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The Mature Women's Centre

Staff at the Mature Women's Centre.
Karen DiMarco, Wendy Borody, Dr. Debra Evaniuk, Janet Antoshko and Kerry Antonio are staff members at the Mature Women's Centre.

BY SUSIE STRACHAN
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, March / April 2017

The Mature Women’s Centre at Victoria Hospital specializes in dealing with a range of gynecological issues, including menopause transition and hysterectomy alternatives. 

Founded in 1994 at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, the centre moved to the Victoria Hospital in 2006 and currently sees about 5,000 patients a year. It offers referred patients a multi-disciplinary approach to care that includes doctors and nurses, as well as a pharmacist, dietitian and a kinesiologist.

“We have a quiet, calm atmosphere,” says Kerry Antonio, a clinical resource nurse at the centre. “The team goes to the patient, rather than the other way around.”

The nurse-managed model of care at the centre emphasizes health promotion, and disease and disability prevention, from a physical, cultural, emotional and spiritual perspective, she adds.

While menopausal patients tend to be 50 years of age or older, the centre also has patients between the ages of 20 and 40, according to Leanne Chernecki, a nurse clinician. These younger women are experiencing premature menopause due to surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or other treatment-induced causes, along with a condition called primary ovarian insufficiency.

“These are young women, often with young families, who find themselves dealing with something they didn’t expect to happen until much later in life,” says Chernecki. “There’s often not a transition through peri-menopause to menopause, either. The symptoms can come on immediately after surgery to remove the ovaries, for example.”

Younger women experience the same symptoms, like night sweats and hot flashes, but they are at higher risk for cardiac and bone health problems.

Treatments for menopause include hormone replacement therapy as well as alternatives to those who interested in pursuing that option.

Most patients come to the centre hoping for relief of their symptoms, and are seen by the nursing team, with the pharmacist brought in to discuss medications. They soon learn they can make lifestyle changes as well, such as changing their diet, increasing exercise and decreasing stress.

“Menopause is associated with weight gain for many women, as well as changes in the body’s shape and metabolism,” says Wendy Borody, the centre’s dietitian. “Women lose the protection that estrogen gave to their body, which protected the bones and heart.”

Dietary modification may be as simple as adding calcium and vitamin D, and reducing foods with high amounts of sugar, salt and certain types of fat. “We also talk about foods that may trigger symptoms, such as hot drinks or spicy foods, and red wine, among other alcoholic drinks that may cause hot flashes.”

For many women, adding exercise to their already-busy life seems impossible, according to Janet Antoshko, the clinical kinesiologist at the centre. But, as she points out to her patients, exercise is medicine.

“It helps with everything: both the physical side of things and your mood, helping you decrease stress, anxiety and depression,” says Antoshko. “So we have to fit it into busy schedules. Sure, it’s harder to go to a gym when you have work and a family. So we work around that. I tell people that just 10 minutes matter.”

Women worrying about weight gain during menopause should do both aerobic exercises to strengthen their heart, and strength exercises for their bones. “We lose three to five per cent of our bone density after menopause, which is why we need to take calcium and vitamin D,” says Antoshko. “This is also why women need to do strength training three to five times a week.”

But rather than focusing on trying to regain the shape many women had in their youth, menopausal women should focus on how they feel, says Antoshko. “Are you sleeping better? Do you have more energy? Most women find that their resting heart rate has gone down, and that their aches and pains are gone.”

Wave: January / February, 2017

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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