When you’re struggling with symptoms it can be hard to think that you will ever be able to take control of what is happening, but there are ways you can manage your menopause effectively.
Here I’m going to give you an overview of the different approaches in how to manage your menopause. The most important thing to remember is there is no right way, no one magic pill or approach. This is a journey, you are unique. It’s about finding the best approach for you to have your best journey through the menopause and beyond.
The main treatment recommended by the NHS is HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). There are more than 50 types of HRT available: HRT can be given orally (tablets), transdermally (through the skin – patches/gels); or vaginally.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that HRT is effective and should be offered to women with menopausal symptoms, after discussing the risks and benefits.
If HRT is suitable for you and you are interested in taking it, your GP should discuss the benefits and risks with you, before you decide to start it. The current guidance states:
- For the majority of women under 60 years, HRT is low risk
- It’s considered the most effective treatment for the relief of vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes/night sweats)
- The right HRT preparation, in the right woman, given at the right time has very low overall risks and has significant benefits
This causes it’s challenges as how do you define the right HRT preparation, in the right woman, at the right time?
HRT is a not a magic bullet where every woman taking it will suddenly feel like themselves again. HRT can take time to work and it can also take time to find the right dosage and the right type for you as an individual. If you’ve made the decision to take HRT, don’t give up if it doesn’t work straight away. Give it time and work with your doctor to find the right preparation for you.
I can’t talk about HRT without talking about the risks. Although there are risks associated with HRT, for the majority of women they are considered low risk. This is a link to a great infographic from Women’s Health Concern (the patient arm of the British Menopause Society) Understanding the Risks of Breast Cancer. This infographic helps to put the risks into context so you can see the relative risk of taking HRT against other risk factors.
Deciding whether to take HRT is a personal choice and we should be making that choice from a place of information and fact, not a place of fear or judgement. Some of the challenges around HRT is that some GPs are not as confident and knowledgeable around HRT as we would like. This article explains more about how to get the best from your GP. How Do You Get the Right Support From Your GP?
If HRT isn’t suitable for you, or you would prefer not to have it, your GP may recommend other medications that can help. These may include Clonidine (a high blood pressure medicine) or certain antidepressants. These are prescribed ‘off-license’ but have been reported as helping in particular with hot flushes. Other types of treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a type of psychological therapy that helps people to manage the way we think and feel.
There is a huge market of complementary medicine focused on supporting and managing menopause. It can feel very confusing, overwhelming and can often become very expensive. This is a fantastic factsheet produced by Women’s Health Concern exploring all non-HRT approaches to managing menopause. Complementary/Alternative Approaches to Managing Menopause
There are a few of key things to consider:
- We are all individuals and unique. What works for one person may not work for someone else.
- We should never dismiss anything. If something is working for someone, even if we don’t believe in it or it didn’t work for us, we need to be supportive or all approaches.
- Getting expert advice – seeking support from a Nutritional Therapist or a Medical Herbalist. These experts will be able to support you in discovering what is the right approach for you given your symptoms and your medical history. I highly recommend Helen James (Nutritional Therapist) who specialises in supporting menopause Helen James Healthy Happy
To me this is the most important thing to consider and I talk about this a great deal on my blog, our group and with clients. Whether you’re taking HRT or not, how we look after our body and mind becomes essential. We may well live half our lives post menopause and I know I want to live as long as possible but also as well as possible.
To me menopause is a wake up call. A time to do the work on ourselves that we’ve been putting off. A time to focus on the things that make our body feel good. The key pillars to focus on are:
- Managing stress
- Exercise and movement
- Gut Health
If we can focus on all of these key areas and get our body working as we want it to, this will help alleviate so many of our symptoms. Focusing on these key areas gives us back control of our body and allows us to appreciate and value our changing body as opposed to feeling like it is letting us down.
What approach is right for me?
Only you can answer this. There are many professionals who can help guide you and I am so passionate about empowering every one of you to make the right choices for you. How do you feel about the different ways of managing your menopause? This may change over time – that’s ok. You may have strong feelings that you’ll stay on HRT for the rest of your life or that you never want to take HRT – that’s ok. You may feel a bit overwhelmed by choice or the actions you need to take – that’s ok.
What’s the ONE NEXT THING you need to do to start taking control of your menopause? Pick one thing, start there and you’ll be making a difference to how you feel today.