The M Word

Women worldwide are experiencing the last taboo in silence and confusion: the menopause. A guaranteed change in any woman’s life, it’s time to discuss menopause openly to promote understanding and celebrate a new chapter.

Just like having a period, the menopause is a natural part of being a woman. However, there remains a distinct lack of education and support for women who are experiencing symptoms of the menopause. One reason women are potentially not receiving the guidance and medication necessary is due to misinformation.

OPEN

“Education from all angles is lacking. Even in school,” explains Dr Louise Newson, a renowned GP and menopause expert. “I have teenage children and they just get told that the menopause is when their periods stop, which would be lovely if that was actually what happened. Young people get a lot of sex education, which is really important, but there is nothing about menopause.”

The menopause is different for every woman, there is no one size fits all. For this reason, education is imperative so women can get the necessary assistance that will work for their body.

“It needs to be taught in schools so that everyone knows about it, so boys and men know about it,” agrees Andrea McLean. Well known for her appearances on the award-winning ITV show, Loose Women, Andrea has been open about her menopause journey after announcing her hysterectomy live on the show in 2016. “For men who think it is a woman’s problem andit doesn’t impact them, men will have wives, sisters, colleagues: they are surrounded by women, so the menopause has everything to do with you. If you don’t understand what’s happening then turning a blind eye is not helpful,” she continues.

A natural part of ageing, the menopause can occur between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. With a decrease in oestrogen, getting additional hormones is vital for health.

HRT

Hormone replacement therapy (known commonly as HRT) is one of the main treatments for women with symptoms that can interfere with daily life. “The most important hormone for women is oestrogen. Importantly, when levels reduce we have an increase in heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia, very important conditions,” explains Louise.

“We know that having the right HRT can reduce future risk of all these symptoms. A lot of women say their symptoms won’t last for long, but then they’re putting themselves at risk of osteoporosis, which affects one in two menopausal women. It is really important to look at the bigger picture of what menopause can do.”

From night sweats, hot flushes, to low mood and anxiety, symptoms of menopause can, at times, be misdiagnosed. This is due to a lack of conversation around menopause and how symptoms affect women.

Louise continues: “Around 70 per cent of women are wrongly being offered anti-depressants, and often say they know they’re not depressed but they feel really low and really flat. Then, going to their doctor – who may not always be in tune with the menopause – they’re just thinking about their mood and being mislabelled, or even being signed off their work with depression, when they haven’t got depression.”

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Too many women are being refused HRT by their doctors and nurses for the wrong reasons. We have clear guidelines from NICE, the British Menopause Society and also the International Menopause Society which state that for the majority of women, the benefits of HRT outweigh any risks. Research has shown that HRT is the best treatment for symptom control and also lowers future risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, depression, diabetes, bowel cancer and dementia. On my menopausedoctor website is a template for a letter that a woman can print off and take to her doctor if she is struggling to be given HRT. Simply go to my www.menopausedoctor.co.uk and search “letter”. I am also happy for any GP to contact me through my website – I am very actively involved with training and education of healthcare professionals. #womenshealth #knowledgeispower #guidelines #menopause #perimenopause #dontgiveup #womensrights #evidencebasedmedicine #workingtogether #dontgiveup

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Increased anxiety levels and feelings of depression can be a common symptom. Andrea, who has lived with anxiety throughout her life, saw that her anxiety levels increased when she experienced medical induced menopause after her hysterectomy. Similarly, Andrea explains that she became irritable and snappy, which is completely opposite to her naturally bubbly personality.

But, with the help of HRT both Louise, Andrea and millions of women worldwide are living out life more comfortably. Louise emphasises: “The most important thing is to get the right information, and not to be scared. If you get your menopause managed properly it can be really beneficial for the rest of your life. Also, the NICE guidelines are very clear that the benefits of HRT do outweigh the negatives for the majority of women.”

ME.NO.PAUSE

Managing your hormones is just half the battle. Diminishing menopause as the last taboo is important for women, and men, of all ages. With public figures such as Louise and Andrea speaking honestly about their personal experiences and providing medical advice, more women like yourself or a loved one can have a healthy menopause.

“The menopause is going to happen to half the population of the entire planet, if you are lucky enough to live that long. Yet, we don’t talk about it – that’s completely bonkers,” exclaims Andrea. “The menopause happensto women regardless if you’re single, married, gay, straight, religious, not religious; it doesn’t make any difference.”

That’s is why Andrea is now an ambassador for Holland and Barrett’s Me.No.Pause campaign, working to break the silence on menopause. Encouraging discussions, spreading awareness and promoting education will help women feel empowered with the menopause, instead of cowering away. “Menopause is just one experience women will have together, you can’t let it define you. Don’t hide away or be shy about it. You need to get the advice, support you deserve,” encourages Andrea passionately.

And Louise agrees. “It has turned into such a negative aspect of our lives, which is wrong. It shouldn’t be.” With more work and awareness, we can banish the last taboo. Louise is determined to ensure women are not ignored. Set to release a new series of podcasts, Louise will be discussing life with the menopause, benefits of HRT and getting the right dose for you, plus much more to help women throughout their menopause journey.

Before long, we will all be talking about the M word confidently with hushed whispers a distant memory.

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