I'm thrilled to announce I have been asked to become the new Fashion Advisor for one of the UK's largest women forums: The Menopause Room. Every Friday I'll be sharing a brief style tip, thought or inspiration, and it really is an honour to have been invited to join this fantastic group.
If you don't know about The Menopause Room, it is a facebook based forum founded by Jane Atherton, and a wonderful space for ladies going through menopause to share their experiences and understand more about the natural change they are going through. And even if you are yet to go through menopause, believe you had been through it already, or have friends that are going through it, it really is worthwhile supporting this group so that we can end the stigma attached to it.
Jane is also the founder of Phytomones Ltd skincare for Menopause, and is a clinical nutritionist, skin therapist and best selling author of The Menopause Secret and Menopause Advisor.
It's no secret that I'm not going through menopause at the moment. But I want to understand more and, as Jane explains, there are still many misnomers around it, and even those that are going through it, struggle to understand what it really is. So I sat down with her to find out more...
Thank you so much for joining me today Jane! Let's start with a very basic, yet still misunderstood question: what exactly is the definition of menopause?
Menopause is confirmed when a woman has gone 12 consecutive months with having a period (or 24 month if under 50). The average age to reach menopause is 51/52. The years before hand are known as Peri-menopause, which can begin as early as 35, though most women would not connect any symptoms to menopause at this early age.
So whilst generally we assume only those over 50 go through menopause, it isn't age dependent. What is the other biggest misconception when it comes to menopause?
That it will last for a couple of years and then things will go back to normal!
Very interesting. So whilst menopause is confirmed after 12 months of no period, are there any signs she can look out for that indicate she is transitioning into that stage of her reproductive cycle?
Although hormones begin to fluctuate and decline as early as 35, most women will begin to connect the dots and realise things in their body are changing from around 42-45. One of the first symptoms will probably be irregular periods, which can become longer, shorter, heaver or lighter or disappear for several months before returning, so it is a time to expect the unexpected. Other symptoms may include hot flushes, which is pretty much the hallmark of menopause, with up to 75% of women suffering from them, mood swings, fatigue, weight gain, brain fog and loss of energy and motivation. There are many more symptoms which can occur due to oestrogen withdrawal, but it is worth remembering that no two women’s menopause will be alike. Some are very lucky and sail through it without too much bother, while another woman may be unfortunate and get every symptom going.
And then when does it end?
Menopause ending is a little bit of a misnomer, because it doesn’t really end. Once you have reached menopause, your hormones will be at an all-time low and will never increase again naturally. You are no longer fertile and have now entered a new stage of your life. You will now be post menopause for the rest of your days. Symptoms do eventually calm down, but they don’t stop automatically on reaching menopause, they could go on for many more years. So do prepare yourself for this. You need to adjust your lifestyle and attitude so you can live your post-menopausal years in the best possible health, both mentally and physically.
That makes a lot of sense, and is certainly something I hadn't appreciated. I think one of the biggest problems is lack of education on the topic. Take schools for example: they educate both girls and boys on the start of a woman's reproductive cycle, but they rarely touch on the end. Why do you think this is?
Education on menopause definitely needs to be addressed. I'm not sure an 18 year old girl leaving school would fully comprehend the facts about menopause at this early age, to them it is still a lifetime away. And then once leaving full time education there is little opportunity to educate yourself about it, until it is upon you and then it’s frantic googling to find out more about it. I think it may be a good idea for all baby books to include a chapter at the end, briefly outlining future hormonal changes and what to expect from menopause.
Yes that would be a good idea. Although there should also be ways help ladies who choose not to have children too. We need more general discussion and support groups, like The Menopause Room, that engages younger women so they know what to expect, and not to feel embarrassed or ashamed. And for that matter we need to be teaching men about it too! Why do you think there is still so much taboo surrounding it?
I really think it is all to do with lack of education on the subject. People tend to steer away from subjects they don’t know too much about for fear of looking and feeling silly. Especially women, who probably feel they should know more about it than they do, as it’s actually happening to them. But this problem really starts with the Medical profession. There is a whole generation of GP’s out there who have had very little training on menopause, so cannot offer the professional advice women are looking for. Hopefully this will change in the near future and it will be something that is discussed with more ease and confidence.
Wow that's quite shocking - you'd at least expect your GP to know all about it! Even more reason why it's so great that you started The Menopause Room. So how did it come about?
The Menopause Room grew very organically, mainly because there was a real need for an outlet like this for women to communication with one another. Once they began to realise that they were not one their own they found a common ground with one another and it became the place to go to for help, tips, information and advice. It’s the interaction and sharing of advice from other menopausal women that makes it such a hugely popular site.
Yes, it really is a very supportive group, where ladies can share their feelings, thoughts and help each other. And as well as starting the forum, you've created your own menopause cream. What inspired you to produce Phytomone?
My area of expertise is skin therapy and clinical nutrition. My studies also included endocrinology, so I was very well aware of how the skin acted when oestrogen declined. When I entered the peri-menopause years I looked to upgraded my own skin care regime and was surprised when I could not find any products at all (even the most expensive ones) which contained ingredients my hormonally ageing skin required in order to look the best it possibly could. So, along with some of the top cosmetic scientists I created my own collection based around bio identical hormones, which have the ability to bind to facial oestrogen receptors in the deeper dermal layers of the skin, which encourages collagen proliferation, skin cell renewal and deep hydration.
So your skin really does change with menopause. How should a lady's skincare regime change when she enters it?
Without the influence of oestrogen skin health declines dramatically. Oestrogen is responsible for collagen production, which give the skin firmness, as well as producing natural oils to keep the complexion moist and hydrated. So without this vital hormone lines and wrinkles become far more apparent, skin becomes dry, age spots develop and the complexion looks dull and tired. In order to address these problems effectively you need to use products specifically designed for hormonal ageing. The Phytomone skin care collection has been based around a rich source of plant hormones to correct the effect loss of oestrogen has on the skin.
I see, I hadn't appreciated how much oestrogen contributes to one's completion. As I now know, menopause doesn't end - so should a lady continue the same skincare regime there after?
As far as skin care is concerned a massive 30% of collagen is lost in the first five years after reaching menopause, which is when oestrogen is at an all-time low. On average a further 2% of collagen is lost every year afterwards. So it is imperative to take good care of your skin continuously from now on in, by using products specifically formulated for hormonal skin ageing. Phytomone is the most advanced skin care collection for these concerns, with extensive clinical trials and doctors endorsements to prove their effectiveness.
That's brilliant. Now I'm 24, but even I'm being told that in the next couple of years I should start using anti-ageing creams if I want to see their full benefit! Is that really the case, or is this all just a marketing ploy?
Women under the age of 35 will have a plentiful supply of oestrogen, which means their skin will be producing collagen, natural oils and have a healthy skin cell turnover. It is pointless for any women to use anti-ageing creams before this age, it is not necessary and you will not be delaying the ageing system, this is not how the body works. Use a good moisturiser with a SPF and save the anti-ageing creams until post 35.
I'll save my money until I'm 35 then!
Thank you Jane - that really was incredibly informative and interesting to know. Menopause really needs to be talked about more often and it's fantastic that you're leading the way.