I wrote a post a little while ago about the peri menopause as I was having symptoms and had not heard too much about it. I had had my first doctor’s appointment to discuss it and was left feeling angry and dismissed. I have since read everything I can find so that I was armed for the fight, and sadly, a fight it was! I wanted to share what’s happened to me since, some great resources to educate yourself with and, on the eve of International Women’s Day, a plea for why women should be talking about it more.
My own personal story is that I had a further three appointments with my doctor before I could come to any kind of conclusion, (so four in total with two sets of blood tests!) Whilst I appreciate that my doctor was thorough and considered every option – gave me a referral for a chest x-ray to see if I had TB – I didn’t go, (the only symptom I had that correlated with TB was night sweats,) talked about a brain scan due to my increased migraines and did numerous blood tests to rule out thyroid and other issues, I was frustrated that she wouldn’t consider that I could be peri menopausal. The NICE advice to GPs is that if a woman is 45 or older and presents with any of the long list of symptoms, (see below,) she is peri menopausal, no need to test anything, and treatment can be offered. I am 45 and had had night sweats, anxiety attacks, massively increased migraines and no sleep since August. My doctor concluded that my symptoms were probably due to stress and her recommendation was anti-depressants. I refused outright as I wasn’t depressed, but she persisted that anti-depressants could still treat my symptoms. What actually depressed me was that this treatment was offered, sadly as it is for so many women! I didn’t want to get addicted to them or lower my libido when what I knew I needed was a hormone balance. Eventually, after much pushing from me, she said that I could try coming off the Pill, (which was helping my Endometriosis,) have a Mirena coil fitted instead, which would give me the Progesterone and then possibly take Estrogen gel for balance, but she still wanted the opinion of a gynaecologist.
I couldn’t get a coil fitted at my doctors and the wait on the NHS was over six months due to Covid, so luckily for me, I was able to go privately as I have insurance. I had it fitted the week before Christmas and started the Estrogen gel on Boxing Day and my life changed overnight. I slept straight away and continued to sleep, so no psychosomatic effect, I felt like Sleeping Beauty, I had missed so much over the last six months, it was like my body wanted to sleep for a hundred years! My migraines have also decreased from three or four a week, to some weeks with none and occasionally two. I have more energy as I’m getting more sleep, and Covid aside, I feel much more positive in general. A very simple and cost-effective treatment, so why should I have fought so hard for it?
It still makes my blood boil that even though over half the population go through menopause, a lot of GPs are not educated on it, some having information that is over 20 years out of date, (that HRT can cause breast cancer – that was a very small study, done on a very different form of HRT, not the body identical one more commonly offered now). In fact, HRT can protect you against and minimise your risk of a lot of other health concerns such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. I also know that a lot of my friends are struggling to get the treatment they need from their NHS GP. It is not necessarily GP’s fault, they have to remember so much information, but there is a petition for them to get additional training on menopause, please sign this to #MakeMenopauseCount, so that less women are given anti-depressants or sent away completely.
Hot flushes are the typically the much-derided symptom, but there are many others, so brilliantly depicted in this post by Dr Naomi Potter.
One of the biggest things we can all do for each other though is to talk about it. ‘Normalising’ menopause as another stage of life that you can seek help to get through and don’t have to suffer silently should be a goal for all of us. It’s surprising to me that some women still feel embarrassment or shame, not wanting to admit they are at this stage of life or saying they don’t want to ‘give in’ to HRT. As a friend of mine said to me this week, lots of us take the contraceptive pill for years without worrying what the hormones are doing to our bodies, why are we so worried about HRT? The combination I’m currently on has definitely changed my life for the better, so I implore you to seek help if you’re struggling. Let’s banish the shame, get some treatment and get on with living our lives. I’ll leave you with this post I shared on Instagram this week, Claire Sanderson the Women’s Health editor, eloquently describes her use of HRT and how it’s improved her life.
#MakeMenopauseCount campaign website has lots of useful information. https://menopausesupport.co.uk/
Dr Naomi Potter is a GP and Menopause specialist. https://drnaomipotter.com/ and is also great on Instagram.
Dr Louise Newson is another GP and Menopause specialist and has a really good newsletter you can sign up to. https://www.menopausedoctor.co.uk/
Meg Matthews (yes, her from the Brit Pack era!) massively struggled herself going through Menopause so developed her own range of products and advice for women. https://megsmenopause.com/ Her Instagram is also really useful.
Nigel Denby is a Menopause specialist dietician. Lots of information on his Instagram and he also runs the Harley Street at Home Menopause group on Facebook. You have to join but has a lot of experts on it if Facebook is more your thing.