Menopause

What is menopause?

Menopause occurs when a woman’s period stops. It doesn’t stop straight away but instead becomes less frequent. It is generally considered menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t had her period in over a year.

What causes Menopause?

Generally, menopause affects woman over the age of 45 but in some cases it can happen earlier:

  • Medical conditions including Down's syndrome, Turner's syndrome, Addison's disease, enzyme deficiencies and hypothyroidism.
  • Medical treatments and procedure such as a hysterectomy or chemotherapy.
  • Infections such as malaria, varicella and shigella in rare cases.

 

What are the symptoms of Menopause?

  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Vaginal dryness, itching or discomfort
  • Recurring lower urinary tract infections, such as cystitis

 

Our highly trained colleagues are here to help and offer advice to help support you through menopause.

 

Contraception

There are a variety of contraception options available but you should pick the one that best suits your situation and lifestyle. Our highly trained colleagues can talk through these options with you.

 

Condoms

Condoms work by preventing the man’s sperm from meeting the woman’s fertile egg. They also protect you and your partner against STIs. You can find condoms in your local LloydsPharmacy.

Combined pill

The combined oral contraceptive pill is often just called "the pill". It contains artificial versions of female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are produced naturally in the ovaries.

If sperm reaches an egg (ovum), pregnancy can happen. Contraception tries to stop this happening usually by keeping the egg and sperm apart or by stopping the release of an egg (ovulation).

  • When taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that fewer than 1 in 100 who use the combined pill as contraception will get pregnant in 1 year.
  • The usual way to take the pill is to take 1 every day for 21 days, then stop for 7 days, and during this week you have a bleed like a period. You start taking the pill again after 7 days. Some pills can be taken continuously without a break. Check with a doctor or nurse.
  • You need to take the pill at around the same time every day. You could get pregnant if you do not do this, or if you miss a pill, or vomit or have severe diarrhoea.
  • Some medicines may make the pill less effective. Check with your doctor if you're taking any other tablets.
  • If you have heavy periods or painful periods, PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or endometriosis the combined pill may help.
  • Minor side effects include mood swings, nausea, breast tenderness and headaches – these usually settle down in a few months. There's a very low risk of serious side effects, such as blood clots and cervical cancer.
  • There is no evidence that the pill will make you gain weight.
  • The combined pill is not suitable if you are over 35 and smoke, or if you have certain medical conditions.
  • The pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so use a condom as well.

 

Mini pill

The difference between the combined pill and the mini pill is the mini pill only contains one hormone, progestogen. This makes it suitable for woman who can't take the combined pill, are overweight, or have a history of blood clots or high blood pressure.

The most common side effect is irregular bleeding, which should settle within 3 months.

The pill is 99% effective when taken correctly every time. You take a pill every day at the same time, with no break between packs of pills.  It’s important to remember they don’t protect you against STIs.

 

Injectable

Another option is an injectable artificial version of the female hormone, progesterone, which is done every 12 weeks. You can get this injection from your local GP or nurse.

The injection is 99% effective when taken correctly every time. It’s important to remember they don’t protect you against STIs.

 

IUD Copper coil

For those women who don’t want to rely on taking the pill every month or an injection every 12 weeks, another option is the copper coil. The coil is a small device inserted into womb and can last 5-10 years. Its works by damaging the sperm and egg.

The IUD Copper coil releases copper to stop you getting pregnant, and protects against pregnancy for between 5 and 10 years. It's sometimes called a "coil" or "copper coil".

Some side effects can include heavy periods. It can only be inserted by a specially trained doctor.

The coil is 99% effective. It’s important to remember they don’t protect you against STIs.

 

Implant

The implant is a small device inserted into your upper arm that releases the artificial version of the female hormone progesterone and can last up to 3 years.

Some side effects can include irregular periods. It can only be inserted by a specially trained doctor. The implant is then inserted under your skin – it only takes a few minutes to put in and feels like having an injection. You won’t need any stitches after your implant has been fitted.

The implant is 99% effective. It’s important to remember they don’t protect you against STIs.

 

The patch

The patch is a plaster that contains the artificial version of the female hormones progesterone and oestrogen. The plaster is worn for 3 weeks and needs to be replaced once a week. You don't need to think about it every day, and it's still effective if you're sick (vomit) or have diarrhoea. It's a good idea to change the position of each new patch to help reduce the chance of skin irritation

The patch is 99% effective when taken correctly every time. It’s important to remember they don’t protect you against STIs.

 

Vaginal Ring

The vaginal ring contains the artificial version of the female hormone progesterone and oestrogen. One ring provides contraception for a month.  You leave it in for 21 days, then remove it and have a 7-day ring-free break. You're protected against pregnancy during the ring-free break. You then put a new ring in for another 21 days. You can insert the ring yourself or have it inserted by your doctor.

The ring is 99% effective when taken correctly every time. It’s important to remember they don’t protect you against STIs.

 

Diaphragm

The diaphragm is placed high into the vagina, at the neck of the womb and acts as a barrier. The diaphragm must stay in place for six hours after sex but mustn’t stay in longer than 24 hours. You can get the diaphragm from your GP or local family planning clinic.

The diaphragm is 92-96% effective when used correctly every time. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t protect you against STIs.

 

Thrush

What is thrush?

Thrush is caused by a fungus called candida that is normally harmless. Thrush is a condition that is caused by the overgrowth of yeast in the genital area and cause it to be itchy and uncomfortable. Although it can be transmitted through sex, it is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.

Thrush tends to grow in warm, moist conditions and develops if the balance of bacteria changes.

 

What causes thrush?

You can get thrush from:

  • Chemotherapy treatments.
  • Tight clothing.
  • Poorly controlled diabetes

 

What are the symptoms of thrush?

  • White vaginal discharge (like cottage cheese), which does not usually smell
  • Itching and irritation around the vagina
  • Soreness and stinging during sex or when you pee

 

How can you treat thrush?

Our highly trained colleagues are here to offer support and advice on the best way to treat your thrush, which can include cream or vaginal tablets.

 

What can you do to ease discomfort and prevent thrush returning?

Do

  • Use water and emollient instead of soap to wash the affected area.
  • Dry properly after washing.
  • Wear cotton underwear.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Avoid sex until thrush has cleared up – if you do have sex, use a condom to help stop it spreading.

It’s important to note antifungal creams can damage condoms and diaphragms. This means your contraception might not work.

Don’t

  • Do not use soaps or shower gels.
  • Do not use douches or deodorants on your vagina.
  • Do not wear tight underwear or tights.

 

BV

What is BV?

BV, also known as Bacterial vaginosis, occurs when there is an increase in certain bacteria in the vagina, causing unusual discharge. It is not considered a sexually transmitted disease but it can increase your risk of getting an STI such as chlamydia.

What causes BV?

Bacterial vaginosis is caused by a change in the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina.

What causes this to happen is not fully known, but you're more likely to get it if:

  • You're sexually active (but women who have not had sex can also get BV).
  • You have had a change of partner.
  • You have an IUD (contraception device).
  • You use perfumed products in or around your vagina.

You're more likely to get an STI if you have BV. This may be because BV makes your vagina less acidic and reduces your natural defences against infection.

What are the symptoms of BV?

  • The most common symptom of bacterial vaginosis is unusual vaginal discharge that has a strong fishy smell, particularly after sex.
  • You may notice a change to the colour and consistency of your discharge, such as becoming greyish-white and thin and watery.
  • But 50% of women with bacterial vaginosis do not have any symptoms.
  • Bacterial vaginosis does not usually cause any soreness or itching.

How can you treat BV?

BV needs to be treated with antibiotics so you will need to visit your GP. If you have a same-sex partner, they may also need treatment.

Our highly trained colleagues are here to offer support and advice so call in and chat with our pharmacists today.

 

References

* HSE

*www.sexualwellbeing.ie