what working women need from their doctor

Every woman will go through the menopause. It’s not an illness to be ‘treated’ but for millions of women, menopausal symptoms are debilitating. One in four women experience symptoms for up to 15 years, and around 10% of working women even think about leaving their jobs.

Many of these women will have seen their GP countless times, only to be told that they’re ‘too young’ to be going through the menopause or sent away with a prescription for antidepressants. It’s little wonder that they’re left feeling hopeless and not listened to.

Medical training and the menopause

A big problem is that doctors only learn about the menopause electively, and in medical school or post graduate training, it gets little attention compared to acute illnesses or chronic diseases. This means that only a handful of doctors actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to the menopause, and finding them can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Women are being let down

Because of the lack of menopause education in medical training, women often end up seeing doctors who either:

  • Say they’re too young for menopause, or even worse, don’t even consider the menopause as a possible cause of symptoms.
  • Know a bit more than other doctors, but are hard to find because practices don’t advertise that they have the knowledge.

I’ve heard cases of women being diagnosed as being menopausal when they actually had cancer, and a lady told me recently that when she asked her consultant (a man) about menopause after having a full hysterectomy, he told her “You’ll have a couple of little flushes then you’ll be done.”

This lady was on her knees with menopause symptoms and this kind of ignorance is just not acceptable. Doctors need to get educated, stop prescribing antidepressants as a first line treatment, and allow women to make an informed choice about HRT without scaremongering. 

Women expect their doctors to help but we are being let down in droves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doctor bashing, but the level of service women are getting at the moment is just not good enough.

Preparing for a doctor’s appointment

You might not hit lucky and see a doctor who understands what you’re going through first time, but there are some things you can do that might help you get the best out of your appointment.

  • Don’t ‘put up’ with your symptoms. True, the menopause is a normal part of life, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer. You know your body and you know what’s normal for you and what’s not.
  • Do your research. The NICE guidelines on what to expect when you see your doctor are very useful, so read them before your appointment. You can also research treatments so that you can tell your doctor about any preferences you have (i.e. would you prefer to try natural treatments or lifestyle changes first?)
  • Keep a note of your symptoms and how they affect your day to day life.
  • When you ring for an appointment, ask who specialises in the menopause at your practice. Sometimes you’ll find that the practice nurse is the best person to see.
  • Book a double appointment. The standard 10 minute GP appointment is probably not going to cut it when you need to discuss the menopause, so book a longer appointment so you don’t feel rushed.
  • Ask about any women’s health clinics in your area. This can be a bit of a lottery, but women’s health clinics can be an excellent source of specialist support.
  • Remember you can ask for a second opinion. If you leave your GP feeling like you’ve been fobbed off or not listened to, you can always ask to see someone else. You know your body better than anyone else!

What should doctors do?

When you see your doctor, you should be able to talk openly and honestly, ask questions, and get clear explanations-you shouldn’t feel dismissed.

Your doctor should:

Discuss your lifestyle and how you can manage your symptoms as well as the longer term impact on your health.

Give you advice on HRT and other treatment options.

Discuss the pros and cons of any treatment they offer.

They definitely should not:

Tell you that it’s just the time of life and suggest that you should put up with it.

Tell you they won’t prescribe HRT. It’s your body and your choice. Their job is to give you the facts about whether it could be the right option for you, taking everything into account.

Millions of women suffer from debilitating menopause symptoms, and the healthcare system is letting them down. This can’t continue. We need to do everything we can to educate ourselves about the menopause, but those in primary care need to get clued up too, so that when we seek help, it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

My mission

Raising awareness about the menopause among women, men, and employers is all about education and making it comfortable and acceptable for people to speak about it. Menopause is not a condition to be treated and cured, it’s a normal stage of life that every woman goes through. Helping people to realise this is my mission.

My training events are aimed at educating HR professionals, managers, and working women about the menopause in a fun, engaging, and informative way.

If you’d like to find out more, contact me at sharon@missmenopause.co.uk

You can also join my Facebook group or my Facebook and Twitter campaign #wearemenopause

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