Why I said yes to HRT
I have great admiration for women going through the menopause without Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). I always thought I would be one of them. But life doesn’t always go to plan does it! I write this piece not in any way to advise others or recommend HRT, it’s just to give my personal experience which some of you might relate to.
Natural is best?
I have always erred on the side of ‘natural is best’ and had great plans for my first child to be delivered unaided, in water (you now know where this is heading) to the sound track of Enya gently tinkling in the background. 17 1/2 hours later, with painkilling drugs and the aid of a small vacuum cleaner, he arrived. I was more realistic about the second one and had decided to take all the drugs on offer, unfortunately I was confounded again as he arrived 10 minutes after we got to the hospital and I didn’t even get time for a whiff of gas.
So, as I neared my 50th birthday and had many signs of perimenopause I had the same chat with myself. Natural is best and there are lots of alternative treatments that can help me get through this. I lasted about a year. The worst symptoms for me were the night sweats. Not only did they wake me up making me cranky and miserable the next day, they also soaked anything I was wearing and the bedclothes, through to the mattress. No matter how many windows I left open, what kind of bedding I tried, cotton, silk nightwear and no nightwear, the night sweats rampaged and left me ragged with tiredness and worn out. Working full-time was not compatible with very little sleep.
In addition to the night-time horrors I actually felt like I did when I was a teenager as my hormones began to run wild. I spent my days muddled, emotional, anxious and felt like my body wasn’t my own. I read everything I could lay my hands on about the menopause, its symptoms and natural remedies. I could tell in the first paragraph of reading which articles were written by men because they usually said something like ‘the symptoms of the menopause are usually mild and don’t last very long, 3-5 years’! I bought vast amounts of stuff from the internet and health-food shops and then I finally went to see my GP (Physician). Except I didn’t see my own GP I saw a trainee.
Luckily for me the GP was a trainee who had just completed her gynaecological placement in a hospital and was about as up-to-date on the risks associated with HRT as anyone could be. However what she didn’t do was rush me into that course of action. She let me talk, she empathised with the severity of my symptoms and then proceeded to explain the current thinking on HRT. She not only gave me additional web sites to look up, she also printed off quite a bit of information there and then. She made me another appointment (from her desk – unheard of!) to see her in a week’s time so I had time to consider the options and risks.
By the time I had digested all the evidence and concluded that for me the risks were low and the gains immense, I decided to try HRT. Within three weeks I was back to 'normal’ and no I didn’t look ten years younger or develop an unhealthy(??) desire for sex day and night (I was still working full time, one child in school one at Uni, one ill parent etc etc).
I was advised at the time that I should not take oral HRT for more than five years because of the increased risk of stroke. Since then I have been advised to swap to the patches as these are considered even safer (a study of almost a million women, found that while those taking hormone tablets had a small increased risk of stroke, those who had patches – had no higher risk than those who did not use HRT at all) and there are no arbitrary time frames in terms of how long you use them for. I remain happy, as stable as I am ever likely to be, and sleep like a log.
I take my metaphorical hat off to those women who get through the menopause with just a smile and a fan (my sister). I think about this issue in exactly the way I consider all ‘women’s issues’. It’s your right to choose what’s best for you and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise!