HRT- the modern lunatic asylum?

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An abridged history of the Menopause:

1800s – Publications, professionals and academics consider that hysteria and female insanity are linked to our reproductive organs.

1824 – Ovariotomy (removal of the ovaries) treatment introduced in the UK for menopause. You will be pleased to hear that women’s mortality rate improved from 50% to 11% after the introduction of anaesthetic.

1830-1900 – Women are admitted to lunatic asylums (usually by their husbands) for hysteria and menopause (stated as “cessation of periods” or “the change” on admissions records). Women had no rights at the time so you had to wait until you appeared “cured” or were busted out by family. By this time you had lost your sanity, land and children.

1849 – The physician William Tyler Smith recommended the following treatment for menopause: injecting ice water into the rectum, ice in the vagina and the application of leeches to the labia and cervix. He added a note that his colleagues to count the leeches in, and out to ensure none were lost there. That’s good advice.

1861- The physician Isaac Baker Brown conducted his usual operation on a 57 year old lady to cure her menopause ills. Her husband approved the operation, a clitoridectomy (yes, removal of the clitoris). Baker Brown conducted these operations for 7 years, and applied to technique as a cure for menopause, nymphomania and to curb other excessive female desires.

1936 – Marie Stopes writes in her book “Change of Life in Men and Women” that at menopause: ” the major factor in this period which has been made artificially miserable for myriads of women, is the mind. The women’s own mental attitude towards herself and others at this time really is the controlling factor, and more women have suffered troubles at this time as a result of anticipating them than would ever have suffered them had they gone unaware into the perfectly natural phase which menopause represents”. Marie does also recommend that oestrogen may also help.

1938- British scientists patented the first non-steriodal oestrogen tablet.

1941 – Approved by the Food and Drug Administration authority.

1966 – Robert A.Wilson wrote “Feminine Forever”, a bestseller at the time- prescribing oestrogen therapy as the CURE for menopausal “castration” of the female. He toured the US (interestingly funded by Pharmaceutical firms) telling the nation that he could stop time, make women sexually desirable forever. Simply by taking a little pill.

Since then, apart from a blip 10 years ago with the risk of a cancer scare link to oestrogen (this has apparently been disproved), HRT is the global solution for keeping it feminine, I mean coping with the menopause.

Is it any wonder with such a history, that the word menopause can strike such fear into us? Even the support books in circulation talk about “survival” of the menopause, like its a tsunami or biochemical warfare you need to stock the shelves for.

If you also consider that GPs, the gatekeepers of consultant referrals, have very little training in the menopause and there are over 50 HRT products on the market they can prescribe, you can see what a lottery getting support for symptoms can be.

I am convinced, as an early menopauser with a 15 year recommendation for taking Hormone Replacement Treatment (please don’t call it Therapy, its not a Reiki session) that there are other ways to navigate the menopause.

Some counselling, massage, yoga, diet advice and herbal supplements (Sage, Calcium and Vitamin D for instance) may be a solution. It would be good to have choices. I would prefer the doctors and medical profession to ask me what support I need and to have some knowledge, some empathy and a toolkit with different options to choose from.

Maybe Marie Stopes was right, it is all in the mind. Well our minds are made up by our influences and personal paradigms- so, if we shift the influences and create a society where women are supported – not cut, drugged or locked up for going through something natural then we can change our personal paradigm. Our experience of the menopause may even become something to look forward to, rather than fear.

So, back to my original question, is HRT the modern lunatic asylum? Is it the blanket societal response to supporting women through one of the biggest physical and psychological changes we are likely to face? Well, yes I think it is.

We deserve better support during the menopause, and I am riled to such a level that I may even start a campaign to change this.

Who is with me?

Kerry xxx

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About mychangeview

In 2012 I was told I was post menopausal. This flipped my world upside down and since then I have been trying to understand, accept and embrace this change. I was late 30's, child free and single. This is my blog...
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16 Responses to HRT- the modern lunatic asylum?

  1. Bio-Identical Hormone replacement is working well for me. I also take Chasteberry and kelp for thyroid. There is a great book out now by Sara Gottfried called “The Hormone Cure”. It has helped. The biggest help so far has been Reiki/Shamanic therapy. Getting to the core of the issues is what we really need to do. The hormones and the herbs are just a temporary fix if we don’t embrace who we are as women. Thanks

  2. Kim Bennett says:

    It is important to recognise that not all women experience problems through the menopause, however for those that do, there needs to be a better understanding and treatment options available from health care professionals. For many women it is “not all in the mind”, as many actually have physical issues too. Without my HRT I would be a physical and mental wreck….others feel unwell on this treatment or are concerned regarding the potential risks. Woman have to be listened to…it is their body and their personal condition they are having to live with day in day out. I have always been a strong advocate for “menopause clinics”, where woman can be referred to. I believe these specialist clinics would offer woman consultations with health care professionals trained in all aspects of menpause care…..but most importantly, healthcare professionals that have an interest and passion in helping these women get through, what for some, can be a “time of hell”. In my surgery 4 GPs refuse to issue me HRT treatment because of my age. I have been taking HRT since the age of 40, and their opinion is I have been on it longer than 10 years, so need to stop. However, research clearly states my 10 yr time only started when I hit 50. Therefore, I have actually only been on it 6 years as far as the risk factors are concerned. Due to this up to date research, 2 GPs have no issues with prescribing me meds. It is not helpful to women when there is a difference of treatment opinions within one practice alone. It is interesting though, that the 2 GPs that are happy to prescribe are both women, with a vast up to date knowledge and understanding of the menopause and the treatment options available!

