Karen started the menopause at 40, with hot flushes and mood swings having a considerable impact on her life. Initially prescribed HRT, this was discontinued following surgery to remove fibroids and polyps. Experienced withdrawal symptoms for 6 months.
Karen’s menopause started quite early at the age of 40. As well as hot flushes which were disrupting her sleep, she felt she was losing her brain;. Becoming increasingly touchy, irritable, short-tempered and confused, Karen’s behavior and inability to cope were having a negative impact on both her family and business relationships. For Karen, the trigger to consult her GP was when, in a fit of anger and frustration, she stormed out of a supermarket leaving her shopping behind. HRT patches and later, because of a slight allergic rash, tablets helped ease her symptoms.
However, the inconvenience of increasingly lengthy and heavy periods lasting around 21 days led to a referral to a gynaecologist. Diagnosed with large polyps and fibroids, which she links to her sterilization in her early 30s and her use of HRT, Karen underwent surgery to remove these. Within a few weeks, further surgery followed to separate the bowel and womb which had become fused causing bleeding and stomach pains.
Despite her doctor’s pro-HRT attitude and belief that long term HRT was the thing for middle aged ladies;, Karen decided to give up taking it because of her experience. She describes the first six months of withdrawal as a bit horrendous;, especially for her family because of mood swings, and on-going night sweats. She found, however, that visualization and relaxation techniques including thinking of mountains covered in snow; enabled her to cope until she completed the menopause transition in her early fifties.
Karen believes that women need to have clear guidelines on how to deal with the menopause as well as a dedicated menopause nurse at their doctor’s surgery. She feels that women are generally reluctant to discuss the menopause with each other and would welcome opportunities for women to share their experiences in small groups.
As a postmenopausal woman, Karen has not looked back and feels positive about the changes in her life. She has completed a psychology degree, and, since retiring at 55 has enjoyed travelling and new hobbies.
Karen was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in December 2008.