A cross-party coalition of MPs have recently called for an overhaul in the NHS’ handling of menopause healthcare, as the real-world impacts of menopause become increasingly publicised and destigmatised through public conversation. The menopause is a medical event that happens to nearly all women, and one that can have consequences of varying levels depending on key individual factors.
By expanding the conversation around the potential impacts of menopause, the group of MPs hope to shift the tide of healthcare for the better. But, for the uninformed, what exactly is the menopause – and how can it affect those that experience it?
What is the Menopause?
The term ‘menopause’ describes the time at which a woman’s periods cease. Changes in hormone levels and balance result in changes to the menstrual cycle, that present as a number of symptoms before and after menopause. Changes in hormone levels do not immediately halt periods, and a ‘perimenopause’ period can begin years ahead of the formal cessation of periods.
The menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, though early menopause can occur in some women. Due to the hormonal nature of the event, menopause is experienced by women but largely not by trans men or non-binary people who receive hormone-based treatments; a majority of trans men undergo medical transition before the age of menopause, and are prevented from experiencing it due to their medicine.
The Potential Side-Effects of the Menopause
The menopause is a totemic event for the human body, and can present a number of impactful side-effects as it develops. The shift in hormones can cause a shift in mental temperament, increasing mood swings and feelings of anxiety. Meanwhile, hot flushes and cramping are common.
These side-effects can be severe enough to have serious consequences for those experiencing the menopause. However, there are further, less common, and more severe symptoms that can also occur. Heart palpitations and joint pain can be experienced, alongside an increase in susceptibility to urinary tract infections.
Failure to properly manage and mitigate these symptoms can also cause further medical complications, especially where failure in proper diagnosis is concerned. Misdiagnosis can lead to misprescription and the worsening of conditions; in this way, NHS failures on menopause care can increase the incidences of medical negligence claims amongst wronged patients.
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Fresh Calls for Menopause Healthcare Reform
But a bi-partisan group of politicians have taken steps to advance shifts in NHS approaches to menopause. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause, or the APPG, have called for nation-wide healthcare checks for women over the age of 45.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is an effective prescription for properly managing difficult symptoms that arise from the menopause, but access to it is patchy – and many professionals in healthcare are hesitant to prescribe it, despite its effectiveness. The APPG hopes to raise further awareness, and lobby the NHS to provide more equitable access to menopause treatment.