As I'm aiming this blog predominantly for women aged forty plus, I thought it would be useful to have a section on the menopause. I'm on a menopause journey myself and even though it seems it's becoming less and less of a 'taboo' subject it's still quite hard to find sensible and useful information.
So, below is a list of places you might find useful incase you need some peri/menopause help and have no idea where to go and if you scroll further down you'll find my own menopause story.
My Menopause Doctor - Site by Dr Louise Newson, honestly this women is an angel. She has worked SO hard to give menopause a voice. This site will keep you busy for a long time it has so much information on it but it really is worth a read. I felt such relief after I found this site because I knew I would be able to get the information I needed. There are also podcasts to listen to and a list of the helpful books Louise has written.
Liz Earle - everyone knows Liz as being the founder of those gorgeous face and body creams but she's really up for the whole wellbeing package including menopause. Liz's story is a good one, she thought she was menopausal but was actually pregnant with her son! Liz's wellbeing site covers everything, you'll find the menopause bit under the Healthy Living tab at the top of the page.
The British Menopause Society - this site is good for the journals and research aspect, it's a charity too. Lots of useful papers from very high up doctors and links to other sites.
Patient Info - I love the Patient Info site, not just for things like menopause. It's a hive of well written and easy to understand information about almost every condition and medication known to man. I used it myself to get a better understanding of my own HRT medication. This link will take you to the HRT page but you can navigate further from there once you're in.
Own Your Goals Davina - the lovely Davina McCall created an exercise and wellbeing site in 2019 where for a small monthly fee you can access a very wide range of exercise classes ranging from 10 minutes to 60 for all ages and all levels of fitness. I've been a member for a year now and it really saved me during the first Covid lockdown last March. More recently, in light of her own menopause experience Davina has set up a menopause section including how to take care of your mental and physical health and there's a lovely section full of exercises for peri and post menopausal women, pilates, yoga, bone strengthening and stretching as well as a little bit of cardio. This is relatively new (January 2021) and I haven't checked it out fully yet but I most definitely will be doing that exercise section this year.
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My Menopause Story
If I'm honest I'm a bit uncomfortable about sharing this because it's personal isn't it? But if sharing can help someone else then that's great, so ... well ... I started getting a bit hot now and then when I was about 45 but it came and went. My sleep has always been quite bad but it went from bad to absolutely appalling, I was waking up (not hot) at exactly 3am every day and unable to get back to sleep then dragging myself through the next day barely able to keep my eyes open.
In addition, my knees ached really badly, my weight went up even though I wasn't eating anything different and I was exercising exactly the same as I always have and I had the most terrible brain fog where I would literally forget words mid sentence. This is particularly annoying when you've got three kids aged 7, 9 and 12 and you need to constantly be on them all the time chivvying them along and reminding them not to forget their reading books. This went on for a couple of years and then when I was 47 I had three full months where I was so hot at times I would run outside in the freezing cold to cool down whilst I was cooking dinner, I daren't wear anything with a neck (i.e. a high neck jumper or polo neck) as I felt suffocated and I knew quite a lot of the time I had a lovely little shimmer of sweat on my upper lip. I was shiny all the time! Then I got angry and irritable and hated everyone. Except the dog. The dog never gets on my nerves! This was between about August and December.
In mid-December I had a doctors appointment because I'd had a routine thyroid blood test and one of my bloods was a bit off (I've been on Thyroxine for 10 years). So I went to the doctor and she was lovely and she said the thyroid was actually fine and how did I feel? I said I really don't feel at all well actually, and explained my symptoms to her and she asked me loads of questions and then she said I was menopausal. I sort of knew this but it was nice to have it confirmed. I told her that I could handle the hot flushes but the brain fog was driving me crazy and I was worried about feeling so angry all the time because I felt like I'd had a total personality change. She suggested a small dose of HRT and sent me away with some information and asked me to do my own research too and I was to let her know in a couple of weeks if I wanted it.
Well, this is where the research comes in. I like to know what I'm up against so I rang my Mum because all I knew was that there was an increased risk of breast cancer (turns out this is not necessarily true) and she said it had made her feel a lot better (she'd had migraines that left her bed-ridden for days at a time and terrible anxiety). Then I spent a lot of time on the internet. What I needed was to make an informed decision having been given all the facts - the pros and the cons but for a while all I could find were the cons. Luckily, I came across a site by a Dr Louise Newson My Menopause Doctor and heaved a sigh of relief because here was someone actually saying it like it was. Lots of information out there is very negative regarding HRT but I was determined to find an up to date account of what it was, how it worked and what the risks really were and Louise's site was really, really helpful. For example, nobody talks about the benefits of HRT which are, to name a few - reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers as well as dementia. I absolutely did not know this because all the media ever talks about is the high risk of breast cancer but if you read the statistics the risk is very low and not for all women, for some women there is no increased risk depending on the type of HRT you take. Louise explains on her site how these negative reports came to be, I'll let you read them yourself (see links).
So, I slept (badly) on it for a couple of days then I made an appointment with lovely lady doctor and said yes please may I have some HRT and walked out of the surgery thinking 'hmm what have I done'.
Well. Two days later I was only having two flushes a day. Four days later they were gone. A week later my brain came back (more or less) and I was less shouty. Two weeks later I realised I was sleeping better, not perfectly, but none of this ridiculous wake-up-at-3am-then-lie-awake-worrying-about-stuff-for-hours-on-end. Lovely lady doctor had said it might take three weeks to work but clearly my body needed the oestrogen because it reacted immediately and I felt normal again. It was only then that I realised I had not felt normal for a long, long time.
I had a three monthly check up (over the phone due to Covid restrictions) and I'm now on repeat prescription and they will have to wrestle it off me years from now because it really has helped. As HRT can put your blood pressure up a bit I bought a little machine from Amazon and check it regularly although my BP is spot on for my age and it hasn't changed I'm pleased to say, but I am keeping an eye on it.
The truth is that HRT isn't for everyone and it won't be everyone's choice and it's perfectly true not everyone can take it. BUT ... my advice is not to suffer in silence and if you need help please do try to get some. And to be in full possession of all the facts, the good and the bad before YOU make decisions about YOUR body. After all, it's your menopause and you should be able to go through it exactly how you want to.
Because in the end, knowledge is power, isn't it?
Maria Byrom - January 2021