Can I get HRT during lockdown?

Many health services have been delayed or put on hold completely due to Covid-19. It’s a worrying time and, with many GP surgeries physically closing their doors and limitations on pharmacies, it can be difficult to know if you can still get HRT during lockdown. Added to that, it’s fair to say that many of us feel we may be putting unnecessary burden on the health service by going to the doctor at the moment.

“Many women may feel that getting HRT is trivial in relation to everything that is going on with Covid-19,” says Aly, a menopause specialist nurse and founder of Simply Menopausal. “But that is simply not the case. Your menopause is just as important today as it was before all of this began.”

Dr Sarah Ball, a GP with a specialist interest in the menopause based at Newson Health, agrees.

“If anything, now is not a bad time to approach your GP about your menopause and HRT,” she says. “After lockdown, there could be a deluge of patients who have been avoiding the doctor due to concerns around coronavirus.”  

Whether you’ve been thinking about taking HRT for a while or have questions about your current prescription, it’s essential for your health and wellbeing that you get answers. Here, we explain how to access the help that you need and why you shouldn’t wait until after lockdown to get HRT.

Anxious times

One of the most common yet misdiagnosed symptoms of menopause is anxiety. Estrogen naturally falls throughout the perimenopause and menopause. As a result, there’s smaller amounts in the brain to control the production of hormones like serotonin. This hormone is a key player in regulating our mood and feelings of happiness.

Right now, we’re living in incredibly anxious times. This can compound the natural anxious feelings that some of us experience in menopause, to the point where life seems unbearable.

“I’m seeming to find that lockdown is dividing menopausal women,” says Sarah. “On the one hand, there are some women who are enjoying the slower pace of life. They’ve got the time to perhaps pay more attention to their lifestyle and want to tackle their menopausal issues that they may have been putting off! Then there are the other women who were already struggling with menopausal symptoms – anxiety and insomnia for example – before lockdown began. Their menopause was bad before, but now it’s even worse.”  

 “Many women are finding that lockdown has heightened their feelings of anxiety,” agrees Aly. “There are worries about elderly parents and not being able to visit them, along with children returning from university and potential financial troubles all add to it.

“Women who struggle with anxiety need HRT – it’s just as important now as it was before Covid-19.”

Where to find advice

It’s important to know that many GP surgeries are taking their consultations online and talking to patients over the phone rather than in person. While this takes the stress away of having to go outside, it’s important that you’re well prepared.

“Hopefully we’re past the peak of coronavirus now, and many GP surgeries have set up systems to avoid face-to-face consultations where at all possible,” says Sarah. “It’s given GPs a bit more scope to have conversations with patients over the phone.

“While this feels like less of a barrier, it’s important to be prepared for a conversation with your GP about HRT. You might not have a choice at the moment which doctor you speak to – and not all of them have a lot of knowledge on menopause.  Downloading the Greene Climacteric Scale from The Menopause Doctor website can help both you and your GP to understand all of your symptoms.

“You’re much more likely to have success with your GP if you’re prepared for the conversation,” says Sarah.

Go private

While many women choose to access advice about HRT and menopause through the NHS, there are a number of private services around the country. This includes Newson Health and Simply Menopausal. Many of these clinics have now moved their services online. It’s more accessible than ever to chat to a menopause specialist.

“It’s been a real change for us in terms of private care,” says Sarah. “For the first time, we’re now offering video consultation at Newson Health. It means women don’t have to take time out of their day travelling to come and see us.

“All consultations are done online. To prescribe HRT (whether via your GP or via a private provider), we’d like you to have had a blood pressure check (ideally in the past year). You can easily check your own if you have a home blood pressure machine or you can purchase one online.”

And the good news is, there are plenty of services to choose from to find your perfect fit.

“I – along with a team of other menopause-specialist nurses – have virtually joined forces to create The Menopause Directory,” says Aly. “You’ll receive a one-hour consultation and be able to talk through all your symptoms and the pros and cons of taking HRT. The nurse will then be able to organise a prescription to get send out to you.”

Read more features about the menopause