A survey revealed that 80% of menopausal women in the UK are not being offered alternatives to HRT. Frankly, I’m surprised that 20% of them are actually being offered alternatives.
A woman’s right to choose
I am all for informed choice, and that means access to information of all the options available. It seems that just under half of all women in the UK who went to the doctor with symptoms of menopause were prescribed HRT and that certainly confirms my own observation that you are as likely to be offered HRT as not, whatever your symptoms.
At that first consultation, nearly 60% of women felt that they were not given enough information on how to cope with the menopause or advice on any alternative treatment.
It is over fifteen years since I met the late Dr John Lee and discovered that there was a real alternative to synthetic hormones and began collaborating with doctors using bioidentical hormones such as Dame Dr Shirley Bond. I started to research and then to offer information and support on bioidentical hormones, and really have been doing so ever since. It is often distressing to realise that the same questions and problems continue to recur and that women are not being offered sufficient help and information on the natural alternatives to HRT.
What many doctors do not seem to have really taken on board yet is that a staggering 50% of women who are prescribed HRT will abandon it because of fears of its health issues, particularly an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and strokes.
The general response, if a woman is not well suited to the HRT she is taking, is to switch prescriptions and this can be done several times until either a particular formulation is found which has the least side-effects or the woman herself decides to seek an alternative.
The bioidentical alternatives
Dr John Lee, a pioneer of natural progesterone use for menopause and hormonal problems, always said that it was going to be down to the women to enforce change and he certainly seems to be right if these figures are anything to go by.
Fortunately, women today have the choice of using a bioidentical form of HRT, with oestrogens and/or progesterone, that is as effective as the chemical or synthetic hormones in traditional HRT but without the side-effects or withdrawal symptoms.
Doctors seem to be solely focused on the declining levels of oestrogen at menopause, but neglect entirely the need to balance oestrogen and progesterone. Oestrogen naturally falls at menopause and artificially boosting it through HRT is what has caused the problems as there has not been the corresponding balance of progesterone. This has resulted in what Dr identified as symptoms of oestrogen dominance such as bloating, weight gain, tender breasts and mood swings. Instead of using the benefits of the natural hormone to offset this, synthetic progestins are included in HRT and these do not have the same effect in opposing the excess oestrogen, indeed they can bring problems of their own.
What are women really suffering from during menopause? The old favourites of hot flushes and night sweats, mood swings and sleep disturbances – all of which are indeed upsetting but which can often be dealt with either through the use of natural hormones or a variety of other methods including herbs and dietary changes.
So if your doctor’s first option is to offer HRT why not ask what else is available? And if they don’t know, suggest it would be a public service to their patients for them to find out.
Depending on the severity and type of your symptoms you may need just progesterone alone or a combined progesterone and oestrogen cream. If you have signs of oestrogen dominance then just progesterone will be helpful, but if you have very symptoms or a need for oestrogen with vaginal dryness, for instance, then a combined cream may suit you better.