How to make the most of your GP consultation about menopause

Fiona Clark

How to make the most of your GP appointment if you want to discuss menopause?

 

You’ve only got ten minutes, so how do you make the most of it if you want to talk to your doctor about menopause?

This is a question that’s kept Dr Carys Sonnenberg awake for many nights  – tossing and turning over how she can help her patients make the most of a short consultation so they can get the right treatment plan for them as fast as possible – and she’s come up with a plan.

Dr Sonnenberg says if you think your symptoms might be related to menopause – the key is to come to the consultation prepared.

Why? Because there is a lot to go through in a very short period of time.

What your doctor wants you to know

She says she has to explain what’s happening to your hormones, what the possible treatment medical  treatment options are plus the importance of lifestyle.

She also has to have a complete view of your medical history and your family members as well as a good insight into your lifestyle. Then she has to weigh all of this up when selecting the right treatments options – and that takes time.

To maximise the time in the consultation Dr Sonnenberg has started to send a batch of text messages to her patients with information and pre-consultation ‘homework’ so when they arrive at the clinic no time is wasted on collecting information or discussing the basics.

What she includes is a description of what menopause is and what’s going on with the hormones before and after the periods stop.

She also includes information on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as well as lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet, alcohol and smoking and the impact they can have on symptoms and long term health.

(You can find learn more about menopause symptoms and treatments by taking the ‘Could it be Menopause‘ quiz.)

List and rate your symptoms

check list menopause consultation

She also includes a symptom checker. This allows patients to run through the symptoms and rate them according to the impact they’re having on their health or quality of life. If you don’t have access to one you can do your own but there are many available online including on the Menopause Charity

And there’s also a lot of information she wants to know about you before the consultation so she can spend her time talking to you about what matters rather than asking a list of questions.

The information Dr Sonnenberg says is vital for a doctor to know includes:

  • What contraception have you used and have you had any issues that would suggest a progesterone intolerance
  • If you or anyone in your immediate family has had cancer – in particular breast cancer, or blood clots and if so what was the cause
  • Have you had blood tests recently and what did they show in terms of blood sugar, thyroid and liver function
  • What your blood pressure is like
  • What your diet is like and your risk factors such as alcohol consumption and smoking
  • If you exercise and if so what kind of exercise and how often
  • If you take any herbal or vitamin supplements
  • What your weight is.

The answers to these questions help her assess the best options for you – because not all HRT is created equal. Different types, for example have different effects on cholesterol and lipid levels as well blood clots and cancer risk.

Sharing this information with your GP prior to your consultation could help save time and help them help you.

When you make your appointment tell the practice that you will be emailing the information before the consultation and, Dr Sonnenberg suggests booking a double consultation if you can, because there is a lot to go through.

She says it’s important to understand that you may need a second consultation if tests are required.

In an ideal world, Dr Sonnenberg adds, anyone with vaginal symptoms should be seen in person so the doctor can take a look and rule out any other possible causes.

Being prepared means you can make informed decisions about your treatment options.

See the interview with Dr Carys Sonnenberg here.

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