Women going through the menopause are being wrongly prescribed antidepressants which are making their symptoms worse and destroying their confidence, experts have warned. 

New research has found over a third of women going to their GP with symptoms of the menopause are being offered antidepressants. Some 80 per cent of those women said they felt antidepressants were an “inappropriate” treatment for the symptoms they are suffering.

The majority of the 3.4 million women between 50 and 64 in the UK will be experiencing symptoms of the menopause.

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These include heart palpitations, hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, headaches, vaginal dryness and pain, a reduced sex drive, recurrent urinary tract infections – as well as anxiety, mood changes, feelings of sadness, difficulty concentrating and issues with memory.

The What Women Want at Menopause survey of 1,101 women aged between 42 and 55 in the UK found women are more and more hesitant to approach their doctor due to concerns they will not get appropriate support. 

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UK news in pictures

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UK news in pictures

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Protesters dubbed the Red Rebels at Millbank at the junction with Great College Street, during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster

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Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

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Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

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An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

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17/50 23 September 2019

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Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

19/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

20/50 20 September 2019

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23/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

24/50 16 September 2019

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25/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
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27/50 13 September 2019

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31/50 9 September 2019

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32/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

33/50 7 September 2019

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34/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

35/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

36/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

37/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow

38/50 2 September 2019

Set building begins on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh ahead of filming for Fast and Furious 9

39/50 1 September 2019

Members of the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club take part during the annual cricket match between the clubs, which takes place on the Bramble Bank sandbank in the middle of the Solent at low tide
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at Whitehall in London

41/50 30 August 2019

One of the iconic ‘Girl with Balloon’ artworks by anonymous street artist Banksy is carried near one of the original locations the artwork appeared at on the Southbank in London

42/50 29 August 2019

The sun rises over the sculpture “The Couple” by artist Sean Henry, at Newbiggin-by-the-sea in Northumberland

43/50 28 August 2019

A person wearing a Boris Johnson ‘head’ digs a grave at the foot of a tombstone during a protest organised by Avaaz and Best for Britain, outside Downing Street in London

44/50 27 August 2019

Nat Lofthouse statue is covered in flags at the University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

45/50 26 August 2019

Performers take part in Notting Hill Carnival. Nearly one million people were expected to attend Sunday and Monday’s carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture

46/50 25 August 2019

A competitor swims in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Llanwryd Wells, Powys

47/50 24 August 2019

People flock to Bournemouth beach as a heatwave spells potentially record high temperatures for the bank holiday weekend

48/50 23 August 2019

Fans of Bury FC deliver a symbolic coffin to the club’s home at Gigg Lane as the continuation of their membership to the football league lies in doubt. The club will lose their membership at midnight if they don’t find a buyer or prove that they have the means to pay off their debts

49/50 22 August 2019

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow DEFRA Secretary Sue Hayman during a visit to Rakefoot Farm, Castlerigg, Keswick where they are highlighting the danger of a No Deal Brexit to sheep farmers

50/50 21 August 2019

Festival goers walk along the towpath of the River Thames as they arrive for the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue

1/50 9 October 2019

Wales survived an almighty scare against Fiji to secure quarter-final spot at the rugby world cup. Warren Gatland’s side recovered from a 10-0 deficit thanks to a hat-trick from Josh Adams

2/50 8 October 2019

Protesters dubbed the Red Rebels at Millbank at the junction with Great College Street, during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster

3/50 7 October 2019

Final preparations are made in front of a reproduction of Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’, ahead of the opening of for the ‘Michelangelo: A Different View’ exhibition at Hull Minister

4/50 6 October 2019

A car drives through a flooded street in Whitley Bay in Northumberland

5/50 5 October 2019

Thousands took to the streets of Edinburgh today to march in support of a second Scottish independence referendum

6/50 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire

7/50 3 October 2019

Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

8/50 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

9/50 1 October 2019

A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain

10/50 30 September 2019

Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

11/50 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

12/50 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

13/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

14/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

15/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

16/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

17/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

18/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

19/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

20/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

21/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

22/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

23/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

24/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

25/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

27/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

28/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

29/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

30/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

31/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

32/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

33/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

34/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

35/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

36/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

37/50 3 September 2019

Anti Brexit demonstrators attend a protest at Parliament Square. Lawmakers returned from their summer recess Tuesday for a pivotal day in British politics as they challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK leave the European Union on 31 October, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow

38/50 2 September 2019

Set building begins on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh ahead of filming for Fast and Furious 9

39/50 1 September 2019

Members of the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club take part during the annual cricket match between the clubs, which takes place on the Bramble Bank sandbank in the middle of the Solent at low tide
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate at Whitehall in London

