We want to help you to get the help you need for your symptoms - first time around.
This article takes you through the options that are available to you for accessing help, how to prepare for medical appointments and where to get specialist help if you need it.
Getting the right help for the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause
It took our founder, Katie Taylor, four years to get a diagnosis for her own perimenopausal symptoms. Katie is not the only one. In fact, a recent survey in the UK found that nearly 40% of perimenopausal women said it took them three or more visits to their doctor before they got the right diagnosis.
That’s why The Latte Lounge is so passionate about helping women to get the support they need with their symptoms.
As well as the advice in this article and throughout this site, we organise monthly private group sessions with small groups of women to give you the chance to ask a doctor all of your questions about hormones, perimenopause and menopause. Find out more about The Menopause Lounge here.
When should I see a doctor about my symptoms?
If your symptoms are troubling you, please do not suffer in silence. You can use our symptom checker to assess your own symptoms against 34 of the most common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause and make notes about the severity of your symptoms.
Next, make an appointment to talk to your GP about your symptoms.
If you are over the age of 45 we recommend that you take a printed copy of our symptom checker and your own notes about your symptoms to your appointment. Your GP should be able to confirm menopause based on your symptoms.
If you are under the age of 45 it is still worth visiting your GP as a blood test can help confirm if your symptoms are linked to perimenopause and menopause or if there is another cause. Again, take your list of symptoms and your notes along to your appointment too.
How is menopause diagnosed?
Your GP should be able to diagnose if you are in perimenopause or menopause based on your symptoms (including how often you have periods) as well as your age. That’s why it’s important to take along a record of your symptoms, so that you can describe fully how you are being affected.
Tests aren’t usually required to diagnose menopause. However, if you’re under 45 years old, a blood test will help if you have symptoms and changes to your periods. If you’re under 40-years-old and there is a chance that you have premature menopause, then you can also have a blood test.
The blood test measures your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. If you’re in perimenopause/menopause the blood tests will show a higher level of FSH.
It’s important that you don’t have a blood test if you’re taking some types of contraceptive pill as these can change the blood levels that are being tested.
How to prepare for your GP appointment
Your first GP appointment about your symptoms may seem daunting. We've been there and we know that you may be feeling desperate for help, very low, anxious and tired. The best advice we can offer is that preparation is key. We all know that doctor’s appointments are short, so it’s worth taking some time to summarise how you are feeling, what you need help with and be clear on the questions you want answered.
It may also be a good idea to take your partner or a close friend/relative with you, we know first hand that when you are suffering with brain fog or extreme exhaustion, you can often forget or feel overwhelmed by all the information that is discussed.
We recommend the following to help you prepare:
Write notes about all of your symptoms. You can download, print out and use our symptom checker to assess your own symptoms against 34 of the most common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. This will be really helpful in giving your doctor an overview of what’s happening to you.
Ask your doctor’s surgery if they have a dr in the practice who specialises in menopause - it may be worth seeing someone other than your usual GP on this occasion.
Ask for a double appointment if possible. GP appointments are only 10 minutes long and you want to be able to feel at ease and not rushed through your appointment.
Make a list of the questions you want to ask about your symptoms and the treatment options for each.
Do some research about antidepressants and menopause. Antidepressants should not be the first option for treatment for menopause (as advised in the NICE guidelines), yet are commonly offered to women because of the symptoms we report such as low mood and anxiety. This happened to Katie! Be prepared to question this if you are offered antidepressants - but if your low mood symptoms remain even after other treatment then antidepressants may be offered.
Take a read through the latest guidance from the General Medical Council on decision-making and consent. This guidance, which came into effect on 9 November 2020, sets out how doctors and patients should together reach decisions about treatment – including the importance of discussing all available treatment options.This guidance might be particularly helpful for you if you are offered antidepressants instead of HRT or if you have been refused HRT.
