Three postmenopausal women share how they coped with their menopause symptoms, and what medication they found helpful…
The information below is not intended as medical advice and is only intended to offer points you may wish to consider, together with signposting for more support. Opinions are solely the views of the author and those involved in writing the article, not My Family Care or Bright Horizons. You should consult an appropriate medical professional if you would like to find out more about the menopause and treatments for symptoms.
It’s well known that menopause can cause uncomfortable symptoms, and for some women medical treatment is needed to help relieve, prevent or manage them. There are many treatment options available, with the most common being Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
HRT is medication that contains female hormones. It replaces the oestrogen that your body stops making during menopause and is most often used to treat common menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, although it has been shown to prevent bone loss and reduce fractures in postmenopausal women.
However, clinical trials have also shown that HRT can carry risks. These risks depend on the type of hormone therapy, the dose, how long the medication is taken and your individual health risks. If you are considering HRT, it is advised you talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks, and whether it's a safe choice for you.
Many women look for more natural ways to cope with menopausal symptoms and choose to try alternative treatments, such as vitamins, supplements, herbal remedies, acupuncture and yoga. Again, it is advised you speak with your doctor before you begin taking any supplements or herbs.
Yvette, Judith and Helen share their menopause experience and explain what route they chose to manage their symptoms…
Yvette: My journey started with a hysterectomy when I was 45. I was advised menopause symptoms usually kick in around the six week mark, and mine was six weeks to the day.
Judith: I’d say I was early 50s when the menopause actually ‘hit’, but I think I had had perimenopause symptoms for quite a few years - it just seems to creep up on you!
Helen: I’m not really sure when I went into the menopause as I had a mirena coil contraceptive, which made my periods almost non-existent. I think I was probably early to mid 50s.
Did you experience menopausal symptoms, and if so, what were they?
Yvette: I had researched and seen from a family member the effects hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, palpitations, headaches and mood changes have on day to day life, but nothing had prepared me for the actual experience! I started on HRT within a week of my symptoms for the simple reason, I could not cope. I was having to get up through the night to shower, and change sheets and night clothes. I could feel my mood suddenly change, but felt I wasn’t in control of it. And then there was that feeling of knowing a hot flush was starting by the fire in my chest – it would radiate out across my body whilst my heart pumped faster. I felt sheer exhaustion from lack of sleep and had awful headaches.
Judith: I had several aches and pains and experienced hot flushes, night sweats, headaches and mood changes. What surprised me, was the anxiety and feeling like I was ‘disappearing into old age’. More often than not, my mood was low, my self-esteem was low and I felt lost somehow.
Helen: I guess I was one of the lucky few, as I didn’t really notice any dreadful symptoms. I did have some night flushes where I would wake hot and sweaty, and also sometimes when I drank hot drinks – they seemed to trigger hot flushes. I found that the most difficult thing, especially at work - I would start to flush and then worry that people might think I was being untruthful when giving my sales pitch!
How did you cope with your symptoms and did you take HRT or alternative medicines to help?
Yvette: I decided to try HRT, and although I had the initial relief, it took nearly 6 months to find the right dose to take. There are many different brands on the market, and it was definitely a case of trial and error – they don’t all suit everyone. I was informed of the risks associated with taking HRT, but for me, the benefits outweighed the risks.
I have also tried the patch and gel, neither gave me the relief from symptoms that the tablets gave, plus the patches did not seem to stay stuck and the gel was sticky. I have tried to stop HRT over the years and sought herbal remedies, such as Black Cohosh, Femarelle, St John’s Wort, Evening Primrose, Soya products and Acupuncture, but none of these have worked for me. I turned 60 this year and my symptoms should have subsided by now, but my body thinks differently - after 15 years I am still using HRT and swear by it.
Judith: I also swear by HRT and recommend it to lots of my friends. Like Yvette, I tried coming off it for a while to see whether I could cope without medication, but it wasn’t long before I went back onto it. I use a gel that I rub onto my inner thighs, and a pessary twice a week. My aches and pains, anxiety and low moods have gone since being back on HRT. I feel human again!
Helen: To help my hot flushes I tried a daily tablet called Menopace for quite a long time, which I bought in the supermarket. I thought that made me feel good, but it could have been all in the mind! I am 64 now and no longer take anything – I feel I may have got off rather lightly though.
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