Q. I am 54, happily married with no children, and have been on the pill since I was 16. I have no idea if I have been through the menopause as I have no symptoms. Various GPs have kept me on the combined pill – because oestrogen is ‘a good thing’ – for the past three years. What is the optimal advice?
A. Menopause is defined as your last period. The average age range is 51 to 52. Periods (withdrawal bleeds) that occur with hormonal contraception are not a reliable indicator.
Hormonal contraception does not generally change the age that a woman’s body reaches menopause. The combined oral contraceptive (COC ) simply masks many of the signs because it stops the ovaries producing oestrogen and progesterone, so they sit idly while the COC puts back a fixed daily amount of synthetic hormones.
However, the advice is that women over 50 should not take any form of the COC, due to the increased risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, heart attacks and strokes, especially in women who smoke or are overweight. Consultant gynaecologist Michael Dooley says he ‘would want a very good reason to keep a woman on a COC after 45. The chance of getting pregnant is low, so you can use safer forms of contraception.’ The progestogen-only or mini pill, which has no oestrogen and a lower dose of progesterone, can be continued until 55, after which virtually all women will no longer need contraception.
In your case, Mr Dooley suggests stopping taking the COC now. ‘At 54, you are unlikely to need contraception, but if you are worried you could use a barrier method. After a month, you can have blood tests to determine hormone levels so you will know whether your body has been through the menopause. If so, you can deal with any menopausal symptoms that may arise.’
GLOSS IT LIKE KYLIE
Phylia de M, the US natural haircare range, is a byword for healthy, glossy locks, with best-tressed fans including Kylie Minogue. The simple suits-all range of one shampoo, Clean, and one conditioner, Condition, has transformed my haystack, too! For those people not blessed with thick manes, the leave-in treatment Connect has helped to reverse hair loss from different causes, including illness and stress. It contains fulvic and tannic acids and aloe and was devised by oncologist-turned-herbalist Dr. Dick Miyayama. The blend promises to ‘help restore the body’s ability to grow healthy hair and stop excess shedding and thinning’. Now Phylia de M has launched Re-Connect, which is designed to be used on alternate days after using Connect for at least one month. Connect serves to detox the nerves, heal the skin and scalp and fortify existing hair, and Re-Connect stimulates the hair follicle. Find the range at www.victoriahealth.com: from £28 for 265 ml Clean; Re-Connect is £60 for 120 ml - buy here.
Remember those orange space hoppers from the 1970s? Now the Happy Hopperz range of inflatable animals is proving a great success (www.happyhopperz.co.uk/from £21.99 – buy here). When my colleague Elena took a bouncy cow home, her son Emilio, 18 months, beamed with delight. ‘We had to peel him off it at bedtime. It’s great that he is having fun and improving his hand-eye coordination, balance and core muscles. His older cousin Raphael, who is autistic, loves bouncing around, too.’
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: www.ngs.org.uk
Next weekend (15 and 16 June) is National Gardens Festival Weekend, in aid of charities including Macmillan Cancer Support and Parkinson’s UK. Sunday 16 June is also Father’s Day – put the two together and you have a perfect outing! More than 800 private gardens are open (average admission, £4) and many of the gardens offer tea, plant sales, even live music.