The HRT shortage is having lingering effects on thousands of women in the UK. We’ll take a look at what you can do if you’re affected by the HRT shortage, as well as review the Menopause Mandate.
You can’t have missed the headlines over the past few months. Along with shortages of food, fuel and baby milk, you can now add HRT (hormone replacement therapy) to the list of ailing supplies. The well-publicised HRT shortage is fuelling concern amongst women, many of whom rely on their daily doses to keep them in peak condition, both mentally and physically.
In a case of supply not keeping up with demand, the medicine is often a lifeline to many women suffering with the side effects of the menopause transition.
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What is hormone replacement therapy?
HRT is a medication that tops up your hormone levels, which begin to decline during menopause. It can take various forms, including; tablets, gels, implants and skin patches, depending on your personal requirements.
There are two main forms of HRT, which include:
- Combined HRT (both oestrogen and progestogen)
- Oestrogen-only HRT (typically for women who’ve had a hysterectomy)
It's important to note that testosterone often gets also looked, but is a key hormone for women, as well as men. Your HRT prescription can include testosterone if beneficial to you.
HRT was first introduced in the sixties, to help alleviate the symptoms associated with menopause. There are dozens of symptoms, of which hot flushes, vaginal dryness, anxiety and night sweats are just a few. Today, around a million women in the UK use HRT, according to NICE.
The Great HRT shortage
But here comes the tricky part. Increased awareness and knowledge around HRT has impacted the level of demand. In recent years, there’s been a growing dialogue around women’s health, especially in the media. Presenters like Davina McCall have challenged the way we look at menopause and shown the pros and cons of how it can impact quality of life.
Education around women’s health has also slowly started to improve, especially in response to previous claims about HRT being ‘unsafe’.
As a result, NHS England estimates that prescriptions for HRT have more than doubled in the past five years. Yes, that much. In short, the HRT shortage is because supply cannot keep up with demand.
So what now?
How you should continue taking your current prescription?
Currently, Oestrogel is the main HRT being affected, along with a number of skin patches. If you’re struggling to get hold of your usual prescription, it’s advisable to speak to your GP. There are likely to be alternative HRT treatments you will be able to take.
You may also have more luck at a different pharmacy, if your regular pharmacy doesn't have your prescription. It's a pain to have to travel around, but stock levels may vary from place to place.
There are also natural remedies that are easily accessible on the market to supplement your prescription. Our menopause-friendly products are designed to support your skin through menopause. Victory Oil helps reduce uncomfortable intimate dryness, one of the most common side-effects of menopause, and Body Blitz relieves that itchy, dryness you may have all over your body.
How to discuss HRT with your Doctor
Over 75% of women are said to experience menopause symptoms. While these can vary in severity, you don’t have to suffer.
GPs are well placed to help manage your symptoms – yes even with a HRT shortage. In preparation for your appointment, it’s helpful to keep track of your periods. Also take a note of all the symptoms you’re experiencing – how often they occur, and how this affects you. This will help your doctor make an informed decision on the best product for you.
Your GP will discuss the risks and benefits of HRT treatment, and will typically try you on a three-month supply that you will review, if it's a suitable option for you.
If your doctor isn't forthcoming with support, don't be afraid to insist on help or ask to speak to a different doctor. Unfortunately, many doctors aren't trained in women's health (which is absolutely ridiculous), so you truly are the expert on your own body.
The Menopause Mandate
While progress in recent years has been made, women’s health still has far to go. Menopause Mandate was inspired by this, to improve knowledge and access to HRT for women in the UK. Driven by women from all walks of life, it’s made up of campaigners, politicians, celebrities, journalists and real women. This includes names like Davina McCall, Mariella Frostrup, Penny Lancaster and Lisa Snowdon.
The mandate believes that menopause provision in this country is “shockingly poor”, and has four pillars it aims to influence as follows:
- Education for all - shockingly 41% of UK medical schools still don’t include menopause education on their curriculum
- Stop the misinformation – scaremongering around the risks of HRT is still an issue, despite the benefits greatly outweighing the risks
- Lack of prescription – only one in five women who goes to the GP for menopause support is prescribed HRT
- Free access – HRT is still not free in England, making it a struggle for many women to afford a repeat prescription. But this is not a luxury and should be approached as any other medical intervention would.
More resources for women going through perimenopause and menopause:
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* This is an editorial feature - please always seek professional medical advice in the first instance.