Recently I was given a book by my mum entitled ‘Preparing for the Perimenopause and Menopause’ by Dr Louise Newson which sat on a shelf gathering dust for a month or so until I gave in and thought I better educate myself. What I read was shocking, from woman being misdiagnosed and sent home with anti depressants, to woman leaving their jobs because they were forgetting simple basic things and were wrongly assuming they were ‘losing it’!
I would recommend this book to anyone who is over the age of 30 (as it can start early) so you can spot the possible signs and symptoms. I told myself many stories to explain why things were happening and having read this book I now realise I was (in the main) misinformed.
Whatever age you are, whether you are nearing the main age bracket (40-45) or you have a partner that is – inform yourself as there are thousands of bright, brilliant woman that are resigning themselves to the knackers yard when with the right help and support is available to get your life and sanity back!
The 10 things I told myself daily that weren’t actually true:
1) ‘I’m always tired because i’m an older mum’
I am 45, have a 5 year old and I am what is affectionally termed in the medical trade as a ‘Geriatric mum’. I had my son at 40 and honestly I have not stopped feeling tired since I was pregnant. So it has always felt natural to assume that this was my lot, I chose it so I should just deal with it.
I told myself that this was because I was an ‘older’ mum. Even when my son stopped waking during the night, around the age of 5. I still blamed poor sleep on being ‘hyper alert that he was going to wake up’ or ‘sleeping more lightly because I done it for so long’. However what I didn’t know is that when your Oestrogen levels drops so do your energy levels so after learning this is a common side effect of the Perimenopause I wanted to find out more.
2) ‘I keep forgetting even basic stuff so I can’t hold down a full time job’
I have (before children) always held high level strategic positions in companies and had considered myself to be quick thinking and ‘on the ball’. But post kids ‘Brain Fog’ had me seriously thinking I wouldn’t be able to hold down even the most basic job. From putting phones in fridges to making presentations to groups and losing my train of thought mid-way – I genuinely thought I was losing my mind! And guess what – this is also a very common symptom of the Perimenopause and can be addressed with the right treatment.
3) ‘I have lost my self confidence because i’ve let myself go’
I had lost a lot of confidence in both my professional capability and my personal appearance, I weigh the most I have ever weighed, I wear the same stuff in rotation as I can’t see the point in making an effort (and it’s all that fits in my wardrobe) and this was all because I had ‘allowed’ this to happen and never lost the ‘baby weight’.
Don’t get me wrong with a bit more will power I could have put the biscuits down but it was more than that. I was tired (and bored during lockdown) and comfort eating but this drop in blood sugar regulation, combined with constant tiredness can also be an outcome of your Oestrogen and Progesterone dropping.
4) ‘Feeling low level anxiety all the time is normal’
Since my son was born my anxiety levels have definitely gone up and I have laid the blame on a variety of things from post natal depression (even though 2 doctors said this wasn’t the case) to being a guilt ridden working mum topped with having my own ‘issues’ with becoming a parent.
This is not to say that these things didn’t play a part in my anxiety levels but I felt this all of the time, it was like a tight pair of shoes that I had on all day and only when I went to see a brilliant specialist therapist ( the Empowered Feminine Claire Spinks) and started HRT that I realised what it can feel like to take those shoes off. I still feel anxious sometimes but it’s not a constant anymore.
5) ‘I still have regular periods so I can’t be ready for HRT’
My periods have always been like clock work* and continue to be so although over the last few months they have varied in length and heaviness but I thought it might be the menopause but I certainly didn’t think I was ready for HRT because I still had a regular cycle, plus I had heard that the drugs was dangerous and increased certain instances of cancer etc.
Firstly I discovered that even if they are still turning up each month to remind us how ‘lucky’ we are to be women you can still benefit from taking HRT and relieve some of the other symptoms. Secondly that HRT has been given a lot of bad press but the book goes into great detail about why the research that led to these potential outcomes of HRT have all now been discredited.….its not a silver bullet but so far after two I have felt a significant difference to energy and general mood.
*my periods did go haywire for two months after the COVID jab but my belief is that with the new mounting evidence around how Oestrogen levels play a large part in your response to COVID, including whether you get long COVID or end up in hospital (all of which is explained in the book) I think this is why it affected them.
6) ‘I have numbness and tingly in my hands and arms – I’m having a stroke/heart attack!’
One night I was sat in front of the TV and suddenly had a stabbing pain in my left elbow with a shooting pain down the arm, my hand went numb and so I casually turned to my husband and mentioned that I might be having a heart attack…..this was not the case, nor was I having a stroke but I was not aware that many woman experience these symptoms as well as itching (like something is crawling all over your body) and changes in skin text such as dryness or break outs during the Perimenopause.
7) ‘My joints ache because I am getting on a bit’
I have hyper mobility and for years I’ve had varying amounts of joint pain so when this increased with age I just put it down to having ‘old bones’. Eh er! Yes of course we will have more aches and pains as we get older but I was like a geriatric transformer, clicking myself back into place whenever I stood up.
However a combination of HRT, Turmeric, CBD and other supplements have already given me less pain, more energy and have made an significant difference to the day to day aches and pains that had become almost debilitating.
8) ‘I feel low because life’s been tough’
My life isn’t tough, I live in a lovely part of the World with easy going people, a lot of fun stuff to do and my son is generally a joy to be around. But I felt flat most of the time, again putting this down to tiredness and just not being as young as I once was. Apparently a lot of woman who go to the doctors with these and many of the other symptoms above get prescribed anti-depressants and/or counselling which may help in some case but if you are indeed Perimenopausal then they won’t and here’s why…..
When you are Perimenpausal you can feel fine one week then floored the next for no obvious reason and the actual reason can be fluctuating Oestrogen levels. Anti-Depressants work by increasing levels of serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain which are linked to mood and emotions. But they won’t address the hormonal fluctuations, that are experienced during the Perimenopause, which cause this low mood and lack of interest in most things everything. This can be addressed with HRT, certain therapies and Mindfulness.
9) It’s normal to sweat this much at night – its probably the wine I had last night!
Night sweats are something I had always associated with the Menopause but I was having regular nights where I would wake up soaked and thought ‘well its was warm last night’ or ‘that will be the wine I had!’
However it was happening a lot and there seemed to be no obvious link between the times it happened, so this was the first time I suspected I might be going through ‘the change’. I even went to the doctors and did blood tests and they said it wasn’t the Menopause, however these test have been found to be unreliable so if you think you have one or more of these symptoms please speak to your doctor rather than assuming it’s just you getting older but you can get these in your Perimenopause too (deep joy!)!
10) ‘I’m not losing weight because I am not trying hard enough’
I was doing three PT training sessions a week, my eating was OK not brilliant but I had ended up with a sweet tooth since my son had been born. I blamed the couple of biscuits or bits of chocolate I had in the evenings for my considerable weight gain.
Whilst I could have done better with the nutrition side I still felt that the growing spare tyre and an inability to put the Haribo’s down wasn’t really me. When I read this book I found out that low oestrogen = low blood sugar so combined with tiredness, it meant I was a lot more likely to comfort each (or drink!) I was on a hiding to nothing. Plus the more exercise and walking I did the more my joints ached. I just thought I was lazy and had a poor metabolism!
I read this book and within 48 hours had spoken to a doctor and started HRT – there are other symptoms like mood swings and lack of interest in sex and day to day life but I have covered the ones that I malignly spotted.
I will write about my experiences with HRT in my next blog but until then at least find out if this is something affecting you instead of blaming yourself, your kids and as my husband will agree to – him for everything!
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