Menopause symptoms are 'awful, absolutely awful'

By Marie-Louise Connolly & Catherine Smyth
BBC News NI Health Team

media captionJust what does it feel like when you're going through the menopause?

Health professionals need to have a better understanding of the menopause, say women suffering with the condition.

One of those women, Amanda Sweetlove, told BBC News NI she had difficulty getting diagnosed as her GP and a consultant offered different opinions.

"No-one has offered any help whatsoever. So right now it is a case of you just live with it and the anxiety levels and all that it brings."

Belfast's HRT clinic is based at the Mater Hospital and gets 26 new referrals a week - there are many more are on the waiting list. Another menopause clinic is based at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry in the Southern Health Trust.

The Mater Hospital clinic only extreme cases with around 65 women coming through its doors every week.

But some women, like Amanda, didn't know that the clinic even existed.

And she says she would have benefitted from such expertise. Amanda describes the menopause as "the most hideous experience medically of my life", adding: "And that is after two children. It is just horrific. The symptoms are just awful, absolutely awful."

What is the Menopause?

  • The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline.
  • In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.
  • For a few years before women can develop a series of symptoms.
  • Hot flushes, night sweats and mood changes are among the most common.
  • Read more about menopause from the NHS here

Deborah Yapicioz is also going through the menopause - she said it needs to be recognised as a medical condition.

"It affects 50 per cent of the population and you are likely to be in this period of your life for up to ten years.

"So you need to find a way of coping with that and relieving those symptoms."

image captionDeborah Yapicioz says menopause needs to be recognised as a medical condition

Hormone replacement therapy, which can be taken via patches or as a gel or tablets, helps to replace the oestrogen lost when a woman's ovaries stop producing eggs.

Some studies have linked it to increased risks of ovarian cancer and clots but Dr Joanne McManus, a consultant gynaecologist at the Mater Hospital's clinic, said women in Northern Ireland shouldn't be afraid of taking HRT.

"It can make a huge difference to a woman's life. Time and time again in this clinic, women say to us HRT has given me back my life and I think that really says it all. "

"Some women just don't know what is happening to them. They just feel they can no longer cope and they can't believe it when they start HRT and what a difference it can make."

"It is very safe and the benefits in terms of symptom relief will far out weigh any small risks.

"I think any woman who is suffering from symptoms which significantly interfere with their quality of life should speak to their GP to see if HRT is right for them."

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