When I attended the 2015 Endocrine Society meeting in San Diego, I was struck by the sessions about the upcoming clinical practice guideline on menopause (Treatment of Symptoms of the Menopause): they were authored by women. Here’s an interview with Cynthia Stuenkel, MD, Chair of the Menopause Clinical Practice Guidelines Taskforce for the Endocrine Society: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqDxGy41Uc8
Ethically, does gender really matter when it comes to producing evidence-based practice guidelines on menopause? Yes. It does when it’s about menopause.
When considering beneficent therapies for peri and post-menopausal women, it’s still difficult for male practitioners to understand and appreciate subtle and nuanced qualitative differences in menopause symptoms. The most caring and sensitive male practitioner has still never experienced an ordinary period and cramps, flooding, hot flashes, and bloating. And for many women reaching their career peaks in peri- and post-menopause, it’s difficult for males to imagine these symptoms while chairing a meeting or making a major presentation. Several professional women in this phase of life pack plenty of red clothing (pant suits, dresses, or skirts) when traveling because of the unpredictable nature of their menses.
From a medical sociological perspective, women bond over their uterine experiences. Transgendered females (who transitioned from males) have noted the differences in intimacy between female and male friendships, for example: women talk about their bodies. Women who don’t know each other may immediately share information about the state of their uterine health in a public bathroom or private boardroom.
Clinical practice guidelines authored by female experts in menopause hormone therapy may help to ensure that patients’ reported symptoms help to guide goals of treatment. At the same time, patients may begin to place trust in evidence-based guidelines for hormone therapy when they can no longer just brush them off as a “male-dominated industry”.