Menopause: Why is adherence to treatment important?
Medication will not work unless it is taken.1 This may sound obvious, yet every second patient is not taking her medication properly.4 But what does it mean to be adherent?
Adherence is the degree to which a patient follows a doctor’s prescription.2 As a woman suffering from menopausal symptoms, being adherent means having a chance to feel relief from, and take control of your, condition. You can give yourself the best chance of feeling good by following this advice:
- Start the treatment. Whenever suffering from menopausal symptoms, look for help and talk to your doctor (read the article: “Why dare talk about it?”). It is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor, so that they can find the best treatment solution for you. You could discuss with your doctor about:
- The benefits and risks of the solution your doctor is offering
- The concerns you may have
- The myths you’ve heard (Ask as many questions as needed to be comfortable with the treatment before starting it.)
Once you agree to a treatment prescribed by a doctor, start it. It is the first step to manage your condition.
Did you know? Roughly 50% of women suffering from menopausal symptoms do not seek medical help.3 This should not happen in your case as solutions exist. Talk to your doctor.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions in terms of the dosage and frequency of the medicine. A lower dosage of medicine can be inefficient, but a higher dosage can be harmful. It is also important to take the medicine at the prescribed intervals: if the prescription is for seven pills a week once a day, taking seven pills all together in one day means that you are not following the treatment. If you miss a dose or think you may have difficulty following the treatment in the right way, don’t worry: solutions always exist. Do not hesitate to contact your doctor to discuss them.
- Take the treatment for the entire prescribed period of time. If your doctor prescribes a treatment that needs to be taken for a specific length of time, it means that the medicine will be effective only if taken over that time. Even when your symptoms disappear, it does not mean that the treatment can be stopped without a prior discussion with your doctor. You should not take any decision concerning your treatment except on their advice. Otherwise, the medication may be ineffective, harmful, or both. Some women may feel that the treatment is not suitable for them, which may indeed be the case. In such instances, do not stop treating yourself on your own. Talk to your doctor and describe the situation to them. Alternatives always exist; you just need to find what is right for you.
Furthermore, stopping treatment may take away all the benefits that you have obtained from it so far. This means that all the effort you have made would have been for nothing.
Do not take any self-medication. Medicines taken in the right way may help you. Medicines taken the wrong way may hurt you and lead to:
- side effects
- the development of new diseases
Do not rely on the experiences of your friends and family in taking medicines to deal with their menopausal symptoms when deciding on a treatment. Each woman is different: what works for others could be harmful for you. Always consult a doctor before starting to treat your menopausal symptoms.
Remember that adherence not only means medication adherence. It also means adopting a healthy lifestyle (link to articles on diet and physical exercises). When a doctor prescribes a medication for you and gives you lifestyle advice, it often means that the benefits of your menopause treatment may not be obtained unless you do both. For example, if you take menopause hormone therapy in the hope of reducing hot flashes but continue to drink a lot of strong black coffee, which may provoke them,5 the impact of the medicine for your hot flashes may be less significant than if you consumed less caffeine.
Your health is in your hands. Menopause is just a step in your life; it is by no means your fault or something to be ashamed of. Manage your menopause transition—do not allow it to manage you. Talk to your doctor about the available solutions.
If you experience difficulties adhering to treatment, consult your doctor. Discuss with him the actions you can put in place to improve your treatment adherence. Do not start, discontinue or change a treatment without doctor’s prescription.
- Everett K. Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them, Eur J Heart Fail, 2017; 19:1412–1413.
- Jimmy B, Jimmy J. Patient medication adherence: Measures in daily practice. Oman Med. J., 2011; 26(3):155–159.
- Constantine G et al. Behaviours and attitudes influencing treatment decisions for menopausal symptoms in five European countries. Post Reprod Health, 2016; 22(3):112–122.
- Brown MT, Bussell JK. Medication adherence: WHO cares? Mayo Clin Proc., 2011; 86(4):304–314.
- Everyday Health. 6 foods to avoid during menopause. https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/menopause-resource-center/foods-to-avoid/ Published April 2019. Accessed October 30, 2020.