‘Women should receive the right help straight away’ – Beverley H
Case study: Beverley
Summary of case study: Beverley, who is perimenopausal, started to experience symptoms three years ago. She started to feel out of sorts and in particular would cry for no apparent reason. Her periods went from running like clockwork to coming every 60 or 70 days and she experienced mood swings that she couldn’t control. She really struggled with finding the right medical advice in her menopause journey and eventually found the right type and dose of HRT that suited her. Having turned her life around, Beverley is really passionate about helping women receiving the right help and treatment from the off – rather than being fobbed off with inaccurate or outdated advice from GPs.
I was 51 when I started to feel a bit out of sorts; not quite like myself – that things weren’t ‘normal’. My periods, which had always been regular, changed to every 60 or 70 days and my once lustrous hair started to thin slightly. What’s more, I’d cry over anything and everything. I would have terrible mood swings where I could hear my temper coming out but just couldn’t stop myself, and would then have to apologise. I no longer had enjoyment in my life and wouldn’t go out – not even to the shops. My libido also took a knock. The joy in my life left me and I really just wanted to be alone at home with my cat.
I was juggling a busy job whilst looking after my elderly parents, but literally everything became overwhelming – even down to things like hearing music or background noise. At work, site visits and meeting the general public became challenging too – I felt scared and anxious of doing tasks that I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at previously, and my concentration levels suffered.
I saw my GP about the symptoms and was offered anti-depressants three times and beta blockers twice, despite me having normal blood pressure. Knowing that I wasn’t depressed, I declined and struggled on wondering what was happening to me and wanting to get to the root of it.
I came across Carole Vorderman’s experiences online and researched the body identical drugs she was taking. I read everything I could get my hands on about perimenopause and how best to take HRT before I bothered the GP with my ailments. I read a lot online about women who had successful experiences with oestrogel, a form of HRT, and I felt encouraged. I also read about the benefits of testosterone, which isn’t currently licensed here in the UK but is in other countries.
Armed with all the research I could find I went to a doctor’s appointment in August 2017. The GP was dismissive and said they’d never heard of it, despite it being recommended as a treatment in the NICE guidelines. Instead I was given HRT tablets to use for three months and was sent on my way. It certainly helped but I knew there were better products available and I was determined to get the doctor to change the drugs I had been given.
The more I researched, the more I knew that I wasn’t on the right treatment, so much so that when I was on holiday in Spain I bought oestrogel and utrogestan ( progesterone) over the counter in a pharmacy to specifically bring back and show to my GP! It worked…kind of… my GP said that as she knew nothing about oestrogel she would need to write to the hospital to get advice on the dosage but she let me have one month’s worth of supply to be taken alongside vaginal progesterone. My usual chemist told me they could not get the oestrogel for me so I went to a second chemists who had to order it in. Finally I was getting somewhere, or so I thought but after approx. 4 months my symptoms returned. I went back to the GP and asked for my testosterone levels to be checked but was told categorically no. Eventually a new GP at my practice gave the go ahead for me to have my testosterone levels checked after much nagging. I was told the result was within normal range. I knew this could not be correct.
Desperate for a solution, I begged to get an appointment at the local hospital’s menopause clinic and was told no. After nattering the doctors I was finally referred. After waiting nearly 3 months, I was told that I would have to wait at least 18 weeks for an appointment and that this would likely be longer as the as head person at the hospital clinic had left. By this point, I couldn’t handle my job and had been signed off with sickness.
I eventually found a local specialist but was told by her that I couldn’t have more oestrogel without having a coil fitted, and that testosterone was not something she would prescribe, ever. I was heartbroken and just wanted to run away from what was happening to me. In desperation I continued to look for possibilities and then found out about Dr Newson’s clinic in Stratford upon Avon in 2018. I called up in May but there weren’t any appointments until October so I left my details and said if anything came available sooner, could they contact me. The receptionist knew I was desperate. Miraculously she had a cancellation the next day and my life changed for the better.
This might sound silly, but honestly it was like meeting a lovely sparkly fairy who would magically wave her wand and cure me! Instantly, she listened to what I had experienced so far, addressed my symptoms in a sympathetic and understanding manner. She conducted two tests for my testosterone levels (previously only one part of a test had been done by my GP), and increased my dose of oestrogen gel and told me my free testosterone level was barely readable and she prescribed testosterone.
By late 2018 I noticed my symptoms returning yet again, such as crying and mood swings. I was due to see Dr Newson for a follow up appointment in December 2018 where she upped the dose again and also allowed me a little more testosterone as I had found this a real help. Since that point, I’ve felt really well and thankfully have only minor issues to contend with such as itchy skin. I got married in May this year, and am not sure that we’d have made it down the aisle if it hadn’t been for finding a solution – my husband has been so patient and understanding with me on this journey and for that I’m grateful as it really does put relationships under strain. Happily, I feel like a different person from those dark days.
From my experience and talking to friends, I feel that something really needs to change. Despite being armed with a huge array of research for GP appointments, I was hitting a brick wall until I met Dr Newson, and the challenge is that many GPs don’t seem to feel confident enough to provide the right advice.
It’s all too easy to fob women off with anti-depressants and HRT tablets, when alternatives such as oestrogel are so much easier to use and also up or reduce dosage. It is quite shocking that where I live, the chemist orders oestrogel in especially for me so I hate to think how other women are coping.
We need to right this. Better education is needed for not only women and their families, but also GPs and the workplace so that they can have the right policies in place.
Anti-depressants should not be the front line solution for doctors, and I’d say to women experiencing menopausal symptoms, don’t leave a doctor’s appointment with any prescription but one for oestrogel.