HRT shortages: Bedford woman fears return of 'frightening' menopause symptoms

A woman who was first prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in her 30s has said she is afraid of her "intense" and "frightening" symptoms returning if drug shortages continue.

Isabel Kelly went through hot flushes, insomnia and hair loss when she began to go through the menopause, but it also left her with skin so itchy she would often make herself bleed.

Certain products and ingredients are currently running low due to a surge in demand and delays caused by the pandemic.

The government has pledged to fix the issue but Ms Kelly, from Bedford, fears a solution will not come soon enough for her. She has already struggled to find the products she needs.

Now aged in her 40s, Ms Kelly said the HRT treatment she had been life-changing and had given her back a sense of normality and control.

"The hot flushes were so intense they were quite frightening...I was at the point of not being able to cope," she said.

Her symptoms had caused her to "not sleep for seven or eight years" and made her skin so itchy it bled from so much scratching, she said.

She told ITV News Anglia she feared those symptoms would return if the shortage of treatments was not addressed.

Shortages of certain products have been reported for weeks. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ms Kelly has also received advice and treatment from a specialist menopause clinic in Bedford which was started by nurse Lesley Quinn.

Having worked in the town, she noticed a lack of support for women. The recent shortages of certain HRT drugs were having an impact, she said.

"It's disappointing and it's very frustrating for us as clinicians to not be able to have the resources to give women the treatment we know they need," she said.

"We're having to give alternatives and now the alternatives are becoming unavailable too, so we're down to quite a limited supply of what we can actually find and give them."

HRT can help alleviate severe menopause symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, low mood, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

The Department of Health and Social Care said an increase in demand had caused shortages among a small number of products.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has created an HRT taskforce to work closely with suppliers to understand what was causing the issues, and then develop a plan to ensure both short and long-term supply meet rising demand, it said.

Advice on how to combat HRT shortages and working while going through the menopause:

  • Don't go "cold turkey" if it can be helped;

  • Ask your pharmacist what medications are available then speak to your doctor, rather than have a doctor prescribe something that is not available;

  • Request flexible working;

  • Request a different uniform if you are experiencing hot flushes;

  • Move to a cooler part of the office or ask for a fan;

  • Use technology where it can help you, for example setting up reminders on your phone or taking more notes to help with "brain fog".

Menopause Cafés are spaces where people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss the menopause.

Menopause Support provides private support via telephone and video consultations and bespoke menopause training and support solutions for businesses and organisations and menopause training days for therapists and well-being professionals.

The Menopause Charity works to improve women’s and healthcare professionals’ understanding of the menopause. If you or someone you know needs help, their information pages have plenty of information and ways to get in touch.

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