Why your menopause treatment may be outdated and ways you can find relief

Women are failing to get appropriate treatment for menopause symptoms, putting their long-term health in jeopardy

HOUSTON – A survey of healthcare providers found that many do not feel adequately trained to manage menopause symptoms and may not be familiar with the latest research and guidelines.

Dr. Terri-Ann Samuels, a urogynecologist from The Urogynius Center in Bellaire, says women are failing to get appropriate treatment for menopause symptoms and it’s putting their long-term health in jeopardy.

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She believes more women need to be given hormone replacement therapy.

“It’s no longer voodoo,” Dr. Samuels said. “It is now data-driven and we can do it in a safe and healthy way.”

The treatment has been considered controversial for reasons that Samuels said have been debunked by several major medical groups, including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Heart Association.

“It’s really hard to believe that this information has taken so long to come out,” she said. “For many women, it changes their lives.”

Those women include her patients: Lisa Spain, Almitra Berry, and Isabel Reyna.

“I wouldn’t have any energy at all,” Spain said.

“I would have to get up in the middle of the night because I had sweat through everything,” Berry explained.

“I didn’t know what was going on with my body, so I just thought I was stressed with life and work,” said Reyna, who experienced menopause early at 32 years old.

Reyna learned she was going through menopause after failed rounds of IVF while trying to conceive a baby.

“I feel like there’s a little gray cloud just following me around. I was depressed. I had mood swings. I had night sweats. I had hot flashes,” Reyna said.

Dr. Samuels prescribed all three patients Biote, a bio-identical hormone therapy.

“The reason I was concerned is because my mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor,” Reyna said. “But we’re monitoring that.”

There are some warnings for patients who may not want to use hormone replacement therapy. For those who do use it, the benefits can include fewer symptoms, more energy and improved libido.

“I felt like I was 21 with the energy and libido of a 21-year-old but with the common sense that comes with another, you know, 30-plus years on the planet,” Berry confessed.

Berry said she’s lost 35 pounds and works out more than before.

“I wouldn’t feel as young as I feel and be able to be as active as I am and enjoy my life and do what I want to do that makes me happy,” Spain said about being able to travel the world and play golf.

“I want people to know that if you have symptoms, bring those up to your doctor,” Reyna said. She and her husband ultimately became parents to a baby boy via surrogate.

Dr. Samuels says she will continue to determine a risk vs. benefit treatment plan for every patient. She insists there are plenty of treatments available to find the right type and dosage for everyone.

Common types of treatments include:

  • Oral - pills
  • Vaginal - rings, creams
  • Transdermal - implants, patches, gels

“Just because your girlfriend has this doesn’t mean that that’s right for you. It is very, very personalized and so just recognition is huge. Awareness. You’re not alone and there’s something that you can do about it,” Samuels said.

Some hormone replacement therapies are covered by insurance. The treatment, Biote, offered at Dr. Samuels’s office costs $400 for 3-4 months. She says her patients prioritize the treatment in their budget, but she’s frustrated with the lack of coverage available to women.

“Let’s be frank, right, if all men stopped having testosterone at age 52, [the treatment] would be in the supermarket beside the milk,” she said. “Fifty years ago, you were retiring. You were considering retirement. [Fifty-year-olds today] are running multimillion-dollar companies. They’re at their pinnacle, but then they’re going into a board meeting sweating. Unacceptable.”