Menopause Month: Dr Zoe Williams answers questions from readers on menopause in our new weekly series during October’s Menopause Awareness Month.
For many of us, menopause and its many symptoms appears to have snuck up on us and despite the fact that one half of humanity, that is, most woman will likely experience it at some stage, we can’t help but wonder why it is so difficult to easily find the right support on how to manage symptoms.
In recent years and months, various awareness campaigns and menopause activists have been fighting for consideration on how it impacts our lives and how to achieve more visibility and better representation of Black women in campaigns. While progress is being made, albeit slowly, much more work needs to be done to ensure that every woman feels empowered, supported and knowledgeable about how menopause may affect her life.
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Doing their bit to achieve this outcome is Issviva, a new menopause platform where women can learn and share information about their menopause experience. Melan Magazine has partnered with Issviva and their advisor, Dr Zoe Williams, in a new weekly series during October’s Menopause Awareness Month to answer readers’ burning menopause-themed questions.
I’ve suffered with brain fog for a while now and recently, I’ve just started getting hormonal acne, which I’ve never had before. Should I book an appointment with my GP to discuss whether I’m menopausal and if so, and how can I best prepare myself for that conversation?
Dr Zoe: I think that’s such a good question because I know so many people are fearful of going to their GP to establish whether they’re menopausal and they often question whether it is something that’s worthy of an appointment. Firstly, I should say that anything if it bothers you, is worthy of a GP appointment. Maybe not an emergency or same day appointment, but I suggest booking a standard routine appointment or even a telephone or video appointment.
What’s the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
I think it’s important to define perimenopause and menopause, because I think they are terms that can confuse people. The word ‘peri-menopause’ means just a moment in time, and it is when you haven’t had a period for a year. If you’re having symptoms associated with changes in your hormones as you’re approaching menopause, that’s called ‘peri-menopause’. The word ‘peri’ in the medical world just means the ‘time around’ the menopause. As we know, women can start having symptoms years before their periods completely stop and they can also continue to have symptoms for years afterwards too.
Think about what you’ll say to your GP
Do book an appointment with your GP as this is worthy of an appointment. I would say the best way to prepare yourself is to gather as much information as you can. The GP is probably going to ask you lots of questions and will want you to provide quite a bit of detail. The GP will want to know about your symptoms, how long they’ve been going on for, how they’ve changed over time, and if they fluctuate. They might ask when during your cycle do you tend to have symptoms – just before your period or after?
Keep track of your symptoms and periods
There are lots of different apps now that you can download to help you keep track of your periods and your symptoms, and also there are websites like The Menopause Society website, where you can find a form that you complete to help you track your symptoms. Having that information written down and recorded is important. I think the other thing I would suggest is to do some background reading and research yourself prior to your appointment – being armed with possible solutions is helpful for your discussion with your GP.
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Seek advice from people who are knowledgeable about menopause
When you’re booking your appointment, especially if you have a large practice, make sure you ask if there is a doctor or a nurse that specialises in menopause. You tend to find that if there is, then they’ll likely to have had some additional training and they’re more likely to be up to date in terms of guidelines, treatments etc.
Finally, talk to your friends and talk to your family members or whoever you know has been through it, engage with people regarding their own experience. Just chatting to other people and hearing their thoughts tends to validate what you’re going through and makes you feel less nervous.
Look out for next week’s Q&A from Dr Zoe Williams.