5 Facts About Menopause I Learned from This TikTok-Famous OB/GYN

Personally, I never got a birds-and-bees-and-menopause talk from a wise elder, nor did any of my friends. Menopause and perimenopause are coming in every woman’s life, but I was caught unaware, thanks to the paucity of medical training, scientific studies and woman-to-woman discourse about it all. This natural life stage, connected to ebbing hormone levels and culminating in the end of menstruation, has traditionally been a little ignored—you had to ask your mom or Auntie about it. And even then, much of the information was not quite right, incomplete or, at best, extremely individualized (the degree of menopause symptoms—if any—one woman experiences can be radically different than the next woman).

Into this miasma comes Mary Claire Haver, MD, a Texas-based OB/GYN specializing in menopause who has legions of followers on social media (2.1 million on TikTok and 1.1 million on Instagram), where she shares straightforward, information-dense and scientific study-informed posts. My friends in our 40s and 50s hang on her posts, comparing notes on symptoms (collect them all!) including, but not limited to, irregular periods, poor sleep, incontinence, weight gain and mood fluctuation. Until Dr. Haver’s upcoming The New Menopause Book debuts in spring 2024, I'm reading up on the five menopause facts below I've learned from Dr. Haver’s must-watch TikToks—and urge you to do the same.

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1. Negative Cultural Baggage Around Menopause Is Entrenched

According to Dr. Haver, it wasn’t until 1820 that a French physician coined the term “menopause.” As recently as 1890, leeches were used to treat menopause-related abdominal pain and the first medical study of menopausal women wasn’t conducted until 1980. While treating women’s health as an afterthought is nothing new, this particular elision of middle-aged women’s health concerns is especially pronounced, and has resulted in generations of women reaching midlife with no idea why they might be, say, experiencing depression, lack of libido, abdominal weight gain and a score of other symptoms out of the blue. Dr. Haver says that fewer than a third of all medical residents are trained in menopause-related health and wellness issues, so there’s a lot of personal advocacy women need to do for themselves.

2. Diagnosing Perimenopause? It’s Complicated

Unlike full-blown menopause, when your period completely ends, there’s no simple way to determine you are in perimenopause. Perimenopause is a period of seven to 10 years before the total cessation of menses—starting as early as 35—that is marked by wild fluctuations in hormone levels; for example, your estrogen level may seem fine one morning when blood is taken, but plummet the next day. A specialty physician will know how to match a patient’s reported symptoms with possible hormonal causes, and address them from there.

3. Nutritional Changes Are Key to Wellness During Perimenopause and Menopause

Yep, this isn’t like taking a Tylenol for a headache. A cluster of dietary upgrades, as well as mineral and vitamin supplements, are the most effective way to counteract the uncomfortable physical, cognitive and emotional effects of perimenopause and menopause. “Inflammation is the root cause of so many things that are starting to ail us,” says Dr. Haver, “and anti-inflammatory nutrition is the best way to combat it.” That means lots of green leafy vegetables, nuts like almonds and walnuts and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines.

4. Midlife Weight Gain Is Real and Hormonal (It’s Not That You’re Lazy)

In her private practice, Dr. Haver’s patients reported that no matter how they counted their calories and exercised, they were putting on pounds in their midsection. Dr. Haver’s advice is a balm for any women frustrated by their fitness routines: Rather than counting calories, track magnesium, Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and Vitamin D, which, when brought up to 100 percent of recommended levels, will result in de-inflammation and metabolic health that will result in weight loss.

5. HRT—Hormone Replacement Therapy—Has a Bad Rap as “Unnatural”

Dr. Haver’s tireless championing of women’s individual choices around their own healthcare is informative and inspirational. The doctor details how the widely publicized Women’s Health Initiative report from 2002 on the risks of hormone replacement therapy (one investigator wrote that it led to “misinformation and hysteria”)  has overshadowed a more nuanced approach to HRT today. While menopause is indeed a natural occurrence, Dr. Haver stresses, a full complement of interventions including behavioral, nutritional and, if appropriate, hormonal changes can be deployed to radically improve a woman’s life.

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