My Menopause Diagnosis, Katie Taylor (Founder of The Latte Lounge)
Let’s face it, for most of us, the journey into menopause is a bit of a mystery. It’s not generally covered in sex and relationship lessons in school, and a quick Google search provides a fairly vague answer to the question ‘How do I know when I’ve started the menopause?’ Part of the problem is that no one size fits all. Every woman will have a different menopausal experience - from the age of menopause starting and stopping, down to the symptoms that occur. So where should we turn for information? Friends and family are a great place to start to ask questions, but if this isn’t an option for you, reading personal accounts of other women’s experiences can be incredibly beneficial. So we decided to open up our community to you by inviting Katie Taylor, Founder of The Latte Lounge, to share her experience of her menopause diagnosis and how it influenced her to set up lattelounge.co.
I first noticed something wasn’t quite right with me, from the age of around 43, when I began to struggle with low mood. For someone who is usually very bubbly and outgoing, this was very out of character. As a mum of four healthy kids, with a good part time job and happily married for over 20 years, I just couldn’t work out why I wasn’t feeling my usual self. I felt so down and teary all the time, and I had no energy. My brain fog and forgetfulness was so bad that I'd started to fear I was developing early-onset dementia.
'My GP said I was probably stressed and depressed'
Hit with insomnia, I spent the next four years trying to function on just three hours sleep a night. I didn't get the typical hot flushes and night sweats, but i did have heart palpitations and my periods had become shorter, and heavier. I also suffered a lower libido, dryness and piled on a lot of weight. My GP said I was probably stressed and depressed, as I was working whilst trying to run a home and look after four children, so it was suggested I took some time off from my job. I was given antidepressants, but they didn't make things any better, they just made me feel numb. I just felt like I could no longer get any joy out of life. I tried going to the gym a bit more and eating more healthily, but nothing helped. I was then sent to a heart specialist for my palpitations, which ruled out a heart condition. In fact I went back and forth to different doctors and specialists over the years and was made to feel like a hypochondriac. It was my father, Professor Michael Baum, a surgical oncologist who specialises in breast cancer, who suspected my low mood was hormone-related, and arranged for me to see one of his consultant friends – a gynaecologist who specialised in women’s hormones. They did a blood test and said my oestrogen levels were "on the floor" and told me I was perimenopausal and suggested I start with some HRT patches. It was the first time I'd heard the word perimenopausal.
After My Diagnosis
Within a couple of months, I'd weaned myself off the antidepressants and was feeling like a new woman. In fact I remember watching a comedy show on TV and realising it was the first time I’d laughed in four years. My husband commented that he finally had his wife back, and my kids their mum. It was such a revelation for me and I felt a mixture of anger and relief so I decided to start a Facebook group and a website lattelounge.co aimed at women over 40 to share my experience. Since then thousands have shared similar stories of their own symptoms also being misdiagnosed and so I try and help them as much as I can by signposting them to either a blog on our website or a specialist to talk to. I’m now 51 and its been 4 years since I launched this platform; we don’t just talk about peri menopause and menopause now, we have become a midlife platform for all women to talk about all areas of their lives, from helping our kids and our parents and partners, to looking after our own health and wellbeing too. It was frustrating that I'd lost four years of my life when I could have been helped so much quicker. I don't blame the GPs for my misdiagnosis, they only have 10 minutes to chat to a patient, but I think that there does need to be better education for doctors so they can recognise the signs. Women need access to better education too, so that they can take control of their health and spot symptoms.
Personally, I am a big fan of HRT if women can and want to use it, because as well as helping relieve many short-term symptoms there are so many other benefits too; for one, HRT can prevent weakening of the bones (osteoporosis), which is much more common after the menopause. There are also many lubricants that women can use too (like YES) and vaginal moisturisers to help with dryness, all of which a GP is well placed to prescribe.