With insights from the likes of Mariella Frostrup, Dr Louise Newson and Liz Earle, these are the reads we rate
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At last, the conversation about menopause and perimenopause is opening up. Given that there are 13 million menopausal women in the UK, it’s going to get very loud indeed. The publishing world has embraced this new movement with a raft of must-read books on perimenopause and menopause written by enlightened specialist GPs such as Dr Louise Newson and Dr Shazadhi Harper as well women in the public eye such as Mariella Frostrup, Liz Earle and Davina McCall (whose book Menopausing is due out in May). These women have been bold enough to use their platform to share their own experiences and make the confusing world of mid-life hormones mainstream.
These reads (and I’ve devoured them all) all shine in different ways – some are personal experiences, some medical, some nutritional, many are a mixture of all of them. How brilliant is it that the word ‘perimenopause’ especially has now made it loud and proud onto the covers of books – who’d even heard of what we now know as ‘the change before the change’ five years ago? I wish I had when I was going through it. Thankfully, there’s now an emphasis now on being prepared, controlling your hormones before they control you, which is also the subtitle of The Perimenopause Solution, below.
I love the frank and laugh-out-loud funny way that menopausal women are happy to share (a plus-side of menopause, you stop giving a damn what people think) as well as how we’re now talking honestly about the ructions it can send through families (Dr Lousie Newson says it made her hate her husband) and how women need to be supported to stay in the workplace to avoid a huge menopause talent drain.
What these books are crucial for is filling the knowledge gap on the medical options available. Every perimenopausal woman is entitled to receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) from her GP without needing a blood test. Sadly, many women still report being misdiagnosed, especially if we’re still having periods, and are often sent home with antidepressants instead.
Here are my favourite reads on perimenopause and menopause. If you have books that you love please share them in the comments and let’s keep the conversation flowing.
A pioneering GP (find her at menopause_doctor), Louise is working to help to educate all GPs on menopause so that no woman should be misdiagnosed or denied treatment. Until that happens, this book steps in to fill the gap giving you all you need to understand symptoms and treatment options. I’ve spoken to Lousie many times and she’s a passionate advocate of HRT, which she takes herself, and having looked at the science, especially when it comes to breast cancer risk, says that for most women the benefits outweigh the risks.
This book answers clearly and concisely the most common questions Louise is asked in her clinic and even has an informative section on the beneficial role replacement oestrogen (HRT) may have in surviving Covid and mitigating the severity of Long Covid. It covers sleep, sex, brain fog, supplements and optimising exercise and nutrition for a better mid-life ride; essential reading for everyone.
Broadcaster Mariella Frostrup was one of the first high-profile (and glamorous) familiar faces to begin talking about menopause and in 2018 made a BBC documentary The Truth About The Menopause sharing her own experience and delving into the latest science. Her book, written with journalist Alice Smellie, just like Mariella herself is funny, intelligent, culturally aware and full of insights from her vast contacts book. She talks to all kinds of women from NHS workers to chief execs and celebrities about their experiences. It jumps from the quirky and interesting (whales are the only other mammals who go through menopause) to the practical and personal. It’s gaining quite a bit of traction across the pond too. Just the other day actress Naomi Watts ‘grammed herself bigging up this book, to which Gwyneth Paltrow responded “I feel you homie”. Out in hardback, this is a book you can send to friends that’s feel like a treat rather than ‘homework’. Just make sure you buy one for yourself too.
Two trusted health experts (who also happen to be perimenopausal themselves) have joined forces to write this book which covers a dazzling breadth of information reflected by their specialisms. Dr Shazadi, founder of the Harper Clinic in London, is a doctor with specialist training in menopause and Emma is a nutritionist, lifestyle expert and member of the British Menopause Society.
This book had a pro-ageing approach and is warmly written with chapters such as ’47 ways to lose fat that don’t involve calorie counting’ and ideas on what constitutes a good menopause diet. It’s an inclusive book; on relationships, for example, it doesn’t assume that that the reader is in a heterosexual couple – there may be two of you going through perimenopause at the same time. It covers pretty much everything aspect of this life stage from knowing your rights in the workplace to mental health (Menopausal Mood Disorder or MMD is a real thing – good to know when you think you’re going crazy) and working smarter to gut health, sex and sleep.