  3. Good blog. I’m still HRT free, but it is not exactly fun. I fell off the menopause cliff after a complete hysterectomy last year at 43. I have volcano flashes and absolutely no sex drive, I still don’t know what the best choice is but really not willing to put myself through the drug circus. I’M looking forward to reading more of your work.

    • mychangeview says:

      Thanks so much for reading and your comment. I am so sorry about your story. That mustve been like a train hitting you. I have spoken to a few ladies who have also entered menopause early through complete hysterectomy. They tell me after the hysterectomy, a switch just went off. I cant imagine how difficult the hysterectomy was for you, to then also have the menopause to content with mustve been awful. Do you mind me asking, how are you looking after yourself on your drug free journey? xx

    • I’m taking paxil, but I was doing that before hand. It does help with hot flashes some. I take a vitamin, with lots of B, D, E, and calcium. I am starting a program at the YMCA to help stem off diabetes and hopefully lose the weight. I added back everything I lost with my hysterectomy. I have struggled with this a lot. My body and I are not exactly working this out well. I am hoping the exercise and diet help with the YMCA program will also help with my other issues.

  4. carolg1849 says:

    Reblogged this on Living Energy Healer and commented:
    Your words rang out to me loud and clear especially “Maybe Marie Stopes was right, it is all in the mind. Well our minds are made up by our influences and personal paradigms- so, if we shift the influences and create a society where women are supported – not cut, drugged or locked up for going through something natural then we can change our personal paradigm. Our experience of the menopause may even become something to look forward to, rather than fear.” keep on writing your words of wisdom.

  5. Gallivanta says:

    Fascinating,( or is it horrifying), information in your post. In my own case I wasn’t worried about this phase; and I scarcely noticed any changes except the obvious one. My biggest problem was feeling guilty that it was so easy for me; actually I still feel guilty even saying this in your comments but I guess it’s all part of the discussion, so it’s okay to say so.

    • mychangeview says:

      Thank you Gallivanta. The experience is different for everyone I guess. That in itself is interesting and beautiful too. We are all so unique, even when transitioning this phase. I rejoice that you had an easy time 🙂 Thanks for your support and comments as always x

  6. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Powerful, thought provoking piece about an experience that all women will have.

  7. I am with you. Amazing blog, powerfully written and provocative. Gonna re-blog on House of Bethan xx

  8. bodycrimes says:

    Just to add – Women who enter menopause have traditionally been “finished”, because their worth lay in their reproductive status. So I thinkg women who fight back against being dispensed with, or who show signs of sexuality etc, are seen as threatening and refusing to accept their natural lot. Not only that, but as someone once said, when a woman hits menopause, she suddenly wakes up in some ways. Prior to that, oestrogen keeps her nurturing and bent on looking after other people. Without all that oestrogen circulating, she suddenly goes: “how come I’m in here cooking Christmas dinner for 12 while everyone is out there getting drunk? Sod this!” So of course, her menopause has real and unpleasant consequences for people who have taken her for granted.

    So I’m not surprised that society has conspired to make menopause dreadful – it’s a way of both discarding women and of silencing those who refuse to be discarded.

    It’s why I personally don’t embrace the ‘crone’ archetype – it feels too much like a consolation prize. As in, you’re hideous and useless, but you can have a small role dispensing wisdom to other people.

    • mychangeview says:

      Absolutely agree – the link with women and motherhood legitimising their existence in society is a challenge!
      Love the idea of waking up to things at menopause.
      It reminds me of something my mum once said about PMS. She said that maybe its the only time in the month we see things clearly for what they are – and we rage!
      I hear you, I dont want to embrace the archetypal crone – the wisdom is welcomed, but I dont want to be written off. For one, I havent contributed during the mother phase – so am damned well not accepting a written off third phase! What I guess I am trying to do, is redefine the crone- make it something beautiful and equal to the other two phases. I want to help women understand themselves and look forward to this phase. I know its quite an aspiration!

  9. bodycrimes says:

    Well, I definitely believe that the menopause isn’t taken seriously or even properly understood. Having said that, the first doctors I saw were all believers in keeping it natural, which is the first line approach in Germany. My first ob/gyn prescribed a herbal tincture that’s very popular here. My second one suggested cuddling and slow sex when I explained that I felt like I’d been castrated. Another doctor told me that sex was all in the mind etc etc. It was just an exercise in frustration, useless treatments and feeling like nobody was taking my situation seriously. FINALLY I got someone to do a blood hormone test and then prescribe appropriate HRT. For three months it was all bad – bloating, weight gain, mood changes and acne. Horrible. But then… I felt like the real me had returned. Not just my sexuality returned, but also something more intrinsic. My drive and get up and go. It was amazing.

    I still get the acne. I’m also aware that HRT carries serious health risks, especially given my medical history. But I’m so glad it was an option.

    Maybe if menopause was taken seriously and properly studied there would be a range of treatments appropriate to the different clinical presentations to sort out who would benefit most from vitamins and change of diet etc and who won’t. (I mean, everybody benefits from healthy habits, but for some people they won’t help the menopause symptoms.)

    • mychangeview says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. My issue is with the low information, low empathy approach by the world. I wish I knew enough about HRT to have an opinion about it as a solution, I just want people to have a choice.
      Its really interesting to hear the approach in Germany, and am so pleased you have found a solution which works for you.
      Personally, I dont want to take HRT- but I see that almost as a side issue. I have conducted loads of amateur research to help me understand the menopause and whats been happening to me. This is where I learnt something of the history of women’s healthcare treatment. It sets the context for the dialogue and views on menopause in society and our personal paradigm and beliefs. For me, its obvious when you look into the history of its treatment that its not something we would naturally look forward to entering. Sad, as we know its natural and I think ancient wisdom comes with it.
      Love your blogs by the way bodycrimes, and always blessed to have your comments and feedback.

      Kerry xxx

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