Dr. Heather Hirsch talks about perimenopause, 'because women’s health affects everyone’s health'

'It’s really nothing short of a public health crisis'
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Photo credit Elis Cora / Getty Images

Dr. Heather Hirsch sat down with the New England Lifestyles podcast to bring awareness to an unnecessarily hushed subject: women’s health in menopause and perimenopause.

LISTEN NOW: New England Lifestyles With Dr. Heather Hirsch: Perimenopause

While women’s health has been a shunned topic for decades, social norms are shifting in favor of overall awareness, though much too slowly for women who are experiencing menopause symptoms now. As host Mike Mullaney commented on the difference of awareness between puberty hormonal changes versus a woman’s changes, Dr. Heather Hirsch said that the public education and awareness is, “really nothing short of a public health crisis.”

“Perimenopause, or going into menopause, is very much like going through puberty but in reverse. So it is astonishing… there is no ‘what to expect when you’re done expecting’ or ‘what to expect in perimenopause.’” Perimenopause can be described as just that: it is the process of going through menopause, or when it has been, “one year of a woman not having any period.”

“There are many years leading up to that change,” Dr. Hirsch explained, “just like puberty. [It] doesn’t happen overnight.”

This “reverse puberty” is ultimately caused by a loss of hormones in the body, which is a natural process due to aging. However, the lack of information for women can lead to confusion and fear when they begin experiencing perimenopausal symptoms. “When women don’t know what’s happening to their bodies, and they’re very proactive and usually quite in tune with their bodies, it just feels like everything is unfolding.” Dr. Hirsch said. “Because you feel a huge lack of control, you don’t feel like yourself.” Symptoms such as insomnia, weight change, mood instability, fatigue and others can be distressing to women who are unaware of perimenopause.

Boston host Gregg Daniels and his wife Dinara also appeared on the podcast to talk about their experience with Dinara’s perimenopause struggles. “I am a well read person, I’ve always believed in preventative healthcare. I read every book on the planet before my babies were born… The fact that I never heard the term 'perimenopause' is mind-boggling to me,” Dinara told the group.

Dinara was premenopausal despite having regular periods, and misdiagnoses are considerably high, as symptoms can “mimic mental health issues.” She had never struggled with her mental health before, and yet, was continuously misdiagnosed and inadequately treated. “Within a span of six weeks, I was prescribed four different antidepressants and two very heavy sleep aids,” Dinara recalled. “Let’s just say my body was thrown into complete havoc, turmoil like I’ve never seen.” Her continuous premenopausal symptoms and insomnia led to Dinara developing serious mental health issues, including a brief stint at an in-patient facility. It took a lot of research and dedication to her instinctive feeling that menopause was involved to finally find Dr. Hirsch and be treated holistically. “Dr. Hirsch has saved my life,” Dinara said, fighting back tears. “From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all you’ve done for all the women around the world.”

Dr. Heather Hirsch ultimately fights toward the awareness and education of women’s health in perimenopause and menopause as she declared, “women’s health affects everyone’s health.” To hear more of Dinara Daniel’s story and the full discussion with Dr. Heather Hirsch, check out the New England Lifestyle podcast episode above or here on the free Audacy App.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Elis Cora / Getty Images