That is the question! And one many women contemplate when they are in menopause. So, what to do?
Every woman is different and has a different experience. I was prescribed HRT by my surgeon as I had a medically induced menopause, and was also 43 at the time of surgery. Due to my age and starting with the menopause so early, I was given HRT to protect my heart and bone health which was advised by my consultant.
I started with menopause symptoms 12 weeks post-surgery – mainly night flushes and hot flashes (well these were the ones I knew about at the time!). Something I just couldn’t live with so welcomed the solution of HRT which I was told would stop these.
Although my surgeon was fantastic, I still didn’t fully understand what the menopause was all about and how it would impact me. Neither did I know what HRT was or did, only that ‘it would stop my hot flushes’. So my decision was based on this.
Five years down the line, and with a better understanding of the menopause and how it has impacted my body, I am still taking HRT. Don’t get me wrong it hasn’t been plain sailing, and I have been through several different types of HRT – some suiting me and some not. And I am still learning about how it impacts me and my body. My body is still changing, as my original GP told me it would, as I hurtle towards the age of when my natural menopause would have kicked in (c. 51 years of age)
This is the challenge for many women – understanding that their symptoms are menopause-related, understanding how HRT can help, finding out the types of HRT available, what they do, the potential side effects and what combinations there are, in order to make an informed decision on whether to take it or not.
Not all GPs have a women’s health/hormone specialist at their surgery, and so may not be the best position to advise. And not all women can take HRT, and it may not be the right solution for many, but if you’re not fully informed then how on earth can you make such an important decision about your health?
My top tips: Do your research! Find out as much as you can about HRT and how it can potentially help you and your symptoms – what it is, what it does, the combinations that are available, any possible side effects, the risks, availability etc. This is sooo important and something you should take the time to do! This is about your health and wellbeing and you deserve to be fully informed so you can make informed decisions. All GPs should be familiar with the NICE (National Institute for Health & Care Excellence) guidelines on menopause (unfortunately many aren’t!).
These guidelines are beneficial for both you, as the patient, and your GP. Read through them before your appointment, so you feel confident about speaking to your GP about menopause and to ensure you don’t come away feeling frustrated and disappointed with your diagnosis.
Also check out this article about how the media and the US government perpetuated the myth that HRT was dangerous.
Speak to your GP Ask before you book your appointment who is the best placed person at your surgery to speak to you about menopause/HRT/women's health.
Make sure you have done your research before your appointment (NICE guidelines), so you feel confident about speaking with them about your symptoms. Have any questions you need answering ready and make notes whilst you’re there so you can reflect post appointment, to help you make an informed decision if HRT is an option for you.
Download the ‘Balance’ app by @themenopausedoctor This is a great app, and worth taking some time out to download it and go through all the different functionality. It tailors the advice to your symptoms, which you can also track.
If your chosen HRT doesn’t seem to be working, then get further advice and help My experience has taught me that, as my body changes, so has my reaction to certain HRT treatments. So don’t be afraid to go back to your GP or women’s health specialist to take through other options.
Knowledge is power, and all perimenopausal and menopausal women should have access to all the information, support and advice they need about this phase in their life. Great resources you should check out:
Instagram: @drsarahmollyball @menopause_doctor @manchestermenopausehive