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‘I Hit the Menopause at 32 – And It Led Me to Quit My Job'

Women's Health UK logo Women's Health UK 1 day ago Rebecca Tidy
a person sitting at a table using a laptop: It's rare, but some people do hit the menopause in their 30s. Here, one writer describes her experiences. © Aliaksandra Ivanova / EyeEm - Getty Images It's rare, but some people do hit the menopause in their 30s. Here, one writer describes her experiences.

Happy World Menopause Day. The purpose of marking this occasion is to drum up more conversations and awareness around the time in a person’s life when their periods start to cease. For any woman or person who menstruates this, of course as inevitable as the end of Magnum season. But it’s still rarely discussed and, sometimes, still feels like something we should shoulder without frank chats, compassionate guidance and real support. While this transition phase is often thought of in negative terms (and the symptoms are certainly no holiday to Bali), some women report it leading to a time of change and renewal.

For writer Rebecca Tidy, who hit the menopause very early, at 32, two years ago – for reasons, as of yet, that are unknown – that's what happened.

'I hit the menopause at 32 – and it led me to a healthier, happier life'

I woke up at 2am, drenched in sweat. My T-shirt felt as though it had just come out of the washing machine, and even the bedding was soaked through. The entire room smelled like body odour, and I had a familiar sense of anxiety building up in my chest. It wasn’t normal to be perspiring this much at night, surely?

a woman wearing glasses: ’I Hit the Menopause at 32' ’I Hit the Menopause at 32'

My fiancé grumbled in annoyance as we changed the bed sheets for the third night in a row – even though we both knew it’d be a matter of hours before they were uncomfortably wet again.

The next morning, I made an appointment with the GP who told me it was likely the sweating was caused by the stress of 18-months of cancer treatment. I’d recently been given the all-clear from malignant melanoma – but despite the doctor’s assurances, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.

Before long, my vagina felt so dry that I was unable to go to the gym or even supermarket, without feeling extremely uncomfortable. And a hot flush came on, while I was in a department store – my back and armpits were so wet that I bought a new top and changed my clothes in the toilet.

I was experiencing almost-constant headaches, and hadn’t menstruated in over a year, but it took four trips to the GP before anyone took my concerns seriously. Concerned the cancer may have returned, a locum doctor scheduled a series of medical tests. He also referred me to the local gynaecology department, so we could find out what was causing the dryness down below. By this point, I was almost-convinced the cancer was back and just wanted to restart treatment as soon as possible.

But during a blood test, a nurse casually mentioned that my symptoms sounded just like the menopause – she took an extra vial of blood, and sent it to a lab to check. The following week, my GP explained that she was fairly certain I was experiencing the menopause. This was because my blood had contained very high levels of follicle‑stimulating hormone, and an ultrasound scan had shown very few eggs inside my ovaries.

I was shocked and sat in silence as I tried to digest the news. It was a relief to have an explanation, but strange as it sounds, I wasn’t entirely sure what the menopause was. Despite being well educated – I have a PhD in politics – I’d only learned the difference between a vagina and vulva during my NCT classes, so my knowledge of the female anatomy and women’s reproductive health was clearly lacking.

The doctor proceeded to offer me all kinds of medication, from hormonal tablets to pessaries and moisturising creams. I told her I didn’t want to rely on prescription drugs just yet, but she insisted that I should take them home and think about it later. So I left the surgery with a carrier bag packed with pharmaceuticals, but not what I actually needed, which was a clear explanation of what the menopause was and how it would affect me.

I remember feeling shocked at the lack of support following my diagnosis. Nobody had mentioned my emotional wellbeing or suggested CBT – it had just been assumed that I would carry on with life like normal. And while I’m lucky enough to have one child, I’d always wanted a big family – so I was heartbroken to discover I’d be unlikely to have any more biological children naturally.

I've spent the last two years trying to gain some insight into why I experienced menopause at this age. None of the NHS staff have been willing to offer any kind of opinion on possible causes and I'm about to go see a private doctor about it – as I'd also like to know my options regarding children. I personally don't feel like it was brought on by my cancer treatment, as I had started to experience symptoms long before I'd finished the course.

At the time, I was terrified menopause would lead to premature ageing. I was already insecure about my physical appearance, following the cancer treatment. Not only did I have several large scars on my neck, but I had lost vast amounts of weight, which meant my skin had a dull and saggy appearance.

Feeling physically and mentally exhausted, I half-heartedly signed-up for a Pilates class, as I’d heard it was good for gently strengthening the body. I was at least two decades younger than most participants, but by far the weakest person there. It was a struggle to keep up with even the most basic of exercises.

I loved Pilates though, as I had to concentrate hard, and this meant my mind was unable to dwell on my health worries. This positive experience led me to try a yin yoga class too, and this has since become my favourite activity.

A couple of months later, my instructors and classmates commented on how dramatically my physical strength and appearance had changed. I could easily perform the more advanced exercises, and had gained almost two stone in weight. Most importantly, I felt stronger and more confident than ever.

Menopause had highlighted just how little I knew about the human body. It motivated me to learn about anatomy and physiology, and listen to podcasts about exercise and nutrition so I could improve my health.

I eventually decided to become a yin yoga instructor, so I could help other people boost their physical and emotional wellbeing. I quit my stressful university job, which had long been a source of unhappiness, and spent 12 months studying in London.

I’m now in the midst of opening a yoga studio, in a disused space above a friend’s health shop in a Cornish seaside town. I teach regular classes, including a weekly Yoni Shakti yoga session dedicated to honouring your body and cultivating a greater awareness of your female energy.

Nowadays, female yoga students often tell me they’re finding menopause difficult – some say they’re struggling with physical symptoms, while others view it as an unwelcome reminder of the ageing process. And this is something we address in our weekly yoni sessions.

Everyone’s experience of the menopause is different, but it’s important to remember it genuinely doesn’t need to lead to a decline in your quality of life. For me, menopause actually opened up a much healthier and happier chapter in my home and work lives, in spite of the initial challenges.

I was surprised to discover that regular physical exercise can genuinely reduce menopausal symptoms – gentle weight-training is great for increasing bone-density, while walking can aid sleep quality and mood. From this perspective, menopause actually becomes a great opportunity to try something new, including exciting hobbies and different career paths.

It’s still possible to reach your fitness goals after menopause, whether it’s increasing your physical strength, elevating your energy levels or improving your body shape, so you feel more confident than ever.

Why does menopause happen and what are the symptoms?

Dr Shirin Lakhani, who trained as GP and now offers bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, an alternative to HRT, at her practice, says: 'The menopause and peri-menopause are normal parts of the ageing process and brought about by natural hormone changes. This usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but can start earlier in some women.'

'Symptoms can include hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, loss of libido and vaginal dryness, as well as incontinence and uterine prolapse. There can be cognitive changes, such as memory loss, reduced concentration and mood changes.'

'It can be an extremely unsettling and worrying time for women, but there are treatments available, which means it’s not necessary to suffer in silence.'

How can the menopause usher in a new chapter in someone’s life?

'The menopause marks a significant new chapter in a woman's life and this often brings the urge to try something new,' says Dr Lakhani. 'The symptoms of the menopause vary hugely from one woman to the next, as does their severity. But it’s important to note that if symptoms of the menopause have caused you to make a dramatic change that has not impacted your life for the better, then it's vital that you speak to someone who can help.'

Where can women get help, if they are struggling with the impact of the menopause?

'Your GP can help address menopausal symptoms and offer HRT. If you find this support unsatisfactory, there are many doctors like myself who can provide a tailor-made treatment programme to suit your specific needs,' details Dr Lakhani.

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