What causes hot flushes? A gynaecologist explains all

·2-min read
Photo credit: Unsplash
Photo credit: Unsplash

Menopause is finally being talked about. 

Doctors are reporting a spike in women asking for Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) following Davina McCall's honest Channel 4 documentary, Sex, Myths and Menopause – and even royalty is helping to debunk the taboo around getting help with symptoms, with Sophie, Countess of Wessex speaking out about her experience last week

Now Dr Jen Gunter, 'Twitter's resident gynaecologist', has released a book: The Menopause Manifesto to debunk myths around menopause and help educate and empower women through 'hard facts, real science, fascinating historical perspective and expert advice'. 

She says 'your awesomeness is unrelated to your oestrogen' – and wants women to get help if they need it. Her tone is funny, informative and reassuring. Basically it's the book we all need from a doctor who has spent years debunking medical myths on social media.  

'Menopause is a transition from one phase of ovarian function to another – it's essentially puberty in reverse,' Dr Gunter writes in the introduction. 'Many women will live one-third to one-half of their lives in the menopause continuum.' 

And while perimenopause and menopause symptoms vary from woman to woman, hot flushes are one of the most common – affecting around 80%. So what causes them?

'A hot flush happens when a wonky inner thermostat informs your brain that you’re hot when you are not,' Dr Gunter explains in her book. 

'Thermoregulation – the control of body temperature – happens deep in the brain in a region called the hypothalamus. Various hormones and neurotransmitters work together, receiving signals from the body and the environment, to keep body temperature in a relatively narrow zone.'

The reason why they happen to perimenopausal and menopausal women? A hot flush 'depends on a brain that had oestrogen and then that oestrogen is taken away. The faster the drop, the more profound the effect'. 

That's why, she says, taking HRT can really help because it mimics the oestrogen lost.

Watch: Julie Graham on finding empowerment in the menopause

If you're struggling with hot flushes, or other menopause symptoms, speak to you GP.

Dr Jen Gunter's book, The Menopause Manifesto, is out now.

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