The upside of the menopause: "My boobs feel great, my skin is glowing and energy levels are up"

Helen Seymour is in Peri-Menopause, or at least she thinks she is. In her weekly column we follow her on her journey towards the Menopause, learning as she does all about the big M.


I want to talk about oestrogen. There’s a perfectly normal sentence. Here’s what I’ve noticed about HRT. HRT is a WORD that’s vaguely “over there” for when we’re old. Most people don’t know how it works. Why it works. And most importantly, what’s in it.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to break down each of the hormones found in HRT and talk a little bit about of them. Starting today. With Oestrogen.

Many of us know very little about Oestrogen. For starters, Oestrogen isn’t just one element. It’s a group of hormones including Oestriol, Oestradiol and Oestrone. Oestrone lingers in various degrees after Menopause, Oestriol only rises to prominence during pregnancy and Oestradiol is the big hitter. It’s the female sex hormone implicated in body and emotional changes during puberty, and its significance reaches far and wide.

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Related: Ireland’s first dedicated menopause resource is opening up this year

Good and bad oestrogen

Good levels of oestrogen can make you feel energetic and vibrant, help maintain healthy hair and skin, and enable you to feel clear headed and focused. Oestrogen keeps your heart healthy, it bolsters your bones, and it affects your mind in all manner of ways.

It can cause serotonin to surge, which decreases depression, and increases buzzy feel-good endorphins, hence why when oestrogen levels plummet after ovulation and pre-period you can feel lousy. This likely also plays a part in the fact that one in seven women experience some degree of postpartum depression as oestrogen levels drop dramatically from their elevated state during pregnancy.

With menopause, as oestrogen levels drop, many women experience bouts of depression, feelings of anxiety, hot flushes, night sweats, sleep deprivation, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, weight gain, brain fog and temper flashes. Now that is A LOT to deal with.

 

Related: So folks, I am officially on Body-Identical HRT

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Glowing skin

I’ve been taking Oestradiol (the big hitter) every day for three weeks as part of my HRT programme. I squirt three pumps of the gel onto my arm every morning, let it dry in, and off I go. I have noticed a couple of things. My boobs got quite tender in the first two weeks. The doctor warned they might as my oestrogen levels began to rise, but that has settled down as he said they would once I levelled off. My boobs feel great in fact. Big and firm. They remind me of the boobs I had when I was on the pill. Boobs often flatten out during menopause and I am loving the oestrogen effect. My skin is glowing, my energy levels are up, and my fingernails grew like wildfire during the first two weeks I took it. I am hoping that this is a sign that the oestrogen is giving my bones the help they so badly need.

My mood is also good. I haven’t had any further bursts of depression or temper flashes since June, but I do think, particularly with all the research I’ve been doing on menopause, that it was only a matter of time before they would return with the next oestrogen dip, and I firmly believe that the oestrogen I am taking is safeguarding against this happening again. This is particularly important to me. I never want to feel the way I felt in June again.

So, oestrogen is working for me. Specifically, THIS oestrogen is working for me. It’s a body identical oestrogen, prescribed under the guidance of Professor John Studd, who is Vice-President of the National Osteoporosis Society and Chairman of the British Menopause Society. It’s a natural product, as opposed to oestrogen gathered from horse urine, which is where a lot of standard HRT oestrogen comes from, and the important difference is that the molecular structure of what I’m taking matches the molecular structure human oestrogen. Which is not the case with horse oestrogen.

So, my message is this. Understand oestrogen, understand how it works, why you might need it, and most importantly, understand WHAT KIND of oestrogen you are taking if you do decide to take HRT.

Next week I’ll take a look at progesterone, the role it plays, and the relationship it has to oestrogen in HRT.

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Related: Loss of confidence during menopause made me a different person

Related: Self-care is not something that comes naturally at this stage of life

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