Seven of our most inspiring and popular TV presenters, entrepreneurs and sportswomen have opened up about their experience of the menopause in an exclusive shoot and interview with HELLO! Louise Minchin, Meg Matthews, Trisha Goddard, Kay Burley, Andrea McLean, Liz Earle and Sharron Davies came together to swap stories and discuss one of the hottest health topics of the moment, as well as celebrate midlife.
On arrival they greeted each other like old friends and, as they rummaged through the rail of fabulous fashions to choose an outfit, they caught up on gossip. "We've all been around a while," joked Sharron Davies, 56, of their comfortable familiarity with each other. Louise Minchin, 50, Meg Mathews, 53, Trisha Goddard, 61, Kay Burley, 58, Andrea McLean, 49, Liz Earle, 56, and Sharron may have forged different paths in life but they have one thing in common – a willingness and commitment to talk openly and honestly about one of the last health taboos, the menopause.
Three of the inspiring women who have spoken about the menopause
"Some people would say: 'Oh for God's sake, why are you talking about it?' But raspberries to you," said Andrea, who has written a book on the subject, Confessions of a Menopausal Woman. "We should be allowed to if we want to."
"Women like the ones gathered here are not prepared to sit in a corner any more and be told what to do," said Kay. "We're blazing a trail."
All are using their profile to highlight this significant change in a woman's life and share their experiences, whether about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or exercise, or to comment on the latest news about pioneering surgery, in which ovarian tissue is removed, frozen and replaced at a later date, which could delay the menopause for 20 years. They also want to celebrate this time in midlife when women are wiser, often fitter and more confident. "I feel better and stronger than I did in my 20s, 30s and 40s," said Louise, who competes in triathlons. "I might have wrinkles, but I've got muscles." "Now's our time," added Kay. "There is no better time in history for women of our age now."
Meg Matthews - Activist, entrepreneur and MegsMenopause.com founder
"When I was 48 I began to feel really out of sorts – anxious and foggy-brained, my joints felt inflamed and I wasn't sleeping. I felt overwhelmed by life. I went to my GP in despair and he gave me anti-depressants. I was embarrassed about that. During my Britpop, rock'n'roll days, everyone kept saying to me, including my mum: 'This will catch up on you.' I'm clean and sober now but I was part of the rave scene in the '80s, in a field taking whatever, going 'Woo woo' for 12 hours, so when I started having symptoms I thought: 'Oh my God, I’ve shattered my nervous system.' When someone suggested it might be the menopause I said: 'Are you mad? I’m not an old lady.' But I went racing to my doctor and started taking HRT. Within weeks I felt better."
"There are millions of women going through the menopause, and a huge percentage won't have a clue what's going on, which is why I want to get the word out there. My daughter Anaïs [with Meg's ex-husband Noel Gallagher] has heard non-stop about it and now rolls her eyes. She's like: 'Oh God, here we go again, she’s off.' I loved being young. I had the best time at 25, travelling the world. Why wouldn't I want to be doing that again? But I also love being my age. I feel more empowered and that I am where I'm supposed to be in life."
Andrea McLean - ITV’s Loose Women host and author
"I can't wait to turn 50. Don't get me wrong – I'd still love to be 50 and have more collagen, that would be good. I like looking nice and I'm not apologetic about that – I bought a bag of fake hair with me today because I want to look zhooshy. I went through a surgical menopause after having a full hysterectomy due to endometriosis at 46 and it was like falling off a cliff. I had terrible insomnia, chronic night sweats, hot flushes and brain fog, but the absolute worst was anxiety, which is still something I struggle with. I now take everything I possibly can – HRT, and I also rattle with supplements."
"I was reluctant to go public about my operation at first – it felt private and personal and I didn't want people to think I was old or past it. But [actress and Loose Women panellist] Linda Robson persuaded me to talk about it on Loose Women. Within 24 hours around 10,000 women had got in touch. Shortly after my operation I was diagnosed with a condition called vasculitis – potentially fatal if it's not found in time – which changed my mindset as you think: 'Why are people moaning about getting older?' It's made me realise: 'I'm halfway through. I need to do all the stuff I said I'd get around to doing one day.' This new menopause surgery is definitely something I would have considered. Anything that can make women's lives better both mentally and physically should be welcomed."
Andrea McLean, among others, spoke to HELLO! about the menopause
Sharron Davies - Former Olympic swimmer and TV presenter
"I've not suffered from many menopausal symptoms and I don't remember my mum ever going through it. I'd see my friends breaking out into horrendous hot sweats and feel quite lucky. But we're so much more open talking about it now, and people are more prepared to share their stories and anecdotes about what works for them. It's also important for men to talk about it. When I posted on Twitter that I was doing this photoshoot, three guys sent me messages saying: 'My wife is really going through it – can you include any tips?' I thought that was really lovely. It would be great if more men could say: 'How can we play our part?'"
