Doctors have called for more educational material to be made available on the menopause following a “significant increase” in the number of women seeking information and care from their GPs.
Dr Ciara McCarthy, the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) and HSE lead for women’s health, attributed the rise to increased media coverage and “heightened patient awareness in the area”.
More than 70 per cent of women will experience symptoms of perimenopause or menopause at some time, Dr McCarthy said, with menopause or the permanent ceasing of menstruation occurring at an average age of 51 years.
“For some women these [symptoms] could be resistant or severe and could have a significant negative impact on quality of life and general wellbeing,” she said at the publication of a menopause guide for GPs. “Menopausal symptoms are wide and broad and each woman experiences a different symptom complex.”
Dr McCarthy said most symptoms can be managed in general practice while the guide comprises of “evidence-based, up-to-date information” on diagnosis and management of perimenopause and menopause.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the event that issues around a shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs have been “largely resolved”. He said a stakeholder group had indicated that there was “a lot of stock” in the country previously but that it “wasn’t being fully distributed out to the community pharmacies”.
“The latest information, as of a few weeks ago, is that those supply chain [issues] were largely resolved,” he said. “I think what we’re seeing is a welcome response as well from the pharmacies in terms of the VAT changes on HRT.
“I think through this guide and through the extra work, training, education going on around menopause, I wouldn’t be surprised if what we see is more women through consultation with their GPs opting for that route.”
The Minister said there were three specialist menopause clinics open across the country, with a further three due to be up and running by the end of the year. He also said an awareness campaign around menopause would be happening later this month.
“Some of the things that we heard back through the Women’s Health Taskforce [on menopause] really were very sobering, very stark and quite frankly not acceptable in a modern Ireland,” he added.
“Women were saying that they didn’t feel able to talk about menopause, that they were seeking advice from friends, maybe from their mother or sister, that they felt there was a real stigma and a taboo to even talking about it, and, really concerningly, women were reporting back to us that a lot of the time the advice they were getting was don’t talk about it, just get on with it. This is going to come to an end.”
Dr Nóirín O’Herlihy, the ICGP’s director of women’s health, said the guide was a “significant milestone” in the care of women with perimenopause and menopause in Ireland and part of the “widening of knowledge and understanding”.
The guide is available to members on the ICGP’s website.