Barbara has had erratic periods, hot flushes and mood swings since her mid-thirties. Unable to take HRT, she tried complementary therapies without success. She found it hard to cope with the menopause in a physical, male-dominated working environment.
Barbara did not immediately associate her increasingly heavy and irregular periods in her mid-thirties with the menopause until she began to have hot flushes. After trying herbal remedies such as black cohosh, agnus castus and evening primrose oil without success, she consulted a complementary therapist. At considerable expense, she was prescribed a cream that I had to rub under my armpit and down in the groin; to restore the hormonal balance. This had little effect, however.
Barbara considered going on HRT and talked to a number of GPs about the risks. A history of cancer in the family and a belief that taking HRT would just put off the inevitable;, however, convinced Barbara that she should continue to deal with the symptoms of the menopause without taking medication.
As a menopausal woman working in a male-dominated environment, Barbara found it increasingly difficult to carry out the physical training demanded of her job. She describes the embarrassment on one training exercise when, after completing sit ups and press ups with a young male recruit, she discovered blood underneath;. Expected to live in barracks and complete eight mile marches at the same rate as younger recruits regardless of how she was feeling, Barbara realized that it was time to leave the army at age 45. Her retirement has freed her from the stress associated with her job and helped her manage her symptoms.
Since leaving the army, Barbara has put on weight despite maintaining a sensible diet and keeping active. She associates this with the menopause. Despite believing she had reached the end of the menopause two years ago when her periods stopped completely, she had another period a year later and then another more recently. She has also experienced feelings of depression which appear to follow a cyclical pattern, whether or not she has a period. She still has hot flushes and occasional sweats at night.
As a gay woman with a postmenopausal partner, Barbara has had considerable support and understanding throughout her menopausal transition. Buying two separate quilts has proved a practical solution to different temperature needs at night. Although she has experienced some vaginal dryness and at one stage used a lubricant, she tends not to bother now. While sex remains an important part of her relationship, she has noticed a decrease in libido in recent years. She is unsure, however, whether this is due to the menopause or to age or to the maturity of her relationship.
Barbara was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in April 2009.