Already have an account?
Get back to the

Even Oprah’s Doctors Didn’t Correctly Diagnose Her Menopause Symptoms 

The most famous woman in the world experienced a common lack of education.


Menopause is a subject surrounded by stigma. It’s unpleasant enough for women to simply experience — what with the hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. But the fact that this natural bodily transition is so often dismissed as being no big deal by doctors, or mocked by those who aren’t experiencing it, only adds insult to injury. Although an estimated 2 million women per year reach menopause in the United States, a lot of them don’t even realize what their symptoms mean due to a lack of education. And it turns out that’s true no matter how famous you are. Oprah Winfrey, famed TV mogul, recently opened up about the trouble she had getting treatment for menopause. 

In a conversation with Maria Shriver and Drew Barrymore that aired on, Winfrey, 69, revealed that even glitzy celebrities — who have access to the best medical care in the world — can struggle to receive the information they need. Oprah’s experience began with heart palpitations, a fairly common perimenopause symptom. However, none of her doctors suggested that this cardiac concern could be related to menopause. 

Oprah’s Frightening Symptoms

“I never had a hot flash in my life… but I started [menopause] at 48 with heart palpitations,” Oprah explained. “I went from doctor to doctor, literally five different doctors. At one point, a female doctor had given me an angiogram, and put me on heart medication and never once mentioned that this could be menopause or perimenopause.” (Perimenopause refers to the start of menopause, a transition that most women begin in their 40s or 50s, but can start as early as your mid-30s.)

Heart palpitations — during which your heart pounds, flutters, races, or beats irregularly — are a common symptom of perimenopause and a direct result of lower levels of the hormone estrogen, which leads to an overstimulation of the heart. While heart palpitations as related to menopause are generally harmless, it’s recommended that you see a doctor if your palpitations are linked to a shortness of breath, dizziness, or chest discomfort, as this could indicate something more serious.

Winfrey also shared that she’d experienced brain fog and a general “dull” feeling since beginning menopause. “I remember going through a period where I just felt like whatever… and could not concentrate on reading, which is my favorite thing to do,” she said. 

Luckily, Winfrey figured out that she was in perimenopause all by herself, without much help from the five medical professionals she consulted. (Honestly, what can’t that woman do?) While reading one day, she happened upon a book that listed heart palpitations as a menopause symptom, and suddenly understood what she was experiencing.

The Need For Education and Awareness

Oprah and Maria Shriver jokingly refer to menopause as “the big M” due to the associated stigma. During the panel discussion, Shriver pointed out that mental health symptoms caused by menopause often go undiagnosed as well. “Most people at Oprah’s age, when they would go [to the doctor], they’re like, ‘You need antidepressants,’” Shriver noted. Many doctors are quick to jump to a diagnosis of depression without even connecting the symptoms to perimenopause or menopause. 

Following her experience, Winfrey now emphasizes the importance of women advocating for their own needs in medical settings. She also encourages her fellow women to have open dialogue about this stage of life — because that kind of honesty can help us help each other. 

Also speaking on the panel, Drew Barrymore admitted that she had recently felt uncomfortable revealing to a date that she’d be attending the menopause discussion. “There’s something in that stigma that you think, ‘I don’t want you to think I’m some dusty old dry thing.’ That’s not the image I want,” shared Barrymore during the March taping. “And I feel very confident normally.” Barrymore, 48, is currently going through perimenopause herself. 

The good news? We’ve got some powerful women in our corner. Oprah Daily has just launched a menopause guide alongside their conversation that will roll out discussions, classes, tools, and expert advice on how deal with this transition and everything that comes with it. 

“For generations, millions and millions of women have suffered the symptoms of menopause and suffered in silence,” Winfrey concluded. “It’s been shrouded in stigma and shrouded in shame. Women have told me they feel invisible, as if their very selves are disappearing. But we are flipping that script today.”

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.