Pat found a few simple lifestyle changes made her menopause symptoms easier to manage.
Pat was 44 when she realised she had started missing a few periods. "It didn’t bother me at first, as I lead quite a stressful life," she says. "But after a while, I also started getting really bad PMT when I did have a period. It was awful."
Pat decided to keep a diary charting her periods and how she felt generally. She kept it for six months. Looking back at it, she suspected that she was starting to go through the menopause. She went to her GP and discussed the best course of action.
"My GP is a woman, so I felt comfortable discussing things with her," she says. "At that point, I didn’t feel I needed any medication. I just wanted information about what was happening to me and how I could manage it."
Soon afterwards, Pat began to experience hot flushes. "They're awful," she shudders. "Lots of women think they’re having a panic attack when they have their first one, and I can see why. I certainly did. I get a feeling of intense pressure in my upper chest, then my face starts to feel like it’s on fire. Then my face and upper chest turn red. Some women also get palpitations, though luckily I don’t.
"The attacks come on at any time. I work in a shop, so it’s very embarrassing when one comes on as I’m talking to a customer. Luckily, there are lots of women where I work, many of a certain age, and we all support each other."
Pat’s currently considering whether to try hormone replacement therapy (HRT). "If my symptoms get worse, I’ll certainly give it a go," she says. "I want to read up on it and make sure I know all my options. At the moment, however, I’ve made some small changes which make a big difference. For example, I never used to eat breakfast, as I have three kids and a husband to sort out! But now I make sure I have a cereal bar, at least. I have a proper lunch with brown bread to keep my blood sugar levels steady as well."
Menopause is a fact of life, says Pat, and she’s determined to manage her condition. "I have bad days," she admits. "It’s difficult for my husband sometimes, as well. He says he never knows whether I’m going to wake up nice or nasty. But there’s no need for women to suffer menopausal symptoms in silence, like our mothers and grandmothers did. Educate yourself and you’ll find there’s a lot of help out there."