Coronavirus and menopause: BBC Breakfast’s Dr Nighat Arif has the answers

Coronavirus has turned our lives upside down and there seems to be no room for menopause in the “new normal”.

But menopause hasn’t gone away and women are still having trouble all over the world.

While I’ve been able to get in touch with my GP quicker than ever, my options for HRT have been severly limited both by the continuing HRT shortage (I haven’t let you off the hook, Matt Hancock and Jonathan Ashworth) and Covid-19.

My appointment to have a coil fitted has been cancelled until some time AC (After Covid-19) and because my pharmacy has limited supplies, I’m back to Everol Conti, which didn’t do much for me so I’m also taking an anti-depressant to try and cope with the psychological symptoms. The only thing keeping me going is the fact my GP said this was only temporary and we would go back to the oestrogen gel and a coil once I could get to the GP.

Covid-19 has raised many questions about our health and immune system and I know many of you have concerns. So I’m indebted to the fabulous Dr Nighat Arif, who has answered a few questions about coronavirus and menopause and how to take care of ourselves during this time.

Are menopausal women more at risk?

Covid-19 is not likely to be significant additional risk to menopausal women.

But menopause is a time when women begin to have increased risk for heart disease and Type-2 diabetes once they lose the protector effects of oestrogen. These co-morbidities definitely increase the risk of having severe illness from Covid-19.

Are there ways to decrease the risk?

Firstly, maintain social distance and wash your hands.

Consider hormone therapy. That doesn’t necessarily mean HRT, but if you are having bothersome symptoms, speak to your GP or menopause specialist. There are many safe, low-dose options available.

Dr Nighat and podcast producer Louise Daniels share the #KnowYourMenopause message

Also early data suggest fewer women are dying from the virus than men and that oestrogen may be a factor, but more research is needed.

(Click here for my take on the pros and cons of HRT or check out the National Centre for Biotechnology Information’s study on the immune system in menopause and HRT.)

Stick to a routine or establish a new one

Routine helps to take the mind of worrying and also gives a sense of achievement when things to do are done.

Good sleep hygiene

Studies show that sleep really helps your metabolism. Aim to use the bedroom as a place of rest and not an office.

Give yourself a break

Self-care is so important. Managing your mental well-being is just as vital as your physical health.

Eat well and embrace movement every day

Have your five-a-day of vegetables and fruit, together with nuts and seeds. These foods assist both your immune health and weight management.

Movement is vital. At home, think about doing resistance work using your own body weight or weights, yoga or stretching. Go for a brisk walk.

The NHS’s free Couch to 5k app can also help.

Can I still take my HRT?

Yes. If you are already on hormone replacement therapy, don’t stop.

If you are having menopausal issues, please contact your GP for a telephone or virtual consultation. Ask them for larger supply of your repeat prescription.

GPs, please consider giving women a three-month supply if it is safe to do so.

You may recognise Dr Nighat. I met her through Pausitivity – she was one of the first GPs to back our campaign to have menopause awareness posters in GP offices and is the woman responsible for our beautiful Urdu version of the poster, which has helped so many women.

Since then, she’s become a rising TV star and regularly appears on the likes of BBC Breakfast, news programmes and, most recently, The Steph Show. If you’re after honest advice – and some lovely positive posts – you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram. You’re always guaranteed a smile.

For further information, visit the World Health Organization’s age on coronavirus and the British Menopause Society on HRT and the coronavirus.

How has Covid-19 impacted your menopause treatment? Are you managing to get your HRT? Please leave me a comment below – the more we talk, the more we help others.

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