AD | WHY I'M STARTING A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE MENOPAUSE
AD INFORMATION | This content has been created as part of a PAID PARTNERSHIP with Shionogi B.V. for the UK launch of their product Femal. As part of this partnership, I was given a three month supply of Femal to trial. For more info, visit my DISCLOSURE page.
If you're a regular reader you may have seen me dropping the word menopause and peri-menopausal into my blog and Instagram posts lately. That’s because my content has always been a reflection of the life stage I'm in... and being peri-menopausal is where I happen to find myself right now.
Earlier this year I was contacted by Femal a once daily, food supplement that contributes to wellbeing during the menopause. They asked if I'd like to participate in their launch campaign designed specifically to encourage women to talk about the menopause and define what being female means to them as they go through the process. As you can imagine, this got a great big "Hell To The Yeah!" from me! If there had been more understanding and open dialogue around this subject in the past, then I feel my own experience with the journey to becoming peri-menopausal could have been a lot smoother. But more on that one later...
So, it was on the blustery Sunday following Storm Gareth (the weather always plays up when I plan a trip!), that I found myself heading to London on a train to stay the night, ahead of a 6:30am shoot call time the next day. Myself and four other Fabulous Femal Females as we've now dubbed ourselves - Ashley, Sally, Vicki and Pamela were taken to the shoot location, a lovely house in North London along with a twenty six strong production crew, where we took part in what turned out to be a really empowering experience.
There was hair, makeup, a stylist to assist with outfit selection and changes and the chance to see exactly what it takes to bring together a campaign shoot such as this.
More importantly than that, each of us were interviewed about our own experiences with the menopause and we also took part in a filmed group discussion with healthcare professional and specialist menopause nurse Kathy Abernethy.
So what is Femal you might ask and where might it sit in the scope of the menopause? Having already read a few things about the part that supplements and complimentary or alternative therapies can play in menopause, I was really keen to find out more and share the details with you. Designed to support women through the different phases of menopause, Femal is a hormone free food supplement. It contains an active ingredient of PureCyTonin complexes, which to you and I is purified plant pollen extract, sourced from natural origins. It also contains Vitamin E.
You can read lots more about Femal, its origins and possible benefits here on the website but I found the statistic that after 12 weeks of use, 93% of women believing that Femal was "very effective" or "effective" during the menopause to be one worth paying attention to.
As part of the campaign I was offered a trial of Femal which I have been taking over the past few months. As it commonly takes up to three-months for the product to be effective, I’ll be waiting until that three-month mark to ascertain how I'm getting on. Now that I'm experiencing peri-menopause symptoms for myself, my approach to the coming years will be to try a number of natural "helpers" first such as food supplements, more yoga and upping the healthy diet and lifestyle factors. I'm also really keen on the idea of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as I'm finding I've become prone to anxiety issues that I've never experienced before.
With all that said, I wouldn't rule out hormone replacement therapy if things do get really tough further down the line. I believe all of us have a choice as to how we deal with the menopause and should respect each other’s decisions, whatever they might involve. Support is the one thing we can always offer each other in this life stage and encouraging more conversations around the menopause makes for a brilliant starting point.
And if you think that talking about it is suffused with discomfort or embarrassment then I highly recommend giving an interview on camera to a (really lovely) guy but one who nevertheless, is a complete stranger, in front of the aforementioned twenty-six strong crew. That'll soon help to remove any stigma you may have previously attached to the menopause!
Listening to the other women's stories and experiences, my overriding takeaway from the day was that the menopause doesn't have to mean you press pause on life. You get through it, difficult though it may be at times, and by sharing information and opening up more discussion, it becomes normal and a lot less of a scary prospect.
It's another chapter in a long list of life stages and by choosing to embrace what it means and make a concerted effort to look after ourselves as we go through it, we can come out the other side without being solely defined by our hormones. Take a look at the video below to see the end result of a day that I feel extremely proud to have been involved in and that left me feeling empowered...
My Own Peri-Menopause Experience
Post giving birth to H and allowing some time for things to settle down again, I'd used two Mirena coils for birth control for ten years with no issues at all. About a year or so into having the third one put in place in 2016, I began feeling what I can only describe as emptiness and apathy creeping into my daily life.
At the same time as feeling certain emotions incredibly intensely, most of the time I just felt empty, distant, numb and sad. I wanted to shut myself off from everyone including my family and if anyone asked me what was going on, all I could say was I just felt dead inside. I found the whole thing really scary because it was so unlike me and I began to wonder if I was suffering from depression.
At the same time, lack of sleep became a real issue so I’m sure that didn’t help either. Waking up somewhere between 3:00 and 4:00am became a regular thing and all in all, I felt wrung out and exhausted. H was leaving primary education that summer to start senior school in the autumn and on an emotional level, I felt completely unable to cope with that or any other life change.
I can’t remember how long it took what clicked in terms of thinking that I should go and see my doctor, but someone mentioned that insomnia at this age can be linked to the menopause.
I made an appointment and one evening a couple of weeks later, I found myself in tears in the doctor’s office, telling her exactly what I was feeling. She was really lovely and very understanding and after hearing what I had to say, she said that the coil could be aggravating my hormone balance. During peri-menopause, oestrogen levels are on the decrease and if you have a Mirena coil, it's providing you with progestogen. Sometimes this can throw the balance out and exacerbate some of the symptoms.
I elected to have it removed straight away and after a few months of monitoring how I was feeling, I began to feel a lot more like my old self again. As for birth control, Patrick and I both agreed it was time (as the doctor so succinctly put it), for him to "step up and do his bit"! He had a vasectomy meaning I no longer needed to be in charge of baby prevention and for us, that was the best course of action.
Where I Am Now With My Symptoms
I still suffer with insomnia on and off and my periods are practically now non-existent. Only perhaps popping up once in a while as an unexpected reminder! I'm still experiencing mood dips where I feel very low and emotional, needlessly anxious or snappy. But given the loss of my Mum last year and the fact we're also in the throes of full on teen hormones, it's not surprising that altogether, it feels like a tough time at the moment. But you know what? In spite of that, we're doing okay! Next on my list is to go and have a blood test to get my hormone levels checked and then I'll reassess to see what else I can do to help myself through the next stages of menopause.
How I’m Embracing This Next Chapter
I take huge pride in having reached this stage of life - there's been a lot of challenges along the way and I'm sure, many more to come. In life part two, I plan on celebrating the woman I've become, the stronger sense of self that I'm developing and everything that I've achieved so far. So often we forget to celebrate the small wins and instead only focus on what we haven't yet done.
I find freedom in taking time to be creative in my job, practicing self-care when needed and remembering that there's always joy to be found in simple things like sitting down with a book or going for a dog walk at the beach. At this stage of life I know what I want. To acknowledge and celebrate that and to no longer feel a need for validation is really uplifting and feels pretty powerful too.
Following on from this post, and not as part of any campaign requirements but as something I've wanted to do for a while now, I plan on continuing the conversation around the menopause here.
I'd like to share some of the online resources I'm discovering and if I find some things that help me through it along the way, I'll share those too.
Due to the very nature on of online communities sharing helpful information, there's now a lot of women leading the way with their openness and honesty in their discussion of the topic and I applaud them wholeheartedly. It shouldn't be a taboo subject and I certainly don't want my daughter to grow up thinking it is either.
I'd love to know what you think and hear about anything that might be helping you through peri-menopause or menopause. Feel free to to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to contribute to the conversation!