Noticing changes in how your body and brain feel can be worrying. Some women feel nervous and uncomfortable as they start to notice menopausal symptoms - and they aren't always clear on who they can turn to. Menopause is a time of change - your body is transitioning. It's important not to feel alone with your symptoms or worries.
Some women seek support from parents, partners, friends or even online communities. All of these can provide a powerful support network and are very valuable. When it comes to addressing any medical symptoms causing you distress, it's important to get advice from a doctor or nurse.
Although opening up about menopause and its symptoms can be difficult, taking steps to help yourself will make things easier.
Taking control over your menopause
1. Understand if your symptoms could be menopause
Women go through a lot in midlife - including a lot of different stressors. From managing marriages, kids (teenagers in particular), careers and ageing parents there's a huge amount going on. If you start to notice changes to your mind and body - don't ignore them. There are tools, like Alva's assessment, or forums that can help you understand if your symptoms could be due to perimenopause or menopause.
2. Start tracking your symptoms
Menopausal symptoms can come and go. Especially during perimenopause, where the hormones fluctuate wildly and cause big swings in symptoms. If you're not quite sure what's going on with your body, keeping a simple diary or log of how you feel can help you understand this more. Once you have a record of your symptoms, this can be really helpful to share with your healthcare professional. As they'll be able to understand your experience, and whether things are getting worse or improving.
3. Don't wait to get help
If you're having symptoms, which you think could be menopause, and they're impacting your quality of life then discussing them with a healthcare professional is a good idea. Be clear with your GP from the get go. It will be a lot easier for them to help you if they know exactly what is going on. You should never feel embarrassed when talking about your menopause with your GP - they really do see all sorts. You deserve to get all the help that you need - so book in that appointment.
4. Once your appointment is booked - prepare
Sadly, GP appointments are pretty short in the UK. So preparing in advance for the conversation is a good idea. Take your symptom diary with you, and ensure that you tell the GP about the main symptoms you want help with. If you have specific questions about menopause you want to ask, write them down so you don't forget in the short appointment. The more prepare - the better.
5. Ask questions during the appointment
This is YOUR body. Everyone has their own experience of menopause - it can be unpredictable, there is no rule book. Ask your GP all the questions you need in order to feel comfortable. Don't feel embarrassed or worried about 'silly' questions. At the end of the day, your GP is there to help you.
6. If you don't get through it all - ask for another appointment
Appointments with your GP can feel too short. If you're worried about being rushed, you may be able to book a longer appointment. But if your initial appointment feels to short - then book a follow up straight after. Your GP wants to help, and wants to have the time to hear about your symptoms. It is important that your appointments leave you feeling more confident and in the know.
Lastly, if you're worried about speaking to a doctor you can bring a friend or your partner. You may feel more comfortable having someone you trust alongside you. Your appointment will have better outcomes if you feel comfortable, and can be honest with your healthcare professional. So if you need someone to support you - then just let them know when you book in your appointment.