Early menopause care: Women’s experiences with GPs

GPs play an important role in early menopause (EM) care, along with specialists such as endocrinologists, gynaecologists, fertility specialists , and, for women with EM related to cancer, oncologists, breast surgeons, breast care nurses, haematologists, and gynae-oncologists. Some women also see allied health practitioners such as psychologists, counsellors, exercise physiologists, nurses, and occupational therapists, and/or complementary medicine and alternative therapy practitioners (see Women’s experiences with specialists and other health practitioners, Psychological therapies for early menopause, and Complementary medicines and alternative therapies for early menopause).

Most of the women we interviewed who had experienced spontaneous EM or non-cancer related medically-induced EM described visiting GPs in the early stages of seeking help for symptoms, and several were diagnosed by GPs (see Seeking help and diagnosis for spontaneous early menopause (women’s experiences)).

Other aspects of EM care (for both spontaneous and medically-induced EM) that women said GPs provided included referrals to specialists, allied health or mental health practitioners, care coordination (including writing care plans), medication prescriptions or administration (e.g. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or goserelin), and help with decision-making.

Yen-Yi, who was undergoing ovarian suppression therapy as part of her breast cancer treatment, described the role her GP played in her care.

Vicki, who was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome, explained the importance of a ‘good GP’ in her care. 

Many women described positive experiences with GPs. A few had GPs whom they had known for a long time and with whom they had a good relationship. Continuity of care was seen as beneficial, and was particularly valued by women who had seen other GPs who seemed unwilling to accept that they had EM.

Ella continued seeing her GP after he moved to another town so that she didn’t have to keep explaining about her diagnosis to new GPs.

Other women spoke appreciatively about GPs who were ‘understanding’, knowledgeable, supportive, who could provide ‘holistic’ care, or who listened them and took their concerns seriously.

Julia reflected on the ‘absolutely fantastic’ GP she had started seeing after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Less positive experiences with GPs were recounted by some women. Some felt they were not ‘heard’ or ‘believed’ by GPs when they first raised concerns about symptoms, or informed them of their diagnosis of EM. A few women mentioned encounters with GPs who seemed either uninterested in how they felt, unwilling to take responsibility for their care, not well informed about EM, or lacking in experience in relation to EM care. Others reported having seen GPs with a poor ‘bedside manner’ or who had delivered the diagnosis of EM insensitively.

Debra was ‘uncomfortable’ with her GP’s response to her diagnosis of spontaneous EM at age 40.

While women preferred GPs to be both empathetic and knowledgeable, some felt their doctors’ strengths lay in one area rather than the other.

Jenni, who lived in a regional area, had consulted GPs who were ‘lovely’ or ‘kind’ but seemed to her to be inexperienced or not well informed about spontaneous EM.

Further information:

Talking Points (Women)

Talking Points (Health Practitioners)

Other resources