41/50 30 August 2019

One of the iconic ‘Girl with Balloon’ artworks by anonymous street artist Banksy is carried near one of the original locations the artwork appeared at on the Southbank in London

42/50 29 August 2019

The sun rises over the sculpture “The Couple” by artist Sean Henry, at Newbiggin-by-the-sea in Northumberland

43/50 28 August 2019

A person wearing a Boris Johnson ‘head’ digs a grave at the foot of a tombstone during a protest organised by Avaaz and Best for Britain, outside Downing Street in London

44/50 27 August 2019

Nat Lofthouse statue is covered in flags at the University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

45/50 26 August 2019

Performers take part in Notting Hill Carnival. Nearly one million people were expected to attend Sunday and Monday’s carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture

46/50 25 August 2019

A competitor swims in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Llanwryd Wells, Powys

47/50 24 August 2019

People flock to Bournemouth beach as a heatwave spells potentially record high temperatures for the bank holiday weekend

48/50 23 August 2019

Fans of Bury FC deliver a symbolic coffin to the club’s home at Gigg Lane as the continuation of their membership to the football league lies in doubt. The club will lose their membership at midnight if they don’t find a buyer or prove that they have the means to pay off their debts

49/50 22 August 2019

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow DEFRA Secretary Sue Hayman during a visit to Rakefoot Farm, Castlerigg, Keswick where they are highlighting the danger of a No Deal Brexit to sheep farmers

50/50 21 August 2019

Festival goers walk along the towpath of the River Thames as they arrive for the Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue

Some 84 per cent say their doctor didn’t sufficiently answer their questions, while just three in ten women were satisfied with the help they got from their GP.

Almost 40 per cent of women said they did not approach their doctor for help to treat menopause symptoms. Nine out of ten women in early stages of menopause were found to be keen to be given the option of a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which replaces the oestrogen that the body stops producing during menopause.

Maryon Stewart, a women’s health expert who conducted the poll, said the issue of menopausal women being inappropriately prescribed antidepressants was “worrying on a number of levels” and “quite frankly insulting”.

She added: “It is not a solution, it is not going to help their self-esteem or their relationships. In some cases, it can make them feel worse. We are constantly inundated with women who are suffering unbelievably who are not getting any effective help.

“They are not mentally ill, antidepressants are not appropriate. Once they have the label, it doesn’t help them. Some of the women tell me they feel worse on the antidepressants, some say they don’t have much of an effect. Studies show that for menopause that antidepressants aren’t that effective.

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“Every single week of my life, I am approached by women going through menopause who are suicidal as a result. Women get to mid-life and feel like a shadow of their former selves and feel like their life is over. One woman who is currently suicidal has once again been prescribed antidepressants which are not doing anything. Doctors are not given enough help and advice themselves around the menopause. By their own admission, they are lacking education so therefore they can’t help the women. The doctors are not educated enough to dig a bit.”

Ms Stewart, who specialises in the menopause and hormonal health overall, said she had recently spoken to a GP who admitted to not “having a clue” about how to help women going through the menopause. 

She said she thought the current HRT shortage could potentially be compounding the problem of doctors dishing out antidepressants.  

“If doctors can’t give HRT due to the shortage and it was previously in their tool bag for dealing with the menopause, they will be looking for other things to offer,” Ms Stewart added.

HRT medication has become increasingly difficult to get hold of since the end of last year, when supply issues that started in China forced some manufacturers to stop producing HRT patches. This led to increased demand for alternatives which subsequently then also became scarce.

A survey of pharmacists recently discovered most are experiencing shortages of every major variety of medicine. It found 84 per cent were struggling to obtain HRT drugs.

Dr Louise Newson, a GP and menopause specialist, said: “Low oestrogen and testosterone levels in our brains which occur during menopause often leads to symptoms such as low mood, reduced motivation, anxiety and poor sleep. Many women are misdiagnosed with depression. A study recently undertaken of nearly 3000 women by my non-profit Newson Health showed that 66 per cent of these had been inappropriately offered or given antidepressants for the low mood associated with their menopause.

“Menopause guidelines are very clear that antidepressants should not be given first line for low mood associated with the menopause because there is no evidence that they will help. Research has shown that if women are given HRT when they are perimenopausal then this can reduce the incidence of clinical depression developing. Many of the women who take HRT who have been incorrectly given antidepressants in the past find that their depressive symptoms improve to the extent that they can reduce and often stop taking their antidepressants.”  

Research from Nuffield Health has shown one in four women will experience debilitating symptoms that can last up to 15 years from menopause.