NICE guidelines on menopause or a Nice biscuit?

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For some of us, as we hit our late forties (or earlier), feeling below par but not being able to put our finger on what is happening, may lead us to the doctor’s door. Perimenopause has arrived.

It’s hard to believe, yet until fairly recently, there were no formal guidelines for health professionals to follow when advising women about how to manage their menopause. It was the luck of the draw in terms of how much a doctor or practice nurse knew, or what they could be expected to know. In theory, this changed when The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) document, ‘Menopause: diagnosis and management’, was given to health care professionals in November 2015 with the aim of improving the consistency of support and information provided to women in menopause.

By encouraging women to look for help in accessing safe and effective treatments for menopause symptoms the hope was that women would feel more in control. In the UK alone, roughly 1.9 million women are undergoing menopause so it’s essential that inform ourselves and talk about menopause more.

However, a survey published in 2106 by the British Menopause Society found that only 3% of the respondents, women 45+ (the target market for such guidance), were aware of the NICE guidelines, despite the huge publicity they generated on publication.

In the same survey, more than 2 out 5 women reported that symptoms of the menopause had been worse than expected, with women reporting on average seven symptoms! Half of the respondents said that they had not consulted a doctor, feeling that they have to ‘put up with’ menopause. We don’t put up with a dodgy washing machine so we shouldn’t put up with a dodgy menopause. The survey found that there is still little awareness about the support and treatment options available. Doctors have warned that women are missing out on advice about lifestyle changes that could ease their symptoms.

So, what’s in this guidance? It includes recommendations on diagnosis and the range of short and long-term treatment options available. Every woman’s menopause experience will be different with symptoms kicking in, (or not for the lucky ones) at different stages. Individualised care is emphasised with the recommendation that women are offered a choice in how they deal with their symptoms.

Hopefully your doctor has read the guidance but doctors we’ve spoken to, say you can’t be sure that they’ve had the time! Before consulting your doctor, sit down with a cup of tea and a Nice biscuit whilst you read the NICE guidance.

We say, make yourself aware of your treatment options so you can make informed decisions about how you’ll manage your menopause.