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Are you a woman in her 40s or 50s with a whole load of symptoms that you cannot explain? Well, it may be that you are peri-menopausal/menopausal and are lacking in the oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone that you need. As we reach peri menopause, these hormone levels start to decrease in the body, leading to all sorts of symptoms, which can vary from woman to woman. Just recently I decided to try hormone replacement therapy to see whether my symptoms would improve. But how long does it take for HRT to work? Here is what I have found.
How Long Does It Take For HRT To Work?
I have been suffering the effects of the peri-menopause for quite a while, since I turned 40 if I am totally honest.
Even before I got pregnant at 43 years old, my periods were slightly more erratic. Strangely, after having a baby, my periods got a little more regular for a few years. But last year they started going haywire again. I would go 8 weeks before having a period, then have one about 2 weeks later.
If it were just a matter of irregular periods, I would not have been so perturbed. But other symptoms were starting to take over my life.
I Felt Like A Different Person
I started to feel like it was taking all my strength just to do the little things and to cope with normal daily life. Even getting up, doing a few exercises and bathing my daughter would leave me tired and crotchety. I was struggling to get through the day, and felt fatigued all the time.
I was sleeping more than I ever had, so I could not understand. As a woman who used to suffer with insomnia and regularly did a full days work after getting about 5 hours sleep, I could not comprehend how I could be tired.
My mood was dreadful all the time too. I snapped constantly. I could just not be bothered with anyone’s whinges or foibles. Who was I turning into? I hated myself for feeling this way.
My Mental Health Was Suffering
Although I have always suffered a little with anxiety and depression, my anxiety became overwhelming. And this was before the pandemic hit, so you can imagine how much worse it became once that arrived.
I started with terrible palpitations just after the pandemic started. Now, I am still not sure that these palpitations were all menopause related. I could have an element of long covid too. We will never know if I had Covid, as a lot of the symptoms I suffered back in March-April 2020 were not classed as typical Covid-19 symptoms then, and there was no way to get tested. I had headaches, rashes and a slight cough, and then a month later I suffered chest pains, a racing heart and palpitations.
My heart was checked out extensively and no damage was found. The palpitations reduced slightly but were still there. Which made me wonder if the palpitations were maybe now menopause related. Palpitations are one of the lesser known menopause symptoms. I asked my GP.
And really got the brush off.
I had 2 ambulatory ECG tests (I’m sure at a large cost to the NHS) and an echocardiogram. And it ruled out any heart disease. But I also asked my GP if it could be menopause. Even though I was suffering with the palpitations and they were giving me distress and anxiety, the GP didn’t really listen or suggest anything other than putting me on heart drugs and indigestion tablets. Even when I asked outright if it was menopause I got no answer, was told to keep taking the drugs prescribed.
And I Knew Others Going Through Similar Fights
I knew of other women who had also gone to their GP when having perimenopause symtpoms, only to be given the run around. My sister in law had been anxious for a while, and was suffering what she called ‘brain fog’. She felt like she couldn’t remember what she should be doing, forgot simple tasks and found it very hard to concentrate.
Her GP gave her antidepressants. But as my SIL’s symptoms worsened, the GP just kept upping the dose of antidepressants. She was on a huge dosage.
It took a visit to the hospital for them to finally agree to HRT. And by the time this was needed my SIL had suffered from other menopausal symptoms for years.
Once I heard that she had been offered HRT I decided to ask my doctor about hormone therapy again.
What Are The Symptoms Of Menopause?
Menopause is not just a lack of periods and hot flushes! In fact I have never really had a hot flush yet. Menopause is when you finally cease to have periods. In fact you are not classed as being in menopause until you have not had a period for 12 months.
But there are lots of other symptoms of perimenopause. And bear in mind a lot of these can start a full 10 years before the actual menopause happens, as a hormone imbalance starts to occur. Nobody really talks about these symptoms, and GPs don’t always think about them holistically. As I found, my GP treated just the symptoms I was getting, and didn’t consider my full body was going through changes.
So what are the menopausal symptoms to watch out for?
- Loss of libido / low sex drive
- Body aches
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Itchy skin
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Brain Fog / forgetfulness
- Dizzy spells
- Lack of motivation
- Irregular periods
- Hot flushes
Looking back, I had probably been suffering a number of these symptoms for quite a few years. But now they were taking over my life and it was time to act.
I Rang My GP Clinic Once More
And was told that I should “think about what I wanted”…?!
I felt a bit horrified at this. Surely a GP is there to advise, not just to tell you to ‘go do your research’? But my anger was going to spur me to read up more about HRT, and what it entails.
