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Managing the menopause

The symptoms of the menopause will pass in time for most women, or at least reduce, but this may take several years. If they are troublesome, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can relieve many of the symptoms of menopause for most women. This is because HRT replaces the hormones that your body is no longer producing. Other medicines that might help symptoms are antidepressants (these can be called selective serotonin receptor inhibitors [SSRIs] or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors [SNRIs]), gabapentin, clonidine, selective oestrogen receptor modulators SORMs) and bone health can be helped by bisphosphonates [1]. Your doctor will be able to advise on whether or not these are suitable for you.

Complementary therapies and supplements (plant oestrogens such as black cohosh, red clover, soybeans and flaxseed) might also help relieve symptoms [2]. If you do favour the more natural approaches, please seek advice from a qualified practitioner and also discuss your thoughts with your doctor to make sure these therapies will be safe for you. Plant oestrogens, for example, might not be safe for some women who have had an oestrogen dependent cancer, such as breast cancer. Also, alternative therapies for treating early menopause may not provide essential bone protection against osteoporosis.

You can also help relieve your symptoms by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Regular exercise will help alleviate emotional and psychological symptoms, and weight-bearing exercise (exercise that puts pressure on your bones; for example, walking, jogging and cycling) can help protect against osteoporosis. It's also thought that certain triggers – alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine and smoking – can provoke hot flushes, so you may want to cut down on these [1].

Managing discomfort during sex and loss of desire

After treatment for cervical cancer, you may notice changes in your sexual relationships. You may find that you are not in the mood for sex, are experiencing discomfort during intercourse or that you have more difficulty reaching orgasm than before your treatment. It is quite normal for your interest in sex and your physical sensitivity to be affected after treatment for any type of cancer, as your body and emotions will be changing. HRT can help provide help for some women and, for those who do not wish to take HRT, vaginal oestrogen can be very effective in reducing vaginal discomfort during sex. Personal lubricants may also help to relieve discomfort during intercourse and enhance the enjoyment of both you and your partner.

You can find more information on this in our sex and intimacy pages.

If you are worried about your sex life you may want to talk through how you feel with a counsellor or therapist. The sex an intimacy pages also provide more information about psychosexual counselling and how to access it.

If you are in a relationship it will be important to discuss how you’re feeling about sex with your partner. Together you can work out what is best for you both of you, so that you can continue to show each other affection and feel loved.

We have a section for partners of women with cervical cancer. Partners can also seek support from our forum section for partners.

If loss of sexual desire is a problem, your doctor might suggest combining HRT with testosterone, although it is still not certain how helpful this combination is or how safe it is in the long term see our links section.

 Managing infertility

Going through the menopause means that women become unable to have children naturally. This loss of fertility can be upsetting even if you've had a family or did not intend to have children. It can also be particularly hard to deal with if you're going through early menopause and have not yet had the children you wish to have. It will be important for you to discuss your feelings around infertility with your partner so you can support each other through this difficult time. If you would like to talk to someone outside your own friends and family, you may be interested in counselling.

Also in this section:

  1. Woyka J et al, 2014. Consensus statement for non-estrogen-based treatments for menopausal symptoms. Post Reproductive Health, 20 (2), 76–79. 
  2. Dennehy C, 2006. The use of herbs and dietary supplements in gynecology: an evidence-based review. Journal of Midwifery Women’s Health, 51 (6), 402–409.

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Date last updated: 
06 Nov 2015
Date due for review: 
06 Nov 2018