My HRT journey

I thought that I would share with you my journey to Hormone Replacement Therapy.

As you know, I started off being anti-HRT, based on no facts at all, just a mythical narrative carried in my mind, accrued over years and filed, waiting for the day I could use it.

I thought that HRT gives a woman breast cancer, gives women a “middle aged spread” and is for women not strong enough to “power through”. What a load of codswallop!! How insulting too, to women on HRT. And what is more inconsistent with my other beliefs. I was that woman arriving at the Coombe Hospital to have my first baby, shouting, Epidural, Epidural! terrified that if I didn’t ask for it in time, I wouldn’t get it and I would have to experience all that horrific pain of a natural child birth. Luckily I was in time for the epidural.

Notice, I didn’t want to 2 “power through” natural childbirth. No siree!! Why was that? Because, other women had spoken and shared their stories of childbirth with me. And the doctors and nurses had educated me on my options. So why the difference with regard to HRT and menopause??? Well, no-one had spoken to me about peri-menopause or menopause, friends, doctors, or otherwise. It has been a taboo subject!

This lack of awareness and education around peri-menopause and menopause has resulted in me trying every ‘natural’ and alternative option available, from sage to black cohosh to magnets in my underwear, for three years, all to no avail. After 3 years, innumerable hot flushes and a myriad of other symptoms, a lighter wallet and 36 months of wasted effort and energy, I finally “gave in” …and went to my GP.

My GP, who is a lovely lady, confirmed that I was menopausal. Well I hadn’t had a period for 3 years and I had hot flushes, so I knew that much myself!! So, she prescribed HRT - a patch, Evorel Conti and told me that the benefits outweigh the risks for most women and that the risks of breast cancer were much lower than we have been led to believe. She also said it was “trial and error” and sent me on my way. I was none the wiser that any of my other symptoms were related to menopause and I was none the wiser that I was progesterone sensitive, because we never had an in-depth conversation about it. She never asked me about being on the pill, or the Mirena coil, nor about how neither of them had suited me over the years. Needless to say, that after a week all those horrible symptoms that I had had on the contraceptive pill, all came flooding back. I tore off the patch and threw it in the bin. And I started to research the menopause, treatment options and hormones. Wow! What a world I discovered.

Next, I sought out the services of someone who knew a lot more about menopause and scheduled an appointment. I am now on bio-identical / body-identical / nature identical hormones, which suit me a whole lot better. I take the following, which are prescription medications, available in most pharmacies in Ireland:

  1. Divigel - which is my oestrogen replacement, morning and evening. It is a gel that I rub on my inner thigh.

  2. Utrogestan - which is my progesterone replacement. This is micro-ionised progesterone. I insert this vaginally at night. every night. But I did have to build up slowly and allow my progesterone body acclimatise itself.

  3. Testogel - which is my testosterone. This i actually a prescription male hormone, as there is no commercially available female testosterone product available in Ireland or the UK. I take a pea size amount of gel and rub it on my inner thigh once daily, approx. one seventh of the sachet of gel.

I am happy with my BHRT regime. However it is not as convenient as a combined hormone replacement tablet, or patch. And it is more expensive to buy the hormones separately. But I am happy to pay more and go for the less convenient option.

I have been on my hormones for two and a half years now and all my symptoms are gone and have been for some time. And I have my MOJO back! I’m staying on these hormones for as long as I can, under the watchful eye of my doctor, of course.

Happy hormones ladies!!

Loretta Dignam