We’ve all been there: you go to the doctor for help but somehow everything goes wrong – perhaps you’re too embarrassed or what you wanted to say has simply gone out of your mind.
During menopause, that feeling becomes much more common. The first piece of good news is that you are not alone. The second? That there’s a way to overcome it.
Here’s a handy list of tips and tricks to make sure you get the most out of a trip to your GP…
- Before you go, ask yourself: why do you feel the need to see the doctor? Use this checklist as a prompt:
- You’ve had a few missed periods
- Sleeping badly
- Waking up tired
- You’ve experienced a few hot flushes
- Make sure you have a list of questions before your visit and ASK THEM! Even spend time ticking them off as you talk
- When it comes to menopause, there’s no such thing as a silly question. Ask whatever you want – it’s what your doctor is there for
- For that matter, make sure to take notes about the answers. It’s a good idea to make notes during your appointment because you may not wish to make a decision straight away (and you may well forget what has been said as soon as you leave the surgery!)
- Don’t be under the misconception that you should know the answers – the only way to be informed is to ask questions
- However, don’t expect your doctor to know all the answers Menopause is a tricky topic, and we all have to take responsibility to work out what’s best for us as individuals and collectively
Other things you need to know:
- The doctor may recommend a blood test. In my view, this is misguided and I think doctors only set this up to make you feel better. Why misguided? Well…
- A blood test usually comes back negative
- Your doctor should know from your own medical records what could be wrong with you. Encourage the doctor to look at your reproductive history
- If you have a history of feeling depressed or melancholy at various periods throughout your reproductive life, or indeed following any pregnancy, this is important because it shows you may have a tendency towards hormonal depression
- The doctor should NOT prescribe you anti-depressants and you can suggest he/she reads up on the Menopause NICE guidelines for confirmation.
- It is important to give as much information to your doctor as possible in order for a full diagnosis to be made and the right treatment offered
- Your doctor may suggest a course of HRT (hormonal replacement therapy). This is your opportunity to voice any concerns you may have – make notes about what is discussed. All medication carries a risk, even Aspirin. You need to find out the degree of risk relevant to you
- The HRT scandal of 2002 (Million Women Study) has been overturned and HRT should be considered as a beneficial treatment to improve your quality of life
- Ask your doctor to talk about Lifestyle Changes, like nutrition and exercise that could help to reduce the symptoms you are experiencing
- Obesity, smoking and alcohol will shorten your life more than any medication.
A note of caution: I think it is unfair when a doctor or psychiatrist offers strong drugs to women at this stage in their lives. Women are not in a position to make an unemotional decision; their pain and suffering will dictate their choice rather than any rationale. I nearly accepted the mind-numbing drug route myself because it seemed like an easy answer at the time and a decision that I thought would give me peace. I thought it would take away the responsibility of having to make decisions. Luckily, I resisted. I’m so glad I did.
One final point, depending on your doctor’s level of knowledge about menopause, you may wish to be referred to a medical menopause specialist (not just a gynaecologist – make sure they specialise in menopause).
Good luck and don’t forget that we are here to help!