From magazine editor to menopause business founder, I’ve watched the menopause community grow.
As the founder of Hyldalife.com, a women’s health and wellbeing platform dedicated to busting taboos around menopause and helping women take the brakes off midlife, I’ve had a front row seat from which to watch the fast-changing menopause scene over the past few years. It’s been quite a show! Since launching Hylda back in 2019, I’ve seen menopause go from being a whispered conversation to a loud and proud cause championed by A-list midlife women like Davina McCall and actress Naomi Watts. But it wasn’t always like this.
No-one warned me about the anxiety
It was 2016 when, unbeknownst to me, my own perimenopause symptoms kicked in. I was 49, and had just made a midlife career change, from glossy magazine editor to PR director. I was excited by the move, so why was I walking into my new job every day feeling sick with nerves? Why was I feeling confused and unable to retain information? Why was I crying in the office loo?
I’d written about women’s health and wellbeing issues at Red magazine for a decade, so I was the last person who should have been blindsided by the start of perimenopause. But I had no idea that the anxiety and loss of confidence that had descended were, in fact, classic symptoms. I was 49 and the average age for perimenopause to begin is 45, and yet it didn’t occur to me that my hormones were the culprits. Instead, I blamed myself and felt useless for not coping.
I’m far from alone in being knocked sideways by menopause symptoms. A recent government report into menopause in the workplace revealed that three in five women are negatively affected, with a Fawcett Society report stating that 10% of women have left a job due to menopause symptoms.
The community support is growing
For a perimenopausal woman today, there are a growing number of support networks. Platforms like this one and Hylda’s own private Facebook group Women With Attitude, Ambition and Brain Fog, which has nearly 6000 members from all over the world, are there not just to educate, but to support and inspire with stories of how other women are coping and thriving. Sadly none of this existed when I needed it. Magazines and newspapers didn’t write about menopause, let alone perimenopause, and if they did, the articles were illustrated with images of women looking sad and exhausted. Menopause was an “old age” condition, certainly not something that a 40-something woman would be affected by. It was only when I finally went to my GP to discuss my anxiety, and was told by her that I was “in menopause” (I was shocked!), that I understood what was going on. Just a few weeks later, after starting to take HRT, I felt like myself again.
My experience made me determined to do something to ensure that other women didn’t sleepwalk into menopause like I had done. So I set up Hyldalife.com in 2019, as a platform to give women evidence-based medical information and inspire them with stories from well-known women, sharing their own menopause experiences. Well, that was easier said than done!
Women sharing their stories
The medical community was supportive from day one. The brilliant Dr Louise Newson and Dr Stephanie Goodwin, two of the UK’s leading menopause experts, allowed me to use their articles on the website. And Hylda joined forces with My Menopause Centre, the only UK clinic rated “Outstanding” by the Quality Care Commission, to offer expertise from their medical team to Hylda’s community of women.
It was a very different story when it came to asking celebrities to share their menopause experiences. I’ll never name names, but I heard “No” far more than “Yes”, including from those who have since been more comfortable discussing the issue. My hunch is that, given the ageism that women in the public eye still face, talking about menopause was not a good career move.
Not everyone said “No”. Shout out to the amazing journalist and TV presenter Trisha Goddard, who talked about her challenging symptoms and how she dealt with them. Beauty and wellbeing queen Liz Earle, who has done so much to educate women about menopause issues, was happy to share her story, as was actress Patsy Kensit, who revealed how humiliated she had felt when she was the first one in her group of friends to enter the menopause years.
Thanks to women like these, there is a wealth of information and inspiration for today’s menopausal women to draw upon. We still have a long way to go to completely shake off the taboos, but we’re getting there. I wish the communities had been there when I needed them, but I’m feeling optimistic for the future. The more women talk about their menopause challenges and solutions, the better it will be for all of us – and for the next generation of women coming into their menopause years.
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