The menopause is a change for the better, say women

Benefits of HRT are extolled by a group of middle-aged females described as hormone-rich and happy
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Women's lives improve after the onset of the menopause, with most fiftysomethings saying they feel happier and more fulfilled than before "the change", research claims today.

Women's lives improve after the onset of the menopause, with most fiftysomethings saying they feel happier and more fulfilled than before "the change", research claims today.

Two-thirds of women said their lives became more fun, they enjoyed more freedom and their sex lives either stayed the same or got better after the menopause. Women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) reported "significantly greater improvements" than those not using the drugs.

Researchers said that women on HRT were so "effusive about the benefits" of the treatment that they should be called the HRHs – Hormone-Rich and Happy.

Across the board, women were surprisingly positive about their experiences of the menopause, said Kate Fox, co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre, an independent not-for-profit body, which did the study.

"The most important, and perhaps most surprising message emerging from this study is that, for most women, the menopause can be a positive and liberating experience. Instead of dreading the onset of 'the change', many women can look forward to better relationships, more energy, more travel, better working lives, better health, more freedom and better sex."

The menopause, which marks the end of a woman's child-bearing years, typically occurs at the age of 51 although it can happen in the late 30s or as late as 55.

It usually lasts several years, with the most dramatic change being a huge drop in the amount of oestrogen produced by the ovaries. Other common symptoms are hot flushes, mood swings, depression, loss of libido, memory and tiredness.

About 11 per cent of menopausal women in Britain currently take HRT, although among menopausal doctors usage is as high as 72 per cent.

Today's study, which was commissioned by HRT Aware, an organisation funded by HRT manufacturers to promote greater awareness of the treatment, involved interviews with 200 women aged 50 to 64.

Some 65 per cent felt they were happier now than before the menopause, 66 per cent said they were more independent, 64 per cent said their sex lives had got better or were unchanged, and 59 per cent said their relationships with partners and families had improved.

Half of the 50 women in the survey who were taking HRT said their sex lives had definitely improved, 66 per cent said their working lives and careers had been enhanced, and 74 per cent said relationships with partners and family had improved. The report says: "The research revealed a group who may be regarded as something of an elite – well-informed, independent-minded women who have chosen to take HRT to relieve unpleasant symptoms of the menopause and/or to prevent osteoporosis."

Dr Annie Evans, a women's health specialist at Bristol Royal Infirmary, said that, 100 years ago, women hit the menopause at 47 and their life expectancy was just 49.

"But now women could expect to live until they are 80 and may spend 30 years in post-menopause.

"Many women, when they've weighed up the pros and cons of taking HRT, realise it can be a great life enhancer."

Dr Val Godfree, a community gynaecologist and deputy director of the Amarant Trust, a charity that runs a helpline for menopausal women, said hot flushes were just as common as before but women were far more likely to seek help for menopausal symptoms.

"There is no evidence women are suffering less symptoms, it is just that they will do something about it. That has got to be good news all round.

"This age group are very active in the workplace and at home as carers for the young and old, so it is good news that so many are keeping active into their middle years."

Hormone therapy ended 'years of hell'

When Lynn Davis and her husband, Peter, took over their hotel in north Wales two years ago, she had stopped takinghormone replacement therapy (HRT).

The long hours were a struggle for Lynn, 55, who first had side-effects from the menopause, including severe night sweats, when she was 45.

At the time, she was living in Shropshire and working as an antiques dealer. To cope with her symptoms, her doctorsuggested HRT. Within hours of putting the patch in place, she felt different. "It was brilliant," she said. "For me it worked very well and I just felt very, very good."

But her GP took her off the treatment when she started to have bad migraines. During the next "three years of hell", Lynn tried every natural remedy she could find, but nothing worked.

The couple then moved to Llanarmon in the Ceiriog Valley to manage the Hand Hotel.

"When I first came here I wasn't on HRT and sometimes, after doing16-hour days, I was on my knees," she said.

"When I went to see the GP for a check-up, we weighed up the pros and cons and I went back on HRT last July. Thedifference is unbelievable. It is the feeling of being able to cope withthings ­ the wellbeing and feeling healthier."

Lynn, who has three grown-up daughters and one stepson, said that HRT helped her to deal with work and family life.

"I was getting terrible mood swings before," she said. "It is almost like being premenstrual all the time. You are not aware you are like that, but everybody else is.

"I will stay on HRT now as long as I am allowed to. It really does help."

Lorna Duckworth