Over the last six months my awareness of how menopause, and perimenopause, can affect women has grown. I’ve learnt that menopause is when your periods stop, and perimenopause is the time before this (can be many years!) when you still have periods but start to experience menopausal symptoms.
I have been aware of my own possible perimenopause symptoms, including heart palpitations, brain fog, being hot and sweaty at night and feeling more anxious than normal. This has particularly been the case since I had a contraceptive Merina Coil removed earlier this year.
I’ve spoken to other women of a similar age (40s and 50s) and learnt that they have experienced a huge range of symptoms from urinary infections and mood swings through to night sweats and ‘feeling like they are going mad’.
I’ve begun to educate myself. I’ve read Perimenopause Power by Maisie Hill, which is a good summary of what happens to women’s bodies as they get older, and how this can make us feel (and act). Even better is the recently launched ‘Preparing for the Perimenopause and Menopause’ by Dr Louise Newson. It’s super easy to read, and explains everything you need to know before you go and see a nurse or GP at your medical centre. I knew I wanted to speak to someone but felt daunted. Having read her book I now feel confident in what I want to say.
I’ve watched the Davina McCall documentary. I’ve listened to a few discussions on BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour, only this week discovering that all cells in the body have oestrogen in them. This explains why we can see so many different symptoms when levels drop during perimenopause and menopause, even including burning mouth and gum problems.
I’ve downloaded a couple of apps to help me track my symptoms. Moody is good, but you have to pay for it. I’ve since discovered Balance (by Dr Louise Newson), a free app that allows you to track your symptoms (which is helpful for health professionals if you seek out support) and also gives some great information and tips. For example, I didn’t know heart palpitations were a symptom until I read it on the app. I had mentioned them to a GP who hadn’t suggested this as a cause.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, if you are going through this I want you to know you are not alone. We are in the process of setting up a menopause support group at work, which will connect female colleagues (and men who are also affected) with each other. Hearing from or talking to others in the same boat can be comforting, help identify symptoms you may not realise are relevant and give an opportunity to share practical tips and advice.
If this is something that affects you I’d love to know your top tips, please do tag me on social media or drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d especially love to know about any books, podcasts and social media accounts I should be following. I’ll add any good tips below, with names removed. It’s amazing to me that an issue that affects so many of us is so poorly understood.
Here are the hints and tips, and sources of information, I’ve been sent since sharing this blog post. Please remember these are not medical recommendations:
I follow the menopause doctor on Facebook. She is the one that made the balance app. I had a full hysterectomy Aged 38, nearly 2 years ago. I find lots of doctors don’t have much knowledge on menopause. I’m lucky that now, I have 1 doctor that is brilliant, but I spent a long time, feeling overwhelmed, lonely & physically ill. The media give a lot of wrong information, but I think by sharing the right information, no woman will be left feeling alone in it.https://www.facebook.com/MyMenopauseDoctor/
So my wife went through this very early (32). At the time doctors thought it was stress from our upcoming wedding etc. Had we have known we probably would have tried having children a lot sooner.
My advice would be to eat well. It can be difficult not to gain weight & indeed I have but eat the fats your body needs to nourish & nurture itself. Exercise too. Lots of walks for mindfulness
I also follow the menopause doctor on Insta and her podcasts. I also listen to the Happy Menopause podcast. I’m currently perimenopausal, even though I’m 53, my periods are still normal. But over the last few years my side-effects have ranged from heart palpitations and hot flushes (although I don’t get either of those anymore), dry and itchy skin, dry eyes (for the last 2 symptoms I use Sea buckthorn oil supplements, which have been amazing). I also get brain fog and memory loss.Due to my mother having breast cancer at 50 the GP didn’t want to prescribe the HRT but I did loads of research myself and then asked to be referred to the menopause clinic, and I had my appointment this week. Longer term they believe that HRT can help reduce the risks of osteoporosis (which my mum has severely), dementia and risk of heart attack. Also the research 20 years ago linking HRT to breast cancer was heavily flawed. Along with my medical specialist we have weighed up the pros and cons and decided that I will start on a combined sequential HRT patch. Once I found out menopause clinics existed, I asked my GP for a referral & she did refer me straight away and it took about a month or so to get the appointment. Originally my GP just offered me antidepressants! Even though I don’t feel depressed or anxious and they would do nothing for the symptoms I actually had – sadly this seems to be standard !
I asked a friend who shared the info above, when do you think we should we seek help? She said…I think if you’re having a number of different symptoms, which I was, or 1 or 2 severely then it’s time to go along and find out your options. You do have to be quite firm with them. If you go onto the balance app, which somebody above recommended, you can download a menopause symptoms checklist, which can also be very helpful as something you can use as a starting point.
The British menopause society has lots of great info, fact sheets and video links
A link to my author friend Sarah’s blog, outlining her experiences of menopause