When it comes to menopausal symptoms there is much confusion amongst both patients and GP’s about the safety (or otherwise) of various treatments. This can cause doctors to downplay women’s complaints during The Menopause Chat because they are unsure about what treatments to suggest.
The woman leaves feeling frustrated and unvalidated after hearing comments like “it’ll pass in a couple of years, you just need to put up with it”. Even worse, she may be told incorrect or generalised information like “stay away from those hormonal treatments, they’ll give you cancer”, or “you can’t use HRT because of your headaches/ blood pressure/ family history.”
It’s totally normal to feel disempowered in a situation like this; after all, the doctor is supposed to be the one with all the medical knowledge, and they are the ones writing the scripts. The best defence in this situation is prior preparation. Here are my top five tips on having “The Menopause Chat” with your GP.
Before The Menopause Chat make sure it’s clear in your mind exactly what your main symptoms are. If you think they’re related to menopause or perimenopause try using this menopause symptom score sheet from the Australasian Menopause Society to record them clearly.
Highlight the “Top 3” symptoms that you would like to improve. Then read up on those symptoms and their various treatment options. The Australasian Menopause Society’s Information Sheets and Jean Hailes for Women’s Health are both great sources of evidence-based information.
As a GP myself, I am sometimes put off-side by a patient waving reams of Google printouts and telling me what to prescribe. Honestly, in some cases the patients are more well-read about their complaints than I am. However I am trained to critically assess the medical literature, and experience has taught me how to interpret and apply that information to each individual patient.
You absolutely should be empowered by knowledge (see point 1, above) and be an advocate for your own health. But you’ll probably have a much better chance of getting the answers and treatment you want by engaging in an open-minded discussion of your options than by making demands.
Determining whether certain treatments are safe to use depends on not only yours, but sometimes also your family’s medical history. For example, a history of blood clotting disorders might indicate that you need to be tested too. It’s also important to know if high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, strokes or heart disease run in your family, as this can guide your GP in recommending preventive screening and interventions.
Your own personal medical history is obviously very important. Certain medical conditions or medications may rule out some treatment options; for example estrogen treatment is not safe if you’ve had breast cancer. Your GP also needs to know all the medications AND any alternative or complementary treatments you are using. If you’ve been with your GP for years they may already know all this, but if not then be sure to take all your info along to The Menopause Chat.
Most women attend their doctor with an agenda; that is, they have something they want to talk about and they have an expectation about how the doctor will respond.
If your GP is well-versed in the management of menopausal symptoms they may present you with some options you didn’t know about, or that you’ve heard bad things about. They may actually have valuable new information that paints things in a different light, so it’s worthwhile hearing them out. In the end it’s your decision whether to accept or decline what’s offered so you may as well have all the facts and make a well-informed choice.
If peri- or menopausal symptoms are significantly impacting your life and functioning, DO NOT allow yourself to be fobbed off. If your GP doesn’t seem confident of the facts, or is saying things that don’t quite add up according to your research (point number 1 again!) then get the opinion of a medical professional with expertise in treating menopause.
Remember: nobody can be an expert in everything, and doctors are no different. It’s impossible to stay ahead of current treatments in all areas of medicine, and some doctors specialise in specific areas.
If you need expert advice but can’t find a doctor who specialises in menopause, then perhaps consider accessing specialised care by Telehealth (internet or phone consultation). Services like WellFemme can conveniently provide expert menopause treatment and advice, and will provide a detailed report to keep your regular GP informed about the recommended treatment options.
Access to menopause advice, treatment and information has never been better, so don’t put up with debilitating symptoms for another nanosecond… book in for The Menopause Chat right now!
Heavily discounted consultations are available for women in regional, rural and remote areas who agree to complete short questionnaires for WellFemme’s Pilot Study.
Not sure if Telehealth is for you? Free trial consultations are available to find out how WellFemme can help with your menopausal symptoms.