!If someone were to say to me: 'Pick an age and you can stay there forever,' I'd probably choose my mid-30s as, physically, you're in one of the best places you'll ever be and you have lots of choices. But at 56 you have wisdom and appreciate more what you've got. You have the confidence to stand up for the things you believe in, and I value the people I have in my life. Age now is so individual – how you look after yourself, keep yourself active and use your brain. I look at people like Dame Helen Mirren and think: 'Wow, she’s amazing.'"
Louise Minchin - BBC’s Breakfast presenter
"I was about 47 when I first started going through the menopause. I thought you just got hot flushes and night sweats. I had no idea there are around 34 symptoms, and I had about 25 of them, including palpitations, anxiety and just not feeling in control. I'd wake up at night feeling like I'd run a marathon in the tropics. Hot flushes are also very difficult to cope with when you're sitting on a sofa in front of 6.5 million people. The studio is really cold now – we have the 'Louise' setting on the air conditioning."
"I take HRT and feel like a different person. I feel like me – that person from my 20s and 30s with a real joie de vivre and get-up-and-go. I feel strong and more able to stand up for myself than I have for many, many years. I also exercise at least six times a week – I run, swim and cycle. It's quite liberating not being young. I was crossing the road the other day with a friend and two young blokes in a van hooted at us. We thought: 'Are you literally mad? We're in our 50s!' Of course, it was kind of sexist but it was also deeply funny. It made me laugh in a way that I wouldn’t have laughed when I was 25."
BBC Breakfast presenter Liz Minchin says she feels stronger
Liz Earle - Multi-brand founder, author and editor in chief of Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine
"I've had five children and therefore five opportunities for GPs and health visitors to say: 'By the way, by the time you get to your 40s you may begin to feel differently, notice some changes.' But nobody said anything. Looking back, I had bad headaches and disturbed sleep, but it was only when I was writing about and researching the menopause [Liz is author of The Good Menopause Guide] that the penny dropped. As women, we tend to be quite stoic. Symptoms usually appear in our 40s and 50s, when we're in this sandwiched generation of caring for kids and possibly elderly parents, and busy at work, so you might think you’re stressed or tired because of those reasons."
"But one of the big issues is that GPs receive no training in the menopause, even now. Women patients are often having to educate GPs as the information isn't coming from the top down. I've even spoken to specialists and doctors who have said: 'I didn’t recognise my own symptoms.' That's why it's important that we talk about it. I feel better and fitter now than in my 40s. I've had my children, developed my career, know my own mind and what fashions suit me, and now it's time to go forth and enjoy life. For many women it's a time when their body conspires against them, but if you can get over that, it should be a time of good news."
Kay Burley - Sky News broadcaster and journalist
"My hot sweats have been really bad in the last six months. The hair and make-up girls are very aware and always carry rollers to put oomph in my hair or touch up my powder. I didn't used to talk about it but the young boys in the office would get embarrassed and think: 'Why is she so hot and bothered?' Now I tell them: 'Just having a power surge – it'll be gone in a minute.' I have a very high risk of breast cancer so I decided, on balance, that I wasn't going to take HRT because of the risk factors involved but be gritty and northern about it. Exercise is good for me – I climb mountains. I also go clubbing. I go to a gay club with friends in Soho, where you're encouraged to dance on the tables. Then we'll walk across Waterloo Bridge at 6am and have breakfast at The Shard."
"I've always felt like I was 17. I don't get tired – my mother was dead at my age so I'm just going to live life. The advantage of being my age now is that I always used to worry about what people thought of me – I'm actually quite a shy little girl from Wigan – but I have taught myself to be confident. And I'm not having Mother Nature mugging me off. B******s to that. I have facials every fortnight, ultrasound therapy every year, and the potential for a facelift every ten years. I don't particularly like going under the knife but I do enjoy the results."
Sky reporter Kay Burley says she's taught herself to be confident
Trisha Goddard - Chat-show and TV star
"I went through the menopause at the age of 50 as a result of the chemotherapy treatment I received for breast cancer. It was like being thrown against a wall. I couldn't have any hormonal treatment as I had to be oestrogen-free but I managed my symptoms through exercise, running and weight training every day. It saved me physically and mentally. Also, I was glad to be alive. Hot flush? Good, it shows I'm still here. "I'm of West Indian heritage and spent some of my childhood in East Africa. There, as in the West Indies, older women are considered an asset. Once you give birth you're venerated, and when you start going through all the different changes, you're the wise woman."
"I grew up seeing older women as leaders, whereas in the West we talk about them being invisible and weak. I love being my age. I'm having the best sex I've ever had. I've always dated and married younger men – what a mistake that was – but my partner now is the oldest man I've dated. I'm not scared to try new things and I’m glad I've kept my body strong. I hike, rollerblade, run and don’t sweat the small stuff so much, and that’s a combination of age and giving thanks. I didn't think I'd get through – dying was a real option – so I've got a new appreciation of life. Of the new surgery, I'm sure it will benefit a lot of women, but delaying the menopause for 20 years? That would hit you around 70. Bloody hell, it's bad enough at this age, let alone when one is so much older."
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