Menopause support - past, present and future!
Changing attitudes to menopause!
Most women only find out about menopause in their 40s or 50s but Kathy Abernethy has been immersed in menopause support for over thirty five years. Kathy’s a senior menopause specialist nurse at Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, and current Chair of The British Menopause Society, a position she hands over in July 2019.
We first had the pleasure of meeting Kathy on BBC R4 Woman’s Hour on World Menopause Day, 2018. Later, over a coffee, she told us how having started her nursing career in the mid-80s, she’s seen a huge shift in attitudes to menopause and the support available - from the creation of The British Menopause Society, to more recent online support from sites such as ours. Kathy shares her experiences and what’s coming next for her and the latest developments in how women can access menopause support.
Many years ago now, I wrote my first book, a handbook for nurses on menopause. My dear Mum was so proud that I had written a book and wanted to boast to her friends, “but did it have to be about that, how can I tell my friends?” is what she said. How times have changed! It is now my mother-in-law who boasts and my more recent book ‘Menopause: The One Stop Guide’ sits proudly on her lounge coffee table for anyone who comes to tea. In fact, one of her practice nurses borrowed it.
Over more than thirty years that I have worked in menopause clinics, I have seen a huge change in attitudes, openness and searching about the menopause. I started in the mid 1980’s, a time when hormone replacement therapy was just being used widely in the UK and sometimes expectations exceeded reality. Women hoped it might keep them feeling sexy and young looking and benefits to symptoms, were a bonus. These days HRT is used mainly for symptom relief and the added bonus of bone health benefits in particular, is something many women are not even aware of.
In clinic today, I seldom see a woman who really wants to go on HRT; they reach a point where life and perhaps work, becomes difficult because of troublesome menopausal symptoms and often after trying the natural approach, they say to me “is there anything else, other than HRT I can try?” Usually, they’ve tried all the alternatives such as black cohosh or red clover, and many will have seen a therapist or nutritionist, before finally asking about HRT.
All too often, if their GP is not up to date on NICE Guidance on diagnosis and menopause of management of menopause, they will have tried several times to get the evidence-based information they need to consider HRT. Some will have faced subjective opposition “your symptoms are not bad enough”– well who’s living with them? Others will be told “it’s too risky” without any thought of the balance of low risk against real benefit for some women. Even young women with early menopause, or premature ovarian insufficiency will be told they have to stop it at five years, wrong information.
It is against this background that the British Menopause Society (BMS) was established nearly thirty years ago and has worked hard to improve education of health care professionals around menopause.
You may think “well they haven’t done a very good job” but consider how much menopause has changed over the last decade. There is now plenty of education and resources for doctors, but sadly there are still many who do not see it as a priority and so do not engage with the various programmes of education that are available, not just from BMS but other organisations too. Choosing to opt out of study events and courses indicates their complete lack of understanding of the impact of menopause on a woman’s health and wellbeing and the #makemenopausematter campaign rightly includes an aim to significantly improve this.
Alongside this, women have taken charge; making huge strides in providing information and support for other women and sites like Positive Pause have been set up to empower women with the information their doctors may not be giving them. It’s not just about HRT; making healthy choices about lifestyle, diet and exercise all contribute to good health at the menopause and into the years beyond and these sites are great at sharing this message, as well as a platform of peer support.
This summer I step down from chairing the BMS – what’s new for me? I will remain a Medical Advisory Board member and still work to improve education for health care professionals. On a personal note, I have new ventures planned too, particularly around working with organisations to provide employer funded personalised menopause advice to staff. All advice will meet NICE Guidance and BMS guidelines and be nurse led. For a sneak preview of this innovative project, take a look at www.peppy.health
We’ve got 3 copies of Kathy’s latest book, ‘Menopause: The One Stop Guide’ to give away.
Want to get your hands on a free copy? See below!
To enter, just follow these 3 simple steps:
Go to our Facebook Page @PositivePause:
Like our competition post
Tag one friend
Join our Facebook Group @PostivePause Chill Zone
*Complete ALL 3 stages to be eligible for the competition (if you're already in our Facebook Chill Zone Group, you’ll only need to complete steps 1&2).
Competition opens at 5.00pm on Thursday 27th June, closes at 6.00pm on Sunday 7th July. The winner will be announced on our Facebook page on Monday 8th July.
Competition is open to UK residents only.
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