Hormones affect all generations, if we all communicated a bit more across those generations and shared our knowledge we would all be better off!
Has anyone else noticed that as females, regardless of where you are on your hormonal journey through life, there is a predominance of words beginning with P used to describe each particular stage!
We start off with puberty and the start of periods, when our joyful hormonal party begins and we have our first experiences of premenstrual fluctuations, through to pre and post natal, (for some of us), when our hormones experience the odd rave, graduating to the perimenopause when potentially our bodies can feel as if they are going through punk and heavy metal stages, to then hopefully, the calm and serenity of a bit of classical or mellow jazz in our post menopause years.
During those various transitions we experience all sorts of Ps…periods, pain, pimples, perspiration, pelvic floor problems, potty’s and potty moments …to then ending up feeling perky, positive, proud, passionate, peaceful & placid, with a pert pelvic floor intact, plump, hydrated, vaginal tissues, be physically and nutritionally proactive, with a predominance of positivity all round, albeit occasionally experiencing the odd pain in the posterior!
It can be a turbulent journey can’t it…you just manage to get through one stage in your life and before you know it you’re onto the next stage without much time for recovery! It’s only now that I’m in those perimenopausal years I’ve had time to reflect and realise what a rollercoaster it’s been. It’s the same with anything in life isn’t it, take having children as an example – it’s usually a lot easier with your second one than with your first – the hard thing being no dress rehearsals.
So how can we help ourselves and those coming along behind us … by being informed and prepared.
Prevention, as with any health issue, is always better than firefighting, giving your bodies the best chance to be able to cope with potential symptoms and being aware of what might happen along the way can really help psychologically as well.
Everything is always easier if you know what to expect, which is why we need to educate more, informing from a younger age about the whole hormonal journey ahead.
If girls were educated from an early age about the benefits of lifestyle choices in relation to their hormones, as well as other obvious health advantages, not only would we have a healthier population – we would save the NHS thousands!
Having teenage children myself, one of which is female, I do realise the limited appeal of sitting and listening to someone talking about your potential hormonal journey (she frequently glazes over when I attempt to enlighten her)! When girls are thinking about exercise and fitness the majority are more concerned about being ‘bikini fit’ for their summer holidays rather than how their arteries and bones might thank them long term! The same goes for diet with a large percentage of girls sadly obsessed with calorie counting, weighing themselves and going on daft diets when they should be being taught to count the nutrients instead, be introduced to a wider range of fresh foods available and how to simply cook those foods.
Then there is the topic of pelvic floors* … how much more beneficial would it be for us all to be taught the importance of doing our pelvic floors from an early age, not only would it then become the norm to talk about pelvic floors, you would know how to do them from an early age properly, reduce urinary leakage and frequency post child birth and in older age, plus more often than not, experience better orgasms! No brainer really!
Being open and talking is so important to normalise the menopause. Why can we easily talk about contraception & STIs, pre & postnatal care yet when it comes to the menopause we bizarrely put our heads down, with some women putting up with symptoms unnecessarily for years. Maybe the menopause feels for some like it should be years away and they associate it with little grey haired grannies, so are in denial. Well it’s about time we changed this view right across the generations so women don’t have to suffer any more, relying on tena pads later in life and having to develop an encyclopaedic memory on all available loos within a 20 mile radius!
I’m not a scientist or a doctor (ok a retired nurse) but I do have buckets of common sense and to me it makes so much sense to try and get a bit more information across from an earlier age – even if you just manage to sew a few seeds without them realising it. I’m obviously not deluded, I do realise a lecture on hormones and pelvic floors will definitely not be on the top of a 16 year olds agenda but there are ways and means! Yes, Ok Ok …I did suggest I do a trial in our local secondary school to my daughter – I know how ridiculous was I to think she would want me coming in and spouting off about vaginas and pelvic floors in front of her peer group – you can imagine her reply – hence am starting further afield, but once she’s left school in another year…!
I originally started doing this blog post about hormones and HRT but realised the importance of hormones throughout our life was an equally important message to get across, not just the perimenopause and postmenopausal years. I was also going to cover the pros and cons of HRT, but to be quite honest there are so many fabulous websites out there packed with evidence based information that I’m going to give you links to the ones I would recommend rather than just replicating that information.
A few basics about HRT though…if there are no contraindications – so no medical reasons why you shouldn’t be prescribed HRT – then after careful discussion with your clinician it is highly recommended as a very good and successful treatment for menopausal symptoms having the advantage over other non hormonal treatments of being able to treat a wide range of symptoms both physical and psychological, not just one or two. There are over 50 different preparations and several different delivery routes so make sure you get someone who you are confident knows what they are prescribing and also gives you good advice… advice like make sure you try it for 3 months, that any hormonal treatment could give you side effects, if it doesn’t work for you there are plenty more to try and it is very important to get the right delivery route to suit your symptoms.
Those useful links…
Just thought I would slip in a basic explanation about hormones and why they can have such a profound effect on our bodies … basically we all have an endocrine system containing endocrine glands that make and release hormones into our bloodstream. A hormone is basically a chemical messenger that effects other parts of our body – they play a part in and control a wide range of physiological activities including growth, development, puberty, bone growth… I could go on they get everywhere!
The ones we are concerned about as females … we are born with two ovaries that produce the reproductive hormones oestrogen, progesterone and yes you’ve got a bit of testosterone in there as well. During our teenage years we can experience some fluctuations of hormones, the odd surge here and there, causing those flashes of anger, emotional distress and for some quite bizarre behaviour accompanied by those mood swings! Moving on from our teenage years our hormones settle down a touch and we are now at our most fertile, experiencing probably our best years libido wise as well! Ah remember those years… moving on …
Then, for some of us, when we decide to settle down and have children, once again this causes our hormones to basically go bananas, I reckon the majority of women completely underestimate the effect pregnancy and childbirth can have on their bodies…kids basically ‘suck you dry’ (physically and financially!) from the moment you get pregnant until…well until the time they end up settling down and taking responsibility for themselves which for some can be late twenties/early thirties! Back to hormones…hormone wise during these years it can take a while for everything to calm down again but we are gluttons for punishment aren’t we as we decide to do it time and time again, so our bodies don’t really get chance to recover in between children, skeletal systems get drained of calcium and vitamin D, amongst other things, tummy muscles seem to have a mind of their own, vaginas and pelvic floors not getting a chance to recover and bounce back either!
We then have a short reprieve when we might have the time and motivation to think about ourselves for a couple of minutes a week, manage the odd bit of exercise and the odd pelvic floor but for a large percentage of us, with the stresses of our increasingly busy lives a lot of women can arrive at the perimenopausal years completely unprepared physically and mentally for the final hormonal riot that can potentially unfold!
Personally, I’m now hopefully heading towards the mellow jazz years – good luck with your hormonal journey!
Have a look at previous blog posts for handy tips on how to cope with your symptoms and if anyone would like to organise a workshop :-
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A wee reminder on FSH tests – hormones fluctuate so differently from one person to another it can be an almost impossible thing to monitor which is why the NICE guidelines* now state that it’s basically a waste of time having a blood test at this stage as they are just not accurate enough. Not only giving you a false, inconclusive result but is such a waste of the NHS’s budget – the only time they are really recommended is if you are prematurely menopausal so before the age of 45 / 40 years. Why is it called FSH – follicle stimulating hormone, a hormone which your pituitary gland secretes that helps to regulate the release of the hormones from your ovaries…but seriously don’t bother. Diagnosis should be from symptoms alone : see previous post : http://letstalkmenopause.co.uk/diagnosis-menopause-seriously-needs-improve/
Useful links :-