Talking to a GP about the menopause
Reviewed by our clinical team
Going through the menopause can be a challenging time. If you’re experiencing symptoms and struggling to manage them, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor. You might feel nervous about this prospect, but getting professional advice can be really helpful – even if you don’t end up getting treatment.
When to speak to a doctor
Generally, the best time to speak to a doctor about your menopause symptoms is when it feels right for you. If your symptoms are pretty mild and they’re not disrupting your daily life, you may not need to medical advice or treatment. However, if you’re finding them really troublesome, it’s easy enough to make an appointment with your GP.
The NHS advises that you speak to a doctor if you’re experiencing menopause symptoms before the age of 45.
What to discuss with your doctor
The first thing to talk about with your doctor is the kinds of symptoms you’re experiencing. Different women will have different symptoms when they’re going through “the change”, but one of the most common is hot flushes.
This is where you experience a sudden feeling of intense heat, which spreads through your body and is often accompanied by sweating, redness in the face, and heart palpitations. Because of these hot flushes, which typically last a few minutes, you might also experience night sweats and as a result have trouble sleeping.
Other common symptoms of the menopause include:
- Vaginal dryness, which might cause discomfort and pain during sex
- Low mood, anxiety and mood changes
- A decrease in your sex drive
- Problems with concentration and memory
You might feel a bit embarrassed about raising some of these issues, but please remember that GPs are very knowledgeable about the menopause, and will have plenty of experience talking to women who’ve been in the same boat.
Hormone replacement therapy
If your doctor thinks it’s appropriate, they may want to raise the topic of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Alternatively, you can raise it yourself if it’s something you’re interested in trying, or if you’d simply like to learn more.
HRT is a hormonal treatment that usually involves a combination of oestrogen and progestogen (synthetic progesterone). It can be administered as a tablet, skin patch or gel, or as a vaginal treatment.
HRT is really effective at combatting the symptoms of the menopause but it won’t be right for everyone. This is because it can cause side effects like breast tenderness and headaches, and because it’s known to slightly increase your risk of breast cancer, stroke and blood clots.
Most doctors agree that the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks, but if you’re nervous to try it this is something you can talk through with your doctor.
Other treatment options
If you don’t want to try HRT, or if you’ve spoken about it with your doctor and they don’t believe it’s your best option, there are some other approaches you can discuss, including:
- Lifestyle changes, like taking up regular exercise, switching to a healthier diet, cutting back on caffeine, alcohol and spicy food, and quitting smoking
- Medications like tibolone and clonidine
- Antidepressants, which can help with hot flushes and night sweats, and can also help with low mood
Do I need to have tests before getting menopause treatment?
You shouldn’t need any tests to confirm that you’re going through the menopause or before you start using HRT. However, you might need a blood test to check your hormone levels if you’re having symptoms before the age of 45.
Can I get specialist help for my menopause symptoms?
Yes, it’s possible to get specialist help for the menopause, but this should only be necessary if your symptoms don’t improve with HRT or if you’re not able to use HRT.