My nana used to call it the ‘change of life’. It was a change alright.
If you take a quick glance at the health section in most Australian bookshops, you will notice that suddenly there are quite a few books about older women’s health, specifically perimenopause and menopause, being published. I can only assume it’s a sign of Boomer women hitting this milestone in droves, creating a demand for more information and more services now! As a Gen-Xer following along behind, I have always been grateful for the proactive approach Boomer women have taken towards their health. By dint of sheer numbers, they have turned many once taboo topics, into mainstream concerns.
Many of the new menopause books feature phrases like ‘manage your hormones’ or ‘natural menopause’. I’m sure they are written by well-meaning people, but they are not doctors with actual medical degrees. And they remind me of the whole palaver that can occur around ‘natural’ childbirth and whether to breast feed or not or for how long. Sadly, they so often peddle misinformation and what I call whoo-whoo therapies. They often make women feel bad or guilty for taking anything other than a herbal, ‘natural’ approach to their health.
Which is why I generally pick menopause books that are written by Australian woman doctors (I also have the book by Dr Jen Gunter – a Canadian gynecologist – on my radar).
In 2015 I read You’re Still Hot to Me by Jean Kittson. At the time I wrote:
Thanks to comedienne Jean Kittson’s refreshing book, I now feel prepared. I feel understood and accepted. I have lots of useful, practical information at my fingertips. I have a resource to dip in and out of when I need reassurance.
And I can have a good laugh at myself at the same time.
The information in Kittson’s book got me through the next five years of change with my sanity and humour mostly in tact. It was so useful, that I passed in onto my next sister, with instructions to pass onto the youngest when the time was right.
Fast forward to 2020, early 2020, that more innocent, carefree time before Covid, when I finally posted my thoughts on The Feel Good Guide to Menopause by Dr Nicola Gates’ – an Australian neuropsychologist and psychologist.
I’ll be going along fine for months, then suddenly a weird phase or another weird symptom will pop up. I’ll pull out this book, find the appropriate chapter and realise that I’ve simply ticked off yet another marker along the way. It would seem that I am determined, in my usual uber-conscientious way, to complete this journey by going through every single stage!
Not knowing what will happen or when is a curious state of affairs when it comes to your body. Books like this give you back a little bit of control.
The M Word: How to
Survive Thrive in Menopause by Dr Ginni Mansberg is another Australian specific, well-researched, up-to-date book about women’s health.
Dr Mansberg is a Sydney-based GP with 30 years experience in women’s health. I won’t go through the whole book, chapter by chapter, or bore you with too many personal anecdotes. But if you are also perimenopausal, or live with someone who is perimenopausal, then this is an excellent resource to have to hand.
Her book was the first book where I finally felt like I got handle on the whole HRT debate. It was reassuring and factual, with easy to read charts and lists. She covers off the various herbal, ‘natural’ therapies, debunking the myths, but also acknowledging any that may have some proven benefits as well as accounting for some placebo effects. She includes a three page letter to your partner at the back of the book, which summarises the main points.
- 75% of women will suffer from hot flushes, ranging from mild to debilitating.
- For 1 in 20 women, these will last for the rest of their lives!
- Hot flushes are a result of falling oestrogen levels.
- 80% of women will have some vaginal menopause symptoms.
- Menopause can occur between age 45 – 58
- During perimenopause each month is different re your progesterone and oestrogen levels.
- 40 – 60% of perimenopausal women will suffer from insomnia.
- A lucky 10% will barely have any disturbances or noticeable effects.
I found her writing style to be very easy and relaxed to read. She included lots of practical tips and advice, backed up by the science and stats. All of which I found to be positive, supportive and inclusive.
Thanks to these three books I know understand that ALL women will experience perimenopause differently. There is no template or timetable. Your pathway through this phase can NOT be predicted by age of menarche or your mother or sister’s experiences. Every women will have their own lifetime of lived experiences that will impact on their perimenopause timeframe. It’s a wild, unpredictable ride through hormonal fluctuations and changes to your body.
Books like this give back a semblance of control and help you realise that you are not alone. Knowledge is a good thing to have.
Book: The M Word: How to
SurviveThrive in Menopause Author: Dr Ginni Mansberg ISBN: 9781760524876 Publisher: Murdoch Books Date: January 2020 Format: Trade Paperback
- This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.