Gwyneth Paltrow is out to monetize menopause.

She’s telling everyone about her pre menopausal journey and COINCIDENTALLY has a  supplement called Madame Ovary.

Ha ha. Get it? A play on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.

The name did make me wonder if anyone at GOOP has actually read the book, because as much as I enjoyed it I certainly don’t want to emulate Madame Bovary. In any way. Like at all. Especially as I age, or not in her case. It doesn’t end well.

If you haven’t read Madame Bovary or you did but have forgotten most of it allow me to summarize (I’m reaching back to 1st year university, so English majors and my beloved librarians be kind):

Madame Bovary is about a farm girl who marries a doctor. She quickly becomes bored with her middle-class life. She has an affair with a man who does not love her and then has another affair. She becomes obsessed with aspirational living. Her debts mount, so she turns to prostitution. Her double life about to be exposed, she kills herself with arsenic.

There are a lot of themes in the book and I am but a simple gynecologist, but aspirational living gone wrong, a major plot point, seems like how I would snidely describe GOOP not how they should be advertising themselves.


No one needs the kind of supplements they sell on GOOP. There are many unresolved safety issues with supplements and multivitamins, but a good summary is no study has shown that they are beneficial for an otherwise healthy person living in a developed country. Many of these products have also been adulterated or do not contain what they claim. I have an idea about raising money to have GOOP products tested to see what is even in them. If you are such an Angel investor, let me know!

Back to aspirational living gone wrong.

No woman needs Madame Ovary. There is a lot of vitamin A (8,000 IU) and if you don’t live in developing country or don’t have cystic fibrosis you probably don’t need any additional vitamin A. Here are the NIH guidelines on Vitamin A.  There are lots of unresolved issues regarding vitamin A and cancer risk, so additional vitamin A is always a big nope for me.

You also don’t need that green tea leaf extract in Madame Ovary, unless risking liver injury is your thing. Currently there is insufficient evidence to recommend Black Cohosh for menopausal symptoms.

Given Paltrow’s propensity for making clams why she needs that much vitamin B12 is clearly unknown. Four ounces of cooked clams gives you as much vitamin B12 as Madame Ovary.

The only type of supplements an otherwise healthy pre or menopausal women may need are calcium and vitamin D. Ask your doctor if you need those and double-check the recommendations on the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements Site. You can buy those for a lot less than Madame Ovary at any drug store, Target, or Costco. I am pretty strict with my diet so I get all my calcium that way (maybe I should send Paltrow some of my recipes?), but I appreciate it is hard to do.

But the worst advice from Paltrow is the bullshit she is spouting about hormone levels. She brags about getting her “hormones” checked twice a year. That is, quite frankly, bad medicine. Neither ACOG nor the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) recommend hormone levels. They vary not only day-to-day but throughout the day. We also don’t do anything with the levels.

This is what NAMS has to say:

Testing hormone levels is not required to determine whether a woman has the “right amount” of hormones. The optimal hormone levels in postmenopausal women have not been established. How symptoms respond to a particular dose of hormones or nonhormonal menopause medication is the only reliable guide. 

Saliva testing is often a part of custom-compounded “bioidentical hormone therapy” with hormones. But saliva testing is not only unnecessary; it has also has also not been proven to be accurate or reliable. Because hormone levels vary day-to-day as well as throughout the day, even a blood test cannot accurately reflect the body’s hormone levels.

The common hormone test that may be appropriate is for the level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to help determine if a woman is in menopause, especially for women who do not have a uterus and thus cannot tell by their menstrual pattern that they are menopausal. 

NAMS does not recommend saliva testing to determine hormone levels and does not recommend custom-compounded products over well-tested, government-approved products for the majority of women.

We might check the FSH level for a woman over 40 if she hasn’t had a period for a while and wants to know if she is at risk for getting pregnant. A common situation might be a 47-year-old with no period for a year who wants to be super sure before she pulls her copper IUD.

We do not manage symptoms or prescribe hormones or offer any medical care at all based on hormone levels. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

While Paltrow is free to get all the wrong medical advice that she wants, women see recommendations from celebrities like Paltrow and then ask their own providers why they can’t get their hormone levels done? To those women I say, your doctor is up to date and following good guidelines!

