortable enough to ask her for help. Together, we came up with a treatment plan that put an end to (or at least minimized) all of these symptoms.
But what if you don’t have a doctor that you feel comfortable discussing these issues with — how can you get access to experts who can help you? Another option for women seeking guidance and treatment for menopause and perimenopause is Rory, a nationwide telemedicine platform launched by health tech company Ro. Co-founder Rachel Blank and Clinical Director Dr. Melynda Barnes hope to give women a voice by providing the education, tools and support they need to be their own advocates in the healthcare system.
Rory’s goal is to address the millions of women reaching menopause who are underserved by the healthcare system and will have access to Ro’s infrastructure that can diagnose, prescribe and deliver medication directly to the patient through its network. Rory will offer women individualized health and wellness care and education, ranging from hot flashes to vaginal dryness and insomnia.
Why so many women shy away from treatment
Like so many other women, denial and embarrassment from the stigma attached to perimenopause and menopause were the reasons I waited so long to talk about my symptoms, and eventually, seek treatment. “Talking about perimenopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness, hot flashes or mood swings is not a part of our mainstream culture,” explains Barnes. In addition to perimenopause not being a pop reference, many women report that their mothers or grandmothers didn’t talk about peri/menopause when they were going through it. “There is a lack of support and education around what symptoms make up perimenopause and treatment options, like lifestyle changes, exercise, over the counter supplements and prescription medication,” Barnes adds.
This lack of support often leads to women being underserved when it comes to treatment options. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report that nearly 55% of women going through menopause don’t do anything at all to treat symptoms, which comes as no surprise to Blank. She says when they first started talking to women who were experiencing menopause symptoms, what they heard over and over was, “I feel alone, I didn’t feel prepared for this, and I don’t feel educated about what’s happening to my body.”
When you go through puberty, you have your mother talking you through the process — you have a guide. But with menopause, Blank says that women don’t necessarily have that; therefore they don’t seek counsel or treatment. “We believe that due to this lack of information, education, access, affordability, and the stigma attached to menopause, women go without seeking treatment, which is why we are here to change that,” she adds.
Tips for seeking treatment and support
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. In fact, there are over 40 million women in this age group that are starting to or already experiencing symptoms. “We know that you are busy taking care of aging parents, running foundations, PTA meetings, board meetings and possibly raising children, but taking time for yourself is just as important,” says Barnes. “Taking time to understand the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, and how they are affecting you, can give you the necessary information to decide, along with a physician, if and which treatment options match your goals for symptom management,” she explains.
And if you’re interested in using Rory, Blank says you will first complete a virtual “office visit” on Rory’s website that includes questions about health history, current medications, and symptom-related history. This information will then be evaluated by a board-certified physician who will set up a phone call, video call or chat, depending on the patient’s state regulations. The doctor will then recommend a course of treatment — either over-the-counter or prescription, or recommend that the member is seen by a provider in-person. Additionally, Rory provides free, accessible information via their blog (all content reviewed by physicians) and a supportive community via the Roar Facebook group.