What to expect from your first perimenopause consult with your GP

by | The Third Act

Dr Melinda Sullivan-Bunt

General Practitioner

If you’re experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, the first step to getting the right support is booking a consultation with your GP. No one is better equipped to help navigate what you’re experiencing and develop a treatment plan that considers your whole health, including any family history of disease, than your regular doctor. 

Dr Melinda Sullivan-Bunt offers holistic perimenopause and menopause care at her clinic, the Forest Family Practice in Frenchs Forest in Sydney. Perimenopause and menopause-related appointments don’t have their own Medicare item number, so if your GP doesn’t offer a specialised menopause clinic, it’s best to book a longer consult. Here Dr Sullivan-Bunt shares what information to prepare for your appointment, what questions you’ll likely be asked and how you can prepare to make the most of your consult.

1. Track your symptoms before you visit your GP

Having a clear record of not only what your symptoms are, but their frequency, intensity and duration is a great starting point for developing a care plan. “I recommend women download the symptom checker PDF from the Jean Hailes Foundation or the Balance by Dr Louise Newson and start documenting your symptoms for at least a month prior to your appointment,” says Dr Sullivan-Bunt. 

2. Make sure you have a log of your cycle

Another important question your doctor will ask is what your periods have been like lately. “Using an app to track your cycle and period is really helpful,” explains Dr Sullivan-Bunt. Apple Health has a built-in period tracker, or you could try a specialised period app like FloClue or MyCalendar – Period Tracker

Your doctor will ask whether you’ve noticed any changes that could be anything from:

·   a shortening or lengthening of the duration of your cycle (days between periods)

·   the number of days you experience your period (number of bleeding days) 

·   the presence of breakthrough bleeding and spotting (bleeding between periods), and

·   the intensity of the period itself (heavier or lighter periods than what you generally expect). 

Even a small change is worth mentioning (even if you don’t think it’s a big deal). You know your body best. Everyone’s cycle is different, and no one knows your cycle better than you.

3. Investigate any family history of disease

Your doctor will want to know any family history of chronic disease to help tailor your care plan. “We ask patients to complete a family tree with relevant medical history,” says Dr Sullivan-Bunt. “This is to ensure we are doing a thorough health check and taking into account family history such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, as well as any history of breast cancer.”

Related Posts

4. Think about your priorities

One thing to give some thought before you see your doctor, is exactly which symptoms you’re finding the most difficult to deal with in your day-to-day life. While you may experience several different symptoms, make a list from “most annoying” to “least annoying” based on which are having the most dramatic impact on your quality of life. “Some women have hot flushes, but they aren’t really bothering them, instead it’s the insomnia or brain fog that is bothering them most,” says Dr Sullivan-Bunt. “Every woman is different.”

5. Be prepared to take a few tests

Getting a full picture of your current health will most likely require quite a few tests. The good news is, when they’re conducted by your GP, they’re covered by Medicare, and you’ve probably had some of them before.

“At our clinic, we test your fasting glucose and cholesterol, thyroid levels, Vitamin D, full blood count, kidney and liver function, iron levels and calcium levels,” explains Dr Sullivan-Bunt. “These provide information to assess heart health, bone health and immune function.”

You’ll probably also be asked if your routine screenings are up to date – think: mammograms, cervical screening tests (formerly known as a papsmear) and bowel screening. “We also do an ECG (electrical trace of the heart rhythm) as part of a healthy heat check and a bone density scan to get a baseline and check for osteoporosis,” says Dr Sullivan-Bunt.

Please note all advice given is of a general nature. For personalised care and support, please speak to your doctor.
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Signup to our newsletter
Get all the latest health and lifestyle news straight to your inbox