And I have yet to see a celebrity who gives menopausal advice that is even vaguely accurate.

While we are on the subject of hormones, shame on you Vogue for publishing this utter bullshit recommending hormone testing for 20-year-old women last week. So much for Anna Wintour’s commitment to fact checking. That article is medical drivel.

So give the GOOPy Madame Ovary a big pass as well as Paltrow’s terrible hormone advice. It is truly apirational living gone wrong.

(BTW, I’m not linking to GOOP anymore, if you want to read up on Madame Ovary with your own eyeballs have at it!)

Madame Ovary
Madame Ovary’s “proprietary” blend

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  1. Thanks for this! Came to say what you had to say about this supplement after reading the recent NYTimes piece on the Goop headquarters; in that article was a reference to Madame Ovary.
    By the way, Madame Bovary does not turn to prostitution (but having taught this novel, I can see why you would think she did). When her debts are about to be called in, she goes to her first lover and pretends she still loves him, then asks for the money. He doesn’t have any. Then she heads for the arsenic, and a gruesome death.

  2. I bought Madame Ovary. I have taken it two days (a week apart), and both days I felt exhausted. I think it may be excess vitamin A, or the Black Cohosh? All I know is that it is very hard on my body. I think I will throw away that $90, alas.

  3. Thanks for a great post Gen. In a collaboration with Prof Rees, the Executive Director EMAS: European Menopause and Andropause Society; we have a book chapter in-press exploring non-pharmacetical interventions to manage menopause. We found the literature agrees with your blog here, but I also wanted to highlight that Black Cohosh has been implicated in liver failure leading to death. Best and strongest evidence is to follow a plant-based Mediterranean diet- something you don’t need to buy ANY supplement for- but just enjoy good food in good company, with some enjoyable exercise.

  4. Dear Dr. Jen, I love your posts! I am a GP in the UK and rarely have the middle class come looking for supplements as we have a beautiful thing called the NHS which allows me to ration non evidence base crap. So, sadly, they go elsewhere. Your info is mostly useful for all my friends and setting them straight on the facts. You are an excellent back up! One thing that I hear a lot of talk regarding menopause is biological HRT. I am not a fan as the evidence base appears to be poor but I have many an intelligent and influential friend who swear by them and thus recommend. Do you have any thoughts? Or can you guide me to these on your blog ? Keep up the fantastic work. Funny but true is how I describe you! Roslyn

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


  5. Great analysis and a must read to women with no knowledge of menopause in general but a need to understand!!.
    Thanks for your insights as a professional!👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

  6. “I have an idea about raising money to have GOOP products tested”
    If you start a account, I will happily send a few $ your way (and I’m sure others would as well).

    1. “Dr Jen will be there… pointing out that it’s wrong.”

      I did the extra typing needed. 🙂

  7. This article provides great information about what is not necessary, un-needed and un-safe. Those are all important things to know. The problem, for me anyway, is WHAT does alleviate the symptoms that are unbearable? Western medicine provides the option of hormone replacement (prempro), anti-depressants, or the ever helpful advice of, “Well, hot flashes have never killed anyone, amirite? haha!!!” I’m someone who is in their late 40’s and have been dealing with severe, life disrupting symptoms of menopause for almost 8 years. The idea that these symptoms can continue for decades to come, or even for the rest of my life, is extremely daunting. Is it any wonder that women are willing to try ANYTHING to get relief? It is this premise that makes celebrities like Paltrow so dangerous. For those who suffer, the unfortunate truth is that figuring out how bear these life changes is an individual process that does not have an easy answer, if any answer at all.

    1. You don’t need to take PremPro; ‘bio-identical’ hormones (not the compounded ones labeled bio-identical) are available by prescription from your dr. to your local pharmacy. Just as we have human insulin for diabetics, we have human estrogen & progesterone for menopausal women who want/need them. They come in pills, patches, & vaginal rings. A competent/knowledgeable Ob/Gyn or Women’s Health NP can help you out, but do it soon. Starting hormone replacement should be done within 10 yrs of menopause.

