Menopause, HRT and Me

Part of the ‘midlife’ journey is the menopause.  I know everyone’s experience is different and most women going through ‘the change’ don’t talk about it much.  Our mother’s generation didn’t talk about it at all – thankfully, now, we are beginning to share our knowledge with each other.

Some are lucky enough to have a few hot flushes then it’s over. For others, it can be a much more complex affair.  I can’t ever remember having many conversations with my mum regarding the menopause.  We were super close and now I do wonder why we didn’t.   Maybe my generation just didn’t talk about it freely. There was certainly a lack of education, awareness and conversation surrounding menopausal symptoms, and how they affect us. Hopefully, that’s all changed!!

I began to feel “not myself” around the fifty-year-old mark, which is the average age to start the menopause. But, it can begin earlier with some women.  Around this time, I was working full time as well as managing teenagers, at home.  There was a lot of family stuff going on, too.  Plus, I had taken on more responsibility in my job which, with hindsight, I really was not suited to, and wasn’t enjoying.

As the time passed, my feeling of “not wellness” was evident. In a nutshell, I was emotionally and physically battered.  I eventually went to the doctor as I had a flu bug which wouldn’t shift.  I was also experiencing a lot of fatigue.  The resulting blood tests showed that, not only was I “peri menopausal”, but I also had an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).  I was given some Levothyroxine medication to regulate my thyroid and told to go away and rest, and handed the obligatory information leaflets. At that point, I had no knowledge of hypothyroidism.

Once I had the correct dose of medication for my thyroid, I started to improve.  Before taking the medication, the fatigue was getting to me and my hair was falling out more than normal. This, of course, wasn’t making me feel great. However, this did begin to improve once the medication started to take effect.  During this time, my sleep was constantly interrupted and, once awake, I just couldn’t go back to sleep.  This had a knock-on effect to me being very tired at work, as well experiencing the usual hot flushes.

There are, of course, the emotional and physical changes.  Click here to check symptoms.

Friends and family were noticing the change in me and the closest ones told me so.  I knew I needed to do something to try and feel normal/myself, again, if it was possible.

Up until this point, I hadn’t done a lot of fact-finding regarding remedies for the menopause.  I’d heard about HRT but didn’t really know a lot about it.  I read there are many different types of HRT and different doses. Some women prefer non-hormonal methods or natural supplements such as black cohosh, or even acupuncture.  I read about the benefits of HRT, which included the reduction of the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.

Following a lot of research, I went to see my GP who asked me questions about my symptoms and how I was.  I remember getting the feeling she wasn’t keen on giving me HRT.  I said that I just wanted to feel normal, again, and like my old calm self.

I started to take HRT (“Elleste Duet”), in September 2013.  I remember this well as it was just before my first visit to New York in the December – I was so excited.

Almost immediately, the hot flush factor reduced and I began to sleep calmly through the night.  Emotionally, I felt calmer.  It helped me and I felt like I’d taken a wonder drug!  Normality seemed to be restored.  I was asked to go to the GP surgery, every six months, for a blood pressure check-up and a chat to see how I was getting on. But, apart from that, I was left to take these magic pills which restored my sanity.  Whenever I had my check with the nurse or the doctor, I was told to think about coming off HRT. This did did worry me as I was afraid of reverting to the way I was before.

After taking HRT for a little over five years, my doctor decided to change my prescription to “Kliovance”. Over the following months, I gained quite a few pounds in weight which I didn’t feel comfortable with.  I was nearly fifty-nine by this stage – so I decided to try and stop taking HRT – mainly because of the weight gain. From the knowledge I’d built up, I knew I must be through the menopause, at this age.

The first time I tried to stop, I did it too abruptly which resulted in me getting the symptoms back.   So, I began taking them again, for two months.  I then decided to wean myself off, gently.  My process was to take one pill then miss a day, until the monthly pack was finished. Then, with the next pack, I would take one pill and miss two days. Then, with the next pack take one and miss three days, and so on, until they were out of my system. This did take me around a year but my method worked.

Since I’ve stopped taking HRT, I don’t get a lot of hot flushes anymore. Though, I do wake up during the night, now and again. But, I do manage to get back to sleep.  I’ve also noticed my skin is dryer and my hair has started to shed a little more than usual, unfortunately. Oh, the joys!!!

Following my experiences over the last ten years, and in a perfect world, I would like to see an increase in GP surgeries offering a menopausal clinic.  I know there are online forums. But, I believe inviting women to come and discuss their problems and share their personal experiences would help them. Because, the menopause can be such an isolating time. I do realise there would have to be funding to make this happen. But, it is so important.

