8 things perimenopause has taught me

Nutritionist Emma Bardwell shares her experience of perimenopause and what you can to do support yourself in the workplace.

1. Perimenopause can be confusing, exhausting, enraging and overwhelming.

It might include hot flushes, night sweats, migraines, heavy periods that last for weeks, dizziness, nausea, twitchy legs, brain fog and itchy skin. You might feel tearful, forgetful, bloated, achy, snappy and irrationally angry, then twelve hours later think ‘What on earth was that all about?’ On the upside it can encourage you to redefine who you are, as well as make you feel far more free and empowered than you did in your twenties and thirties. It could last a few months or 12 years. Some women might not even notice it happening at all. The point is every single woman will experience menopause differently, it’s as unique to you as your thumbprint.

2. Menopause is big business.

Brands are cottoning on to the fact that women are often vulnerable at this time in their lives, hence the current slew of supplements, pills, potions, remedies and femtech gadgets flooding the market, many of which have no scientific backing. My advice? Ask questions, do your research, be discerning and don’t buy on a whim. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. On the flipside there are some excellent resources around that are reasonably priced and incredibly effective. Check out the Squeezy app for example, a brilliant reminder to do your pelvic floor exercises. It’s backed by the NHS and will only set you back £2.99.

3. You need to know where to look

Useful information to help you manage midlife is out there, but you have to know where to look. Do yourself a favour and stay away from women’s magazines and celebrities out to make a buck. If you want sensible, informed, evidence-based insights, look to websites like www.mpoweredwomen.net or for a more medical perspective www.menopausedoctor.co.uk.  

4. Menopause is going through a bit of a revolution. 

Until fairly recently it was shrouded in either jokes or secrecy. Lately though, people are talking more openly, discussing their symptoms and opening up about their experiences. This is a huge step forward. Women are working longer, holding more senior roles and are the fastest growing economically active group in the UK but three out of four of us are dealing with symptoms and one in four is actually considering leaving work as a direct result of menopause. Lots of organisations have systems in place already, find out what your employer offers - whether that’s AGILE working policies, USB desk fans, educational training for the whole company, specialist workshops or flexible hours. If your employer doesn’t have a framework in place then it’s worth asking them to consider implementing one as not only is it vital for employee retention, it also helps with attracting new talent, closing the gender gap and holding on to top performers. In other words by supporting women, companies are also supporting their business.

5. Menopause isn’t a disease, something to be cured; it’s a transition, something to be celebrated.

It’s no walk in the park mind you. It can be a pretty wild ride so dig deep, do a bit of a life audit and pinpoint what’s going to keep you feeling vital for the next 40 (hopefully) years. Lots of women say their fertile years have kept them docile and accommodating, once they step out of the hormonal constraints they feel a renewed sense of purpose. I’d like menopause to be viewed like it is in other cultures as a gain rather than a loss, a spiritual and physical transition towards a renewed sense of self.

6. Having a bank of menopause specialists in your little black book is crucial.

A team of experts who don’t minimise your symptoms, are educated on the latest treatments and who respect how tough it can be physically and emotionally. Finding that professional who ‘gets it’ will make a world of difference to your experience. As an evidence based nutritionist and women’s health specialist, I’d like to think I fit that mould for my clients’ diet and lifestyle needs. For a medical practitioner, check out Dr Shahzadi Harper. Knowledge is power. It enables us to advocate for ourselves with medical professionals, employers, family and anyone else who needs to be considerate of the difficulties we might face. Arm yourself!

7. Talk, ask questions, remain curious.

You can’t make symptoms disappear but bringing them into the open makes them less feared. Even if you’re not one for airing your laundry in public you can join in conversations online which can be equally empowering. Find your network, be it social media, books, events, websites, podcasts or menopause cafes. 

8. It’s never too early to start prepping for the menopause.

By acting now you can begin laying down building blocks for a less surprising menopause. Keep a journal, track your periods, look at your lifestyle (stress, self care, sleep) and get to know your ‘normal’. Conduct a life audit: assess your nutrition, alcohol intake, fitness regime and think about nipping bad habits in the bud. Menopause is a call to action, a chance to look inwards, be proactive and, above all, remain positive.

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Useful menopause resources:

Nutrition: www.emmabardwell.com

Medical/HRT: www.theharperclinic.com

Overview: British Menopause Society

Book: Menopause by Dr Louise Newson

App: Calm

Podcast: Wellbeing with Liz Earle

Emma Bardwell is a fully registered nutritionist with a particular interest in the menopause. In a world of conflicting nutrition messages and sensationalist headlines she believes in a no-nonsense, evidence based approach to helping women to feel on top of their game via smart nutrition and lifestyle approaches that sync with modern life.

Alongside her role as a nutritionist, Emma is a published writer who regularly contributes to online women’s health titles. She’s also a keen blogger and a 14.3K strong following on Instagram where she features lifestyle posts, nutrition advice, plant-based recipes and skincare tips. Follow her at @emma.bardwell To book a one-to-one consultation, email hello@emmabardwell.com