    2. HRT has given me my life, energy and emotional stability back. It took a bit of trial and effort to get it right-I have a Mirena, take HRT and use a vaginal pessary a couple of times a week, but life is good.

      For me it was worth persisting rather than suffering and waiting for things to resolve.

  8. I was fortunate enough to be raised by much older women who were very candid about what aging is like. My mother never discussed her medical history with me, and my sister is a medical history denier…she’d rather not go to the doctor than know if there’s anything need addressing.

    For the past two years, I’ve had a horrible time with my uterus (I wish it would just give up, seriously), but I’ve had good doctors who have helped me along and I’m *almost* out of the woods… I also have a lovely husband who understands that we’re both getting older and we have to reinvent the game in order to keep playing for many years to come. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s all getting better.

    There are, for me, “remedies” that are just for the comfort of keeping my beloved aunts near me. They do nothing, but I feel reassured that these lovely women are still with me in spirit and guide me through the deep dark Nothing Works Quite the Way It Used To woods…

    Women like Gwyneth Paltrow, abusing the influence their looks, fame, fortune and “not-quite-the-girl-next-door-but-you-still-wanna-be-ME!!!” qualities irk me. Even if her body is going through the same changes, the challenges are not quite the same because she leads quite a privileged existence. What I got from her announcement was that dear ol’ Blythe didn’t talk to her girl about her bits and bobs…and now her girl wants to tell us all about them!!!

    Hera help us all!

  9. I’m 10+ years past menopause and still get raging hot flashes on occasion, as did my mother. Check with your mother, grandmother and get an idea about their experiences to get a gauge on what to expect. When I started menopause, the hot flashes were so intense that my oxford blouse would be soaked with sweat dripping from my chin and beads of sweat on my forehead and torso.This was amusing to explain to a classroom of middle schoolers going through puberty. They were thinking..”Are these changes forever? Oh No!!”. They asked me if I was running around the track between classes. Sounded good to me, so Yep, that’s it. I was exercising exuberantly between classes. Things were changing, physically and mentally. Lots of crying during S.P.C.A. commercials and any heartwarming message or if a student got a cut or injury at P.E., crying occurred. A doctor visit soon followed and Premarin was prescribed and dutifully taken, dosages juggled due to bloating, a period, and other symptoms related to H.R.. So,next, bioidenticals. Expensive,not an exact science and not exact results. Expensive skin moisturizer w. little relif from menopause symptoms, although sometimes I did get a few huge pimples and bloating, so I stopped the bioidenticals due to the fact that women have been experiencing menopause for centuries. It won’t kill although I felt like killing my ex at times, but didn’t. I took vitamin D due to low levels( Dr.s Best is recommended by my doc due to the fact that it is doctor manufactured and tested. The closest to FDA oversight) I ate and still eat canned salmon w/ the bones weekly for the natural calcium and an occasional multi B when I haven’t been eating lots of leafy greens. I survived, things worked themselves out and I still have occasional hot flashes but that’s better than a period every month. It beats taking daily H.R. and certainly saves $$ on those unproven bioidenticals. I had extreme symptoms and taught 6 classes of middle schoolers daily for 10 years after going into menopause and I adapted, adjusted and everything fell into place. Our bodies will heal themselves of natural events. It’s an amazing set of mechanisms and processes that if given some time and a good, healthy diet will be perfectly healthy. It’s at the worst, very uncomfortable at the beginning, but it gets better. Yes, hot flashes, insomnia, weight gain and redistribution are a little hard to accept, but so was puberty. We don’t medicate girls through puberty so why do it for menopause? Since settling into post menopause, I have NEVER been cold. Do not need a comforter in winter or heavy coat when the temperature drops.It’s like having a little heater set on really low, below the sweating setting but way above chill.
    I’m enjoying this phase of life. Just keep your money, don’t give it to swindlers who say that you’re broken. We’re not broken, we are RENEWING! RENEWING for our wise and carefree phase of life.Enjoy every moment!

    1. Rebecca, I just discovered Jen Gunter, and you by extension – your outlook, your humor and smarts – lucky middle schoolers to have you!

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