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Better to treat osteoporosis than ignore it: Oxford Women’s Health

With safe and effective treatments now available for osteoporosis, people with the condition should make sure it is treated so that they can stay strong and well, according to Oxford Women’s Health Endocrinologist Anna Fenton.



“Often people try and turn a blind eye to it, even when they know they have reduced bone density, because they feel it is a natural part of ageing or nothing can be done to change it,” she says. As an endocrinologist, Anna diagnoses and treats hormone problems and the conditions that can arise from them. Osteoporosis is of particular interest to her. She has served on the board of Osteoporosis New Zealand and is currently the clinical leader for the Canterbury District Health Board Bone Density Service.

Osteoporosis can result in chronic pain; loss of height, functionality and self-esteem; a rounded back (dorsal kyphosis); anxiety; and depression. Bone fractures can also have life-threatening consequences for people. “It’s so important that individuals, their whānau and medical practitioners care about the impact of osteoporosis. Fifty-six percent of women and 29 percent of men will suffer a fracture after the age of 60 because of it,” Anna says. “Of those with hip fractures, 20 percent will die within a year from fracture-related complications.”

Access to bone density testing means it is possible for medical practitioners to readily identify those at risk and to individualise treatment. “There have been wonderful advances in tests for bone density, the understanding of oestrogen and testosterone depletion, and medical treatments. This means we can develop an individual approach to treatment. For some people, drug intake can be minimised with minimal or no side effects, but with significant benefits in reducing the risk of fracture,” Anna says.

“Getting tested or treated can make such a difference to your ability to function, but more than that, to live life well.” Anna also encourages people to reduce their risk of osteoporosis by stopping excessive coffee or alcohol intake; not smoking; including calcium and vitamin D in their diet; regular exercise with some weight-bearing included; and reducing hazards or installing stability and mobility aids around the home.


1. Nearly 20 percent of people with hip fractures die from fracture-related complications within a year, and men fare worse than women.

2. In addition to the 20 percent of people who die within a year of their hip fracture, one third never return home, and those that do often lose their mobility and independence. More women are hospitalised with a hip fracture due to osteoporosis than through breast cancer.

3. More than 3,000 New Zealanders break a hip each year. This figure is expected to rise to more than 5,000 as our population ages.

4. The estimated cost of osteoporosis to New Zealand is $1.1 billion each year.

5. Osteoporosis can affect men and women of all ages.

Oxford Women’s Health

Relieving symptoms of menopause: Oxford Women’s Health

Issues associated with Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM) are not easy for women to discuss but Oxford Women’s Health is delighted to say that several of its patients, who have received the MonaLisa Touch treatment, have been more than happy to share their results.


Oxford Women’s Health


Lisa*, who is a local doctor, tells her story below:


I decided to try MonaLisa Touch after attending a presentation by (Oxford Women’s Health) gynaecologist Olivia Smart. GSM meant I had been experiencing quite a lot of discomfort during sex. I’m only in my mid 50s but it’s ten years since I went through menopause. The problem with GSM is that it can get worse as time goes by.

I had been using an oestrogen cream but it wasn’t sufficient. I had also looked up laser treatments online but thought they were only available in the North Island. I was really pleased to find Oxford Women’s Health was offering MonaLisa Touch in Christchurch.

After the presentation, I booked an appointment with Olivia for an assessment to see if I was a suitable candidate for the treatment. I then came back for the first of three sessions. The staff were really good and made the whole experience seem very easy. After an anaesthetic had been applied and the laser inserted, the treatment took about five to ten minutes. There was no pain just a slightly uncomfortable feeling in some areas.

After the first treatment, the area felt hot for a couple of hours and there was some slight bleeding. After both the second and third treatments there was only a small amount of bleeding. I also kept using an oestrogen cream, as I know a combination of the cream and laser treatment is supposed to work best.

At the end of the day, I am very pleased to report that it has all worked and sex is much more pleasurable for me again. In my job, I regularly meet women who are having issues like mine and I am now able to confidently say that it is an effective treatment. I am now recommending it to anyone that I think could benefit from it.