Joylessness isn’t listed as one of the symptoms of menopause but for many women, including broadcaster and regular Loose Women panellist Kaye Adams, it’s a creeper, that takes hold by stealth as our hormones dip. This common vanishing of mojo is all the more distressing as it’s often at odds with the person we used to be.
In the forward to her book of first-hand accounts, Kate describes how uncharacteristic panic attacks in her 50s were her first sign. Both her parents passed away and at work she tried to plough on regardless in ‘menopause denial’. Still Hot is the opposite of that putting your fingers in your ears strategy, which Kaye admits didn’t serve her well. She’s gathered the stories of 42 menopausal women from the famous – makeup entrepreneur Trinny Woodall to TV presenter Lorraine Kelly to news presenter Lousie Minchin – as well as firefighters authors and campaigners. Their contributions are grouped under headings such as rage, fog, grief, freedom wisdom, depending on what they speak to. Whatever you’re feeling, you’ll find someone here who has been through it.
This was the first book on menopause that I bought and I’ve lent it to friends who have all said how much they enjoyed it. Menopause can be a scary time and the beautiful lifestyle and food photography in this hardback, alongside Liz’s well-researched advice and 60 menopause-friendly recipes, somehow make you feel like that all will be well. Liz herself had a late baby at 47 and was caught completely off-guard by the menopause as a new mum. Her primary symptom was sleeplessness, which led her to seek out HRT and deepen her knowledge of holistic support too.
The factual first half part of the book covers all the basics as well as topics such as how to protect your oral health (receding gums, tooth loss, burning mouth can all be caused by plummeting hormones) hair loss and libido. I had never heard of facial osteoporosis (yes, bone loss happens everywhere, including to the orbital bones around the eyes, which can cause them to hollow) until I read it here. Eating enough calcium and vitamin D (walnuts have both) for our bones is crucial at this stage – and there are plenty of recipes that offer support, in the second half of the book. My personal favourite is Liz’s delicious Meno-tea Loaf with walnuts, flax seeds for phytoestrogens and apricots for iron. It’s an inspirational book that makes you want to take care of yourself.
Meg Mathews’ menopause story will be all too familiar to women who’ve been caught by surprise by symptoms in their forties when they (and their GP) believed they were too young to be menopausal. So out of character were her symptoms – extreme tiredness, brain fog and blues – that Meg thought that aged 47, she might even be pregnant again or have glandular fever. Her GP put her on anti-depressants. At one point she didn’t leave the house for three months until she forced herself to go to an AA meeting (Meg is a recovering addict). A member pulled her aside and suggested it might be menopause. From then on Meg was on a mission, and set about finding remedies, from natural to NHS prescribed. She settled on HRT with CBD to manage menopausal anxiety.
She’s a big advocate of menopausal sex and masturbation, not just for self-esteem and happy hormones but for vaginal health too. Over the years she’s talked to countless top experts across health and wellbeing for her successful Meg’s Menopause Podcast and app, who contribute to this bite-sized book, with a forward written by Dr Lousie Newson. I keep this by my bedside to dip into. It’s written in accessible snippets and I love the fact that Meg is conscious of people’s budgets when recommending products and treatment and the fact that not everyone can or wants to take HRT.
You might guess from the cover of this book written by British-born personal trainer and nutrition coach Amanda Thebe that it’s brimming with attitude and humour and doesn’t shy away from detail. Amanda was used to being supremely fit, but when she turned 43, she suddenly had to lie down one day after her regular boxing class and couldn’t get up. Her head felt like it was clamped in a vice and the room started to spin. She assumed she had a virus (interestingly, it’s now being found that some women who have had Covid are having their menopausal symptoms missed because of the similarities with Long Covid).
These episodes, which came with nausea and vomiting, would happen for a few days every week. There followed two years of inconclusive tests, during which time she nearly drove her husband and children away with her rages. However, an appointment with her gynaecologist – who instantly recognised perimenopause – saved her life. This book is born out of her experience. In part one, she says, “I lay out all the shitty stuff.” But encourages readers not to be put off by the doom. “Persevere until Part 2… this is “where we get deep and dirty into solution-driven actions you can take today.”
Full of no-nonsense hacks, including photographed weights exercises to follow, this is your best friend’s guide to finding your strength, vitality and sense of humour.
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