Women’s health

The DO Book Club, May 2024: ‘Perimenopause for Dummies’

Author Rebecca Levy-Gantt, DO, provides clear and useful information about perimenopause, the transitional time that is highly common yet little understood.


“Perimenopause for Dummies,” the recent addition to the famous “Wiley” series by publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., assumes the readers know almost nothing about the topic of perimenopause. Nothing could be truer. Many people have not even heard the term, much less understand the dozens of symptoms and implications of the many aspects of the transitional period that precedes menopause.

Menopause and the study of women’s health, in general, have historically gotten short shrift in the medical and academic establishment. This has made it difficult for many women experiencing perimenopause to get the information and the help that they need.

In an ideal world, all women would have access to an empathetic, relatable OB-GYN with credentials as a certified menopause practitioner who could provide explanations of symptoms, share information about possible treatments and answer sensitive questions about perimenopause.

Of course, in the actual world, this is far from the case. Author Rebecca Levy-Gantt, DO, attempts to help bridge the gap with this book. In her relatable introduction, Dr. Levy-Gantt introduces the topic and herself to her readers. It feels like sitting down for coffee with your really smart girlfriend who happens to be an expert in the field.

Breaking down symptoms and potential treatments

Part of the author’s approach to educating readers on the myriad symptoms surrounding perimenopause is not to pathologize them. Many symptoms are characterized as a very normal, expected result of the hormonal changes that proceed with age. Not all symptoms have to be addressed or fixed, but if one wants to seek relief, many treatment options exist.

The author addresses everything from the controversial topic of hormone replacement to fluctuations in libido, weight gain, preventing bone loss, emotional changes, incontinence and changes in sleep patterns. If Dr. Levy-Gantt does not cover it, she refers the reader to experts who do. It is a very comprehensive volume.

Many online sources provide information about perimenopause symptoms so that the company can then sell you their treatment. The author instead takes a well-balanced approach with a thorough discussion of the benefits, risks and alternatives to many treatments. She directs women to work with their own physicians to choose the best treatment for them.

Defining what you need to know

The proverbial elephant in the room is the struggle of many women to even mention or talk about some of the sensitive issues in their lives surrounding intercourse and intimacy. Coupled with a lack of knowledge on the part of many primary care physicians and gynecologists, many patient visits just pass over what many women view as serious issues.

Many readers will page through right to the chapter entitled “Holding onto Your Libido and Keeping it Comfortable ‘Down There.’” Dr. Levy-Gantt is not afraid to lay out the facts and dispel the myths.

The chapter presents comprehensive definitions, explanations and treatment options. The author seeks to remove the stigma around talking about many of the common conditions that reduce sexual desire or cause sexual discomfort.  

Comprehensive explanations

The issues of the perimenopausal years are indeed complex. Dr. Levy-Gantt presents science-based answers to common questions to educate and reassure women that there are explanations and treatment options. The volume is thoroughly indexed to allow readers to find terms and topics easily.

I envision that women who find themselves with a particular issue will use the book as a helpful reference. If your sleep is disrupted in perimenopause, there is a chapter about that. Have hot flashes or mood swings? The book has comprehensive chapters covering these symptoms, and they include honest explorations of treatment options.

Dr. Levy-Gantt shares several stories of the patients that she has treated in her decades-long career as an OB-GYN to make the book relatable and interesting. In the chapter titled: “Ten Perimenopause Stories from My Own Practice,” the reader can understand that discussing symptoms with the right health professional can facilitate finding a plan and treatment option that will work for them.

The formatting of the book places various tips and warnings into the text with easily recognizable icons. When the explanations get more technical, readers can easily choose to skip sections and concentrate on tips and treatment options. Readers will find the last section, “The Part of Tens,” particularly useful.  Here we find 10 perimenopause myths exposed, 10 things to ignore and 10 things you really need during perimenopause.

A critically important resource

“Perimenopause for Dummies” should get serious attention as a useful resource for thousands of women, some of them physicians, stranded in a desert of minimal information, disinformation and snake-oil salesmen. Dr. Levy-Gantt articulates her goal of the book as follows:

“With some self-assessment and a bit of determination (as well as the information you can find in this book) you can reduce troublesome perimenopausal symptoms, prevent disease and promote a long and healthy life.” (p. 18)

I would also recommend the book to men who would like to understand more about the changes their wives and partners may be going through. Our relationships could use a lot more reliable information, and that information can foster collaboration and growth.

I hope this guide leads many readers to better understand and appreciate their perimenopausal bodies. It also serves as a fantastic reminder that no matter what symptoms and struggles you’re experiencing in perimenopause, you’re not alone.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Connect with The DO Book Club on Goodreads to see past selections and reviews, and to check out what we’re reading next.

Related reading:

The DO Book Club, March 2024: ‘Go by Boat’ and ‘Island Medicine’

The DO Book Club, Feb. 2024: ‘Real Self-Care’

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