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VOICES

Pharmacist HRT and supplements for menopause have greatly improved - there's no need to suffer

Pharmacist Oonagh O’Hagan says the culture of silence around menopause is almost gone and there are many choices now for women.

WOMEN CAN SPEND up to 30 per cent of their lives navigating their menopausal and post-menopausal years yet it is still something many people don’t talk about or admit they are going through.

Menopause can be a hugely confusing time as women face physical and emotional changes and the general culture of silence on the topic has helped no one.

Thankfully, women are becoming more open to discussing how they are feeling during this time in their lives, and they are more likely to address their concerns and symptoms rather than ‘pushing through’ as their mothers and grandmothers may have done.

Limited choices

When I qualified as a pharmacist almost 26 years ago, there were not as many options for women going through their transition as there are today. I mainly saw HRT (hormone replacement therapy) tablets with the odd patch prescribed but I cannot recall seeing vaginal pessaries nor testosterone prescribed at all as part of HRT regimes.

Now, there is a much wider variety of options, fewer tablets seem to be prescribed and many more forms of transdermal delivery of HRT – patches, gels, and sprays – are available. We see vaginal oestrogen commonly prescribed for vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy as well as testosterone gels for reduced libido.

And many more women are now embracing the use of HRT not only to control common menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and sleep disturbance but actually for preventative health reasons too. HRT is known to protect us women against heart disease, and it also supports our bone health and brain function too.

HRT and supplements

Unfortunately, with the shortage of supply of HRT, women have had to swap formulations in order to alleviate their symptoms. They have had to swap from patches to gels and possibly back again and even cut their patches in half in order to ensure they have had some HRT to last whilst supplies resumed.

It was heart-breaking to hear the stories of how women suffered horrendously through this time; it was so unfair and simply unjust.

Thankfully, things has improved but we still do not have a continuous guaranteed supply which is simply unacceptable in the Ireland we live in today. Women often feel unheard and dismissed when it comes to their health and it is great to see more women speaking up but in terms of women’s health matters, we need major reform policy in Ireland.

Apart from HRT, there are so many more options available to women today when it comes to symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. There are comprehensive formulations such as Revive Menoactive and Cleanmarine MenoMin both of which contain ingredients that address a number of perimenopause and menopause symptoms.

There is a much wider range of bespoke products to address particular symptoms whether that is sage for hot flushes or night sweats, Symprove for bloating and digestive problems, Omega 3 supplements for brain fog or collagen supplements to address joint pains or changes in your skin.

What works for me?

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to see the array of products claiming to have benefits for menopause symptoms. My number one piece of advice is to reach out and ask for help as every woman has a different experience navigating their perimenopause and menopausal journey.

Your symptoms are bespoke to you. Don’t just take a particular supplement because your friend or sister is taking it – you need to find the best solution for you, so speak to your pharmacist to get expert advice on the supplements that many support your own individual symptoms.

Your pharmacist plays a really important role in helping you navigate your menopause journey. Firstly, we are here to help advise you on the simple lifestyle changes that you can make to help relieve some of your symptoms.

We can also advise on a wide range of supplements, haircare and skincare products that have been specifically formulated for those of us navigating this stage of our lives.

Pharmacies have supplements and products that can really help to suit all budgets and can advise on which ingredients can support your specific needs.

Should you choose to embark on an HRT regime, we can also advise on how best to use the HRT formulations that your doctor has prescribed, any expected side-effects you may experience and how to overcome these.

There is no need to feel alone. Every woman will go through the menopause, some women will sail through it, but others will need a lot of help and support. Don’t be afraid, talk to your pharmacist, we are here to help.

I am always available for anyone who wants to chat, and you can contact me on Instagram – @oonaghohag – about your own particular concerns and I’ll be happy to help.

Oonagh O’Hagan is the owner and Managing Director of the Meaghers Pharmacy Group www.meagherspharmacy.ie.

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