Not sure where to start when it comes to discussing your menopause symptoms with your GP? Are you worried that your GP is a man and he won’t empathise? Are you embarrassed by some of the symptoms you are experiencing? Are you scared that you’ll be judged on wasting the doctor's time with such “minor” symptoms?
This article will give you some practical advice on how to make the most of your GP appointment.
Don’t shy away from it
Firstly, don’t ever feel that your symptoms are not worthy of a GP appointment, regardless of how minor they may be (or perceived to be). Your GP will have some knowledge about women’s health and menopause, and some might even have a ‘Special Interest’ in this area, but most are not menopause specialists.
If your symptoms are affecting your quality of life, your work or relationships then your GP should be there to offer advice and treatments or seek expert advice from another GP or Specialist Menopause Service if your case is more complex.
If you don’t speak out about your symptoms and how they are affecting you, your GP cannot help you, and that after all is what they are paid to do!
You want to get the most out of your appointment, you don’t want to feel like you are waffling or losing your train of thought and you most definitely don’t want to feel like you are being fobbed off!
So where do you start?
1. Prepare in Advance.
Make a log of your symptoms, when you get them, how severe, how frequent. If you’re not sure if your symptoms are related to the menopause then make sure you read this on understanding menopause symptoms.
Remember, you may have gradually been getting symptoms over time, think back to when you first started to notice them and make sure you relay this information to your GP and write down how the symptoms are affecting your quality of life.
Keep a menstrual calendar of any changes in your periods over the last few months. Log when your periods start and finish, how heavy or light your periods have been. Very heavy periods can cause anaemia so if you are feeling dizzy or weak because of this, your GP needs to know. It is also important to note if there has been any bleeding in between your periods as this may need further investigation.
You might be surprised by how many symptoms you have, but even if there are only 1 or 2 symptoms, you still deserve the best treatment and advice. Log your symptoms in order of severity so that you discuss the most bothersome ones first.
2. Think about how long you need for your appointment.
If you have several issues ask the GP receptionist if it is possible to book a longer appointment - this way you won’t feel rushed. Some women become quite emotional when they start opening up about their symptoms: factor this in or practice what you are going to say a few times over so you start to feel more confident.
3. Book an appointment with a GP who you feel comfortable with.
Ask your surgery if they have a GP with a special interest in menopause.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a male GP about intimate issues, ask for a female! If there’s a GP who you trust above the others, then request to see that particular GP.
Sometimes you might have to wait a while to see a particular GP if your symptoms are not urgent and you would prefer not to rush. If you are desperate for help, ask the receptionist who would be the next best GP to advise you.
4. Work out what you want from the appointment.
Ask yourself, what is the main thing I want from the appointment?
The best way to deal with this is to think about what is worrying you most or having the biggest impact on your quality of life. For example, if your main issues are hot flushes and night sweats and you want to try HRT then speak about this first.
Make sure you tell your GP what it is you want. If you have made some lifestyle changes to try and help with symptoms then make sure to mention this too.
Read up on ‘What is HRT’ and ‘Breast Cancer & HRT’. The more knowledge you have, the more comfortable and confident you will be in discussing the issues. If your GP knows you have tried some lifestyle interventions they will be more likely to prescribe you HRT.
If you are not happy with the outcome of your consultation, you should request a second opinion from another GP or ask to be referred to a menopause specialist.
Luckily most GPs are getting better at recognising and treating menopausal symptoms. There is guidance that GPs should be following. You can familiarise yourself with it here.
Remember, getting the right help starts with speaking out! Everyone’s experience of menopause is unique to them, so read up on your symptoms, plan what you’re going to say and empower yourself. By doing this you will be more focussed and your GP appointment won’t be as scary as you might imagine.
In the next article in our Menopause and Chronic Conditions series, Moira looks into hypertension and menopause.Read post