Jenni McCracken is a GP with an interest in the menopause
Empower yourself with knowledge.
The menopause can have a devastating impact on women’s personal and professional lives. One of the main contributing factors to this is a lack of knowledge. For women to thrive during their perimenopause and menopause they need to empower themselves and those around them with knowledge to have a greater understanding of how the menopause is affecting them and what they can do to manage it.
There is a huge amount of misinformation – even amongst the medical profession – that often leads to women being given incorrect information and being told that they cannot have HRT.
The menopause makes women psychologically and physically vulnerable and therefore even the feistiest of the females will often find that they do not have the confidence or the energy to challenge the information that they are given. Frustrating as it is for women, it is often the case that if you want to get something done properly you do indeed have to do it or empower yourself to do it.
It is essential that you understand what is happening to you and how it will affect you but also that your family and sometimes your workplace also understand. Hopefully your General Practitioner or healthcare professional will be supportive and understand; however, if you feel you are not getting the right help or information from them it is important to try to educate them about your situation or seek advice from another medical professional.
There are incredibly useful resources available for doctors to help them to learn more about the menopause and often directing them to these will help not only you but also the many hundreds of women they will treat in the future.
Surgical menopause is when a woman experiences menopausal symptoms as a result of an operation which impacts on ovarian function. This will come on abruptly if the ovaries have been removed. However, women who have had only one ovary removed or had their ovaries conserved but had their womb removed will often experience earlier menopausal symptoms than they would have naturally.
It is imperative that women who experience a surgical menopause receive HRT at least until the age of 51 to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Up until the age of 51 the HRT will be replacing the hormones that your body would have been naturally producing and expecting to have for normal function. Most women then continue taking HRT for ever as taking HRT provides more benefits than risks for the majority of women.
Women who undergo a surgical menopause will often need the replacement of testosterone as well. This is an incredibly important female hormone that is produced by the ovaries which contributes to sexual function, energy levels, cognitive performance, cardiovascular health and bone health. It is frequently forgotten about in the management of menopause in general and in particular women who go through an early or surgical menopause where it is often essential.
Unfortunately, the importance of testosterone in females is often not recognised by the general medical profession and it is often only prescribed by menopause specialists. It is important that if you have had a surgical menopause that you also speak to your health professional about oestrogen, progesterone (if relevant) and testosterone.
Sleeping well This is a great place to start. One of the most important building blocks to living a healthy and productive life is getting a good night’s sleep, ever y night. Unfortunately, for many perimenopausal or menopausal women this is an elusive, ‘if only…’ aspiration. A lack of sleep – for example, 4-5 hours…