It’s a statement that makes me cringe each time I hear it, and I hear it often – “I miss my Planned Parenthood provider since I’ve stopped needing reproductive health care.”
Reproductive health care isn’t just about the years women and men are either trying to get pregnant or avoiding it. It includes the hormonal changes everybody goes through well after a patient is done worrying about birth control, abortion or anything in between.
Patients-turned-supporters or supporters-turned-patients who enjoyed the high quality, specialized care they once received at Planned Parenthood health centers often turn to another provider when they round the corner on their menopausal years. Their needs evolve, their symptoms change and their health care must adapt. Understanding the changing needs of our diverse patient base is exactly wherePlanned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP) excels. When we added menopausal symptom management to our official health services menu in April, our goal was to meet the needs of an expanded patient base.
Menopause, by the way, is when a person experiences their last period. Hormonal changes can cause symptoms including hot flashes, changes in sexual desire, irritability and problems sleeping, which can persist for years.
Amidst these life changes, switching providers can add to the frustration. It’s inconvenient and unfamiliar. There is no need for it. Reproductive health care isn’t just about the years women and men are either trying to get pregnant or avoiding it. It includes the hormonal changes everybody goes through well after a patient is done worrying about birth control, abortion or anything in between.
From hormone therapy to holistic menopausal symptom management, our nurse practitioners have been well equipped to help our patients navigate their new sexual reality. We just never talked about it or officially offered it until that one phrase repeatedly came up when meeting patients. In fact, the more I thought about it, menopause is something we, as a society, rarely talk about. We found patients suffering in silence unable to talk about the less than desirable symptoms like vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt PPGP needed to loudly and proudly add menopausal symptom management as a service. After all, we are the experts when it comes to reproductive health-related care and ensuring the conversations surrounding those issues are normalized, fact-based and absent of shame.
PPGP is proud to follow our patients through the generations. Being able to provide seamless health care no matter their stage in life is more than a mission, it’s a responsibility. Menopausal symptom management is no more or less complicated than helping someone get pregnant or end a pregnancy, but, it is equally important to ensure people can find the comfort they need to live healthy lives at any age.