Living with menopause - what are your options?

Did you know: One in 100 women hit menopause before the age of 40.

When it comes to living with menopause, many New Zealand women may be suffering unnecessarily due to misleading info around treatment, says a Christchurch-based specialist.
Dr Anna Fenton says that while some women have negative perceptions about menopausal hormonal therapy (MHT), recent studies have shown it to be one of the best ways to alleviate the hot flushes, sleep problems and other symptoms that go along with menopause.
“I think unfortunately the public have become more anxious than they need to be about MHT,” says Fenton. “For women in their 30s, 40s or 50s who have menopause symptoms, every major scientific society now accepts the benefits exceed the risk in that group.”
Fenton says those who are taking a combination of oestrogen and an old-fashioned form of progesterone may have an increased breast cancer risk.
“It’s important to put it into context,” she says. “Most of us feel comfortable having a couple of glasses of wine after a bad day at work, and that’s at least as bad if not worse for our health than the worst possible MHT you could take.
“For women who are taking oestrogen by itself and have had a hysterectomy, there are studies that show it can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 20-25%. Other research has found in certain age groups, MHT reduces the risk of early heart disease by 50 per cent, and lowers the risk of bowel cancer by 40 per cent.”
Some women can find natural therapies such as hypnotherapy and mindfulness help to alleviate symptoms, while others find a form of antihistamine or antidepressant, used under their doctor’s guidance, provides some relief.
“For the average woman it takes four to eight years to make their way through the menopause process, so symptoms can be there for a long period of time,” says Fenton.
“At the 10-year point, 15-20 per cent of women are still getting symptoms, and after 15 years, 10 per cent are still getting hot flushes, sweats and sleep disturbances.
“The important thing is for women to realise that they don’t have to put up with the symptoms, and there are a range of therapies available.”
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