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Women have struggled to get help with the menopause for decades but it’s about to change

HRT used to be a dirty word. Now it’s a battle cry. Women will begathering in Parliament Square in London later this month to support the menopause bill to demand free prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy in England. The bill could help thousands more women to access this life-changing treatment and will put the menopause under the microscope.

For years, a combination of medical sexism, hysterical reporting and outdated science has held women back from asking for the health care they need. HRT replenishes the oestrogen, progesterone (and sometimes testosterone) that women lose when having the menopause. As a result of previous misleading reports linking the treatment to a risk of breast cancer and dementia, HRT has long been considered controversial.

Last week, however, a BMJ paper studying more than 100,000 HRT users over two decades in the UK found that there was no overall association between hormone replacement and an increased risk of developing dementia. Meanwhile, the science lumping the many different types of HRT together in one “causes-breast-cancer” basket is being questioned by menopause experts.

A sexist, ageist culture has kept the menopause – and the stigma associated with it – hidden for decades. In a TUC survey of 4,000 women, 85% said the menopause affected their working life. Many women have lost their health, jobs, relationships and even their lives at the time of their menopause, when rates of suicide peak.

But now, Labour MP Carolyn Harris is pushing the second reading of her menopause bill through parliament later this month. Aside from making HRT free in England (it’s already free in Scotland and Wales), the bill will also cover broader issues around menopause rights and education, particularly in the workplace.

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Source: The Guardian, 6 October 2021


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