Picture credit: Debbi Clark
Like many women I assumed the menopause was something that happened to you in your mid 50s and it would be marked by the ending of my periods. In my mind I would just deal with the menopause when it happens and not give it a second thought until then. It was only when I was introduced to Meg Mathews and we became close friends did I learn how wrong my limited knowledge on this subject was and how the 'blissful ignorance approach' would not only not serve women but in fact it could be detrimental to their health.
There is a huge spate of young women heading to the GP with a host of unusual symptoms being let down by our healthcare system, who through their own lack of knowledge are diagnosing incorrectly and often sending them home with a prescription for antidepressants.
Little do these young women know, often they may be perimenopausal or experiencing an early menopause. Peri is a term I hadn’t heard of until I met Meg. It’s when your body starts to begin the change and it can happen up to a whole decade before you are in the menopause. Hence why so many young women are misdiagnosed and therefore not getting the health advice & support they need. Women as young as in their 30s and 40s can be peri or meno.
This is exactly what happened to Meg. She assumed menopause would happen sometime well into her 50s but when she turned 49 she experienced a whole host of frightening symptoms that she would never have thought to attribute to the menopause - from depression, weight gain, brain fog and acute anxiety. There are 34 commonly known symptoms of the menopause (please see the meno audit extract from Meg’s book, below). Meg had 32 of these symptoms. Her GP didn’t know what was wrong with her and she assumed her hard-partying former years had caught up with her. It was only by chance during an AA meeting she decided to share with the group how she was feeling. A very kind lady pulled her to one side afterwards and told her she knew exactly what was wrong with her, she was in the menopause. This one conversation steered Meg onto a completely new life trajectory. Shocked by the lack of knowledge and support for women coupled with frustration at the wasted months feeling like she was going insane she didn’t want other women to experience what she had.
Since that day Meg has been on a one-woman-mission to spread awareness around the globe, so she launched Meg's Menopause, which includes a highly informative website, an app, vegan products to support your body through the transition and the release of her book The New Hot: Taking on the Menopause with Attitude And Style. For the last four years she has lived, breathed and researched this subject to the nth degree, working with top menopause doctors to bring knowledge not just to women but families, employers, the healthcare system and the government so women can truly be supported during what can be a difficult time in their lives.
Men can be better equipped to understand what their wives are going through and employers can know how to support their staff. One of the symptoms discussed in the book is memory loss & an inability to concentrate. Meg says: 'Over 20% of women going through the menopause who aren’t treated end up leaving their jobs as they can't cope with their symptoms whilst working.'
A good friend of mine who is a highly intelligent and capable lawyer just turned 50. Over coffee one day she started complaining to me that she felt like she was losing her mind as her performance had gone down at work as she couldn’t retain any information and kept making simple mistakes. It's only through everything I had learned from Meg that I knew what was up with her and broke the news that this was likely to be the menopause . Which turns out it was. But the good news is relief comes from knowing what is causing the problem then looking at what options are available to you so you can choose how to best manage it. When it comes to the menopause ignorance isn’t bliss instead knowledge is power.
Meg explains why it’s so important to talk about the menopause: 'Over 13 million women are currently going through the menopause in the UK today and yet it’s still such a taboo subject. The original mainstream consensus was to start treating women in their mid 50s but we now know that women’s oestrogen levels start to deplete from the moment they are peri and this is when they should start receiving treatment. When left decreasing oestrogen levels can lead to increased risk of developing dementia, heart attacks, osteoporosis, diabetes and strokes. Of those 13 million women over 90% aren’t getting the medication and information they need. Prevention is better than cure and it also puts a huge strain on the NHS which can be avoided. This is why I am trying to bring this to light so women and GP’s can get this knowledge so everyone has the correct up to date information.'
HRT is one of the many key topics covered in the book. This along with a whole host of menopause myths are demystified in The New Hot. This book is a menopause bible covering every aspect you need to know so you can make informed decisions about how best to manage your transition. For those who HRT still might not sit right with, there is a whole section on how to tackle the menopause completely naturally which is perfect for breast cancer survivors like myself where HRT isn’t a safe viable option. It’s a must read for women looking to understand what is coming or if you think you might already be going through it. It’s for your mothers, sisters, friends, men (it also covers the male menopause), the trans community and GP’s to educate themselves.
'I wrote this book as I wanted to share my story and in a way that women could feel like they were talking to one of their girlfriends. I felt there was nothing out there that was truthful, punchy and factual with advice from real menopause experts.’
I for one am glad Meg stepped up and has taken on the challenge to change the narrative around the menopause not just by educating us on what to look out for and how to navigate this transition as smoothly as possible but in my eyes she is the perfect ambassador to portray the message that women’s lives are not over. We are still relevant, edgy and sexy pre & post menopausal. Meg is the epitome of cool having lived the ultimate rock n roll lifestyle as part of the notorious Primrose Hill set. She is friends with some of the most successful, fascinating, beautiful and glamorous people in the world and the females in her social group will still be & are successful, fascinating, glamorous and beautiful after they have gone through their menopause.
When the TV series the Golden Girls first started it followed the lives of four women in their early 50s. Their portrayal is a stark contrast to our representation of women in the same age category today think JLo, Jennifer Anniston, Halle Berry, Gillian Anderson, Monica Bellucci and Meg Mathews. I personally love having role models like these ladies as they are sending out a clear powerful message…that life isn’t over at any age. In fact maybe it’s just begun.