It's not always smooth sailing when it comes to navigating the hormonal seas we find ourselves in before and after menopause! The lack of education provided about the peri-post menopause, alongside outdated beliefs surrounding treatment options, mean that many women aren't receiving the support they need.
I think it's important that women have informative and trustworthy resources to rely upon as they enter this phase of their lives. Your GP should be your first port of call for any health issues you are experiencing but it can also be helpful to know that you aren't alone and to have a resource library of additional information to refer to. I have pulled together some key information and a number of invaluable links for you below.
Many women find themselves experiencing an array of symptoms in their midlife years which they struggle to explain. Often women don't realise that these symptoms are related to their naturally changing hormone levels and so look to other explanations for what they are experiencing.
If you are in (or approaching) your 40s and experiencing any of these symptoms then it may be that you are in peri-menopause. This is completely normal, and not something to be alarmed by. Peri-menopause is the period which comes before the menopause. It typically starts in your 40s, although it can happen earlier, and spans several years . During this period, your estrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormone levels are fluctuating and declining. Eventually this period culminates with your ovaries ceasing to ovulate (releasing eggs) .
12 months after your last period, you are said to have 'reached menopause'. From this day onwards you will be post-menopausal. The average age at which a woman reaches menopause in the UK is 51. Some women will experience early menopause - more accurately known as premature ovarian insufficiency. This is when a woman's periods stop before the age of 40. It can happen naturally or as a result of some treatments and surgery.
Peri-post menopause symptoms can have a significant impact upon your life. These will vary in type, severity and duration for each woman, but there are ways to alleviate your symptoms, through lifestyle changes (like exercise and nutrition) and treatments like Hormone Therapy. Please don't suffer in silence - go and see your GP or use the directory on the right to find a menopause specialist in your area.
The Balance website and app were founded by Dr Louise Newson - one of the UK's leading experts in menopause. The website provides a useful Q&A function, links to articles and podcasts. It also details the Balance App which allows you to track your peri-post menopause symptoms on your phone. The data from the app can then be downloaded to share with your GP.
Menopauseandme.co.uk is a great all round resource library, providing information, explanations and useful links.
With All Due Respect! Podcast by Amanda Thebe - Amanda Thebe is known as a menopause guru in fitness circles, and is one of my favourite no-nonsense menopause experts when it comes to telling it how it is in her fantastic podcast.
The Dr Louise Newson Podcast - Leading menopause expert and GP, Dr Louise Newson, hosts this informative podcast, helping peri-post menopausal women to receive unbiased, evidence-based, and holistic advice.
The Power Years Project Podcast by Jenny Burrell - This exceptional podcast series is produced by Midlife Transition Coach and owner of Burrell Education - Jenny Burrell. A truly inspirational listen! Burrell Education is one of the most highly regarded women's health educators in the UK.
Ben Coomber Radio Podcast #592 - This podcast unites three of my favourite fitness and nutrition experts - Amanda Thebe, Ben Coomber and Tom Bainbridge. It's an honest and deep dive in to fitness, nutrition and weight change during the menopause.
Abby Langer has written a wonderful blog on her own experience of peri-menopause. Abby Langer is a Canadian Dietician who uses an evidence based approach to analyse the pros and cons of different diets and to debunk the nutrition myths popularised by the media. As a menopausal woman herself she provides an invaluable voice when it comes to nutrition post 40.
I am a total book worm and love to learn through reading. If you feel the same way then check out the books below...
Cracking the Menopause by Mariella Frostrup and Alice Smellie.
This is without a doubt my favourite book on the subject of menopause (and I say that having read a LOT of them)! It is positively encyclopedic in terms of its content. Frostrup adopts an 'everything you need to know' approach with wit, humour and sensitivity. I chose to listen to the audio-book rather than read the printed text, and would highly recommend this. Why would you not choose to listen to her gorgeous voice!?
In addition to covering the usual terrain of a menopause book, Frostrup adds a wealth of additional insights. She discusses everything from the use of CBD oil and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, to how the menopause effects a woman's relationships, work-life, sex-life, skin and hair. Her references are vast and evidence-based. Furthermore, she cites experts and experiences from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities to produce a depiction of the menopause which all women can relate to.
Menopocalyspe by Amanda Thebe.
This was the first book I read on the subject of menopause, having been inspired by Thebe in a lecture she delivered on Nutrition in Menopause as part of my Nutrition Course. Thebe is a women's health, fitness and menopause expert. She provides a refreshingly frank, honest and often hilarious account of her own peri-post menopause journey, alongside practical recommendations for how to manage and lessen your own symptoms through fitness - with a focus on strength training, nutrition and hormone therapy.
Preparing for the Menopause and Perimenopause by Dr Louise Newson.
Considered one of the UK's leading experts on the Menopause - Louise is a GP, author and Director of Newson Health Ltd Menopause centre. She also produced the Confidence in Menopause course designed to educate GPs and health professionals on the menopause. This book provides a concise but thorough explanation and guide.
The Natural Menopause by Anne Henderson et al.
A beautifully illustrated and easy to read book covering everything from herbal remedies to aromatherapy, CBT and nutrition.
Hormone Repair Manual by Lara Briden.
Briden is a naturopathic doctor and an expert on women's health. She refers to menopause as our 'second puberty' and goes in to great detail to help the reader understand what they are going through, how their body is changing and ways to relieve their symptoms.
Briden does however recommend both 'bio-identical' and 'body-identical' hormone therapy, referring to them almost interchangeably. Please note that in the UK (and America) ONLY 'body-identical' hormone therapy is recommended as safe for use by the medical authorities. In contrast, 'bio-identical' hormone therapy is not regulated, FDA approved, nor recommended by the NHS. It is offered by some private clinics but can be very costly and hasn't been through the same rigorous testing as 'body identical' hormone therapy. The latter is available on the NHS and is the type of hormone therapy endorsed in all of the medical literature I have read to date.
The Happy Menopause by Jackie Lynch.
My thoughts coming soon.
Check out this great video in which Dr Louise Newson explains the longer term health benefits which treatment during the peri-post menopause years can provide.
A great deal of confusion remains in the public space regarding HRT. The Primary Care Women's Health Forum (PCWHF) have produced this infographic to separate fact from fiction.
This infographic puts the risk factor of hormone therapy in to perspective alongside other lifestyle factors.
This joint position statement produced in 2022 outlines the best practice recommendations for healthcare practitioners providing care for women experiencing the menopause. Recommendations suggest an individualised approach should be implemented, which provides lifestyle advice, diet modifications and which initiates discussions on the role of interventions such as, HRT.