Dr. LaKeischa McMillan, or “Dr. LaKeischa” as her patients call her, is an Integrative Gynecologist and Hormone Specialist with more than 20 years of experience advising women (and for the past few years, men) on their hormonal health. She has her own concierge practice through which she treats women who are struggling with depleting hormones and helps them rebalance their hormones, regain mental sharpness, and restore their energy levels.
In addition to her practice, Dr. LaKeischa is working hard to reach more women with hormone education and information through her social media platforms. A straight-talker who gives practical advice, Dr. LaKeischa is on a mission to help women better manage their menopause transition and empower them to be informed partners in their own care – ultimately, establishing an army of “Hormone Hotties,” now and for generations to come.
Change the narrative – perimenopause is a transitional stage in a woman’s life…not the end.
Dr. LaKeischa advocates that we stop thinking about menopause as a fixed and finite period, and think more about perimenopause and post-menopause as transitional and critical health stages of a woman’s lifespan. In her recently published book, The Other PMS: Your Survival Guide for Perimenopause & Menopause, she debunks the myth that women are doomed to misery for the rest of our lives once we hit perimenopause, and tries to shed some light on the symptoms surrounding these changes.
“There’s this whole playbook that’s followed and this whole ‘sage’ type of preparation and advice that we have to help the younger ones glide into adolescence and the childbearing years. But there’s nothing there for us to prevent us from slamming into perimenopause.”
Although each individual’s experience with menopause is nuanced and distinctly different, the biology of it is fundamentally the same. Dr. LaKeischa sees the opportunity to address menopause transition through education, much like how we address our menstrual cycles and managing our fertility.
“With menstruation and PMS, there is a whole process that is taught from middle school to high school and college… And now, there’s even a menstrual starter kit you can buy to support young people through the process. We should take that same approach to menopause.”
Throughout her work in the space – whether in integrative sessions with her clients, through informational content on her social platforms or in her book – she also encourages women to talk to their families about perimenopause and menopause.
“When you start having conversations, you start shining light on information. You start giving light to a subject and it takes the bogeyman out of it.”
Most people expect hot flashes or the end of menstruation when it comes to menopause. But hormonal mood imbalances that contribute to tension in relationships are also symptoms that many women don’t understand – and often blame themselves for – as they enter this new phase of their lives.
“I hear a lot of women say, ‘I don’t feel like myself, and I don’t really like who she is. Because she’s different from maybe even the PMSer, you know? It’s like, what is this? What is going on with me? Because I don’t recognize her and I’m not sure where she’s coming from…and is everybody else seeing her?’”
While normalizing menopause transition through everyday conversation is important, helping her patients understand their treatment options – including demystifying hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – are part and parcel of her approach.
Dr. LaKeischa says it's usually a strained relationship dynamic they may be experiencing that triggers the menopause conversation with her patients, or a body image concern where someone literally says they wake up and they don't recognize the body that they're in anymore. She says that this opens the door to a broader conversation about the range of symptoms they may be experiencing and what treatment options might be best for them.
“Now we can start talking about the tools that are available, such as either supplements or lifestyle changes or, you know, there are bioidentical hormones.”
Modernizing the discussion around hormone replacement therapy.
For Dr. LaKeischa, it was in the early 2000’s that the results of the controversial Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study on hormone therapy were released -- just when she was beginning her medical residency. The study has long been cited for why many women won’t even consider HRT for managing their symptoms, and continues to fuel concerns that the risks of taking hormone therapy far outweigh the benefits. However, Dr. LaKeischa says that in looking back, as health care professionals, they did not take the time to digest the comprehensive results and what they would mean for the women they would be serving.
“We needed to be the medical interpreters…we are supposed to be translators and guides for our patients, and say ‘this does not apply to you or this applies to you’. ”
In the almost two decades since the WHI study was released, Dr. LaKeischa has dedicated herself to digging into the medical research and calling for continuing medical education on bioidentical hormones and other forms of hormone therapy, so that she can better advise and support her patients. Now, her conversations with patients who present with perimenopausal symptoms begin with getting to the root of why they’ve chosen to see her.
“What do you need? What is the disruptive symptom that brought you to me? And once we go through that I ask, OK, are you open to talking about bioidentical hormones? Are you even open to having that conversation?”
For those who are open to the discussion, Dr. LaKeischa focuses on explaining what bioidentical hormones are, what they do, how they work, and how they differ from the hormones used in the WHI HRT study.
“I tell all my patients that my biggest job is to educate them -- to give them information so that they can make an informed decision or an informed refusal.”
Are the stigmas associated with perimenopause and menopause diminishing?
Dr. LaKeischa says that discussions around menopause are becoming less taboo than when she first started treating patients. And she’s encouraged by the number of women who are in the menopause space that are using their voices and platforms to help other women. Even so, she says we have a long way to go.
“We have to start changing the narrative around women’s health and what is expected in terms of how women are expected to age. When women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s start taking power and ownership of the way they feel and they say, ‘Hey, I know that I can do certain things to help myself feel better’ -- and they have that power -- that’s where the difference comes. Because when you have the information, when you have the tools, when you have the resources, you feel empowered. And that’s what I’m here for, just to be able to empower you, to give you tools to be part of your team so that you can be the best you can be.
I believe it’s my job to empower women for generations to come to understand that balanced hormones actually equal a whole person, to understand that they don’t have to just accept that this is the way that they move through the world now.”
To keep up with Dr. LaKeischa, join her Facebook Group Hormone Hotties, or follow her on Clubhouse, Instagram and Facebook @Dr LaKeischaMD. You can also purchase her book The Other PMS: Your Survival Guide for Perimenopause & Menopause on Amazon.
Dr. LaKeischa’s 7-Day Video Mini-Course on The Birds, The Bees, and Bioidenticals is now available online.