Empower women to manage menopause | Letters

Educating women is only the first step – employers are also critical, says Eleanor Nouhov. Plus Laura Collins on getting help for her perimenopause struggles and Helen Hucker on the need for more targeted treatment

I’ve been waiting for this view (Doctors warn against over-medicalising menopause after UK criticism, 15 June) to appear since the menopause conversation really started in earnest last year. I heard on Woman’s Hour last week that the menopause has been mentioned in a parliamentary debate 20 times; hunting more than 400. For an experience that affects 50% of the population, it’s about time that it was discussed at length.

Women aren’t stupid – what they want is to be well-informed. Telling someone the symptoms to look out for in a balanced way, and empowering women to have an informed conversation with their GP, are paramount. Unfortunately, there have been too many examples of GPs dismissing women’s situations and overprescribing antidepressants.

If women knew that whatever symptoms they were experiencing, menopausal or otherwise, would be taken seriously by their GPs, the expectation that they need to go into battle to get help would diminish, and a wide range of experiences could be easily accommodated. The danger with raising the idea of overmedicalising is that HRT could be rationed or withheld.

As in many situations, a bit of help and a few adjustments can make a massive difference to people’s lives. What is important in this debate is to go hard and loud, because educating women is only the first step. Educating employers so that it isn’t yet another situation in which women will be discriminated against is critical.
Eleanor Nouhov

• Your article reminded me of the doctor who told me, when in the throes of pre-eclampsia and a three-month-long migraine, that natural delivery of my twins was the best option. Thankfully, a different doctor arrived and I had a C-section.

I am in the early stages of perimenopause, and already I can see why so many women exit the workforce during this time of life. I can’t remember anything, I can’t sleep because I’m constantly too hot, and my periods are more of an ordeal than they have ever been.

Women should not be dissuaded from asking for help during this time in their life just because it is a “natural event”. Passing a kidney stone is a natural process – will we stop providing relief for that?

Once I started talking openly about my struggles, I realised that most of my female peers were also struggling. How are we to work if we can’t remember anything and are completely shattered due to lack of sleep? I’m hoping to start HRT soon with the support of my GP, and I look forward to being a more functional person once again.
Laura Collins
Mitcham, London

• It is reassuring that doctors are acknowledging that there is no universal experience of the menopause, but I would hope that this realisation would prompt a wider provision of targeted treatments. HRT can be difficult to get right and it is understandable if it is beyond the expertise of some GPs.

My doctor raised the subject of the menopause with me during a routine consultation, and at the time I didn’t have any expectations, negative or otherwise. He explained that this can be a very difficult time for some women. Perhaps the doctors writing in the British Medical Journal should worry less about criticism and instead support services that can help women?
Helen Hucker
Ely, Cambridgeshire

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