Exercise | Menopause | Painful Joints

Jane interviews Meg Mathews

Hi Meg – thank you so much for your time to talk to me and to share you experiences; being so open and honest will help so many of our readers.

What was the period from when you started to feel a change until you were told you were menopausal? Were you aware of the changes going on inside?
I was in my late 40’s and I really had no clue what was going on. I knew that something bad was happening to my body and mind but just did not think it was hormonal related.
Before I knew it was the menopause, I took anti-depressants to cope with my anxiety. My GP prescribed them to me as I couldn’t even go to the corner shop because I just couldn’t face anyone. I really felt as if I was losing my mind.
I was lucky enough to be under gynaecologist Dr Sara Matthews at the time and I explained how I was feeling to her and she told me that it was perfectly normal for someone going through the menopause. I had never connected the dots that all the symptoms were due to the menopause!
Acceptance and fear are two strong emotions. Did it take long before you accepted that you were menopausal and were you fearful for your future?
I wanted to accept it as soon as I was told it was menopause. It was a relief to know what was going on. It made total sense I thought “oh its menopause”. I wasn’t fearful, I was relieved and Sara reassured me that everything I was feeling was common for the menopause!
I do not fear the future now as I have felt so bad for so long. In fact, I am now looking forward to the future because I feel so much better!
Did you have any previous knowledge of the menopause? Did your mum talk about it?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to speak to mum about it. I left home at 18 so I wasn’t around my mum enough to see what effect the menopause had on her and she passed away 5 years ago, which was before I started my menopause.
How long do you think you were peri-menopausal for? How bad were you?
My body had been through so much. I had Anais at 34 and then I had glandular fever. As we know peri-menopause can start in as early as your 30’s so I really do think that I was suffering for many years and it had started back then.
When I was peri-menopausal I think, like a lot of women, I self-medicated. Having a bit too much wine to feel better. But as we know that makes all of the symptoms worse. All those empty calories also lead to weight gain which can have a negative effect on our self-esteem.
What was the turning point and what would you have done differently?
The turning point was when Dr Sara Matthews prescribed me HRT. It was only then that I lost weight because I became more active as I had more energy. I remember the doctor’s receptionist saying “Meg this is going to change your life, you will feel so much better”. She was so right! I actually feel and look better now than I did when I was 40. HRT has helped my skin, hair, joints and I have loads more energy. It’s called hormone replacement therapy for a reason, you need to put back the hormones that you are basically losing.
What would you have done differently?
I would have gone on HRT earlier! You just don’t know at the time what is going on. If women could take a step back and look at what is happening, then it is obvious, but when you are in the nightmare of it, it is so overwhelming.
What HRT are you on Meg?
I am on body identical hormones prescribed by my doctor. I am on the oestrogen gel – the patches didn’t work for me as I don’t think I left them long enough after putting on my body lotion. They kept coming off! I take a progesterone tablet at night, which helps with sleep and I rub in a little testosterone gel every morning on my thigh.

What other advice do you have for women out there that are feeling lost and don’t know where to turn?
I really struggled with my GP and so I was lucky to have the option to be under the guidance of Dr Sara Matthews – but I know a lot of women might not have that luxury.
Go to your GP and quote them the NICE guidelines that show that HRT is now safe for many women. I took my private prescription to my GP and he had to look it up in his book as he didn’t know what it was. He was able to prescribe me oestrogen and progesterone. Unfortunately, if you need testosterone then you need to go to a specialist menopause clinic. They are available on the NHS, just ask for a referral from your GP.
At the beginning of your menopause could you have gone out and exercised?
No way – I could not even face going to the corner shop let alone going to the gym!
Last yearWomen in Sport released a study toshow that exercise helps with menopause symptoms – do you find exercise helps you and what do you do?
I now know that exercise helps my mood and I know I have to do it because of my bones. Like my mum, I have osteoporosis in the hips. I walk on an incline in the gym for 30 minutes to become breathless and I do lots of squats! I know weight bearing exercise will help my bones so I make sure I do this at least 2/3 times per week.
Is there any exercise you avoid?
Running and any impact work.
The major sites of osteoporosis are hips wrists and spine – how did you know that you had it in your hip?
Because of my mum’s medical history, I wanted to find out so I had a Dexa scan, which scans the bones to see what condition they are in. I am lucky that they scanned all sites that you mention above.
Is there any other advice that you would give to women who are going through menopause?
Every woman’s menopause is different but if you are suffering, talk about it with someone you trust, whether that be a friend of family member. When you talk to others, you will be surprised by how many other women are feeling the way you are. Then do your research into the various treatments available and seek medical help. A healthy, balanced diet and exercise are also key to feeling good.
Thank you Meg you are a star!

More info can be found on Meg’s site