My doctor finally looked me in the eye yesterday and said “you have early menopause”. Suffice to say, it was not news to me.
On the Better Health Channel site run by the Department of Health, it says premature menopause is before 40, early is before 45. I’ll be 44 next month. I finally worked out, by asking the right questions of my mother (who swears she never got menopause despite me vividly remembering her sticking her head in the freezer during hot flushes) that both she and her mother had early menopause.
The doc wants to put me on HRT. I am doing some serious weighing up of pros and cons.
Why would I not want HRT? Not because of the risks – they are very small. It’s the side-effects which are, not surprisingly, all the cycle-related problems I’ve had over the last five years. Replace the hormones that caused the problems and they come back, funnily enough.
In the last six months I’ve felt better than I have for years. My cycle stopped completely. That didn’t just mean no periods, but no unpredictable three week exhausting and painful heavy periods, no painful and permanently distorting water retention between them, no bloating, no cycle related depression or anxiety.
I’ve had more energy, my mind is clearer and sharper (though my memory is worse than ever), I’m in a better mood most of the time and I feel like exercising and getting outdoors. As someone who had chronic fatigue, that has been wonderful. The hot flushes, dry eyes and occasional insomnia were annoying, but totally worth it.
The trouble is, I should be at this stage at 50. That means I will suffer the long-term consequences of menopause six years sooner than the average woman: my bones will lose 10% of their mass in the next few years, giving me osteoporosis earlier. Being someone who reduced her intake of dairy products for most of her adult life, and who is vitamin D deficient, my risk of osteoporosis is already a little higher.
So do I put up with the side-effects of HRT or get osteporosis earlier?
To help me choose, I’m getting a bone-density test done to see if there are any changes already. My grandmother was a tough old bird who lived into her 90s despite early menopause, so maybe I’ll take after her.
I’m also looking into medical non-HRT treatments for osteoporosis. From what I can tell so far, they are either not covered by PBS unless you are over 70 and have had a fracture, are only covered if you already have osteoporosis (so much for prevention) and some aren’t covered at all. All have their own side-effects.
Of course, calcium and vitamin D supplements are good, as well as weight bearing exercise (walking, jogging, dancing, etc.) and strength training exercise (weights). Which would be good for my heart, too. And it’s much easier to cook healthy food and exercise when you have energy.
Ah, getting old. Yep. That.