It’s a sad truth that many women do not get good menopause advice from their GP. “Some women face months or even years of additional suffering because of an uphill battle in accessing correct information and treatment,” writes Dr Louise Newson in her brilliantly informative book Menopause, All You Need to Know in One Concise Manual. “This is because their GP doesn’t have a true understanding of treatments like HRT and how they can help, and this has to change.”
Get the best menopause GP advice
We know this to be true from the stories we hear from the Hylda community in our new Facebook group, Women With Ambition, Attitude and Brain Fog. It’s astonishing – and frankly, insulting – that women are still being given incorrect information when it comes to menopause care. And let’s be honest, most of us were brought up to (quite rightly) respect the medical profession, especially after the last two years of pandemic. So it’s hard to challenge the expert sitting on the other side of the desk (or screen!). But sadly, many women do need to challenge back and demand better care. We are missing out on the GP menopause advice we need.
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“Medical appointments can be frustratingly short, with a 2017 study revealing that average UK GP appointments are among the shortest in Europe at just 9.2 minutes,” says Dr Newson. “There is nothing worse than feeling rushed or being unable to communicate your concerns.”
So what can you do to make sure every second of those 9.2 minutes matters? Dr Newson’s book has a chapter dedicated to getting the most out of your precious appointment slot. These are her key tips:
Ask for a double appointment
You might need to book well in advance to be able to do this. Also, ask if there is a doctor or practice nurse at the surgery who has an interest in the menopause. Request for them to be present at your appointment.
Write down your symptoms
At Dr Newson’s clinic, women are asked to fill in the Greene Climacteric Scale questionnaire, as shown here on Liz Earle’s brilliant website. This is a checklist used to record menopausal symptoms. Filling it out ahead of your appointment will help your GP to see, at a glance, the nature of your symptoms.
Bring your diary
Noting down key changes such as period frequency and flow, sleep quality and duration ahead of your appointment, will help the health professional to tell if you are in your perimenopause or your menopause.
List your medications
Take in a list of any prescription medicine you are taking, as well as herbal medicines and supplements.
Take a friend
If you’re feeling nervous, why not take a friend to your appointment? Moral support can help to reduce anxiety. Let your friend know beforehand the most important things that you want to get across, and they can help prompt you if you forget anything.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If you don’t understand anything or aren’t getting the information you want, speak up. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has a list of suggested questions to ask your GP, including “What are the benefits and risks of different treatments?”. You’ll find the full list of questions, as well as lots of other NICE information, here.