I recently had a telephone appointment with a female GP.  I explained that I had weaned myself off HRT. She said that she wouldn’t have pressurised me to stop taking it, as there are benefits.   I found her views on the whole subject refreshing and wish I’d encountered someone like her at the very beginning of my journey.  I think awareness and knowledge surrounding the menopause is improving.  It is a fact of life.

I’ll leave you with this humorous quote:

“One of the simple facts of life is that more or less half the world’s population will go through the menopause and yet, apparently, in some circles the subject is still considered taboo.  Now I don’t mix in these circles, because I live in the 21st century and not in 1957.  I belong in a world of stroppy, hard-working women who don’t really have the time or the inclination to play the shy, retiring violet.
Us ladies have changed.  We no longer wear hats and girdles – we’re letting it all hang out – and we’re no longer whispering behind closed doors about our ‘down theres’.

 

Quote from “Older and Wider: A Survivor’s Guide to The Menopause “.  by Jenny Éclair Author and comedian

 

Thank you for reading my post.  I hope you have enjoyed it and found it helpful.  If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.

Shop the look below.  Please note this post may contain affiliate links – if you click through to the website, there is no extra cost to you.

Best wishes to you and keep safe.

Alison

xx

 

 

27 Comments

  1. 10 February 2021 / 7:42 pm

    There’s hardly any advice or posts online about coming off HRT. I’m still taking it and sometimes wonder if should give it up. I did try to reduce the dosage gradually but all the symptoms came back. Thanks for your interesting post Alison

    • 10 February 2021 / 8:42 pm

      Thank you, Gail. I didn’t like the weight gain which I experienced from the second lot of HRT – this certainly spurred me on to try and come off it. I did it so very slowly and it took about a year in total. I needed to share my experience, as it isn’t easy – but done very slowly it’s possible. x

    • 11 February 2021 / 1:49 pm

      Hi Gail,
      Just to let you know I’ve added a little bit more detail on how I came off HRT – just in case you’re wanting to give it a go. x

    • 24 February 2021 / 3:46 pm

      It really isn’t necessary to come off HRT. There are so many benefits of staying on it. GP’s desperately need better training. Michelle xx

  2. 11 February 2021 / 7:35 am

    Very informatie. I read a lot about women and their tyroid in menopause. Mine doesn’t work at all for 30 years now. The only problem I have are the hot flashes I think.

    • 11 February 2021 / 6:32 pm

      I’ve heard that too Nancy. A few friends of mine had the same thing, it’s something we have to get used to
      living with and the correct dosage is key.

    • 11 February 2021 / 6:38 pm

      I’m so pleased you have found it helpful. I started to notice a difference too around that age – it happened very slowly.

  3. 12 February 2021 / 4:19 pm

    Hi Alison!
    I enjoyed your informative post! My mom is 76 and I don’t remember her talking to my sister or I about menopause I did know that she stopped taking premarin after being on it for a number of years. Probably around 50 or so, I used to wake up in the middle of the night from sweating in my nightgown! I would have to change 2 times a night and it was miserable! I also know the fatigue was bad. It is interesting to learn your experience of HRT, and I would consider a patch in a few years. I take BCpills now, long story short, so I dont have periods, as the laxity in my joints from EDS, caused my pelvis to dislocate, so this prevents that.

    thanks for linking!
    Have a happy Valentines day
    jess xx
    http://www.elegantlydressedandstylish.com

    • 12 February 2021 / 5:42 pm

      Thank you,Jess. It’s good that we are starting to share our experiences of the menopause,instead
      of it being a taboo subject. Hopefully, it will help others decide what is best for them. It seems that everyone has a different experience. Have a lovely Valentines weekend! xx

  4. 15 February 2021 / 3:59 pm

    Alison, thank you so much for sharing this post and for being open about the struggle that is menopause. I started peri menopause symptoms at 40 and now nearly 7 years into it, I am finally finding ways to mitigate the symptoms. After years of consulting my doctors for something to ease the symptoms, I was either told that I am too young to be in peri menopause or just to “deal with it the same way past generations of women have”. At that point, I had enough of doctors and have started changing my diet to ease the symptoms. I have found much relief on my own but not complete relief. But I am making progress and relying on myself as my own best advocate. Thanks for keeping this conversation open without shame! I throw the word menopause around like it’s the most common thing in the world to talk about because it literally does effect me every day and I’ll be damned if I am going to suffer in silence because it might make someone uncomfortable! Thanks for linking with me!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

    • 15 February 2021 / 5:49 pm

      Thank you, Shelbee, I have read so much about women going through “early menopause”, and it not being
      diagnosed. It is frustrating to not get the help and support needed. I found a great doctor who said
      all the right things just lately, I do wish I’d met her at the beginning of my journey. I hope you
      find something to relieve the symptoms as this can be a massive interruption to your lifestyle – keep
      going, I did and all was okay once I got the balance right. xx

  5. 15 February 2021 / 8:05 pm

    As someone who is a ways away from this life change, it is still so helpful to read about people’s experiences and things like HRT available to me. I know my mom went through menopause at an earlier age so I am not sure if I will as well. It really helps to be prepared. I love that women are opening up more about so many things. It helps us all feel more ‘normal’ and connected!

