A few months ago, I was approached by FPA Company about the possibility of writing a menopause information leaflet that would be offered to GP practices around the country.
I didn’t have to think twice about the invitation, and this is why.
A few years ago, I was plunged into surgical menopause after the removal of both of my ovaries, my womb, and my cervix. Sadly, nobody took the time to explain surgical menopause to me, so I had no idea just how important oestrogen[i], which is produced in the ovaries, or the lack of it in my case could potentially be. Unfortunately for me I experienced very debilitating symptoms of oestrogen depletion, which had a severe impact on my psychological health for a few months. It was only several months after my surgery, when my mental health reached rock bottom that a doctor took the time to explain to me just how important oestrogen is, both for short and long-term health. Being prescribed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) was truly a life saver for me; but my fears of it due to all the scare stories I had read over the years, combined with a lack of professional support meant I didn’t start using it when I should have.
“I feel like I’m going mad”
As a result of my own experience, I began to research to see if other women were experiencing similar. To my horror I found thousands of them on chat rooms and forums saying things like ‘I feel so alone’ or ‘I feel like I am going mad’. Many of those same women had been prescribed antidepressants for their symptoms but were not feeling better. I asked myself how it could possibly be that if half the population were going to experience menopause, why so many were being left to suffer in silence.
I promised myself that if I ever felt like me again that I would work to improve menopause care and support.
My research made me realise that there is huge information gap around menopause for both the public and professionals, none of us learn about it before it comes along, and many doctors have no formal education. It became clear that despite this being a natural phase of life, for many, it was having a devastating effect on their health, careers and relationships, and it was costing the NHS a fortune in repeat appointments and referrals to secondary care. Surely this was madness and needed to be addressed.
Once I finally felt like me again, I went back to education to allow me to professionally support other women going through menopause and I began to speak publicly on TV and radio about my own experience to raise awareness of menopause.
In 2015, I founded Menopause Support which is now a not for profit, community interest organisation. In 2017, I started a support community on Facebook which now supports almost 17,000 women, and in October 2018 on World Menopause Day I launched the national #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign in Parliament, calling for mandatory menopause training for GPs, menopause support in the workplace, and for menopause to be included in the secondary school curriculum. I am delighted to tell you that menopause was added to the curriculum in September 2020, but we are still working hard to achieve the remaining aims.
Writing the leaflet for FPA is another step forward to make sure we fill the information gap for women, their doctors, and their families.
I hope that it will help to ensure that every woman has factual, evidence-based information at her fingertips and the help and support she deserves when she needs it for the future.
[i] Note while I am using the spelling oestrogen, FPA use the spelling estrogen throughout their information.