Menopause Inquiry opportunity to remove stigma and shame in menopausal health

Hourglass on a soft pink background

Menopause Inquiry opportunity to remove stigma and shame in menopausal health

Hourglass on a soft pink background

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has called for the Federal Government to invest in credible and effective primary healthcare, helping end the unnecessary suffering experienced by women during perimenopause and menopause.

In its submission to the Senate Inquiry into Issues Related to Perimenopause and Menopause, the APA said the life-changing symptoms and conditions that arise during this significant life stage were too often overlooked, when effective care, such as physiotherapy, was available.

Leading women’s health physiotherapist Catherine Willis said women face stigma and shame about their symptoms, and are not offered appropriate healthcare options.

‘Women's menopausal symptoms, including pain, cognitive changes and pelvic floor dysfunction, are dismissed on the basis that menopause is “normal” – when suffering is anything but normal,’ Ms Willis said.

‘Improving access to Medicare-funded physiotherapy in local areas, including via telehealth for women in rural and remote regions, is a key step to improving women’s quality of life and their participation in work, exercise and personal relationships.

‘This Inquiry is an unprecedented opportunity to examine and discuss the secrecy that has been associated with the symptoms of menopause and reimagine the healthcare system to meet the complex needs of perimenopausal and menopausal women.

Pelvic health physiotherapy is the first line treatment for symptoms most commonly reported as impacting quality of life, social and workforce participation and mental health, such as muscle and joint aches and pains, urinary incontinence and sexual pain.

‘Pelvic health physiotherapists are able to provide effective, individualised and group treatment. They are uniquely and highly qualified to reduce pain and discomfort and resulting withdrawal from activities of daily living caused by these symptoms, and are a critical part of the multidisciplinary care team,’ Ms Willis said.

Key recommendations from the APA’s submission include:

  1. Medicare Funding: Introduce Medicare funding for the assessment and management of conditions and symptoms associated with the genitourinary syndrome of menopause through pelvic health physiotherapy.
  2. Service Gap Identification: Allocate funding to Primary Health Networks to identify and address service gaps in pelvic health physiotherapy.
  3. Telehealth Consultations: Enhance access to care, especially in rural and regional areas, by funding pelvic health physiotherapy telehealth consultations.
  4. Expansion of Clinics: Broaden the scope of endometriosis and women’s pain clinics to include comprehensive women’s health services across all life stages.
  5. Workforce Support: Incentivise the uptake of advanced practice training in pelvic health physiotherapy to grow the specialised workforce.
  6. Menopause Leave: Advocate for the introduction of government-subsidised paid workplace menopause leave to support women in managing their health proactively.

‘A shift towards timely evidence-based primary care interventions is critical to ensure effective outcomes, and avoid unnecessary and costly healthcare interventions.

‘By recognising and addressing the specific healthcare needs of women undergoing menopause, we not only improve individual health outcomes but also enhance societal health and well-being at large,’ she said.

The APA urges healthcare policymakers and stakeholders to consider these recommendations earnestly. By implementing these changes, Australia can set a precedent for menopause care, promoting a healthier future for all women.



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