My menopause started pretty well as clockwork, more or less around my 49th birthday. I’d previously had a hysterectomy (large fibroids) when I was in my early forties, so had none of the usual warning signs. I still have ovaries; the HRT wasn’t a direct result of the op.
I was on holiday, staying in an hotel in which they’d turned the mattresses plastic side up, presumably to try to prevent damage, and started getting very sweaty at night. This I put down to the plastic mattress top.
After the holiday, the sweats continued off and on, and I suddenly realised what was happening. I wanted to carry on without taking any prescription drugs, but traditional things like Evening Primrose, Black Cohosh, and Sage Tea had no effect whatever. As my night and day sweats were getting heavier and heavier – there came a point at which I had to sleep in towels because I was pretty well running with sweat a lot of the night – I finally went off to the doctor who put me on HRT, an oestrogen-only variety as I was in no danger of cancer (after the hysterectomy). This pretty well did the trick, or at least brought everything down to a manageable level.
My GP left the practice, and the one I started seeing after that said that taking HRT for thirteen years (as I had been) was not a good idea (this was after the results of the Million Women Study, subsequently regarded as having been flawed), and recommended coming off it. “It’ll all be over in six months”, she said, brightly. Four years later… The same doctor later suggested I try some anti-depressant or other, explaining that the side-effects of this drug included drying up the body (and thus limiting sweating). I did, but certainly wouldn’t do it if I had my time over again. Other side-effects were not pleasant and I’m not sure what the drug was doing to my mental state. On one occasion (I think when she prescribed the anti-depressants) the same (second) GP said cheerily, “Of course, some women have symptoms for ever!”
My osteopath was horrified when I said I was still having sweats after all this time, and recommended me to a herbalist who had a room in her practice. About eighteen months of herbal treatment made a huge difference but, unfortunately, the woman went back to Denmark on a research project. She gave me details for another herbalist but I didn’t go for while as I wanted to see if I could now cope without taking anything. However, I eventually decided to try again and went to the second herbalist. She was helpful, though not as much so as the first one, but also moved away after about a year.
Since then I’ve been to a third herbalist with little result that I can attribute to her treatment. I still get sweats occasionally at night and/or first thing (say 6:30) in the morning, and very occasionally when I’m exercising – tai ch’i and ch’i kung particularly: I can usually distinguish between sweating through exercise and a hot flush.
I’m now 74, so it’s all been ongoing for more than 25 years.