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Talking about menopause can be taboo but a UH conference will focus on female sexual health

Menopause can cause insomnia, said Dr. Rachel Pope, chief of female sexual health at University Hospitals. But many people may not realize they need to talk with their doctor about hormonal changes when seeking treatment for sleep-related issues, she said.

The doctors at University Hospitals’ Urology Institute want people to start talking about a topic that’s been whispered about in certain circles for centuries: Menopause and female sexual health.

On Saturday, the hospital system will host a day-long conference on the topic for both clinicians and members of the public at the Tinkham Veale University Center in University Circle.

Menopause occurs when menstrual periods stop, according to the U.S. Office on Women's Health (OWH). After menopause, the body makes much less estrogen and progesterone. Those low estrogen levels can affect one's health and cause symptoms like hot flashes.

Many people — members of the public and health care professionals included — do not realize that symptoms like insomnia, frequent urinary tract infections, pain during sex, vaginal burning and bladder issues can all be related to menopause, said Dr. Rachel Pope, chief of female sexual health at University Hospitals (UH).

“We decided it would be important to have something to really get more providers on the same page in addressing these concerns… and then also really bring in women from the community to have an opportunity to learn more information, feel empowered to ask their health care providers about this information and just really be able to access these services," said Dr. Pope.

The topic of menopause and female sexual health has been so taboo it interferes with women’s ability to get treatment for everything from hot flashes to pain during sex, Pope said.

Nearly 75% of women do not treat their menopause symptoms and 29% do not seek information on menopause before they experience it, according to a 2021 survey of 1,039 women ages 40 to 65.

Dr. Rachel Pope, University Hospitals
Anthony Gray
University Hospitals
Dr. Rachel Pope of University Hospitals

"Because we're living so long after menopause, we have to really readdress where we need to make little tweaks so that people's quality of life is still something that's high," she said. "We are using science. We're using evidence to address issues [to] make things better for people.”

The conference will include panel discussions on the use of testosterone to treat low libido and how menopause can cause changes to the vagina and the external genital area among other topics.

UH officials hope members of the public will attend along with health care professionals.

It will also feature OB/GYN Jen Gunter, author of the bestseller "The Menopause Manifesto" and host of the TED podcast "Body Stuff."

People can attend the entire day or come just for the session with Gunter, according to hospital officials. You can find more information on the hospital’s website.

Stephanie is the digital producer of Ideastream Public Media’s health team.