An open letter to menopausal women from a GP who has gone through the menopause

By Dr Abi Berger, GP at HCA Healthcare UK

"The first time I realised I needed help with my own menopause was when I found myself with my head in my hands in between seeing patients, one cold Monday morning. I wasn't just miserable with the Monday morning blues, it felt like a switch had been turned off and I'd gone into acute depression, without any obvious reason. 

Ten days later, the switch went back on and I woke up feeling absolutely fine. As far as I could see, there had been no warning and no reason why. When the switch flipped again a few weeks later I booked an appointment with my GP.

I hadn't really known I was menopausal until that point. My periods had come to a halt several years earlier when I had the Mirena coil put in, so I had no idea what my hormones were really up to. 

I had bouts of night sweats but that had been during the summer - so I'd ignored them. I had also slipped into what has become a fairly chronic pattern of disturbed sleep.

My GP was sympathetic but a little lost - he was a lovely young man but was the first to admit he'd not really had any training at medical school - or beyond - about how to help women manage the menopause. We went through the options together and I told him I was keen to try oestrogen gel - an easy option when you already have a Mirena coil supplying the progesterone that's needed. In just a few days I was back on an even keel. 

I used it for a few months, and I stopped it when I felt I wanted to see what life was like without the oestrogen about six months later. I found I could cope much better. I still get the odd night sweat and my sleep is a bit more disrupted than it used to be - but I haven't had any more mood swings and I am managing well. 

As a result of my own experience, I am more likely to proactively ask women of a certain age about their menopausal symptoms because I suspect GPs don't always remember to ask about that side of life. I also ask younger women, who present with symptoms that might indicate an early menopause."

Menopause in the workplace

"In the workplace, being chronically sleep deprived, feeling too hot (or having flushes) or feeling very depressed can be a fatal combination for performance. What is a naturally occurring biological phenomena can lead to women almost failing at work, and certainly being passed over for more responsible or higher status roles. I wouldn't hesitate to consider HRT in anyone who came to ask about it and if you consult a doctor who doesn't specifically ask about menopausal symptoms and you think the menopause may be contributing to how you're feeling - then please just ask yourself.

There is an almost endless list of things that you might experience, but it could include a mixture of the following: 

  • Hot flushes
  • Erratic and often heavier periods
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Mood swings
  • Dry skin
  • Aching joints
  • Sex becomes painful
  • Moments where your brain ‘freezes’.
  • Feeling anxious

Don't suffer in silence. There is good help out there."

Dr Abi Berger 

GP at HCA Healthcare UK 

If you would like help or advice in managing menopausal symptoms, get in touch with one of our GPs today.