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Dr. Sharon Malone on Medical Gaslighting, Menopause Sex, & More

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Renowned OB-GYN and menopause advocate Dr. Sharon Malone, M.D., credits her dear friend, former First Lady Michelle Obama, for helping her put menopause on the map. “She and I did a podcast about three and a half years ago,” she says. “She’s one of the first people who admitted to having menopausal symptoms.”

Dr. Malone’s work, together with the help of other key menopause advocates, has brought us to where we are today: More providers than ever are finally talking about menopause and sharing information, women are pushing for relief of their symptoms, and a growing force of people are fighting for change. Advocates are calling for more medical research so that menopause — and the many ways it impacts women’s health — is better understood.

In our latest episode of Asking for a Friend, we sat down with Dr. Malone, who is Chief Medical Advisor of menopause telehealth company Alloy Women’s Health and author of the upcoming book Grown Woman Talk: Your Guide to Getting and Staying Healthy, to discuss menopause care. From how to heat things up in the bedroom (when the only thing heating up are your hot flashes) to navigating medical gaslighting, and why there doesn’t quite seem to be enough information out there on perimenopause and menopause, we asked her all the tough questions. Read the highlights here and watch our full conversation above.

Things have gone south in the bedroom during perimenopause — what can I do?

“If you have vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, or haven’t had a good night’s sleep in the past three years, these are things that are not going to enhance your libido,” Dr. Malone says. “The simplest thing to do is to realize what are the things getting in the way of making you not be your best self. Let’s address those hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and let’s make sure you get a good night’s sleep.”

How do I navigate medial gaslighting?

“If you have the luxury of being in a place where there are other doctors to choose from, then look for another doctor or get recommendations from a friend, or go to the website menopause.org, which has listed menopause specialists in your area.” Dr. Malone also notes that this would be a good opportunity to try telemedicine as there are several online companies making menopause treatment more accessible.

Why is so hard to get information about perimenopause and menopause?

“Unfortunately, mothers don’t typically talk to their daughters about menopause and perimenopause,” says Dr. Malone, who points out how helpful this kind of guidance can be. Black women, for example, often experience menopause symptoms earlier and for a longer period of time than white women.

“This is in contrast to what happens in puberty…even pregnancies are discussed, but when it comes to perimenopause, unfortunately, there’s a lot of shame,” she adds. “It’s associated with getting older and no one likes to admit that, particularly for women in this culture. Not having that intergenerational conversation is the first reason why.”

The second reason as Dr. Malone notes is that a doctor may not be aware of it. “That started about 20 years ago with a lot of the misinformation that came out of the Women’s Health Initiative, leaving us with a generation of doctors who have not been trained in perimenopause and menopausal care.” Again, finding a menopause specialist that can help can be the first step toward getting the care you need.

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