Menopause specialist and Peppy menopause practitioner, Teresa Davison, talks about preparing for an appointment with a GP
TEN minutes is not a long time to spend discussing one of the major events in a woman’s life. Most people would take longer to get advice on the purchase of a new smart phone.
But with the ever-increasing pressures on GP surgeries, 10 minutes is the precise amount of time allocated to a single appointment, even when the reason for attending is the onset of the menopause.
So how should you approach that appointment? What are the best ways of making the most of your time, when there are so many elements – physical, psychological and emotional – to discuss?
According to Teresa Davison, one of Peppy’s most experienced menopause practitioners, the best thing to do ahead of seeking medical advice is to spend time doing some research.
She says: “Before a woman goes in for her appointment, she should empower herself with information. There are lots of reputable sources out there, like the British Menopause Society website, where they can look at evidence-based information, and see how that refers to themselves.
“They should make sure they go in to the surgery appointment knowing the right questions to ask.”
Teresa, a registered nurse practitioner working in a rural practice, also stresses that doctors at a surgery may not actually be the best person to see.
“All GPs can deal with menopause symptoms and prescribe necessary treatments,” she explains.
“But not all GPs will be experts in the menopause. After all, you cannot be an expert in everything.
“Find out in your practice who is the best person to talk to about menopause. It isn’t always the doctor, it may be a nurse, so it’s important to find about which health practitioner specialises in women’s health.”
Teresa believes that women will benefit from having more than one appointment to discuss their symptoms and that if treatment is prescribed, their will be follow up meetings.
“There’s such a lot to talk about,” she says.
“There are the hot flushes and the night sweats and the changing periods.
“But there’s also the anxiety, the foggy brain, the loss of enthusiasm and energy, the low mood, the loss of libido and memory.
“A lot of women don’t realise these can all be normal symptoms of the menopause.
“So talking about these things brings a sense of relief – that what they’re going through happens to other people too.”
She adds: “Every woman will have a menopause, but every woman will have a different kind of menopause.
“Some will hardly know it’s happening, and some will be really quite debilitated by it.
“It can affect their working life, their home life, and be very problematic. So taking the time to talk about the whole experience — whether it’s with the GP, a menopause expert, a relative or a friend, can be extremely reassuring”
Teresa also recommends that women have an open mind when it comes to HRT (hormone replacement therapy).
“There are lots of myths and a lot of trepidation about HRT,” she says.
“But HRT doesn’t delay menopause. It replaces your oestrogen and treats the symptoms. It makes a lot of women feel much better.
“The important thing is understanding HRT, knowing where to go for information and talking to other people about it.”
She adds: “Women should never see taking HRT as a failure to cope. We just have to tailor medication individually to the woman, to her risks, to her expectations and her concerns.
“It’s very individual, and different for everybody.
“And I don’t think a woman should expect to leave a 10-minute GP appointment with a prescription for HRT.
“She needs to attend that first appointment being as well informed as possible, have a conversation about the things she and the health practitioner think are most important, and then walk away and process everything before a second appointment a couple of weeks later.
“Make the first consultation about knowledge rather than treatment.”
At her own clinic, Teresa says the extra time she has with women makes a world of difference.
“A longer consultation means women can expand and have a wide-ranging conversation about what they’re experiencing,” she says.
“It empowers them, because it’s a chance to talk in depth about something we should all be talking about more.
“Periods are widely discussed, pregnancy and motherhood are talked about, but the menopause is brushed under the carpet. There is not enough respect for it, and it is often treated like a bit of a joke.
“Employers aren’t dealing with it even though mid aged women are a big part of the work force, and even women themselves are pretending it’s not happening.
“The fact is we all need to start talking more about the menopause – for longer than ten minutes.”