Where education and awareness begins…
With knowledge on menopause, women are able to understand this phase of life better
The history of the Malaysian Menopause Society (MMS) started in 1990 as a clinic called the Menopause Clinic which was situated at the General Hospital in Kuala Lumpur. The clinic’s sole focus was to educate women on menopause.
Sharing more about the start of MMS in Malaysia and its role today, we spoke to some of the key individuals of the society – Executive Committee of Malaysian Menopause Society (MMS), Professor Emeritus Dato’ Dr. Nik Mohd Nasri, who was also the past secretary and a pioneer of menopause education in Malaysia as well as Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Vice President of the Malaysian Menopause Society, Dr. Ng Beng Kwang.
“The first president of the Menopause Clinic (now known as MMS) was Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Professor Dr. Raman Subramaniam. Since 1990, we started to think about menopause management and how we can help more Malaysian women,” explained Professor Dr. Nik Nasri.
That marked the beginning of menopause education in Malaysia and today, MMS is not only an organisation for education but also a body where medical experts throughout Malaysia play an active role in improving the lives of Malaysian women.
To be honest, menopause is still a taboo subject in Malaysia and it is one of the reasons why many health issues associated with menopause remain unattended, despite help and treatment being available.
According to Dr. Ng Beng Kwang, “Many people are aware of menopause and its effects. However, there is still the need for awareness on being proactive and knowing how to address its symptoms.”\
When asked why, Dr. Ng explained that Malaysian women tend to think that menopause symptoms are a part of the ageing process that every woman undergoes.
As a matter of fact, due to this common understanding, many Malaysian women end up suffering in silence.
Dr. Ng added on saying, “Menopause is a natural process, but unfortunately most women do not seek medical advice during this time as it makes them very uncomfortable. There are a number of treatments available to help women maintain comfort during their menopause journey and this will also help to improve their quality of life.”
As mentioned by both Professor Dr. Nik Nasri and Dr. Ng, as a non-profit organisation (NGO), Malaysian Menopause Society (MMS) conducts a number of awareness programs to try and educate the public and healthcare providers on menopause.
Dr. Ng highlighted some of the initiatives saying, “MMS promotes education on menopause through roadshow events that highlight talks related to menopause.” Apart from that, the society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) as well as its World Menopause Day celebration which is held each year, are also new approaches being taken by the society to promote a better understanding of menopause. Plus, besides initiatives to interact with the public, he said that, “We also provide updates on the most current issues related to menopause on our website.”
Quote: Many people are aware of menopause and its effects. However, there is still the need for awareness on being proactive and knowing how to address its symptoms.
Obstacles along the way
Despite growing support and an increasing number of members signing up to be a part of MMS, the experts behind the society believe that there is still much work that needs to be done when it comes to its mission to educate women. As mentioned by both doctors, they are convinced that most Malaysian women are too afraid and shy to seek medical advice for a number of reasons which include:
- Women feel uncomfortable talking about menopause.
- When women are upset or do not feel good about themselves, they are often bombarded with assumptions related to menopause (which paints a negative picture of the health condition).
- Many women believe that they do not need treatment because menopause is simply a natural process.
Though, those are not the only reasons. The role of medication is often misunderstood too. When it comes to the treatment of menopause hormonal therapy as the main treatment to address symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, bone density loss and other effects, many women are afraid to undergo the course of treatment as women are often worried that it might lead to breast cancer.
Understanding your risk factors and available treatment options will help you have a more positive menopausal journey. Hence, it is ideal for every woman to visit her gynaecologist if menopausal symptoms are affecting her quality of life.
The beginning of a new phase
Dr. Ng believes that one of the best ways to begin this new phase of life is to take control of the disease. “Menopause should not stop you from challenging yourself and most of all, celebrating life,” said Dr. Ng. Instead of thinking of menopause as an ageing issue, look at it as a new beginning in your life. The only one to determine what you can do is yourself!
You’ll need to make healthy choices. Invest in your health and allow yourself to enjoy a good quality life. There’s life after and beyond menopause. Dr. Ng recommends that your health should be on the top of your priority list by developing a healthy lifestyle such as being active and exercising regularly, have a balanced diet and last but not the least, be happy. Allow yourself to accept the changes your body is going through.
Depression plays a role in menopause
Women who feel depressed and think that she may be experiencing menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms should visit a gynaecologist and preferably a psychiatrist.
With regards to depression, Dr. Ng said that, “A number of women may suffer from depression due to menopause. Doctors will have to examine the patient to determine if there are any past symptoms that could be related to menopause and symptoms that are leaning towards depression.”
Another way is to ask patients to see a psychiatrist and undergo a depression diagnosis to find the underlying cause of the symptom. If patients are depressed, the approach could include anti-depression treatment.
On the other hand, if the cause is determined to be partly due to menopause, then menopause hormonal therapy is a recommended treatment option. Dr. Ng emphasises that, “Without proper treatment, menopause can affect the overall health of a woman and some of the common issues include Alzheimer’s disease, pelvic organ prolapse, urinary urgency, genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), dryness of vagina, painful sexual intercourse and more.”