My Mum was probably patting herself on the back when she read this article. She has always been against both the pill and HRT because of the danger to women’s health. I always took what she said with a grain of salt – after all she was trained in sociology* not science. However, we now know the risks of taking the pill. I personally reacted very strongly when I took the pill – my GP tried three different types. The first just made me bad tempered all the time. Rather than a day or two before my period was due. The second just made me feel like bleuh all the time. I had no energy or not initiative. Or was that because I was writing my thesis? The final one (and I don’t remember which one was which type) made me so swollen every month, that I would say that I felt like a beached whale. And sore; as in, I am on the pill because it is a contraceptive and it works because I don’t want the bf to touch me any where.
I also lost about 30 kg in weight when I final gave up; BF moved to OZ so I didn’t really need it any more. I originally started taking it to reduce menstrual pain, but they did not really prevent that. Not surprising really as the pain was actually found to be caused by grapefruit sized fibroids.
So HRT: Mum was recommended to go on HRT when she has a hysterectomy, but she refused. It probably wasn’t even necessary; judging by our symptoms and what I know of the biology, there is a good chance that we over produce on progesterone. Thus menopause is a relieve. At least I hope so, and it certainly seemed that way for Mum. Except she needs lots of sleep and also is showing signs of osteoporosis partly triggered by parathyroid problems. I am sure the side effects of HRT would not have been worth it. She actually likes sleeping. She was also put off HRT because she believed it made women more aggressive; this was supported by the fact that Margaret Thatcher, Edwina Curry, Theresa Gorman (all aggressive Conservatives) were all taking HRT at one time. [Perhaps it makes you right wing too?]
The article in the Guardian reports that few studies have been done on the effects of HRT and these few have shown that HRT increases the risk of “cancer, strokes, blood clots and heart disease”(1). Yet still 1 million British women take it. One of the problems is that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is being coy about making a statement. Despite the fact that:
The Committee on the Safety of Medicines has said since 2003 that HRT should now only be used to alleviate menopausal symptoms, and only for a short time. In a letter to all doctors, its chairman, Professor Gordon Duff, warned that the US and UK studies “provide good evidence” that HRT increases the risk of breast, womb and ovarian cancer. There was no evidence of a beneficial effect on heart disease – in fact, it appeared to increase the risk of a heart attack or blood clots, especially in the first year, and to raise the risk of stroke. It should not be the first treatment of choice for osteoporosis, even though it works well in strengthening bones.
Yet, Obs/Gyns are still prescribing HRT to women whose menopausal symptoms are probably not severe enough to justify the side effects. The article stress that fact that many of the physicians who support HRT are given support by the pharmaceutical companies. I am not sure how much that is so, rather that physicians feel safe within the box they know and may lack science/critical thinking training to understand the significance of the research. In Britain, medical training typically starts as an undergraduate degree, so many doctors do not have do a Bachelors beforehand.
Oh, well, at least this showed me that Mum is always right.
*She went to London School of Economics in the fifties, which is pretty amazing really. At that time there weren’t that many people going to university and probably few of them were women. It did raise some issues in her “liberal” Jewish home. I’ve asked her to write some of herstory up and I’ll post it here. She wasn’t keen. I must mention it again.
Her Bachelors might not have taught her science, but she is excellent at critical thinking.
(1) There is also an article from 2002 on the Fred Hutchinson’s Cancer Research Center website. It is also where I got the picture from.