How to talk to your doctor about peri-menopause

asking your G.P. about menopause

How to talk to your doctor about peri-menopause

How to talk to your doctor about peri-menopause 1024 948 Optimum Health

If you’re wondering whether to make a menopause appointment with your doctor  this blog is just for you – looking at what to do to make it smooth, easy and useful.

Given the years we’ve had with the global pandemic and knowing the pressure this has put (and is putting) on our health service many people delay seeking help from their doctor, especially when it comes to perimenopause.

Sometimes though we might ‘resort’ to talking to our doctor because we feel so run down, anxious, worried about our memory (feel free to insert your own concern here) but not necessarily be thinking it might be a result of perimenopause.

Either way, I’d like to set out for you 6 key steps to talking to your doctor about what you’re feeling, to help you get the best support for you.

1. Making a menopause appointment

This might sound glaringly obvious but the first stage in talking to your doctor or Advanced Nurse Practitioner is actually making an appointment.  And you can start to influence the outcome of that meeting right here.

making an appointment with your doctor to talk about menopause

How?

When you make your appointment state that what your appointment is for and ask who, in your surgery/practice, has an interest in menopause.   By stating this at the outset, you’re

(a) more likely to be able to speak directly with someone who understands your position more quickly

(b) saving yourself time in having to explain the general concept of what you want – it’s already done

  1. Knowing what’s normal

Is that normal?” is perhaps the question I get asked most often when it comes to ‘The Change’.  The answer…. what’s normal for you?

Knowing your normal allows you to understand what’s changed for you, over what time and to what extent.

And keeping notes of these changes you’ve noticed gives you a great baseline to explain why what you’re feeling isn’t normal for you, and the extent to which it’s affecting you:

  • In day-to-day life
  • At work
  • In your relationships

tracking for your doctor appointment on menopause

But how do you keep track?

That depends on whether you prefer a digital approach or pen and paper.

There are a number of menstrual cycle tracking apps that allow you to record ‘symptoms’.   Unfortunately many of these simply take this information to help forecast your next period* rather than letting you see trends over time.

The Balance app does allow you to track the things you’re feeling over time and is a great tool in sharing your experiences with a doctor.  It’s free and easy to use too.

If, like me, you prefer something more tangible and visible, use a pen and paper.  This can be your diary, journal, notebook or a specific sheet of paper.  It doesn’t have to be anything special (but if stationery is your thing feel free to ‘invest’ in a new notebook!

If you’d like a template to download please click here.

What should I track?

My advice here is not to track too many things – it can get overwhelming!

Have a think about what’s affecting you most (either most often or most intensely).   If it seems like there are lots of things, make a list.  It can be easier to prioritise them when you see them written out.

It’s always worth chatting to your nearest and dearest about this too as they can be a great sounding board and offer objective views about how you’ve been.

At the outset then it might be worth just noting 3 or 4 things.  As you start noting things down you might realise there are other things happening too – so you might add an item or swap one out.   But the key is to make sure this is a durable activity for you to keep up consistently.

I always encourage “curiosity” when it comes to tracking

– so we’re not analysing the backside of anything here but gently noticing what’s going on and keeping a note on here.

Still not sure what to track, check out the next point.

  1. Using a perimenopause checklist

One thing I’ve noticed regularly over the years of supporting women is that quite often they’re struggling with things that they had no idea were related to perimenopause or hormonal change.

There are actually 34 recognised effects of perimenopause reflecting the fact changing levels of estrogen and progesterone impact every part of our body and brain.

Thankfully, menopause is now on the school curriculum.  But for those of us that haven’t had that information from a reliable sources – how are we supposed to know?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

checklist for your menopause appointment with a doctor

Click here to access the full list of recognised perimenopause sensations.

This list also allows you to add notes so can be used to help you during your menopause appointment too.

 

  1. Do your homework before your menopause appointment

Whether you’ve taken that step of making an appointment of not, you can do your homework taking time to understand what your brain and body is experiencing.

researching for your menopause appointment

This can seem like a bit of a minefield these days as there are so many people out there preying on midlife and menopausal women – selling fixes for meno-belly and the like.

Below I’ve shared some reliable sources of information for you (click the titles below to reach their sites).

Taking the time to understand what can help medically and non-medically puts you in a position to take decisions and actions in and immediately after your appointment.

The sources above include information on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and alternatives.

Understanding the risks and benefits of each in advance means you can take an informed decision more confidently and quickly, being able to act on reducing the effects on your life sooner.

5.  Be clear what you want from your menopause appointment

I advise all my clients to be clear on what they want to achieve whether we’re talking about coaching, exercise, nutrition or visiting their doctor about their menopausal symptoms.

What do I mean?

Well if you’ve

  • Understood the effects of menopause (step 3)
  • Tracked what’s going on for you so you’ve got a clear picture to share (step 2)
  • Read about possible treatments and support strategies (step 4)

…you’ve got enough information to know what you’d like to do next.

what do you want from your menopause appointment

That might just be ‘talk to a medical professional to hear their advice’.  Or perhaps you’ve decided you’d like to try HRT or a non-medical therapy.   If you’re experiencing issues with your genital area and/or pelvic floor, you might want to see a women’s health physio for further assessment.

Whatever it is, being clear on what you do – and don’t – want allows you to be focussed during your appointment.

Even then, I encourage clients to write down the main thing they want to get from their appointment because as soon as we get into that meeting our minds tend to unco-operatively go blank.

Notice that I called it a “meeting” there – remember it’s a 2 way conversation.  You’re allowed to offer thoughts as well as concerns and ask questions.

 

6.  Follow up

Whatever you decide to do from your meeting with a doctor or nurse, it’s useful to book a follow-up appointment.

If you and your doctor agree on your trying HRT, you should automatically be offered a 3 month follow up appointment*.

following up your menopause appointment

Even if you decide not to pursue the HRT option, continuing to track what you’re experiencing allows you to notice any changes (improvements or otherwise) in what you’re feeling.   Having a follow-up appointment provides ongoing support and continuity of care.

*please note that with HRT it’s not a “quick fix” – it can take some time for you to adjust to this.  If things don’t feel right for you then it’s important that you talk to your doctor or nurse again before your follow-up appointment, even if that’s just for reassurance.

7.  Remember it’s not all bad

I think it’s really important for us all to remember that the menopause transition, whilst tricky, can have upsides too.

A bit like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis things can and will get better.

Menopause can feel tricky – but it’s a tunnel, not a dead-end cave.

You can proactively support yourself too by:

  • Staying well hydrated (without depending on caffeine or alcohol)
  • Being mindful of your nutrition
  • Moving as much as possible for you through each day, as well as including exercise
  • Managing your stresses (and stressors) to an appropriate level
  • Taking care with your rest and sleep as much as possible (less of that late-night social media scrolling)

Pick one of those things to focus on a time so that it doesn’t all feel too overwhelming.  And if you’d like help and support with this please click here.