Read through and print out the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on menopause. These aim to improve the consistency and support for women in menopause and are really helpful for understanding the level of care you should expect. You can read and print off the NICE guidelines here.
If needed, ask if there are any further specialists you can be referred to. There are some NHS menopause clinics, although these are likely to have long waiting lists, but it’s always worth being on the list for something rather than not at all.
Currently almost all consultations for menopause are on the phone in the NHS. In private clinics you’ll find more appointments will be face-to-face with some on the phone (this would be generally at the patient’s request).
Top tips from Dr Rachel Hines, a GP and Menopause Specialist who treats both NHS and private patients:
“It can be helpful to send info about your symptoms to the doctor in advance. My practice, Queenswood Medical Practice, has a section on the homepage to upload info and I'm sure others will have too.
“I manage my NHS menopause consultations by having initial discussion and risk assessment for treatment options, sending info about HRT (I send a text with websites to review about HRT) and then having a follow up a couple of weeks later to agree treatment, as there isn't enough time to do everything in a 10, or even 20 min appt. My colleagues practice similarly.
“Another thing that is very helpful in these current times is if women are able to measure their own blood pressure and weight - the pandemic has been for so long that we don't have up to date readings, which we should have for initiating hrt.”
There are many wonderful and supportive GPs - some of whom have taken on additional training in menopause to be able to provide the right level of guidance needed to women.
However, we also know from personal experience that GPs sometimes simply do not have the expertise to help (if you’re interested in this topic, I recommend this interview about ‘The Great Menopause Scandal’ with Kate Muir).
One of the main reasons for this is that GPs receive very little training in menopause. As campaigner Diane Danzebrink explained for this website: “it is now clear that education for healthcare professionals on the subject of menopause is poor and sometimes non-existent and many GPs, often the first port of call, are simply not equipped to help. This is not the fault of the individual GP but that of those who set the curriculum for their training.”
So, where does this leave you?
We hear from women all the time that feel ‘fobbed off’ by their doctor, are confused by the lack of information provided, or refused the treatment option that they want.
Please do not get disheartened if your GP appointment does not go as you had hoped, or you feel like you’ve reached the end of the road in terms of getting the support you need.
There are other options available to you:
Carry out your own research and armed with that information revisit your GP - or ask to see another GP within that practise.
Ask to see an NHS specialist in menopause or gynaecology.
If finances allow, consider making an appointment with a private menopause specialist who is best placed to provide the support you need.
We highly recommend making an appointment with a specialist in menopause and perimenopause - either by waiting for an NHS appointment to become available or by visiting a private specialist, if this is within your budget.
For Katie, seeing a specialist finally gave her the help she needed with her symptoms and the answers to why she was feeling so affected. And we’ve heard from hundreds of other women who have also benefited from seeing a specialist.
A specialist will be able to dedicate the time and expertise that you need. Another benefit is that most private menopause specialists will see you face-to-face (NHS menopause appointments are currently generally over the phone).
The British Menopause Society also carries a list of menopause specialists that you can contact and includes NHS specialists too.
How much does it cost to see a menopause specialist?
Individual costs will vary from doctor to doctor for initial consultations and follow-up appointments. It may also be helpful to put some budget aside for blood tests, scans and private prescriptions. Use our directory to select a specialist you’d like to see and visit their website to view costs.
All of the free information in our menopause resource area is here to support you if costs are prohibitive for you to see a specialist. You may also consider asking your GP for a second appointment or an NHS referral to a specialist.
Can I see a menopause specialist for free through the NHS?
Yes, as mentioned above, there are NHS clinics specialising in menopause. You can search for NHS clinics on the BMS website (be sure to select ‘NHS’ in the search box). You can then ask your GP to refer you to an NHS clinic and find out how long you might expect to wait for this appointment.
Does private health insurance cover the menopause?
In the UK, some private health insurers are beginning to cover menopause. However, generally the best advice when making a claim is to seek help for acute symptoms (pain, bleeding etc) rather than generally menopause.
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