hot flash woman, got menopausal symptoms what this doctor has to say will make you feel better by healthista

Got menopause symptoms? This doctor’s guide will make you feel better

This week BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour delves into the topic of menopause. Gynaecologist Dr Gabrielle Downey says plenty can be done about symptoms, yet many women suffer in silence. Don’t be one of them

This week BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour has put together a special show about menopause with women phoning in and talking about the severity of their symptoms. The show will be revealing the results of a poll conducted by BBC Radio Sheffield which will delve into the ways women are affected by the menopause at work, in their relationships and the treatment they’ve found effective. ‘I’ve already had a little cry because I’ve realised I am not going mad all on my own,’ said one listener of the show. Don’t suffer in silence, Dr Gabrielle Downey reveals what to do about your symptoms.

There are currently ten million women in the UK who are menopausal, and eight out of ten of those will have symptoms of some form or another which can range from the crippling depression suffered by Carol Vordeman, 56 to hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain and vaginal dryness (or all of the above). How severe they are and how well one can cope with them is as individual as our fingerprints. That means that the advice given and options offered must also be individualized, according to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (that’s NICE – the people who look at all the evidence and advise doctors what to do.)

What exactly is the menopause?

woman-looking-out-window-The-Menopause-----what-every-woman-needs-to-know-Healthista

All women are born with a finite number of eggs, which typically range from 100 to 300,000. Our bodies get rid of them over time, so when there are only around 1,000 left, we start to feel menopausal symptoms. Quite simply, the menopause is when our ovaries start to fail to produce eggs. This failure means our oestrogen levels fall, and this fall feeds back to the brain telling it to send more signals to the ovaries to try and get them to work. The brain reacts by producing a hormone signal called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and then the sweats and flushes result. Eighty percent of women experience these with 20 percent being severely affected. How long they persist for depends on how long it takes for the brain to realize that the ovaries are not going to work. Somewhat shockingly, the average length of time for them to occur is 5.2 years.

Quite simply, the menopause is when our ovaries start to fail to produce eggs.

For reasons that are unclear, some women sail through the menopause whilst others suffer from profound symptoms that significantly interfere both with their quality of their life and their ability to function in the workplace. Cognitive function is impaired with insomnia, anxiety, “brain fog,” depression and loss of concentration. These are disturbing given that over 3.5 million of us are still working yet having to cope. Or do we? No, we don’t! Yet only 50 percent of menopausal women ever visit a doctor for advice.

MORE: 10 perimenopause symptoms that could explain your moods, aches and low libido

How to cope with the symptoms

hot-flash-woman-The-Menopause-what-every-woman-needs-to-know-Healthista

So what help is there? The most recognizable option is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). If you have a womb, then both oestrogen and progesterone are required as oestrogen used alone can increase your risk of cancer of the womb lining. HRT can alleviate menopausal symptoms but also protects against osteoporosis (thin bones), lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of some cancers.

HRT can alleviate menopausal symptoms but also protects against osteoporosis (thin bones), lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of some cancers.

HRT can increase the risk of breast cancer if used in its combined form of oestrogen and progesterone. The risk increases over time, and it is usually safe to take combined HRT for less than five years. The risk then increases for each year you continue over five years with an increase of at least six new cases per 1000 women over five years and 24 over ten years. Oestrogen-only HRT does not increase your risk of cancer. If taken any way other than by tablet, there is also no increased risk of heart attacks or strokes.

There are other options that don’t involve taking hormones. For vaginal dryness, there are local oestrogen creams. For those women who can’t take oestrogen HRT, there is a synthetic hormone called Tibolone.  As bone density decreases at this time, your GP can undertake a test called bone densitometry, which measures bone thickness and can protect them by drugs called bisphosphonates. Calcium supplements are only useful if you’re over 70 years old.

MORE: Vaginal dryness: what you need to know

Other self-help options

three-women-with-yoga-mats-The-Menopause-----what-every-woman-needs-to-know-Healthista

For sweats and flushes

Lifestyle changes with increased aerobic exercise (cardio) protect against osteoporosis and help sleep patterns. Interestingly, yoga and Pilates decrease sweats and flushes.

yoga and Pilates decrease sweats and flushes

Although they go through phases of popularity, magnets, reflexology, acupuncture and vitamin E don’t actually work apart from the ‘placebo’ effect!

For vaginal dryness

here are two types lubricants – those that help with moisture at sex only with no long-term benefits and ‘Replens’ and ‘Sylk,’ which attach to epithelial cells and have long-term benefits.

Natural help?

Popular ‘biological’ hormones such as yams and creams have no evidence base. As the Chinese tend not to suffer much with menopausal symptoms, there is currently research into the role of phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens) found in foods such as cereals, legumes, fruit and wheat.

Although they go through phases of popularity, magnets, reflexology, acupuncture and vitamin E don’t actually work apart from the ‘placebo’ effect!

There is some benefit from natural remedies Red Clover and Agnus Castus for flushes and sweats. There is no evidence for the use of Black Cohosh, Dong Quai, Ginseng and St John’s Wort. They not only do not work but also can potentially cause harm.

So, those nice people at NICE say that you should talk about your issues with your GP, and you should take treatment for your menopausal symptoms for as long as you wish provided you have been fully informed of the risks and benefits of the option you choose, even if that is nothing!

READ MORE:

From heavy bleeding to no periods – 3 menstrual problems and EXACTLY what your GP should do

Why sex hurts – the gynaecologist’s guide

5 ways to preserve your fertility

Gabrielle Downey Why sex hurts and what to do about it - the gynaecologist’s guide Healthista

Dr. Gabrielle Downey is a Birmingham-based consultant gynaecologist. She has been a consultant gynaecologist at the Birmingham City Hospital for over 15 years. Dr. Downey publishes regularly in renowned journals and writes for medical textbooks, was a co-author to the current NHS cervical smear program, and has specialist expertise in problems such as abnormal smears among many other conditions.

Click here to read more about Downey.

< Back

Also in this week’s magazine

3 ways to break bad habits FEATURED
Therapy

3 steps to breaking bad habits from a world-class willpower expert

From grazing at the fridge to biting your nails.  Habit change researcher Dr Heather McKee - part of Healthista's brand new expert Collective (see below) - brings you exactly what it takes to stop for good 

Fertility

6 fertility tips that can help boost conceiving over 40

To help kick off our Healthista Expert Collective series, consultant gynaecologist Dr Larisa Corda, creator of The Conception Plan shares tips on how boost your chances of fertility if you're over 40

DNA test post featured healthista
Fitness

The secret to diet, exercise and skincare lies in your DNA

From gluten sensitivity to fat genes, it will tell you everything lifestyle related that is written in your genes, all for £129

10 perimenopause symptoms that could explain your moods, aches and low libido FEATURED (1)
Health

10 perimenopause symptoms that could explain your moods, aches and low libido

The average age for menopause in the UK is 52, but symptoms of perimenopause - the lead up to it - strike up to 15 years before. London GP Deyo Famuboni describes the 10 symptoms of perimenopause to watch for

CBD oil post featured
Editor's Diary

10 CBD oil questions answered

Are we the only ones that are confused about CBD?

Got the winter blues_ Try these 7 mood boosters from this new world leading eco-spa FEATURED (2)
Mood and Mind

Got the winter blues? Try these 7 mood boosters from this world leading eco-spa

This incredible new eco-spa is designed for fast-track relaxation. Here's what Sharon Walker learned on her visit

Healthista's menopause remedies

Healthista's menopause remedies

Latest Video Series

Healthista-footer

Wellness Weekly

I agree to my personal data being stored and used to receive the Healthista newsletter.

Top