Why I became a Menopause Doctor?
Why did a young GP became a Menopause Doctor?
Natalie Summerhill is a Manchester based doctor, she recently made the decision to focus her career on treating women experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Natalie shares the circumstances behind her decision to train as a Menopause Doctor.
It’s often remarked that I don’t look old enough to be a menopause doctor. This is a common misconception since sadly one per cent of women will experience menopause below the age of 40 and perimenopausal symptoms, for most, start to emerge in the mid to late 40s.
I started my career in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and later became a GP. I missed women’s health and went onto achieve Diplomas from both the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health as well as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
I tended to see most of the women’s issues in a practice, and it so often struck me that there was a cohort of women of a certain age who were frequent fliers with a plethora of symptoms; headaches, tiredness, palpitations, anxiety. They were always apologetic about consulting, flustered by anxiety and clearly confused by what was happening to their bodies and minds and I so desperately wanted to help them.
In my young wisdom I assumed they were simply the sandwich generation struggling to maintain a job, a marriage, children and elderly parents. They would consult with several Doctors and their problem and medication lists would grow as long as my arm, yet investigations were negative and frustratingly they were no better.
Meanwhile my mum was becoming increasingly anxious about the world, about driving and flying, she had some new patio doors installed next to her lounge chair which, even in winter, were constantly open and her ageing accelerated. She told me I needn’t worry about turning 40, it was 50 when things went drastically downhill!
I wanted my joyful mum back and sent her to her GP to get HRT. She was told she ‘shouldn’t even think about taking that stuff unless she wanted to get breast cancer!’ This statement came from the middle-aged female GP I had known since I was a child and so I simply accepted that she knew best and so my mum missed the most beneficial window (within ten years of the last period) for her to have taken HRT. I will forever regret not challenging this.
After having my children time seemed to speed up, I realised I was getting closer to the inevitable and that my generation were never going to tolerate the joys of perimenopause. I started to wonder if the loss of oestrogen around this time was the real culprit and if oestrogen was, indeed, the elixir of youth.
I questioned whether the perceived risks of HRT truly outweighed it’s benefits for my patients who were quite frankly despairing and injecting all sorts of substances into their faces to retain their youth. I felt certain that they would accept almost any risks to feel normal again. So, I set about educating myself.
I attended a training course offered by the British Menopause Society and left reeling. The list of recognised symptoms was terrifying; from the sweats we all know about to anxiety and depression, memory loss and even ‘personality disintegration,’ what an awful term.
I was livid that the dangers of spending a third of our lives in an oestrogen deficient state were well known, yet this information was not being passed to the doctors on the front line, let alone our patients.
I learned from colleagues on the course that some of their patients had divorced due to the pain of intercourse, retired due to overwhelming anxiety or been too afraid to consult their Doctor about memory loss for fear they were going to be diagnosed with dementia. Some had become so desperate they were bankrupting themselves to fund unsafe bioidentical hormones.
I find it criminal that women are suffering like this and yet it is so easily remedied with regulated hormone replacement that has relatively few risks and in fact many, many benefits.
I am soon to complete Advanced training in menopause from the British Menopause Society and I hope to be a part of the small army of doctors and specialists who are working tirelessly to educate women and to change the landscape of midlife women’s health.
As life expectancy increases, the menopause needs to be recognised and managed as the Public Health crisis that it is. I look forward to meeting you at Positive Pause, Manchester!
We’re absolutely delighted that Dr Natalie Summerhill will be one of the health professionals speaking at our PostivePause Feelgood Fair in Manchester on Saturday 5th October 2019.