Are you embarrassed by one or some of your perimenopause symptoms?
Does the idea of opening up to your friends about it make you squirm?
Do you suspect you need help or advice but the very thought of telling the doctor about it makes you so worried that you just carry on making do?
If you answered yes to some of these questions then I can guarantee that you are most definitely not alone.
Not alone with the changes or symptoms.
Not alone with not talking about it.
And not alone with the embarrassment.
But I am going to tell you about 5 perimenopause symptoms that women tend to put up with silently through fear or embarrassment that are in fact incredibly common! If nothing else it will hopefully make you realise that you are very much not alone.
Take me and one of my first symptoms - incontinence.
I developed mild incontinence around the age of 37/38 years old.
Yet I told nobody, not even my husband (in fact, especially not my husband!!) until just before my 40th birthday. A whole host of other issues arose and I was referred for some investigations to a gynae specialist and it all came spilling out (the various symptoms, not my wee - just to be clear ha ha!).
On paper, my pelvic floor should have been strong.
I exercised regularly. My weight was within the healthy range. Both my daughters were born through c-section (one emergency and one oblique breach planned). And I even did those damn kegel exercises a bit during pregnancy!
Yet here I was trying to perform skipping, box jumps and jumping jacks during workouts and finding I was having to rush to the loo from the impact - sometimes arriving a little too late to have stopped the drips.
But you know what I have subsequently discovered through my extensive menopause research and training?!
There are some little known yet stark facts regarding the pelvic floor and anal/urinary systems during menopause:
* Up to 70% of women will experience symptoms affecting their pelvic floor, bladder and urinary system
* 1 in 3 women will experience prolapse, urinary incontinence or anal incontinence during lifetime
* 1 in 5 women over 40 will suffer from anal incontinence
* Pelvic Floor Dysfunction is seen in 1 in 3 athletes (being an elite athlete is a strong indicator of urinary incontinence)
* Pelvic health is known to be a barrier in fitness in 50% of women suffering from it in the wider population
“More than one third of the mid-age and older women…reported leaking urine. Of these, more than 40% of the mid-age women…reported leaking urine during sport or exercise… The data is highly suggestive that leaking urine may be a barrier to physical activity, especially among mid-age women.” *
* Too wet to exercise? Leaking urine as a barrier to physical activity in women
It is my mission to talk about these things and open up about my own experiences so other women don't have to suffer the way I did.
We need women to know that these things are common, they happen regularly but THERE ARE things you can do to help. You DO NOT need to just shove in an incontinence pad and carry on suffering in silence.
Below are all tips that I have learnt and taken on board regarding leakage during my own perimenopause journey.
* When it comes to leakage there are some things you should know that can worsen incontinence: caffeine, fizzy drinks, alcohol and dairy.
* It is crucial to eat well and keep water intake high otherwise the urine can become more concentrated and lead to a higher incidence of UTI.
* with these symptoms (incontinence/prolapse etc) women can walk, swim and do certain exercises BUT they definitely need specialist advice, so I suggest referring themselves to a Women’s Health Physio or other specialists who specialise in pelvic health.
* It can be helpful to avoid exercises that put pressure on the pelvic floor and high impact exercises such as HIIT, jogging, rushed or weighted sit ups, heavy lifting etc but they can resume these when their pelvic floor strength improves.
* Pilates is particularly good for urinary tract issues and Barre, Pilates and Yoga can all be great for pelvic health when cued correctly. These should be encouraged to improve pelvic health before strength work.
* NEVER hold your breath when lifting heavy weights or even in Down Dog as it places the pelvic floor under unnecessary pressure and can lead to prolapse.
By following that advice and taking HRT, incontinence is now not something that bothers me.
But for a few years I put up with it silently and worrying that people would think I was a freak!
So, what other symptoms pop up that regularly embarrass women into silence?
1. Facial Hair - yup, you will definitely need to invest in some bloody good tweezers, a decent mirror and bright lights for this journey - some rogue hairs are bound to make an unwanted appearance from time to time!
2. Body Odour - this is surprisingly common when I talk to women on this journey although very put it down to their changing hormones - changes to smell can occur under the arms, in your mouth, your feet and even your vagina.
3. Sex Drive Disappears - George Clooney could literally turn up at your door in a tuxedo and frankly you would just ask him to clean the house, make you a coffee and maybe give you a back massage - but sex?! No thank you George, not today...
4. Acne - oh yes it is not just teenagers dealing with hormones that face outbreaks and dreaded spots, you may well find that after a couple of decades mostly spot free, you are now back to squeeze, treat, cover, repeat...!
5. Wind - if you are anything like me, you will have cringed many a time in your youth as the older generation let rip with farts seemingly with total abandon on occasion and wondered why on earth they were unable to just hold it in like everyone else.
Well it turns out this can suddenly become a very real and pretty embarrassing reality for perimenopausal women! My advice - just own it - trying to keep it in will only lead to bloating and major discomfort!!!!
Some of these symptoms are embarrassing but not particularly harmful while others can have a profound impact on the way you live your life and the things you are able to do.
While I am trying to share and be open here, so that you know that you are not alone, I really urge you to seek help if you are suffering.
There are things that you can do to ease the journey and that will improve your quality of life.
This life transition can be tough at times but don't make it harder by doing it alone.
"When we suffer in silence, we think that we are alone, different, separate.
When we share our stories of suffering, we find that we are the same”
If you would like access to a FREE download of a 'Menopause Symptom Tracker' that you use to take to the GP to discuss the way you have been feeling, then sign up to my FREE 3 Day Series here: