Photo: close-up of a woman pouring water from a bottle into a glass

Menopause and my MS

Did you know 20 widely recognised symptoms of menopause are also symptoms of MS?

By my count I’ve had 14 MS symptoms and 25 menopause symptoms. What joy!

I was diagnosed the Friday before my fortieth birthday and I got the menopause at 46. I had plenty of perimenopause symptoms before I finally developed menopause.

Denial is not the best medicine

Because I decided that denial was the best medicine, I didn’t do a lot of research right away after I was diagnosed with MS. So it was hard to know if the symptoms I had were related to MS or menopause. I attributed everything to menopause but I didn’t realise they were actually also MS symptoms.

It's ironic that even though three quarters of people with MS are women, we don’t focus on the MS and menopause links more often. That might be because society in general doesn’t talk about menopause a lot. It’s not a great experience in life so this isn’t a surprise.

Do I know too much about menopause?

I happened to work for a women’s health charity (Women's Health Concern) that focused a lot on the menopause, so it’s possible I know too much about menopause!

There are many frustrations about being menopausal and having MS. Although the great thing about menopause is not having periods anymore, sadly Tena pads will now (probably) be required instead of sanitary products).

Hangry, menopause or MS?

Unfortunately, menopause leads to hormone changes and mood swings. Now I don’t know if my ill-tempered mood (especially) before dinner is just being ‘hangry’, my menopause or MS.

I’ve tried to explain this to my family multiple times, but they don’t seem to get it. I think neurologists and/or MS nurses need to warn their female patients over 40 about the menopause and the additional issues it can bring up.

I now take so many supplements for MS and menopause I hardly know which are which. So far I want to believe that the sage leaf, evening primrose oil and turmeric I take help to dissipate my menopause symptoms.

Research on menopause and MS

My hot flushes are over (mostly) but I still have many other menopausal symptoms. Refreshingly, when I just googled MS and menopause quite a few links appeared. There is plenty of speculation about the links and affects between MS and menopause, however, as one paper mentioned, it’s a bit of an “evidence free zone”.

Even so, there have been a few small studies of women with MS and their experience of the menopause. The main take away for me was that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help to improve MS symptoms, but the jury’s still out and we do need more research on it.

Taking HRT is a personal decision and the risks need to be weighed up against the potential improvements. With my family history of breast cancer, I’m not planning to start HRT anytime soon.

Read about HRT and breast cancer on the NHS website

Information is power

Overall, it’s possible to cope with menopause and MS, but one of my mottos can help: information is power.

It’s useful to know what to expect so we can be prepared. I’m still ignorant about aspects of MS, but I know a lot more than I did. I got involved in setting up a local group in London (West Central London) and I was elected to the MS Society Board of Trustees – both in 2018.

Now I know where to go for loads of information about MS and I’m much happier for it.

Free webinar on menopause and MS

We've teamed up with Laura Jarvis, a specialist doctor in sexual and reproductive health for this interactive webinar.

Join us online to find out more about MS and menopause, HRT and disease modifying therapies (DMTs).

Sign up for our menopause and MS webinar

Make a donation

Help us be there for everyone with MS

  • Please enter an amount

    Our minimum donation is £2, please enter a different amount.

£10could pay for two phone conversations with a trained member of our new Keep In Touch team

£20could pay for our MS Helpline team to answer a call or message from someone who needs our help

£65could pay for someone with MS to have a session with our Benefits Adviser to help them get the support they need

Every penny you give us helps us be there for someone affected by MS.

  • Please enter an amount

    Our minimum donation is £2, please enter a different amount.

£10a month could help cover the cost of a MS Helpline call with our specialist MS Nurse

£20a month could help people with MS get vital support from our Benefits Advisor

£30a month for a year could pay for a day on the MS Helpline, helping people in our MS community

Your regular donation means we can be there for everyone with MS. So no one has to face this pandemic alone.

Photo of smiling lady on the phone