Entering Peri-Menopause in your 30's
It's menopause awareness month and we have teamed up with MITRA Cyprus Menopause Centre, to raise awareness for all things menopause. Kathy the founder entered peri-menopause in her mid-30s and she has shared her story with us. And this month, we're donating 10% of all sales to her foundation, so when you shop, you support.
When I was in my mid-thirties, I didn’t expect that my life was going to throw me into the enigmatic world of peri-menopause. It all began innocuously during my exercise routine – stress incontinence creeping in during jumping jacks; knowing this wasn’t normal I immediately went to my gynecologist; I wanted an explanation and practical solutions but she was very nonchalant and after poking around and having a look, she told me that my urethra was droopy – that’s how I remember what she said. She didn’t say atrophy. I was told not to lift heavy things, and no other explanation or investigation into why this was happening. In hindsight, this was the first perimenopausal symptom I had.
Unexpectedly, and due to erratic menstrual cycles (another perimenopausal symptom I wasn’t aware of), I brought my beautiful baby into the world at the age of 37. During those first years of motherhood, my menstrual cycles and mental health played havoc and I struggled to piece together the puzzle of my body’s signals – oblivious to anything perimenopausal because I was also post-partum and many symptoms are similar. I know that had I been educated in what perimenopause looked like, and how likely it would be that symptoms would have started by my age, I think I would have saved myself a lot of anxiety and self-doubt.
By 39, I really felt something changing; my periods were sporadic so I went straight to my endocrinologist. I did a series of hormone tests (because I was under 45 years old) over the following months to trace what was going on and the test results confirmed perimenopause. At this point I was glad that someone had given me something solid in terms of a ‘diagnosis’ because I was depressed, my body was always so hot, I’d lost weight and I had an overwhelming sense of flatness and indifference.
I reached out to my gynecologist with these results and symptoms looking for support and solutions – I was 39, I couldn’t be so rapidly menopausal - but I was met with skepticism and the feedback was consistently to wait, to endure this phase a little longer. But time was a luxury I couldn’t afford. I was a relatively new mother, struggling to balance the demands of parenthood vs the turmoil of perimenopause. My last period was in November or December of 2020*.
It was at this point I realised a crucial truth – I needed to advocate for myself and find a professional who would acknowledge my struggle and provide the help I so desperately needed. So, armed with my blood tests and symptoms I searched for a gynecologist who would be understanding and I was so lucky to find my current gynecologist who was very familiar with menopause and the type of HRT I wanted to start taking. Even though my mother died from breast cancer when she was only 47, my doctor took all the necessary steps to make sure it was safe for me to take HRT**. I lasted until July of 2021 without HRT and this is because I was scared of the changes that would happen, I knew the good and the bad but my symptoms were getting progressively worse so I felt like I didn’t have a choice. At the age I was, it’s recommended that I should start HRT even from a clinical perspective. Sourcing the transdermal patches I wanted wasn’t easy either and I soon learned that in Cyprus we haven’t got much choice, but I found what I needed and I’ve never looked back. For me, HRT gave me my life back.
It was during this period that the seed of MITRA Cyprus Menopause Centre was planted.
Driven by my own experience, the lack of choice and availability of HRT, and the desire to support people navigating the complexities of peri-menopause, I embarked on a journey to create a space for advocacy, understanding, compassion, and empowerment for others. MITRA was born from a deep-seated conviction that no person with a womb should endure the peri/menopausal journey alone. It’s a space where stories intertwine, experiences are shared and knowledge is imparted. A place where the seemingly flat line of indifference that you may start feeling, is transformed into a vibrant symphony of understanding and support.
A lot of my personal story has guided the principles of MITRA. Peri/menopause is more than just a physical transition, it’s a metamorphosis of mind, body and spirit. I struggled with the societal conditioning of what it meant to be a ‘woman’, and I grappled with this endlessly – who am I if I haven’t got a menstrual cycle? Who am I if I can’t have any more children? All those Instagram accounts I followed of womanhood and syncing cycles to the moon phases and the magic that surrounds women, I didn’t have it anymore. I had to unfollow so many accounts because I couldn’t find my place, I didn’t know where I could sync up. It made me re-evaluate who I was and who I wanted to be. The menopause, and indeed the years when we’re perimenopausal, deserve understanding, respect, and a nurturing environment for growth.
MITRA envisions a society where peri/menopause isn’t whispered about in secrecy, but openly discussed, understood, and supported. It’s a vision of inclusivity, where every individual, regardless of gender identity, is empowered through knowledge and compassion throughout their menopausal journey. We don’t stop existing because society tells us we’re no longer viable.
In sharing this, I hope to kindle a sense of camaraderie; to let people know they’re not alone in their journey through perimenopause. Together, we can rewrite the narrative, breaking the silence and shed light on a phase of life that deserves celebration.
Thank you for allowing me to share a glimpse of my journey and the beginnings of MITRA Cyprus Menopause Centre.
* Disclaimer: I still have my womb, and due to my age and the protocol for younger people with wombs we (my current gynecologists & I) decided to take a cyclical regimen of HRT meaning that I would have an anovulatory withdrawal bleed monthly. It took my atrophied womb about 3 months to create any sort of thickness from the oestrogen patches to have a withdrawal bleed. ** Disclaimer: There is no strong evidence that having a 1st degree relative with breast cancer would put you at a higher risk of getting breast cancer if you take HRT, however, most doctors will take it into account when weighing the pros/cons of HRT with you.