Menopause affects all women, with 75% of those in the UK suffering symptoms. The hormonal changes our bodies undergo can result in a wide range of symptoms.
For some, these symptoms are mild and manageable, but for others they may be more severe and impact on everyday life. Symptoms may occasionally be short-lived, but some women experience them for many years.
The average age of the menopause is 51, but many women have symptoms from an earlier age. A small number of women experience an early (less than 45 years) or premature (less than 40 years) menopause; this may occur naturally or follow hysterectomy or removal of the ovaries. Sometimes a premature menopause may run in families.
Menopausal symptoms are most commonly treated with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), which can reduce symptoms by 70 – 80%. HRT comprises two hormones: Oestrogen and Progestogen. For women who have had a hysterectomy only Oestrogen is required. HRT can be given as tablets, patches, gels and implants; many factors affect which preparation is best for each individual woman.
Despite many ‘scares’ about the safety of HRT over the last few years, for the vast majority of women it remains a safe option to control their menopausal symptoms. It has also been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing osteoporosis and may have a beneficial effect in warding off Alzheimer’s, according to a recent study. Women who have an early menopause are strongly recommended to take HRT at least until the age of the natural menopause (51) to protect their bones.
We know that you need somewhere to turn to for support, advice and treatment when suffering menopausal symptoms. In recent years, research has raised concerns over the safety of menopause treatments such as HRT, resulting in reluctance for many GPs in prescribing what had proven to be our most successful treatment. More recent studies have found earlier research to be inconclusive, leading health experts such as the British Menopause Society to reaffirm their belief in the value of HRT in giving quality of life to menopausal women.