'I had my menopause at 28'

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Image caption,
Katy was offered little help initially

When Katy Hayward failed to get pregnant quickly she knew something was wrong.

Doctors reassured her that she was in 'peak health', but Katy was worried and pushed to see a specialist.

"I just knew something was not right," she said.

And at the age of just 28 she was given the devastating news that she had gone into an early menopause.

Help needed

"I was shocked," she said.

"Having a child is a rite of passage for a woman.

"This was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through.

Katy, now 30, was referred to a specialist to see whether anything could be done to save her eggs, but it was already too late.

Her only hope now is egg donation - but she faces a lengthy wait of up to five years.

Katy has put motherhood plans on hold, but says she would still like a baby one day.

She says young women like her are offered little help and advice to cope with the condition and its side effects.

"I had hot flushes and irregular periods and the GP just put me on HRT treatment. I had to ask for counselling," she said.

Study help

Now a project at the the Menopause Research Unit at Guy's Hospital London hopes to make things better for women like Katy.

Dr Beth Cartwright, from the unit, explained that there is so little known about the condition that they do not even know the best treatment regime.

Image caption,
The study hopes to decide on treatments

In premature ovarian failure, the level of the female hormone oestrogen is very low and hormone replacement - through HRT or the contraceptive pill - is recommended to alleviate 'menopausal' symptoms and protect against bone loss and cardiovascular disease.

"We don't know what the best treatment is - or the effects of not taking any treatment," said Dr Cartwright.

"We need to see whether HRT or the pill is the best. No-one has really looked at before."

"At the moment we have to say to women that its up to them what they take."

She hopes the study will help change this.

"Through a number of tests, scans and questionnaires over a two year period, we will compare the effects of the different treatments and the no-treatment option on bone health, cardiovascular health, sexual function, symptom control, psychological wellbeing and overall quality of life.

"All women taking part will receive comprehensive care relevant to their premature ovarian failure and their participation will help in the treatment of early menopause in the future."

Katy, from Lancashire, said that she had felt isolated until she met Dr Cartwright and her team, but that now she felt she was getting the help she needs.

"I was on HRT and it was not working, but they said I could go on the pill and it has been absolutely magnificent. I feel better and it stopped the hot flushes.

"The study will help others and in time there will be a better management programme and gynaecologists will be more aware.

"And they won't just slide a piece of paper across the table with details of support groups, which is what happened to me."

Anyone wanting to take part in the study should contact Dr Beth Cartwright in the Menopause Research Unit at Guy's Hospital on 020 7188 3024 or email: beth.cartwright@kcl.ac.uk.

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