The stigma around menstruation is strong, but the stigma around menopause is even stronger. The sexist ideology at the base of this stigma says once a woman can menstruate, she can fulfill her primary purpose of bearing children. In her young childbearing years, when chances of healthy childbirth are higher, her utility is optimized. When that woman reaches menopause, she can no longer bear children, and society casts her away as someone of no use anymore.
Good news, though, times are changing. Activists and entrepreneurs, like myself, have devoted their lives to fighting for equal access to period and reproductive care. But I'm 23, and to be honest, I know very little about menopause and the accompanying symptoms. Most young menstruators won't be experiencing menopause for several decades. And the generation which is experiencing it now is largely still feeling the stigma's stronghold, barring them from sharing their own experiences.
How Elektra Health Is Bridging the Menopause Care Gap
Menopause is not a single event that happens overnight—it's often a multi-year journey with dozens of symptoms.
Alessandra Henderson is working to eradicate the stigma around menopause and create an ecosystem of holistic menopause care. Henderson is the founder of Elektra Health, a "next-gen women's health platform on a mission to smash the menopause taboo" through telemedicine services, educational initiatives, and their virtual wellness community Meno-morphosis.
In a recent report, the menopause industry is evaluated to be a $600 billion opportunity. But Henderson says, "menopause has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to resources, funding, and general cultural awareness and sensitivity." Henderson shared that while 80% of women say menopause impacts their life, three-quarters of women who seek treatment don't receive care.
"We help women not only understand where they are in their menopause journey and how to proactively manage their symptoms, but we also provide a safe space to share their story," Henderson explains. "We reframe menopause from [being an experience] rooted in fear into one filled with opportunity, growth, and health."
In March, Elektra Health began offering its telemedicine services in select states (CT, FL, NJ, and NY). The HIPAA-compliant platform's personalized menopause assessments, priced at $199, provide patients with access to board-certified clinicians. "All of our providers are certified by the North American Menopause Society and are trained in our proprietary menopause care philosophy," Henderson adds. Their team of medical experts will work with you to create a holistic care plan, including lifestyle and supplement recommendations. The service also includes labs and prescriptions as needed and 30 days of unlimited text support with the Elektra Care Team. Additionally, Elektra Health offers affordable menopause wellness and sexual health consultations—ringing in at $99 each—which are available to all regardless of their location.
"If we've done our job right, we will set a woman up with a routine and support system that allows her to live her best life," Henderson says. "As symptoms change, however, she might need to text her expert a question. On other days, she’ll need a pep talk from a woman who understands what she’s going through. We have women who will come back to us months later to let us know her circumstances have changed, and now she needs to tweak her routine."
What Else Needs to be Done?
Henderson says the biggest myth about menopause is that there’s nothing you can do, and you must suffer through it. Change needs to happen across all fronts to dismantle these falsehoods about menopause. Our culture needs to foster healthy conversations about menopause and help women feel empowered to ask questions about what to expect. We need more data and information to develop better products for those experiencing menopause, and medical providers should be fully trained to support women going through menopause. "Less than 20% of OB/GYNs in the US receive menopause training in residency programs," Henderson notes.
With Elektra Health, Henderson is working to dismantle menopause stigma and make quality menopause care accessible to all. And luckily, she's not the only one operating with this vision in mind. "Our vision is [for the] menopause [experience] to be regarded for what it is: A normal phase of life with a lot of real symptoms women can manage with the help of products she can afford and access at her everyday store," the co-founders of Womaness Sally Mueller and Michelle Jacobs share.
"There are so many issues embedded into the perception of menopause: socio-economic disparity, ageism, sexism, racism, and ableism," founder of State of Menopause Stacy London says. "Once we start solving for the issues of the most marginalized, everyone wins."
We still have a long way to go, but more signals indicate now is the time to rethink what menopause care can (and should) be. While we wait for political and medical institutions to catch up, it’s inspiring to see what entrepreneurs like Alessandra Henderson, Stacy London, Sally Mueller, and Michelle Jacobs are building to close the care gap for women.
Santoro N, Epperson CN, Mathews SB. Menopausal symptoms and their management. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2015;44(3):497-515.