My journey through the menopause

No-one asked me, no G.P enquired about any menopausal issues although I was a fairly regular user of the G.P surgery. I myself, was the one who ‘raised the alarm’, brought it to their attention. I was offered HRT which I had heard a lot of negative stuff about. I decided to look for other ways, things to alleviate the symptoms at least. Eventually, I was signposted to HandsInc by a support worker. I signed up for an 8 week course even though, by now, I had actually given up on the whole ‘menopause thing’. I’m glad I came as I have met many women here in the same ‘predicament’.

Generally, women do not speak openly about the menopause. There is an air of embarrassment, a sense of affliction. Women almost whisper about the menopause. People offer remedies and tips but they don’t always work. When I was young, I witnessed my mother going through ‘the sweats’ and found her to be quite annoying…always opening windows! I was horrified when I found out that I was peri-menopausal. It felt like my life as a woman was waning, dwindling away before my very eyes.

All I had in my toolkit was my mother’s advice:-
– cotton clothing which was lighweight but highly absorbent.
-a cotton flannel to wipe the face.
– layers of clothing to be peeled off as required, allowing one to be discreet in plain sight of all.
– the obligatory fan(s) to provide instant cooling should one succumb to the unforgiving, annoyingly momentary, ‘ heat rush of the flush.’

I now realise that no 2 women are the same, each individual has their own experience of the menopause. Some women may start sooner than others and some may have no symptoms at all. I am not my mother and will have to embark on my own journey of discovery concerning the menopause. I will eventually assemble a toolkit of my own. I console myself by knowing that the menopause will not last forever and subsequently, I will get my life back!

Twenty-five years later

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.  

Happy days,

Elaine

It’s time to rethink HRT by Dr. Clare Bailey

Hot flushes, irritability, memory loss, sleep disruption, mood changes, dry vagina, loss of libido, joint and muscle pains… the menopause isn’t a barrel of laughs for many women, about 25 per cent of whom have severe symptoms that can persist for years.

So when hormone replacement therapy (HRT) came along to combat these symptoms, it was a godsend. But then followed the health scares about increased risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease, and GPs pretty much stopped prescribing it.

However, according to GP and menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson, who wrote a recent report for the Royal College of General Practitioners, it’s increasingly clear that many of the ‘scares’ were largely unfounded. As she points out, ‘Much of the negative publicity surrounding HRT stems from the misinterpretation of the findings in the Women’s Health Initiative study, published more than a decade ago. Many women and healthcare professionals are still unnecessarily concerned about the perceived risks of HRT, resulting in a significant proportion of patients being refused it and inappropriately offered antidepressants.’

The replacement hormones have since been developed and refined, producing a wide range of options: oestrogens, with or without progestogens, and even the male sex hormone testosterone is getting a look-in (though not available routinely on the NHS). They can also be taken in different forms: as tablets, skin patches, creams or gels – no wonder it all becomes a bit confusing.

So which one should you take?

In combined HRT, progestogen is added to the oestrogen to protect you from womb cancer. Those who have had a hysterectomy to remove their womb need oestrogen-only HRT.

To combat hot flushes, giving oestrogen transdermally – as gels and skin patches – is often better than tablets, and unlike oestrogen tablets, is also suitable for the obese and those with increased risk of thrombosis, diabetes or liver disease. What’s more, transdermal oestrogen doesn’t seem to increase the risk of stroke.

Combining progestogens with oestrogen can raise blood pressure, increase the risk of thrombosis, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. However, the newer micronised progesterone tablets, such as Utrogestan, have fewer side effects and have shown no increased risk of breast cancer for the first five years of taking it. And after that the risk remains low. Alternatively, the progestogen-releasing intrauterine system (coil) is a good option, though it’s unclear if there is an increased risk of breast cancer.

If you are taking combined HRT and are over 51, it’s important to attend breast screening appointments as there can be a small increased risk of breast cancer, although this drops back to normal within five years of stopping.

For local symptoms vaginal creams, rings and pessaries at a low dose can be effective, without the need for progesterone.

For many women, risks of HRT are usually outweighed by the benefits. Discuss your needs and options with your doctor.

Menopause Awareness Course 2019

Feeling hot hot hot?

Feeling HOT? HOT? HOT?

Then why not come to our FREE  Menopause Course

Menopause_Infographic

9 week course looking at all aspects of the peri-menopause and menopause. Increase your knowledge, learn to manage symptoms.  Leave the course more confident, more able to cope and with increased self esteem.

Before the course I felt I was Drowning and now I can Swim’

 Starts Wednesday 16th January 2019

At Whitmore Community Centre

2-4 Philip Street

Hackney N1 5NU

1pm -3pm

This course is free but you do need to book

email: menopause@handsinc.co.uk

or call 020 3051 8626

Creative Expression & Menopause

The menopause can often help women explore and express their more creative side. We ran a focus group with women asking them about their experience of dealing with symptoms and what it was like going through the menopause. One of the participants Ular Germain came up with a brilliant analogy of feeling like a tree with heat rising from her roots and each leaf feeling like the different symptoms she was experiencing. Ular also wrote a poem about her experiences.

Enjoy and talks Ular for sharing your creative juices

LAB RAT

Woke up sweaty, hot and bloated. “Why?” I ask myself.

A shower. Surely that will cool me down.

Whose body is this? Raw, listless, sweating.

Breakfast: surely that’s something I can do.

Breakfast’s done, I should feel better.

But no.

Limp and aching. I need to lie down; curl up into a ball to calm the throbbing in my body.

Why?

Have I been prodded and probed, injected with an illness

That runs rampant through my body, replacing my energy with pain.

Please make the pains stop; the monthly show, I can handle that.

But being a lab rat for the menopausal? No!

 

Menopause Tree

Menopause & Me

You can read a lot about the negative aspect of the menopause but it can also be a time of inspiration and creativity for a  lot of women. Here is a lovely piece of prose produced by one of the members of our short 6week menopause group.

Meno graphic

So there I was minding my own business and here she arrives,

causing chaos like an old friend you no longer see

making me aggressive and masculine so I’ve been told

Irritated and annoyed for no good reason.

Coming into my life trying to turn it upside down at only 46 years old

“Go away”, I said

Would prefer you to annoy someone else…..

making me wake in the middle of the night

soaking wet from sweating

I never sweated after a heavy gym session or fun session

but here I am sleeping….

minding my business

and you wake me up so I have to change my bed and clothes

“How spiteful are you?” especially when I’m so tired!

You’ve caused me no end of problems down there

Ovarian Cysts

Infections

Swelling

Redness

Lack of sex drive

Pain

Dryness

and almost wilting as if the flower is dying.

I speak to women in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who don’t even have half of these problems

“So Why annoy me with it?”

“Haven’t I been through enough?”

So I was thinking my symptoms started a year after I got sterilised 4/5 years ago

“Was you angry?”

I cried but contemplated that decision for nearly 5 years

I’m not angry

I just want to know WHY you decided to come when I wasn’t ready !! 

 

By Hyacinth Myers

Course participant 2018