What is menopause?
The menopause is sometimes called “the change”, which is when your ovaries stop producing eggs in a regular cycle. Following menopause, you will not be able to have children naturally and you will no longer have monthly periods.
Menopause occurs most often when you are in your 50’s (the average in the UK is at age 51), however, some women to have menopause in their 30’s or 40’s too. During menopause, the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in your body will drop.
Falling levels of these hormones can cause a range of symptoms, including changes in mood, vaginal dryness and hot flushes.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Hormone Replacement Therapy (“HRT”) is a treatment used to alleviate symptoms of menopause. HRT replaces certain female hormones that reduce in the body through the menopause.
Although many women find HRT very helpful, there are some known risks and you should always discuss the treatment with a suitable medical professional before deciding which approach is right for you, so you may find our menopause clinic helpful.
Two of our team, Dr. Michèle Badenoch DCH MRCGP and Dr Lianne De Maar MB ChB DRCOG DOccMed, have expertise in female health topics and are highly experienced in advising, guiding and informing patients about how best to manage the menopause.
Menopause treatment options
There is no ‘one size fits all’ treatment and all advice is highly personalised and specific to your circumstances, your symptoms and your own views. Please contact us for more information about how to access our menopause clinic.
Hormone replacement therapy (“HRT”) may be suggested and aims to restore the levels of hormone, to help your body function normally.
“Natural” hormones are sometimes marketed as safer alternatives to HRT, however, their proven effectiveness and safety is unknown.
Some herbal remedies including ginseng and primrose oil are also sometimes marketed as being suitable for treating menopause. Some herbal remedies, such as soya or red clover, do contain natural oestrogens, however, HRT is also largely made from the same phyto-oestrogens.
There is very little scientific evidence to show how well the treatments work, they may interact with other treatments and it is sometimes difficult to verify the quality, dose or provenance of the treatment.
Some patients find that aromatherapy, yoga and meditation can help too, although again there is little scientific evidence to provide their value as a treatment for menopause.
Benefits and risks of Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Many robust and validated studies into HRT have been conducted and it has been shown to be very effective in controlling symptoms, which can make a profound difference to quality of life. As well as dramatically reducing symptoms of menopause, HRT has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, colon cancer and cancer of the rectum.
However, there are also risks associated with the treatment. Combined HRT treatment slightly increases your risk of developing breast cancer, womb cancer, ovarian cancer and slightly increases the risk of having a stroke. Systemic HRT increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis and of blockages in the pulmonary artery. Osteoporosis can also be treated with other medicines with lower risk levels.
Although there has been lots of negative publicity about HRT in the last few years and whilst it is true that HRT does increase your risk of breast cancer, the average risk of developing breast cancer without other contributory risk factors (which is called your annual baseline risk) is very small, at 1%.
Whilst there are well known risks associated with HRT, many women find the treatment dramatically improves their quality of life. The negative publicity associated with HRT means some women have been understandably reluctant to use the treatment. However, most experts (including the British Menopause Society) agree that if HRT is used for short-term treatment (less than five years) the benefits outweigh the risks.
Many women using HRT say they no longer have hot flushes, they have a better libido, less vaginal dryness, less urinary tract infections and less bladder problems. The risk of osteoporosis and bowel cancer is also reduced when taking HRT.