How to talk to your doctor about the menopause
Going to the doctor is rarely a nice experience, but menopause can make it even worse.
I went to my doctor when my menopause symptoms got too much to bear. After bursting into tears while talking to the receptionist, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind and didn’t get the most from my time there. I was just so grateful that someone was listening that I didn’t proffer any thoughts of my own. (I don’t think I had any, to be honest. It was more: “I don’t care what you do, stop me feeling like this.”)
Several disappointing visits later and I never go to the doctor without a notebook in my handbag – I’m an old-fashioned girl – and research done. It has finally got me the treatment I think is helping.
If you’re starting to feel as if you need medical help with your menopause, here is how you can help yourself and your doctor and get the most from your appointment.
Know the symptoms
While you may recognise the headline symptoms, such as hot flushes and irregular periods, there are many others signs that you’re peri menopausal – and some are quite surprising.
Menopause has a drip-drip effect so sometimes you don’t realise you’re going through it until they’ve all mounted up.
Don’t feel you’re wasting the doctor’s time or that the menopause is natural and therefore something we just have to go through. We do have to go through it, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean we have to have a bad time.
There is absolutely no need to suffer in silence. Medical help and advice is there; go and get it.
Find the right doctor
Few GP surgeries have an expert in menopause in them (don’t get me started on why not – there are not enough pages on the internet for my rant.) However, that’s no reason not to get the best doctor you can.
Ask the receptionist if any doctor does specialise in menopause. Failing that, ask if any of them has a specific interest in women’s health (you can often find this out on the GPs’ website, too).
If you know other menopausal women, ask them what they think about their doctor and if they can recommend them.
As I said, I have a notebook now with symptoms, questions, reminders of things I want to talk about, doodles (I get bored waiting. I don’t think the doctor appreciates my clown faces, sadly).
Write down everything – even if you don’t think they’re menopausal. Feeling extra farty? That’s a symptom so write it down. Better that than letting it blow…
Things to note:
When was your last period?
What symptoms are you having and when did they start?
Does anything trigger them?
How often do they happen?
Are they affecting your life a lot?
As for questions, you may want to ask:
What are your thoughts on hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
What are my options for treatment?
Are there alternative or natural remedies that could help?
What does this treatment do?
What are possible side effects?
How do I take it?
I also go armed with my family history. We have an incidence of breast cancer in our family, as well as DVT (deep-vein thrombosis). I always make sure to mention them as they can have an impact on what medication the doctor gives me.
Finally, note down any other medication you’re on and the dosage. It will be on your records, but belt and braces is best.
If we can’t expect expert advice at the doctors, then we have to become the expert ourselves. Thankfully, there are lots of resources out there to help.
NICE (the National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence) has set guidelines on the diagnosis and management of menopause. This covers issues such as diagnosis, symptoms, treatments etc and is an excellent place to start learning more about what you’re going through and the type of treatment you should expect to receive.
Also, there are lots of blogs and websites offering both information and support. These are the five menopause blogs and websites I recommend.
And of course, my old refrain: talk to other women about what you’re going through. Sharing is strength.
Don’t feel alone
If you’re worried about your appointment – or the menopause anxiety has hit – take a friend or relative with you.
Before you go, tell with them about what you hope the appointment will achieve. Share your symptoms, worries and queries. That way, if stage fright hits, you have someone by your side to step in.
Take your time
Yes, you’re allotted ten minutes with your GP. Bugger that. Don’t leave that room until you’ve got all the answers you need.
Don’t be embarrassed
Whatever it is, your doctor has seen it, heard it, smelt it, touched it. We may be different shapes and sizes, but our bodies are the same. So don’t feel embarrassed about what you are going through.
Review your doctor
After your appointment, take some time to review how good or bad your doctor was.
Did you feel your doctor listened to you?
Are you happy with how your doctor spoke to you about menopause?
Were they able to answer your questions?
Do you feel happy going back to them for follow-up appointments? Don’t be afraid to hurt your doctor’s feelings. If you think you aren’t getting the help you need, ask for a second opinion or to change doctor.
Keep a diary
Once your treatment starts, continue the notes you made before your appointment. Write down any psychological or physical changes, good days and bad days, weight gain or weight loss.
Having facts and figures at your side will help you decide if the treatment you’ve been given is right or wrong for you.
What advice would you add to this? Let me know in the comments below.
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