If you follow me on social media you’ll have already seen me sharing my perimenopause journey. And I thought now that I have an official ‘diagnosis’ of being perimenopausal, that it was about time I started sharing my journey on my website too.
I’ve got a few posts planned that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks, some about the more personal side of my experience, some a bit more generic, and then some where I share various resources that have helped me along the way that I think will help you too.
A couple of days ago I had a major breakthrough. After over 2 years of suffering with perimenopausal symptoms I have finally been prescribed HRT. This did however come at a cost – funny how when you chuck money at something it suddenly becomes a whole lot easier to get your hands on the good stuff right!?! I consider myself very fortunate that I am in a position to a) be able to afford the fees of booking a consultation with a private menopause specialist and b) that I can also afford the cost of the HRT. But at the same time it doesn’t half anger me that this treatment, treatment that could help a LOT of women, isn’t more readily available on the NHS. It’s not right. It’s not fair. And things have got to change. Hopefully with conversations like these, change can gradually start to happen, so that perhaps come the time my daughter reaches my age, she won’t have to go through this as unsupported as I have felt.
I want to kick this series of posts off with some useful information about the costs of HRT. So that if you are considering venturing down this path, you won’t pass out with shock when the pharmacist rings up the cost of your meds on the till.
Getting HRT on the NHS
Let’s start off by taking a look at the NHS option, because in an ideal world this is the way you wanna go, certainly in terms of what’s going to be the cheapest anyway. Now, I’m going to be brutally honest and of course I am only basing this on my own experience, but I am also going on what I have heard from a lot of other women. Being prescribed HRT on the NHS is a bloody nightmare. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it is virtually impossible. They’ll chuck antidepressants at you like they’re freakin’ packs of smarties, but HRT… all I’ll say is good luck with that!
If you’re under 45, they’ll want to give you a blood test to determine whether your hormones are up the swanny enough to classify you as being perimenopausal. The problem with this blood test, and even the GP admitted this to me, is that most of the time it’s inconclusive. Hormones fluctuate so much that the likelihood of your blood being taken at that magic golden time when the hormone can be tested properly is nigh on impossible. So the test itself is heavily flawed. It is worth having a blood test however (if the surgery hasn’t run out of blood testing kit that is!) to rule out any other issues such as thyroid problems, low iron levels and other deficiencies. But in terms of it being the deciding factor of whether you have entered perimenopause… don’t get your hopes up!
Your symptoms, how many you are having and the extent and extremity to which you are having them, are what counts so it’s very important you make a note of these – but that’s a whole different post and I’ll go into more detail about what those symptoms might be and how you can track them another time.
So, let’s just say you are one of the fortunate ones that have been prescribed HRT on the NHS. The GP appointment is of course free, but what about the prescription itself. Well, the current prescription charge is £9.35 per item, which means if you take for example my chosen form of HRT (gel and tablets – I’ll also do a different post on this, there is just so much to talk about!) that would cost £18.70 for 3 months. I’m also thinking you could potentially get a 6 month or maybe even a yearly prescription once you’ve been on it a while and you know it works and you’ve got the dosage right. Which, if that’s the case, then this would make it even cheaper, because you’re charged per prescription rather than per item, right? Anyway, my point is it’s not too big a deal. Obviously, it’s not great we have to pay any money for it, considering this naturally happens to all women, but then you could also say the same about period products too… a whole other debate.
The Cost Of Going Private
If, like me, you have had no success with your GP. And if, like me, your symptoms are affecting your life in such a way that you know you need more help than is being offered, then it might be worth investigating going private. As I’m sure you already know, this isn’t cheap. And I totally get that not all of us are in a situation to be able to afford to go private. I feel incredibly privileged that I am able to. So, I guess I wanted to be completely transparent with the costs involved, in order for you to know from the off what you could be faced with.
First up, the consultation. I went through Bupa who offer a menopause package that includes a consultation (mine was a video call with a specialist), a 3 month follow up appointment, and access to a phone line for help along the way. This package cost me £250, which not gonna lie I baulked at when I first heard. It was my husband that convinced me in the end, telling me that the cost didn’t matter, that my health was the most important thing, and that he could see I needed help. Bless him, he’s a good egg. And do you know what? I realised that I’m quite happy forking out money for fitness classes. Spending money on the dog, the kids, other people. So why on earth would I hesitate on spending it on something that is clearly needed right now!?!?
I think us women are all too quick to focus on how the other people in our lives are – caring for kids, partners, parents, friends etc. So much so that we position ourselves right at the very bottom of the pile, our needs going very much unnoticed. To the extent that it often hits crisis point before we acknowledge we need help. One thing I try and remind myself of is the oxygen mask analogy – that you must put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others. How can you be expected to a) set a good example, especially to your kids and b) even be capable of helping others if you can’t help yourself first. Anyway, I digress. The point is, it was time for me to chuck some money at the problem and reach out for help.
And oh my goodness how quick you get results when you DO throw money at it. One consultation later, I suddenly found myself with the elusive HRT prescription. Off I trotted to my nearest Boots pharmacy and when she came back with my prescription and started putting it through the till she said, “It’s a bit hefty, you might want to get your GP to prescribe this for you next time.” Um yeah, no shit Sherlock!
It cost a grand total of £49.01 for the same items that would have cost me £18.70 on the NHS. That’s a difference of £30.31. For the exact same drugs. I’ll just let that sink in for a bit…
But don’t worry, all wasn’t completely lost, because I was able to use my Boots card and collect the points for it. Well, that’s what the pharmacist told me. So there I was, all proper chirpy thinking I’d somehow screwed the system over in my own understated way, only for me to get home and read the receipt, which informed me ‘all items marked X are exempt from Advantage Card points’. And you can guess which 2 items had X’s….. Noooooooooooooooo!
The Decision Is Yours
As I’ve said, I’ve now got 3 month’s worth of HRT to keep me going. I am under no illusion that this is now it for me. There will inevitably be some tweaking required – the dosage might need upping, I might need to introduce some testosterone if say for example I’m still feeling completely and utterly fatigued, and gosh it might not even work at all. But you know what, it feels good to be at least trying. It feels good to have been listened to. To have been heard. To have been taken seriously. And in my opinion… that was worth every single penny.
What Are Your Experiences Of Getting HRT?
Do you think you’ve hit perimenopause? Have you been to your GP about it? Have you decided to go private? I would absolutely love to hear about your experiences if you’d be willing to share it with me. Let’s keep this conversation going. Let’s support one another. Let’s help make a change.
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Becky Stafferton is a full time blogger over on her website The Art of Healthy Living, mum of 2 and certified Queen of the hashtags. She continually strives to promote a realistic, sustainable and positive image of how to lead a healthy life. When she’s not writing or reading her teenage diary she can be found swigging Prosecco from the bottle, running through muddy puddles, making lists of lists, having a good old moan, scoffing flapjacks and squatting like her life depends on it.