GPs urge women to share their experience of menopause to shape support

A number of GPs across the region are being given advanced training - as they look at new ways to improve support for women going through the menopause.

One doctor from Cumbria is encouraging women to share their experience at a pop up 'Menopause Cafe' at the Bakery in Kendal.

Dr Cath Munro helps organise the menopause cafe to help support women and shape future support Credit: ITV Granada

"It can be a scary, confusing experience and just hits you when you least expect it".

Coffee, tea and cake were on the menu along with women encouraged to monitor their symptoms and share what works for them in terms of support.

The monthly meetings have been organised by Dr Cath Munro, from the town's Helme Chase surgery, who wants to empower women and help shape future support in primary healthcare.

Debbie Keene was encouraged to go to the cafe by her husband and broke down as she described how she was feeling.

She told the GP: "All the symptoms I am experiencing, it makes me feel absolutely rubbish."

"I didn't even know some were part of the menopause. I didn't know what I was coming to, but I'm glad I did now".

She said: "It's taking me five weeks just to get an appointment with my GP to talk about HRT and what support is available."

Dr Munro has completed advanced training in menopause and the aim is to mentor colleagues to share their knowledge and expertise.

She said; "It will take time to get everyone has the right skills but we need all GPs to have some level of skills in the menopause and managing women's health."

"Many women come along with other symptoms which are not all linked to the menopause and it is about trying to put the jigsaw pieces together to provide the best support."

Along with pop up cafe, there are plans for menopause hubs to bring a range of support together from nutrition to exercise.

Yoga instructor Lou Curry added weights to her training to help ease her menopause symptoms Credit: ITV Granada

For Lou Curry, a yoga instructor, using weights has helped ease her symptoms. She also started to take HRT.

"I went from my usual happy go lucky self to being someone who was just sitting on the sofa, with no energy to do anything."

"That was the biggest marker for me, it is trying to find the things in your life and the people to support you."

She now trains twice a week and says it has made a big difference in terms of her mood, energy levels and helps protect women from osteoporosis.

The Menopause Cafe Charity has details on how to find menopause events and advice on how to hold a cafe.

The charity wants 'the whole world talking about the menopause' and their pop up cafes are where people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss a range of menopause symptoms and support.

The British Menopause Society helps educate, inform and guide health care professionals working in primary and secondary care on menopause and reproductive health.

Its Chair, Dr Paula Briggs, is a Consultant in Sexual and Reproductive Health, based at the Liverpool Women's Hospital. She is part of the drive to increase the number of GPs taking up advanced training in menopause and women's health.

Menopause fact file

What is the menopause?

  • The menopause is defined as 12 months since a woman last had a period.

  • The average age at which women start the menopause transition is 46 years. Periods usually stop by the age of 51.

  • The menopause itself is reached when the ovaries stop producing oestrogen.

  • Some women will experience menopause for reasons other than natural ageing. These include premature ovarian insufficiency or a chronic health condition that causes early menopause, or removal of their ovaries to reduce their risk of certain cancers or to alleviate pain associated with endometriosis.

The perimenopause

  • The perimenopause is classed as the time leading up to the menopause, this can occur for up to 10 years.

  • During this time a woman is likely to be experiencing symptoms due to changing hormone levels.

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What are the signs and symptoms of the menopause?

  • The most common symptoms are heavy bleeding, hot flushes, night sweats, emotional instability, vaginal dryness and bladder problems.

  • A survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, on behalf of the British Menopause Society, revealed 79% of women experience hot flushes and 70% experience night sweats.

  • Symptoms can range from mild to debilitating.

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What treatment is available?

Much can be done to help with symptoms during the menopause transition, including lifestyle changes, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and treatments for individual symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

  • Get plenty of rest, including a regular sleeping pattern.

  • Have a healthy diet and exercise regularly - weight-bearing activities (such as running and walking) are important to protect your bones.

  • Do relaxing things like yoga, tai chi or meditation which are good for general strength and flexibility and improve the pelvic floor.

  • Eat calcium-rich food like milk, yoghurt and kale to keep bones healthy.

  • Speak to other people going through the menopause.

  • The NHS advise people going through the menopause not to smoke or drink more than the recommended alcohol limit.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

  • The main medicine treatment for menopause and perimenopause symptoms is HRT.

  • HRT replaces the oestrogen that you lose during the menopause transition, either aloneor in combination with a progestogen.

  • It helps to alleviate menopausal symptoms and also reduces the long-term consequences of the menopause.

  • HRT can be delivered in many ways including tablets, patches, gels, a spray and implants.

  • From 1 April women prescribed HRT, can get access to a year’s worth of treatment for just under £20, The Department of Health says.

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Where can I get help and support?

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