    • 16 February 2021 / 12:50 pm

      So true Laura. I didn’t know much about the menopause until it was happening to me. We usually follow our mothers and their experiences with the menopause – I remember seeing my mum have hot flushes and looking a little out of sorts, but we didn’t discuss it then. I wish we had. I love that it has stopped being a taboo subject that is hidden. It’s great that we’re open and honest with each other, and our menfolk as they have to understand what is happening to us as well. xx

  6. 16 February 2021 / 8:49 am

    I started my menopause in my thirties. A very long drawn argument with doctors, I managed to get HRT in my early 40’s A wonder drug I agree, but it was like someone had stuck a bike pump up my backside! I ballooned!

    • 16 February 2021 / 12:37 pm

      That is so young to start the menopause Laurie. Thank goodness they’re talking about it more now – though there’s still room for improvement. Plus, finding the right GP that is understanding can be a task. The first version of HRT I was taking didn’t cause that much weight gain, I am mindful that my newly diagnosed thyroid condition effects the metabolism and can cause weight gain also. The second lot of HRT did cause weight gain almost immediately and I hadn’t altered my habits at all. This is what spurred me on to stop as I felt so unhealthy.

  7. 24 February 2021 / 3:45 pm

    Gosh, you really don’t need to come off HRT at all, it is possible to stay on it for life, and the benefits outweigh the risks. If only GP’s were better trained. There is a lot of info on my blog. Best – gold standard HRT – is body identical oestrogen in gel form and ideally the mirena coil for progesterone, plus testosterone if you need it. And it is possible for your GP to prescribe the body identical HRT. If you find you have dry skin, hair etc it is really worth looking into the options. There are so many symptoms that women are too embarrassed to talk about but HRT can be a life saver! Love Michelle xx

    • 24 February 2021 / 7:34 pm

      I would love to see Clinics in the GP surgeries, set up to help women more, as a lot have
      no idea about menopause and what it entails, I didn’t plus, we all need to be educated on what is on
      offer. I know there are many various forms of HRT. I didn’t feel good at
      all on the last version of HRT I was prescribed – maybe I should have persevered and returned
      to my GP to try another version. I haven’t taken it for around a year now and I seem to be
      coping at the moment. I have a friend who pays for monthly body identical HRT, it’s expensive
      and my budget simply wouldn’t allow for it – as she pays for monthly consultations, tests now
      and then as well as the prescription. I did ask my GP around a year ago as I’d read that some forms
      of this type of HRT were available on the NHS, after the GP googled while I was there I was told
      this wasn’t possible, so, as you say I think some training may be needed. xx

  8. 25 February 2021 / 5:03 pm

    I seem to have sailed through the menopause only with hot flushes affecting me! I’m still getting them and wonder if it’s something else. Many thanks for your enlightening post Hun. Jacqui x

    • 25 February 2021 / 5:09 pm

      Thank you, Jacqui. It’s great for us to talk and share our experience of menopause, as we’ve all
      had different experiences. I’ve talked to some women who definitely feel isolated going
      through it – which shouldn’t be the case. xx

  9. 25 February 2021 / 5:22 pm

    It’s a conversation we need to have. Fortunately, I had a number of friends to compare notes with, and made it through unscathed!

    • 25 February 2021 / 6:05 pm

      It’s definitely a conversation that has to grow. Not everyone has a support system of friends, family to ask, plus it
      has been a bit of a taboo subject in the past. Thankfully things are beginning to change for the better.

  10. 26 February 2021 / 10:40 pm

    HRT was so helpful to me when I was working and waking up all night with hot flashes. At that time, here in the U.S. there was a study indicating HRT wasn’t that great women, but I decided getting no sleep wasn’t that great for me either. So off to the doctor I went. She explained the faults in the study, and gave me HRT. It made such a difference. In regard to issues like this one, I much prefer to talk to a woman doctor. Since they themselves have or will deal menopause, they seem to be much better informed.

    Great post!

    Michelle
    https://mybijoulifeonline.com

    • 27 February 2021 / 3:32 pm

      Thank you. HRT made a difference to me too. It helped restore my wellness and sanity
      when I really needed it. Like a lot of women going through the peri-menopause, it
      seems to coincide with the busiest and most responsible time in our lives.

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