Deirdre Forde is the founder of Ceilé Medical in Athlone
The first dedicated Menopause Clinic in the Midlands has seen a huge increase in queries from women whose symptoms are being exacerbated by the stress associated with Covid-19.
Dr Deirdre Forde who is the Founder of Ceilé Medical in Athlone, Co. Westmeath says the effects of stress are severely impacting women in Menopause and Perimenopause, and she is working additional hours in a bid to keep up with the increased demand for her online consultations.
“The remote consultations are, quite literally, a lifeline for women; I started them during the last lockdown and while I was very busy then, this time round is even busier. I think lockdown 2 is different, stress has built up, we’re months into the upheaval that Covid is causing and many women are desperate for help with their menopausal symptoms. We know that stress is damaging at any time but anxiety is one of the symptoms of Menopause and this is definitely heightened by stress."
“Psychologically, the stress and anxiety of Perimenopause and Menopause can have a truly devastating effect on women. It’s seismic. There are 34 symptoms of menopause and they’re not pleasant ; the sleeplessness alone takes an awful toll on women, especially if they have family and work commitments and it feeds into any anxiety they are experiencing so it is a horrible vicious cycle. It’s no surprise that in less enlightened times women felt they were going out of their minds,
and worse, were treated as if they were”.
“Covid has really thrown up all sorts of problems for women going through the varying stages of Menopause. Many continue to juggle work, family and other commitments but perhaps now there is the huge impact of greatly reduced finances, entire families working from home perhaps, the fear of elderly loved ones contracting Covid, fear of the unknown and the fact that everything, for all of us, is just that bit harder. The carefree aspect of our lives is changed completely for now, we have to
think ahead ,we have to plan , we have to be on alert and let me tell you if you’re suffering from ‘brain fog’, planning ahead is not that simple. It can have a crippling, paralysing affect and women going through the Menopause just feel as if they can’t cope, they are totally overwhelmed.”
The ease with which women can access the remote consultations with Dr Forde, is she says, one of the main factors in the huge uptake from women going through the Menopause ,who live in all parts of the Midlands.
“ I chose this location specifically as it is so accessible from all parts of Ireland. We have excellent infrastructure here in the Midlands and border so many counties."
“Things are hard enough so here at Ceilé Medical we do all we can to be a calm, reassuring presence for women during this very difficult time and help to take away a huge amount of the stress.
"Information is key and is a kingpin of our mission statement here. When a woman wants a Consultation via Clinic/ Phone or Video, I send them lots of information in advance and this is crucial; they can take a breath and fill in the forms at their pace. I send them all they need prior to the remote consultation, including symptom screening, Osteoporosis questionnaire,
information on HRT products and much more."
Crucially, Dr Forde is offering a vastly reduced fee for Medical Card patients going through the Menopause, passionate that they can readily access the help and support they need.
“It’s another fact of life that women in lower socio economic circumstances don’t always have the same access of care and I am so determined that lack of funds doesn’t equate to lack of care here at Ceilé Medical. We are offering medical card patients online consultations for €45 as opposed to the usual fee of €100. This is making a huge difference to them and it’s so rewarding for me to know that I am a light at the end of what can be a very long and dark tunnel for them."
“Physical, emotional and mental health can suffer hugely if there isn’t a clinical and correct diagnosis of Menopause. As a Menopause Specialist I can give women all the information they need on treatments, new treatments, lifestyle, diet and exercise. These are the foundations There are so many different stages of Menopause and it is simply vital that women know the stages, the symptoms and steps they can take to alleviate them."
Referencing her own experience of Menopause, Dr Forde describes just some of the physical and psychological symptoms which she says are “devastating”.
“Even though it was much less than 20 years ago there was a huge absence of information, a huge taboo and stigma around Menopause and I personally really suffered unnecessarily because of this”.
“I went through Menopause in my early 40s and was postmenopausal at the age of 48. The brain fog was horrendous, it was like a withdrawal from an addiction if that makes sense and I will never forget the drenching day time and night times sweats. There was no let-up, it was relentless. I was no longer able to wear make up as my skin was so wet and my showers had to be cold to cool me down. Even then, the drenching sweats were so bad, the salt from my sweat used to drip into my
eyes. Winter time was like any other day- I would wear the lightest of clothes, I couldn’t tolerate wool or anything around my neck as I would feel that I was suffocating."
“At that time I was working as a Senior Medical Officer with the HSE and rolling out the Swine Flu vaccine in Kildare/ West Wicklow and having morning meetings with Management at 8am in a T shirt and trousers dripping in sweat. It was a truly horrible time, embarrassing and I wouldn’t wish it on any other woman."
“Eventually my GP gave me HRT but I needed to see a Gynaecologist due to severe bleeding caused by Adenomyosis in my uterus but being fed by my oestrogen. He told me that as I was post-menopausal, to come off the HRT that was feeding the bleeding but that if I was still having periods and finished having a family, that the only treatment was a hysterectomy. He refused to carry out a hysterectomy, and I had to seek a second opinion to have the surgery. I then realised that I was post
menopausal at only 48 years old”.
“Had there been more information on Menopause then my treatment would have been vastly different and far more suitable to my physical makeup”.
“One of the things that women consistently say to me is that they feel that they are finally being listened to”.
Gina Yates, a patient of Ceilé Medical agrees that having the ability to listen marks Dr Forde out from other medical professionals she had seen in relation to her Menopause.
“She listens and I mean, really listens, empathises and will work with you to get your life back on track. She is an amazing, kind and caring lady, I feel truly blessed to have come across her. I suffered horrendous symptoms for the best part of 9 years but I now have a quality of life that I really didn't think I'd ever see again. I can't truly put into words what this kind lady has done for me, and as I have told her a few times she needs to clone herself because every woman deserves the chance to have this lady's help."
Dr Forde says, “There is a huge amount of misconception around Menopause. We in Ireland are finally beginning to talk about it, open up to it and embrace it . It’s a part of life, a huge part and I love how in Japan, for instance, it is literally known as the ‘Second Spring’; I think that’s lovely, it speaks of renewal and a new coming of being”.
“Menopause doesn’t have to be miserable."