For more information on how you can access the MonaLisa Touch treatment or discuss whether this is suitable for you, visit the Oxford Women’s Health website at
*To protect the patient’s privacy, we have used a different name


Oxford Women’s Health

A lifetime of good nutrition: Sara Widdowson of Oxford Women’s Health on eating your way to better health

Sara Widdowson
Sara Widdowson

As women’s bodies grow and change, nutritional needs change too. Sara Widdowson, a Nutrition Consultant and Dietitian at Oxford Women’s Health, shares her expert advice on staying healthy at every age and stage of life.

What are the top priorities for children and adolescents when it comes to good nutrition?

Children and adolescents are still growing and need lots of energy. Rather than filling them up with calorie-dense foods, keep the focus on nutrient-rich foods, such as colourful vegetables, lean meat and milk, to make sure they are getting all they need to thrive.
Encouraging children to listen to their bodies – like stopping eating when they’re full – helps to establish good eating habits that will set them up for life.
For young women, iron intake is particularly important. Meat, nuts, and leafy-green vegetables all contain iron.

What should pregnant women be eating to help improve the health of their baby?

Instead of ‘eating for two’, pregnant women should be eating food that is twice as healthy. ‘Quality over quantity’ is an easy way to think about it.
What mum puts in her body is really important for the baby’s development. Folate from foods such as dark green vegetables, beans and lentils helps to prevent neural defects, while iodine is important for brain development, for example.

Oxford Women’s Health

Do nutritional needs change when you are having a period?

Your basal-metabolic rate – how much energy you’re burning at rest – is higher when you are having a period. I encourage women not to avoid that hunger but to try and choose nutrient-dense foods. Instead of chocolate, try magnesium-rich options like nuts and seafood.

Which foods are beneficial for women going through menopause?

Oestrogen and progesterone drop during menopause, which is particularly detrimental to bone health. Upping your calcium intake by eating canned fish, soy products and calcium-rich milk is crucial during this time.
There’s evidence to suggest that foods like tofu, milk, chickpeas, flaxseeds and lentils can help to reduce menopause symptoms.

Do older people have different nutritional needs?

When you get older you lose your thirst receptors, which means you can be dehydrated and not know it. Have a jug of water or water bottles in your fridge, so you can make sure you are drinking enough.
Getting short doses of vitamin D from the sun every day is important for bone health. Deficiency in B12 is also very common in older people, so including foods like milk, eggs, fish and chicken in your diet is key.
The most important thing to do at any age is to eat a nutrient rich diet. Eat vegetables at every meal, if possible, and include ‘good fats’ like oily fish, avocado and flaxseed oil in your daily routine.

Oxford Women's Health

New Menopause Symptom Treatment: We talk to Oxford Women’s Health about new health choices

A new treatment for some of the less discussed symptoms of menopause is expected to change the lives of many South Island women.

Oxford Women's Health

While menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and sleep disturbance are much talked about, up to half of post-menopausal women are also affected by Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM). This involves changes to the vagina and urinary system, which are caused by falling oestrogen levels.
Symptoms can include burning, itching, urinary tract infections, dryness and pain during sex. Unlike hot flushes and night sweats, which may disappear over time, genito-urinary symptoms can remain and even get worse as a woman gets older.
To help the many local women experiencing these issues, Oxford Women’s Health has this year introduced the South Island’s first MonaLisa Touch laser treatment for GSM. Non-hormonal and non-surgical, MonaLisa Touch works by stimulating the body’s regenerative processes to create more hydrated and healthy cells in the vagina. It has a low risk of side effects and is suitable for women of all ages.
Oxford Women’s Health Gynaecologist Dr Olivia Smart says the treatment has only been introduced following a thorough investigation of its effectiveness.
“Improvements are well documented and more than 50,000 treatments have been performed in Australia and other parts of New Zealand,” Dr Smart says.
MonaLisa Touch is quick, pain-free and requires no downtime. It usually requires three sessions of five to ten minutes, providing relief from symptoms for up to 18 months. One maintenance treatment every 12-18 months is then required to retain the full benefits. The treatment can be used with or instead of hormonal therapy such as topical oestrogen creams and is suitable for women who have had cancer treatment.
Women may experience GSM as early as their 40s and even earlier if they go through menopause as a result of chemotherapy or a hysterectomy. “It is fantastic to be able to provide a treatment that can significantly reduce these symptoms and improve women’s everyday lives,” Dr Smart says.
To find out whether MonaLisa Touch may be right for you, ask to be referred to Oxford Women’s Health by your GP or simply call 03-379 0555 to book an appointment.