July 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Health Initiative. The study which left behind a legacy that HRT is inherently bad. Women stopped taking it overnight and generations have struggled with symptoms long after these initial concerns were rebuked.
The tide is beginning to turn and with celebrities raising the profile of the menopause it is very much the topic de jour.
The effect of hormone deficiency is profound. Oestrogen and testosterone receptors are everywhere, quite literally found top to toe, which means no one person has the same symptoms. There is no ‘one size fits all’.
Whilst we are all well versed in hot flushes, night sweats and the cessation of periods. What Davina discusses well in Sex, Mind and the Menopause, are the neurological symptoms. The effects of low hormone levels on our brain.
Brain fog, word finding difficulties, poor recall, lack of clarity to our thinking. Coupled with an unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach, and feeling anxious for no conceivable reason.
You used to feel as though your cup was full, then half full. Now you feel as though your cup is empty. You have lost sight of yourself and don’t know why.
It is often too easy to assume feeling this way is related to juggling work stress, elderly parents, teenagers, marriage difficulties. The stereotyped contexts of mid-life. That the answers lie in talking therapies and antidepressants. Rather than thinking out of the box and considering a potential hormonal cause.
HRT can transform women’s lives. As part of a menopause consultation we discuss options of oestrogen through the skin, as a patch, gel or spray. Alongside plant-derived progesterones, which are body identical. These do not cause any increased risk of breast cancer for the first five years of use. After five years, your risk is increased more from the alcohol you drink, or a BMI outside of the healthy range, than the tiny increase afforded by HRT. It is a discussion with you about the risks versus benefits.
With one eye on the here and now, and one eye on your future. Discussing the benefits of oestrogen replacement, how it reduces the risk of heart disease, thinning of the bones, dementia, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
All discussions should be shared, and individualised. Half of the population will go through this, and spend decades of their lives in the years after the menopause. It is so important we get this right.
We have all heard of women who have lost their jobs, their partners, their minds. Some women sadly lose their lives, the most common age for suicide in women is aged 50-54.
Davina has given a voice to the menopause, we are here to continue the narrative.