Helen Seymour is in Peri-Menopause, or at least she thinks she is. In her new weekly column we will follow her on her journey towards the menopause, learning as she does all about the big M.
I go to see Dr. Dolan. Dr. Dolan is wonderful. A Homeopath, an Osteopath, and a real Doctor too. He’ll treat you any way you want. Including nicely. He’s a very, very nice man. And incredibly wise. He’s like Dumbledore. In Clontarf. All the good Wizards are in ordinary places. “I have a long list” I tell him. And I take out all the symptoms I’m experiencing that lead me to believe I have arrived in that dreadful place commonly known as Peri-Menopause.
It is ironic that now that I have stopped drinking alcohol, I am waking up every day with what feels like a chronic hangover. Welcome to the Menopause headache. I’ve never had headaches. I do now.
I am also permanently on fire. Like someone is pressing “boost” on the heating system in my body. Eating brings it on. Drinking brings it on. Coffee, tea, even water brings it on. Sitting down brings it on. Standing up brings it on. Breathing brings it on.
I show Doctor Dolan the results of a Menopause Test I took exactly one year ago in the Well Woman Centre. It’s a test they specifically offer for the Menopause. There is a very detailed set of bloods, which tell me lots of things. My cholesterol, my iron levels, and critically, my FSH levels. These are the hormone levels which will indicate if you have Menopaused. But here’s the thing. They can tell you if you HAVE had the Menopause. They can tell you if you HAVE NOT had it. But they can’t tell you if you’re on the way to having it.
There is NO TEST that will tell you if you are in Peri-Menopause. The Doctor will simply say “because of your age (I’m 49) it is likely that you are”. So the Menopause test is, frankly, not really much use to me. Other than I know I’m low in iron and my cholesterol is a bit high.
The Menopause, my Mother informed me (and Dr. Dolan confirmed) “does not happen overnight”. Nor is it all linked to your periods ending. You can have up to a 5 year lead into your periods stopping, and up to a 5 year period AFTER they have stopped, where your body will really be struggling to deal with what’s happening.
The 5 years leading into the Menopause, and the 5 years after it, are in my opinion, your own personal earthquake. In the years leading into it, you get numerous tremors telling you the earthquake is coming. Then the earthquake happens, ie. your periods end (and this could take a year or more), and once that is officially done, you experience a whole series of aftershocks, which could also last for up to 5 years.
The Tremors and Aftershocks are all hormone related, and include, a mix of hot flushes, headaches, irrational temper flashes (which will seem perfectly reasonable at the time), depression, anxiety, hair loss, memory loss, weight gain, libido loss, and fatigue. Some women get some of these symptoms, other women get all of them. Different people will get a different mix. Oh, and did I mention that this is the time you may also grow a beard?
Carole Vorderman's doctor
I watched a TV interview with Carole Vorderman (Countdown lady) and Lorraine (kindly ITV lady), where Carole told Lorraine that it was only 2 years AFTER the menopause that her depression kicked in. She had breezed through it up until then. No hot flushes, nothing. But the depression she got was so black, and so bleak, she knew she had to do something about it.
She attended Professor John Studd, who runs a Menopause Clinic in London. He’s 78 now and about to retire but the good news is he has trained a whole team of people who are ready to take over from him.
Professor Studd (he really should have been a Fertility Doctor with that name), put Carole (I feel like she and I are friends now so I don’t have to use her surname) on a blend of Bio-Identical Hormones which included Oestreogen, Progesteron, and Testoserone. All natural, all derived from plants. And they came in GEL form. Not pills, because pills apparently can end up in your liver or other parts of your body where they’re not entirely effective, so the gels, absorbed in through the skin, are the most effective route.
Carole (my Menopause friend) said she felt better literally within hours of first applying the gels. She applied them in the morning, while she was brushing her teeth, they dried in, and she got on with her day.
SO … having studied Professor Studd’s website (it is a very detailed website), I ring his clinic. It’s €350 (English Pounds) for a consultation, and a further €350 (English Pounds) for Blood Tests, a further €250 (English Pounds) for a Dexa Scan (Did I mention I also have Osteoporosis and Professor Studd’s Clinic covers that area too?) Sorry if I didn’t, but memory loss IS one of the side effects of the Menopause.
So I get a little plan together. I’ll go to Dr. Dolan, who I love and respect. I’ll get his thoughts and views, I’ll get my blood tests and my Dexa Scan (bone density X-Ray for Osteoporosis) done locally, and I’ll go to the UK armed with these and hopefully avoid any unnecessary additional costs. It’s July now. That gives me plenty of time to get all my bits and pieces together.
Dr. Dolan tells me he loves that I am tackling this head on. He says this is the best approach. He tells me I can get my bloods done for free in Beaumount (The Well Woman test cost €120). He takes out the Beaumount Form and ticks all the things I need my bloods tested for. I show him the Printout from Professor Studd’s website. He reads it, and then adds “Oestrogen , Testosterone, and Progesterone” to the list of things he wants my bloods tested for.
I have to wait for my period to arrive. For the Progesterone test to be accurate I have to state what day of my cycle I am on. Hmm … another side effect of Peri-Menopause. My period is slightly late!! I am now very impatient for it to arrive. As I type this, a hot flush has started, and I know that it’s not the impatience that has brought this on. It’s the Peri-Menopause the standard blood tests are unable to identify. Grrr. I strip down my vest and open the windows. Come on period, hurry up, I need to get this show on the road.
God I’m hot.