October is Menopause Awareness Month. Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists discuses misinformation about the menopause, and the importance of tailored menopausal advice.
It is so important to dispel the common myths and misinformation around menopause, as well as raise awareness of the advice, support and treatments available to those who are experiencing symptoms.
There is no one size fits all
Myths about the menopause commonly arise from a misunderstanding that every menopause is the same. In fact, every woman will experience it differently.
There is no ‘right’ age to start the menopause. Generally, the menopause happens later in a woman’s life, the average age in the UK being 51. However, whilst 51 is the average age, some women can experience menopause much earlier. Women should never feel embarrassed about going through the menopause, regardless of age, and should seek advice and information if they think they may be experiencing menopausal symptoms.
The menopause means more than hot flushes. Yes, hot flushes are common, but this is not the only symptom. Some women experience various symptoms, including mood changes, joint stiffness, a reduced sex drive, and difficulty sleeping. Others may experience very few, or mild symptoms.
The menopause does not have a time frame. There is no specific amount of time in which a woman may experience symptoms, it varies from person to person. Some women can experience symptoms before the end of their periods. Symptoms may also continue for years after a woman’s last period.
HRT and misinformation
Misinformation about hormone replacement therapy (HRT), one of the most effective treatments in relieving many menopausal symptoms, can lead to women not accessing advice and treatments.
Research shows that the risks of HRT are small and the benefits usually outweigh these risks.
There is no evidence to suggest HRT will cause weight gain. You may gain some weight during the menopause, regardless of whether or not you take HRT.
You do not need to stop taking HRT at 60. Treatment is tailored to the individual’s needs. Women should always have regular check-ups with their doctor or nurse, who will advise based on each woman’s personal circumstances. Even if you have had breast cancer or other serious illnesses, there are often ways your symptoms can be treated.
Lifestyle changes can often help to manage symptoms. Exercise, a healthy diet, reduced alcohol intake, can all help some women to manage the menopause.
How to manage the menopause is a personal choice, and the many different types of treatments available enable women to access what works for them. The important thing is to discuss symptoms, treatments, and concerns with healthcare professionals so that every choice is an evidence-backed, informed decision, tailored to that individual.
Visit our hub on menopause and women's health in later life