No two women experience menopause the same way—not even biological relatives— and there are no guarantees of when, how long, or how intense menopause will be for any given person.
How and when you experience perimenopause will be dependent on several different things. Genetics plays a part; so does your lifestyle and level of activity. Smoking, drinking, and stress levels can also influence when your hormone production starts to change.
Results from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) indicated that women of color are more likely to experience perimenopause earlier and face higher risks because of it. That’s right, racial ethnicity can be a serious factor in terms of how you experience the “change of life.” What does this mean for Black women and NBWOC? Are they doomed to struggle with nonstop hormonal issues, or is there a better way forward?
We’ll be breaking down the key findings of this study and what they mean for women of color below.
Perimenopause In Women Of Color: What New Research Found
As we mentioned before, the majority of what is known today about how aging women experience menopause is sourced from a mass study of women through SWAN, which has been ongoing since the late 90s. This study, which included women from a variety of backgrounds, has focused on the wide range of changes that can be experienced from the point of starting perimenopause onwards. Studying a diverse group of women has helped researchers make observations into how women’s hormones change based on their ethnicity, income level, and more.
Take the average age for showing signs of menopause. The SWAN study found that Black women tended to show perimenopause symptoms around the age of 49—a whole two years before their white counterparts. Latina women participating in the study also experienced signs earlier than white women.
Another obvious observation during this study was that these two groups of women are not only experiencing perimenopause earlier, they’re also feeling premenopause symptoms more intensely than white women typically do, and for a longer period of time.
As a whole, white women go through perimenopause and then menopause for about 6.5 years before becoming post-menopausal. Latina women have been found to extend that time period to almost 9 years, with Black women reporting the longest times at around 10 years. That’s close to a decade of bad sleep, sore breasts, vaginal dryness, body temperature fluctuations, and weight gain. Simply put, women of color are spending more time fighting their fluctuating hormones than white women are.
What Makes Women of Color Experience Perimenopause Sooner?
We mentioned that when a woman experiences perimenopause depends on things like lifestyle, genetics, and other external factors. When you add ethnicity into the mix, things get complicated—primarily because women of color experience specific things that white women do not. Some of the things that researchers believe are linked to perimenopause:
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Oral contraceptive use
- Smoking versus non-smoking lifestyle
- Age of the first period and first pregnancy
- General income level
- Typical health and medication use
Women of color tend to check more of the boxes leading to perimenopause because of their socioeconomic circumstances and a whole host of other factors that are less likely to affect white women like disparities in healthcare and the workforce.
It’s only in more recent years that menopausal studies have started to focus specifically on women of color. This means it’ll be some time before we have decisive answers about the mysteries of our hormones and endocrine systems.
Racial Disparities in Women’s Healthcare
In addition to having to deal with unpleasant symptoms for longer, early-onset perimenopause can potentially drive other health issues like osteoporosis, heart disease, and other deadly conditions like ovarian cancer. This makes early awareness and monitoring essential.
Celebrity Gabrielle Union recently opened up about her experience with perimenopause on “The View.” She described how her fluctuating hormones caused her to gain weight, lose hair, and even struggle with thoughts of suicide. It was only after discussing her symptoms with her therapist that she realized something bigger could be at play with her health.
For women of color who are more likely to experience health issues related to perimenopause, taking early steps can mean the difference between a long healthy life and the alternative. And herein lies the rub: for women of color, simply sharing symptoms is not enough. Women of color need someone to believe their symptoms and believe their experiences.
Medical gaslighting is far too common for women in general, but it rings especially true for Black women and NBWOC. Being told that an issue is in a person’s head and dismissing them can stop women from seeking future medical care, which can lead to a delay in treatment or neglect of it altogether. Take this alarming statistic: Black women in the United States are over three times more likely to die in pregnancy or postpartum than white women due to conditions like pregnancy-related cardiomyopathy or blood pressure disorders.
Simply put, the American healthcare system has a massive issue with healthcare equity, and the people who suffer most are women of color.
What Perimenopausal Women Of Color Can Do
All of this news can feel particularly discouraging, but not particularly surprising. Women of color face challenges that white women simply do not; this added health-related stress can feel like more of the same.
When it comes to taking actual, tangible actions to protect reproductive (and, by proxy, mental) health, there are a few things that women of color can do to protect themselves from perimenopause. First and foremost is to find healthcare providers who listen and acknowledge the racial disparities in healthcare. Other steps that can be taken include:
- Finding an OBGYN who specializes in treating perimenopause and can help manage the worst of the fluctuations
- Making critical lifestyle choices now that will reduce your likelihood of experiencing perimenopause (stop smoking, exercise regularly, etc.)
- Consulting with a trusted healthcare provider to decide treatment options will help reduce the signs of perimenopause
- Experimenting with natural supplements. Some plant materials have been found to soothe symptoms like hot flashes and Hormone Replacement Therapy, while helpful, is not always the best fit for everyone
Ease Perimenopause Symptoms with Wile
We know that emotional and hormonal wellness is key to living your life as you intend, especially if perimenopause is a reality for you or something that’s on your mind.
That’s why we started Wile, a natural women’s health specialist company making naturopath-designed formulas for the symptoms of perimenopause (and life). All women begin to experience hormonal changes after 40—hormones fluctuate, stress increases, and it can be hard to find the support you need.
This is especially true for women of color who are likely to need that type of support for longer. That’s why our 40+ Hormonal Wellness supplement is made from natural ingredients and is safe enough to drink every day for as long as you need it.
Our clinically backed blend helps mitigate hormonal shifts and stress so you feel and live better.
Less progesterone and more stress lead to many “symptoms” we attribute to perimenopause and more:
- Helps even out mood
- Helps increase mental focus
- Contains adaptogens that support stress tolerance & resilience
- Supports a healthy sleep habit
- Helps get ahead of perimenopause by starting before symptoms arise
- Makes perimenopause easier without synthetic hormones
One capsule taken daily with food helps ease periods after 40, reduces symptoms of PMS like breast tenderness and irregular cycles, and cuts down on sleepless nights.
Change how you approach your health today with a supplement that’s good for your health, body, mind, and soul.
This article is intended for informational purposes and is not intended to replace a one-on-one medical consultation with a professional. Wile, Inc researches and shares information and advice from our own research and advisors. We encourage every woman to research, ask questions and speak to a trusted health care professional to make her own best decisions.