Survey results for

January/April: Menopause 2017

The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs from 45 onwards, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline. Most women will experience menopausal symptoms, which for some can be quite severe and have a significant impact on everyday activities. Prior to the launch of our Online Clinic on Gynaecology during March 2017, talkhealth created a survey in collaboration with Associate Specialist Gynaecologist, Dr Heather Currie to understand more about the challenges women face during this period of their lives.

Over 600 women responded to the survey, with 80% either going through, or had gone through menopause.

Your experiences with menopause

Between the ages of 41 and 50 was the most common age in which the majority of women began to experience menopausal symptoms (58%), with hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and a lack of energy being some of the most frequently experienced symptoms. Hot flushes and night sweats were the most impactful symptoms. Considering their own experiences, participants were asked to define menopause:

 

“It’s a never ending jumble of hormones, mood swings and faulty temperature control, adding and removing layers all day long.”

“It creeps up on you as you start to experience various symptoms which at their peak are very distressing and impact greatly on day to day life.”

 

Participants were asked what impact, if any, menopause has had on their relationship with their partner, to which the most common response was having no sex drive, a lack in sexual confidence and an increase in mood swings which in turn causes arguments and feelings of animosity. The vast majority had experienced more symptoms than they thought they would, and over 41% had found that their work life has been affected by the menopause to some extent.

Medical Support

Over 60% of participants had been to see a healthcare professional regarding their menopausal symptoms. When discussing these visits, many said that the doctor or nurse was sympathetic to their concerns and constructive in their advice, however were only somewhat knowledgeable in menopause and its symptoms, with 60% stating that going to see a healthcare professional did not help them better understand how to cope with the transition.

Treatments

Most participants who either were going through the menopause or had already been through it did not take any form of treatment. Of those who did treat their symptoms there was a relatively even split between those who received treatments on prescription from their doctor, and those purchasing products over-the-counter. Around half had either taken HRT, or were taking it currently, with 25% actively not taking it at all.

Those who were currently taking HRT were asked whether they thought the treatment was useful and effective:

 

“Yes. I no longer have hot flushes or night sweats and my mood swings have improved.”

“I thought I would feel better than I do – it’s helped with flushes but nothing else really. I'm still tired, aching, no energy, can't concentrate, skin is dry and looking very old.”

 

Opinions were similarly varied in those that had used HRT in the past:

 

“The symptoms diminished, were a lot lighter. I was feeling better and the transition was a lot smoother.”

“I was given HRT but I found the side effects too much to cope with and I haven’t received any advice on what to do.”

 

The main reasons for stopping taking HRT were because they had gone through the menopause, they had been taking it for too long and a GP advised them to stop, or it did not work effectively for them.

Other forms of treatments used to help alleviate menopausal symptoms were sage supplements, Evening primrose Oil, Black Cohosh, Vaginal Lubricant and St John’s Wort.

Support

The majority of those who had experienced menopausal symptoms had visited websites (63%) and online forums (33%) for information and support. The one piece of vital information the participants wished they had been made aware of before going on their menopausal journey were:

 

“That it was going to last for so long. It started when I was 54 and I'm 60 now and the symptoms seem to be at their worse now.”

“Speak to your GP early on, don't suffer in silence.”

“Not all women have the same symptoms and just how many symptoms there are.”

 

Asked to offer one piece of advice for women who had not yet gone through the transition, responses were:

 

“Get medical advice and read up on all available help, both medical and alternative medicines.”

“Talk about it to someone as it can be depressing with no support.”

“It's not as bad as I thought it was. A healthy diet and exercise help a great deal.”

 

Negative or positive experience

Two thirds said that it was overall a negative experience, however there are many who found that the experience was not as bad as they had first thought, seeing it more positively.

Dr Heather Currie

Following the publication of these results, our collaborating partner in this survey, Dr Heather Currie provided talkhealth with her thoughts on the findings:

The findings of this survey are very much in line with results form the BMS Ipsos Mori survey in 2016 and confirm that more information and education is needed so that women can better understand the consequences of the menopause, be better prepared and know where to go to seek help. Menopause affects every woman, in many different ways and only by women accessing accurate information can they truly make informed choices about the management of their menopause.

Suggested resources

www.menopausematters.co.uk

www.womens-health-concern.org

www.managemymenopause.co.uk

If you are living with the menopause, or you have gone through the menopause and would like to share your story, please email us at info@talkhealthpartnership.com.

If you're interested in a detailed analysis of the results for these surveys please contact us.