Psychological therapies and support for early menopause

Women diagnosed with early menopause (EM) often find the experience emotionally or psychologically challenging (see Personal and emotional impact of early menopause on women). Significant distress can be due to several factors, including the experience of symptoms (see Symptoms of early menopause), the implications of the diagnosis, in particular the loss of fertility, and long-term health impacts. The health practitioners we interviewed often referred women to psychological services, and some provided psychological support to women themselves (see Psychological therapies for early menopause (women’s experiences)).

Health practitioners observed that the extent of psychological support women diagnosed with EM need varies according to their social support networks and personal circumstances. Endocrinologist Dr D said: ‘It really depends on the personality of the woman, her psychology, her supports, if she’s single, where she’s at … Some will be definitely upset about fertility prospects … I think most are upset that they didn’t know it was coming, and they weren’t expecting it.’

Clinical psychologist Dr G shared her experience with women diagnosed with EM who come to see her for psychological therapy.

Professor Kulkarni, a psychiatrist specialised in women’s mental health, commented that it is particularly important to address the impact of fertility loss on women.

A few health practitioners remarked that referrals to psychological therapies may not suit all women. Dr S, a medical oncologist said: ‘I think about whether they need to see a psychologist, whether just having a good conversation in clinic is enough to allay some of their worries.’

In addition, some health practitioners noted that it could be difficult to find psychologists with a background in menopause-related difficulties. For example, Dr D, an endocrinologist, commented, ‘there are not many psychologists I think who understand this area – I know a couple of really good ones, and will always refer to them. But they’re extremely busy … it’s hard to get in those ladies.’

Endocrinologist Dr W reflected on some of the challenges of referring women with EM to a psychologist.

The issues associated with women living in regional areas needing to travel long distances for referrals to specialists including psychologists were mentioned by some health practitioners. A few regionally-based health practitioners said that they sometimes provide psychological support themselves, or refer women to psychological therapies conducted over the Internet.

Dr Barker, a general practitioner based in a regional area, shared his thoughts on providing psychological support to women diagnosed with EM.

Health practitioners observed that the psychological and emotional impacts of EM can also depend on its cause. For women with spontaneous EM, several felt that it was important to address the potential psychological impact of EM soon after diagnosis. As Dr Baber, an obstetrician-gynaecologist, explained, ‘it’s very important … in the first few months, to go over the sort of things that can be done to address [emotional health], and to provide help and support and in that regard, you need support networks, and a background of people like social workers [and] psychologists…’

Some health practitioners felt that women experiencing EM in connection to cancer treatment were often given psychological support. Consultations with psycho-oncologists may occur before or during medical treatment. Medical oncologist Dr Richardson said: ‘In most women we would get them to see one of our psycho-oncologists and it may just be a single discussion they may … need to see someone every week for six months…’

Ms Hay, a breast care nurse, described providing psychological support to women experiencing EM.

Obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr C explained that for women experiencing EM after cancer treatment, the relationship they develop with their psychologist is important.

Further information

Talking Points (Health Practitioners)

Talking Points (Women)

Other resources