Helen Seymour is currently in the midst of the menopause — and the process is not made easier by outdated advice from unsympathetic GP's
Twenty years ago, just before my thirtieth birthday, I had a series of panic attacks. They came on slowly over a number of weeks. The warning signs in the weeks leading up to them were shortness of breath, and a tight feeling across my chest. I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea what it was. I went to my GP and described my symptoms.
“I don’t know what it is” I told him. “I’m finding it hard to breathe, and I have this tight feeling across my chest all the time.
“I see” he said. He thought about it. He was silent for a couple of moments while he clearly gave the matter some thought, and then he said.
“Your bra is too tight. That’s probably what it is. I think you need to change your bra.”
That was his professional opinion. Two weeks after my visit to him, I had my first full-blown panic attack.
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It is shocking, that a medical professional, presented with a very clear set of symptoms, gave such a Father Ted-like response. Sadly, it would appear that some of today’s GPs are equally backwards when it comes to the menopause.
Two types of doctor
Several women have spoken to me recently and it is clear GPs fall into one of two categories when it comes to menopause:
Informed, sympathetic and helpful – these GPs are interested in menopause. They are up to speed on HRT, they listen to their patient’s symptoms, and they try to help them in terms of finding the best solution.
Misinformed, not sympathetic and not helpful – These GPs have little to no interest in menopause. Furthermore, many of these GPs are still afraid to prescribe HRT because of the deeply flawed 2002 WHI Study falsely linking HRT to Breast Cancer.
Related: Will your marriage survive your menopause?
These GPs are choosing to ignore the 2015 NICE Directive which refuted that 2002 report and now actively encourages GPs to offer HRT for menopause symptoms, saying “your patient should feel confident to use it and you should support it in her choice.” These GPs are lazy, ignorant dinosaurs who have not bothered to stay up to speed with modern medical developments, and their patients are being put through undue stress and suffering as a result.
"Just fake it"
Two Irish women recently attended their respective GPs to talk about their menopause. Both women were suffering from vaginal dryness. Both were finding intercourse extremely painful, and it had gotten to the point where their marriages were being affected. Both women were frustrated, upset, embarrassed and anxious.
The first woman attended a female GP, who was around the same age as her. When she told her about the problem, the GP in question told her to go home and have a few glasses of wine “to loosen herself up.”
The second woman told a male GP about her problem, and he told her she should “just fake it”.
This is Ireland. This is within the last two months. Women have become suicidal over vaginal dryness. It is a deeply private issue for a woman to contend with. Taking that first step to visit her GP may take a woman several weeks. She needs to be treated with care and sensitivity. HRT would solve this issue immediately, and if HRT is not suitable for the patient there are several other very effective solutions. Both women left their respective GPs feeling worse than before they went in.
Related: The average woman gains 5-7 pounds during menopause
Another woman recently asked her GP if she could go on HRT. The GP refused. When the woman insisted she wanted to go on it, the GP took out a medical book, opened the section on HRT, pushed it across the desk, and told the patient to pick her own. This, let me be very clear, is Professional Negligence.
Another female Irish doctor recently refused her patient HRT and told her “I had no problem with my menopause. Just take some sage. You’ll be fine.”
A group of women recently sued their doctors in the states for not prescribing HRT, because they all developed full-blown osteoporosis as a result. They sued and they won. Rightfully so.
Another female Irish doctor recently refused her patient HRT and told her “I had no problem with my menopause. Just take some sage. You’ll be fine.” Every woman’s menopause is different, and every GP should be well aware of that fact.
These stories are the tip of a very large iceberg I’m afraid. There are lots of amazing GPs out there. They work hard in their local communities, treating everyone from babies to pensioners, and deserve respect and appreciation. But the ones who stand in the way of their patient’s health, through their own laziness and ignorance are appalling.
If you are not happy with your GPs attitude to menopause, change your GP. This is your life. This is your health. Walk away from dinosaurs. They have nothing to offer.