I was invited to write about my realisation that I was menopausal in this feature for the Sunday Post. The article focused on broadcaster Kaye Adams and her call to change how we all see and talk about the menopause.
There were two other interesting voices in the feature, which was published on June 6. Have a read.
This was my part:
‘I needed help for the muscle cramps’
The first signs of menopause started with muscle cramps. Not the kind of lower abdominal cramps women normally associate with the menstrual cycle but severe, exercise-halting pain in my calves, hamstrings and glutes. At night, the cramps spread to my feet and woke me up.
When my hands cramped as I opened a toothpaste tube, I knew I needed to seek medical help.
I was 45 and I had never heard the words peri-menopause. I imagined the menopause would arrive in my 50s and it would simply be a cessation of my periods.
For the following two years, I found my usual sports of hill walking, running, cycling and swimming sore or impossible due to cramps. I was losing sleep and my mental health was affected.
My GP was sympathetic but flummoxed. Muscle cramps are still a medical enigma and having tried all the usual remedies, such as better hydration, more salt and magnesium, she referred me to a neurology consultant. Alarmingly, Parkinson’s and MS were mentioned but tests ruled them out.
Then, while searching on-line for information, I spotted several American menopause forums. Some women wrote of night cramps in their feet. While reading comments, I realised I had other related peri-menopause issues, including frequent and heavy periods, itchy skin, migraines, urinary infections, anxiety, memory loss and poor concentration.
I mentioned some of the symptoms to friends of the same age and we started to realise we were experiencing similar.
I also researched Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). I was initially reluctant to go on HRT after the huge negative press two decades before in relation to an increased risk of breast cancer. But, it seemed, further studies had revealed a lower risk. I returned to my GP and asked to try HRT and she agreed.
I weighed up the positives and negatives of HRT and started the therapy. Within a month the cramps disappeared. I’m 53 and I’m still on HRT, although I have moved from tablets to a combination of a progesterone coil and oestrogen gel. Most symptoms are kept in check with only a few episodes of insomnia, hot sweats and anxiety.
I now write about the menopause for sporty women on my website and I’m well known for being frank and open with both women and men about the symptoms and issues. The more we talk at all ages, the better informed others will be.
I wish I had known about peri-monopause before I wasted so much time worrying about it – and without treatment.