Following heavy bleeding, Charlotte was referred to a gynaecologist and prescribed the drug Zoladex to induce the menopause. This led to severe hot flushes. Bleeding returned after treatment ended, however, and Charlotte is now considering a hysterectomy.
At the age of 47, Charlotte began to experience very heavy periods and flooding which affected her daily life. Diagnosed with fibroids, she eventually persuaded her GP to refer her to a gynaecologist who reassured her that there were ways of managing her condition other than hysterectomy. She was prescribed the drug tranexamic acid to stem the flow, but heavy periods continued leading to Charlotte becoming anaemic and run down.
In an effort to induce the menopause, her consultant prescribed a six month course of Zoladex, a drug injected into the stomach once a month and designed to stop the release of oestrogen. While this stopped her periods, Charlotte began to have severe unpleasant hot flushes throughout the day and night. After completing this course of treatment, Charlotte went without periods for three months, only to experience the return of excessive bleeding. The treatment was then repeated for a further six months, but again there was a return to massive flooding; nine months later. At the time of interview, Charlotte was waiting for an appointment to see her gynaecologist. She plans to ask for a hysterectomy.
In a prominent position in the workplace and in the community, Charlotte has at times found it difficult to maintain her public persona in the midst of embarrassing hot flushes and unpredictable bleeding. At home, night sweats have interfered with both her sleep and lovemaking, while enjoyment of shopping trips and holidays has been curtailed by the arrival of heavy periods.
For Charlotte, the menopausal transition has not been a linear straightforward progression. She describes it as a kind of zigzag process; and remarks on how little she knows and understands about the menopause despite her intelligence. Unlike in the Caribbean where women talk more freely and joke about their health, Charlotte believes that in the UK the menopause is a stigmatised, taboo subject about which women are reluctant to talk. Given the time constraints on GPs, she feels that specialist clinics run by nurses in healthcare centres should be set up to provide a forum where women could meet, seek advice, discuss aspects of the menopause and have their questions answered.
Charlotte was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in December 2008.