THE HRT unlocker

Some days, when the words she wanted wouldn’t come, Helen Yarrow privately wondered if she was in the early stages of dementia. She’d just turned 50 and the medical receptionist found herself struggling to name familiar objects. “If I was trying to think of a bench seat, say, I’d be calling it ‘that seat without a back to it.’”

She was too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it, even at work, but she was finally motivated to see her doctor when, at the end of last year, she began waking each day feeling as if she was nursing a terrible hangover even though she doesn’t drink. “I was nauseous and dizzy all morning, and felt as if I hadn’t slept at all. I was irritable and grumpy. I just felt lousy. I tried to hide it, but I realised it wasn’t right.”

“It feels hormonal,” she told Dr Mona Ponnen, a women’s health specialist at a South Auckland medical clinic. She was right. Three weeks after starting hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – usually prescribed to treat the physical symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes and night sweats –

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