Company Director, Karen, shares her story of rapidly accelerating menopause symptoms compounded by a slow process to receive the right help.
Ten years ago, when I was 43, I quickly experienced two major things: an unnatural exhaustion and a total loss of libido. Things started to go downhill rapidly over the next few years with night sweats, very little sleep, anxiety and endless visits to my GP.
I am now 54 years old and work as a Director for a major construction company. I am married to my husband, Matthew and like most people, I enjoy hobbies such as gardening, walking, travelling and seeing family.
My menopause caused many symptoms to occur and they quickly accelerated to the point where I felt even working was difficult. The early days of ‘bearing with it’ were so awful that I truly believed enjoying a normal life was not going to be possible again; a diagnosis and any possible solutions did not seem achievable to me.
Upon visiting my GP at age 45, I was fitted with a Mirena coil which, rather than resolve my symptoms, added to my problems and gave me symptoms of PMT, low mood, tiredness and irritability, due to an intolerance to the type of progestogen used in the coil. For the next three years, I experienced night sweats, chronic sleeplessness and exhaustion, zero libido, and anxiety. I became concerned about the very real risks associated with living with a lifelong hormone deficiency.
During these years, I visited my GP practice to discuss my symptoms and resulting distress, and I would regularly request HRT. The practice only offered me antidepressant medication, which I refused because I knew it would not treat the underlying cause of my feeling so unwell. One of the GP’s even said, “well done for persevering”!
An important factor in starting to regain some sense of health and normality was finding a female GP who had some understanding of the menopause and HRT, and she prescribed oral HRT for me. This partially helped to treat my hormone deficiency, but I was still suffering.
After approaching my private healthcare insurer, they confirmed they did not provide menopause treatment, I set about researching help privately and count myself very fortunate that I found an excellent menopause clinic. The answer for me was a comprehensive treatment plan with oestrogen gel, an oral progesterone taken at night and the addition of testosterone cream.
I am pleased to see that action is now happening for GPs to receive specialist menopause training, to identify symptoms and to provide the right treatments.
A decade on from my first symptoms appearing, I now have a better understanding of menopause and effective HRT, and I realise it is possible to be healthy and to feel normal again – with the right treatment. This has been life changing and, importantly, is based on the evidence that taking the right HRT is healthier in the long term than no treatment. The answers to diseases, such as dementia and heart disease, are increasingly within our grasp to prevent, through more comprehensive treatments for women than was ever previously possible for my grandparents’ and mother’s generations.