Strangely, right at the same time I read this article by a lady who sounded like she had really been suffering too with a lot of perimenopause symptoms, and had also been refused treatment. She had tried bioidentical hormone therapy, which she found useful for a couple of months, but then she found that the bioidentical hormone replacement drugs were from unlicensed pharmacies. She tried her own GP and found that they were a little unhelpful.
In her article she spoke about the “Gold Standard” HRT treatment being Oestrogen gel or patches, Micronised Progesterone, and Testosterone should you need it. She had finally managed to get this care, and now was part of the team making a medical documentary about HRT that was due to be aired on Channel 4 and fronted by Davina McCall.
She suggested going to a menopause website to read up more about the issue before tackling your GP.
- Write down the symptoms you are suffering with
- Look up your family history. Is there any history of blood clots or breast cancer?
- Jot down questions to ask your GP – ask if your symptoms could be due to menopause and if you need any other investigations?
But also be ready to be quite assured with your doctor. As I found that my GPs really weren’t going to just give me hormones without my being quite definite.
I Went Back To A Different GP
This time I went in with all my info and firmly told the GP what I wanted. She asked me a lot of family history questions, questions about myself and looking at a recent blood test decided to give me estrogen gel and micronised progesterone, just as I wanted.
We discussed the increased risk of blood clots with HRT, and discussed breast cancer risks.
My GP told me that the HRT would take a couple of weeks to get into my system. She told me that the progesterone (Utrogestan) would make me feel drowsy, so to take it at night.
I started using the Oestrogel the morning after I collected it from the pharmacy. I always have a shower on a morning. And so I dried off well and rubbed my pumps of oestrogen into my inner thighs.
The First Week
How long did it take for the HRT to work for me? Certainly the progesterone tablets knocked me out at first. I immediately saw a change in how well I was sleeping.
And even though the doctor had said that I wouldn’t feel much if a change for a couple of weeks, I did feel much better even on the first day. Maybe it was a placebo effect, maybe it was the thought that something could get better. But I straight away had more energy and felt that I could do more.
Although my back and sciatica pain did not go away, there also was a little bit of an improvement there. The whole general feeling of being less apathetic meant that I felt inspired to do my physio exercises every day too.
In fact, I did so many more jobs in the first week that I had felt able to tackle over the whole of the previous month!
HRT Side Effects
A few days after I started the HRT, I did notice a couple of side effects starting. I had a bad headache and felt sick after about day 5 of HRT. But then it did improve after day 8. This sickness and headaches kept coming and going again over the first few weeks
My GP had advised me to stop taking the HRT if I felt any of the more severe side effects. There is no ‘one size fits all’ to HRT, it may be that I need my hormone levels checking and to see what I needed. But I still felt better, so I carried on.
Then, after the second week, I seemed to suffer a bit of a relapse. You are only meant to take the progesterone for 14 days and then have a 14 day break. But just before I had the progesterone break, I really started to feel tired and achy once more.
My partner said I was not as cranky and moody as before, but I still felt pretty lousy, and back to feeling fatigued at the slightest thing.
And my first period which came a few days after stopping the progesterone was the most painful one that I had had for a long while. My tummy ached, I felt hot and bothered, and just felt like curling up in a ball and sleeping.
After this initial couple of weeks though, things have just improved again and I feel much more my old self. I do seem to have much more energy, and feel like tackling the world once more. I certainly know that my mood has improved, and I have fewer palpitations, even if they have not completely gone yet.
And As For The Future?
I’ve since joined a facebook group for menopausal sufferers, and have found that a lot of people say that they started HRT and feel awful for a while before they start to feel better. How long for HRT to work varied from person to person. Some women say that it took up to 6 weeks for them to see the benefits of HRT patches, pills or gel. Whilst others found that there were more benefits of HRT patches (oestrogen patches) than gel.
Every woman is different, and most people need regular follow ups with the GP to ensure that the HRT is working as it should.
So How Long Did It Take For HRT To Work For Me?
But I am slowly starting to feel so much better and know that hormone therapy works for me. It took about 3-4 weeks for HRT to start working for me. And should it seem that there are signs HRT is not working, I will just need to discuss with my GP again whether to try a HRT patch instead of oestrogen gel, or maybe discuss whether I also need testosterone supplements too.
I hope that this has helped. Are you suffering from any of these symptoms? Does Hormone therapy work for you? How long did it take for HRT to work for you?
I’d love to hear your comments. Write something below, or why not find me on my social media channels and we can carry on the discussion there.
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