Menopause and women's health generally is only just beginning to be discussed openly but it is long overdue, we need to understand more and champion for better health care to support us as we go through midlife. I decided a couple of years ago to be more open about my own menopause journey on my blog in the hope that my experience could help others. So often women just don't know where to start when they need help with a myriad of strange and new symptoms. When they just don't feel like them any more. And the obvious place to start is often their GP - but sadly this often results in even more confusion. I am sure there are some really well trained GP's out there but unfortunately they are in the minority, the menopause training given to our GP's is woefully inadequate and the advice they can offer is limited or simply incorrect. And so women give up, have to fight to get help or go privately. It is a shocking situation.
But what if there was a way to educate yourself and know how to get the right help and make informed choices for you?! I am a big believer in education and taking responsibility for our health. So when I was approached by Bia Care, offering to educate women in an affordable way on menopause health and to connect them with the right specialists, I was really keen to find out more.
Fernanda from Bia Care gave me a call, we had a really interesting chat and we agreed I would join one of their first pilot menopause courses (kindly gifted to me). The purpose of the pilot course was to assess whether women experiencing menopausal symptoms would find expert-led group sessions a helpful way to have their menopause questions answered, develop a better understanding of treatment options and to devise a personal menopause treatment plan.
The pilot course was split over three weeks with a workshop every week, lasting one hour, and focusing on a particular aspect of hormonal health with a different healthcare professional.
The final format of the Bia Care 12 Week Menopause Programme will vary slightly from the original pilot I took part in but my experience below will give. you an idea of the quality of information that Bia Care offer.
Week 1 - Specialist Menopause Nurse
My week 1 session was run by a specialist nurse practitioner (but it can also be a GP). Cathy is a women's health gynae nurse and works both privately and within the NHS. She covered the background information about menopause, what happens, when and why! She was clear and knowledgable and explained it all very well. Having already done quite a lot of research myself I was really reassured she knew her stuff and was providing correct and balanced information. There were approx four others on the zoom workshop with me and we introduced ourselves, then we listened to Cathy's presentation, we were able to type questions in as we went along and there was a further opportunity for Q&A's at the end. I had a few takeaways from the session ... I was able to discuss my endometrial ablation procedure and understand a bit more about the role of progesterone in our bodies, I also asked about my own dosage of oestrogel and discussed some of the benefits of testosterone. This session was not a personal consultation and they are unable to offer specific advice but it was a good way to ask general questions and gain a bit more insight into the different options.
Week 2 - Menopause Dietician
The second week was with Eugenia a dietician with a special interest in menopause. We first of all discussed any carry forward actions from the previous week to find out how we were getting on. Eugenia then did her presentation and explained some useful facts like why do we gain weight (especially around the middle) in midlife, we talked about alcohol and its worsening effects at this time, we discussed keeping a food diary to monitor symptoms and we discussed risk factors like osteoporosis and the importance of taking a Vitamin D supplement. My takeaways ... avoid caffeine and alcohol, spicy foods and crash diets, take a Vitamin D supplement in the winter months, eat regularly and watch portion sizes (little and often) and try to reduce sugars and processed foods. All really good stuff and fantastic reminders of the simple changes we can make to our diet to have a big effect on our overall health.
Week 3 - Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
I was't originally so interested in this workshop as I have been fortunate (so far) and not had any issues but it was so much more than just vaginal dryness! Hannah ran this session and I was able to learn that it is common for frozen shoulder to develop in menopause (I had two, one had to be operated on the other one I managed to sort with physio). I was reassured that doing strength training exercise is the best option in midlife. We talked further about osteoporosis prevention and we also talked about vaginal dryness and urinary weakness. I learnt so much more than I expected and Hannah followed up after the session with lots of useful links and information.
Bonus Week 4 - Emotional Fitness
A few weeks after the initial three workshops, Fernanda got in touch again and said that she was offering a further workshop that they may include in the main course. This would be led by Dr Mary Collins and would I like to join. Our emotions during menopause can be so up and down and so unexpected. Women who have never experienced anxiety or depression are suddenly plagued by feelings of inadequacy. And GP's simply want to prescribe anti-depressants - not the right route - you should be offered talking therapies and/or oestrogen first! We discussed the Kubler Ross Change Curve, we talked about social anxiety, depression, lost mojo, imposter syndrome and confidence, worry and emotional outbursts like rage (does it sound familiar)? My takeaway was to focus more on the positives and create more optimism. Before I go to sleep at night I try to write down my 'three good things' from the day and this helps remind me it isn't all bad (if I've had a bad day).
Manage your menopause symptoms
I really cannot recommend the Bia Care 12 Week Menopause Programme enough. I am a huge advocate of educating ourselves and taking responsibility for our own health. We really do need to do our research before seeing our GP so we can ask for what we want and discuss our needs clearly. I already had a lot of knowledge, having fought hard to find out what was going on with my health post about age 45, but it took me until 50 to get it right. I needed HRT and I've not looked back. But so many women are nervous about HRT and especially about the fears around breast cancer. But we need to understand it isn't that simple and the risk of not having our hormones correctly balanced is far worse than the risk of taking body-identical HRT. Or at least you can make an informed decision and weigh up the options, sometimes the right changes in diet and fitness can make all the difference. But don't suffer in silence, read books, educate yourself, talk to others and ask for help.
Bia Care have now officially launched and they have groups starting at the end of June and if you are quick they have an amazing launch offer - get the 12 Week Menopause Membership for just £24 (normal price is £300).
Disclaimer: I was offered a complementary place on the first pilot course from BiaCare, and asked if I would feedback my thoughts to them. I offered to write a blog post as I was really impressed with the content and structure of the course. I was under no obligation to do so.
Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about style, beauty, health and fitness with a focus on the over 50's. I am based in Marlow but work across London and the South East.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
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