'Catastrophic' shortages of HRT is ruining women's lives - alternative ways for dealing with menopause

Author: talkhealth

Date: Feb 2020

‘Catastrophic’ shortages of HRT is ruining women’s lives - alternative ways for dealing with menopause

Hormonal Replacement Therapy can be a lifesaver for many women going through the menopause. For over a year, however, thousands of hot flush sufferers in the UK have had to go without medical relief.

‘Catastrophic’ shortages have affected ‘almost all’ of the one million women currently prescribed HRT. That’s led to them having to switch brands or go cold turkey, while some reports suggest women even looking abroad to get hold of their regular medication.

HRT has been the traditional go-to treatment for symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats and anxiety; for those who are able to take it, it’s thought to be one of the most effective treatments out there.

talkhealth recently surveyed 576 menopausal women and found that over 90% of those who used HRT said that they found it helpful, particularly in managing mental health symptoms - with women citing a ‘massive improvement in mood’, and ‘feeling better in self’. They also noticed a marked reduction in night sweats and hot flushes.

One woman told us that she takes unopposed oestrogen after having had a hysterectomy.

‘If I miss even one dose, the hot flushes restart,’ she said.

So to have to suddenly stop taking medication for months at a time - with no sign of respite - can be utterly devastating.

In a joint letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the British Menopause Society and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare warned that many women have been left in distress due to shortages of the medication.

Doctors have been promised that supplies should start to increase as of now, but a number of HRT medications still remain unavailable with no timeline indicating when they might be back on the market. As yet, we still don’t know what has caused the chronic shortage.

So what can you do if your HRT has been affected?

The government has said that supply chains should be moving again imminently but there are other things you can do to make yourself feel more human in the meantime:

Talk to your GP - it’s an obvious one but make sure that you’re in regular contact with your doctor so that they can keep you abreast of the situation and give you any advice or alternatives for managing your symptoms.
Discuss the situation with your line manager - it’s worth chatting to your boss and colleagues about it as you might find your symptoms flaring more regularly or severely. They can help make you as comfortable as possible while you’re in between meds.
Try yoga - yoga has been proven to help manage the psychological distress that can come with menopause. It might not get rid of your symptoms entirely but it might help you mentally manage the load better.
Eat more phytoestrogens - these are chemicals found in certain foods which are known to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. In menopausal women, that means they help with hormonal balance. A high intake of phytoestrogens in countries like Japan may explain why women are far less likely to experience things like hot flushes.
Practice self-care - look after yourself and do whatever you need to do to feel more relaxed. That could mean switching off your phone and having a long, hot soak every night...or spending more time cooking nutritious, delicious meals.
Get some sun - it may be hard during the British winter but vitamin D is important because it can help fortify bones (which naturally weaken during menopause). If you can’t jet off somewhere warm, try taking a vitamin D supplement.
Calcium first - calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, spinach, beans and tofu are really important for bone health too.
Drink more water - during the menopause, many women experience dryness due to a decrease in estrogen levels. Drinking up to around 12 glasses of water a day can help ease those symptoms and reduce bloating.

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Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 26 February 2020

Next review: 26 February 2023