There has been a change in the air of late when it comes to opening up the discussion around menopause and perimenopause. We’ve had Davina McCall’s documentary, increased coverage in the press (and not just in the traditional arena of women’s magazines) and on social media. There’s even menopause merch from cooling pyjamas and bedding to t-shirts and stickers.
We’ve also noticed a shelf-full of new books on the subject of perimenopause and menopause. At Willowberry we believe in age without apology and part of that means being open to the experience of getting older and arming ourselves with knowledge to help make the journey easier.
When poet Dylan Thomas wrote, ‘Do not go gentle into that dark night… Rage, rage against the dying of the light’ he (probably) wasn’t thinking of peri/menopause. However, books like these turn a light on a time of life that once might have seemed dark and foreboding, empowering us to face peri/post/menopausal life enlightened, educated and better positioned to navigate this time with confidence.
Here's our lowdown on some of the best perimenopause and menopause books on the market:
The Perimenopause Solution: Take control of your hormones before they take control of you by Dr Shahzadi Harper & Emma Bardwell (Vermilion)
Before menopause comes perimenopause. This is a comprehensive guide to what happens to our hormones in perimenopause, which is when the symptoms we associate with menopause start. Dr Shahzadi Harper and nutritionist Emma Bardwell both specialise in women’s health. You may recognise Emma’s name as she has been a guest on our Willowberry Age Without Apology Insta Live (so good she’s been on twice!).
The authors describe their book as, “as close to a private consultation as you can get” and it really feels like that. Covering diet, exercise, sleep, work and ageing from the hormone angle, it manages to distil in-depth medical knowledge (backed up by testimonies from real life women) in an easy to understand, easy to read way. Especially helpful are ‘The Bottom Line’ round-ups at the end of each chapter, which set out the main points of each section at a glance, and lots of practical, actionable tips including a symptoms questionnaire.
The New Hot: Taking on the Menopause with Attitude and Style, by Meg Mathews (Vermilion)
Yes, that Meg Mathews of Oasis fame, Primrose Hill party girl and Cool Britannia at 10 Downing St. Now famously clean, sober and embracing wellness. The New Hot came about after Meg was derailed by her own menopause experience. It’s filled with genuinely good advice alternating Meg’s story with sections by the raft of experts she called on to help her navigate the menopause.
We have GP and Menopause Specialist Dr Louise Newson on how to talk to your GP about menopause; Consultant Trichologist Annabel Kingsley on hair; Personal Trainer Christina Howells on the benefits of exercise; Menopause Consultant, Counsellor and Campaigner Diane Danzebrink on handling the menopause at work, and much more including vaginal dryness, make-up tips and trans menopause. Nothing is off-limits and it’s all dealt with in a no-nonsense, friendly fashion.
Older and Wider: A Survivor’s Guide to the Menopause by Jenny Eclair (Quercus)
As you would expect from comedian Jenny Eclair this book is filled with witty anecdotes and laugh out loud observations. It takes you on an A-Z tour of the menopause from ‘Are you sure you’re menopausal?’ to the loaded subject of sleep in ‘ZZZzzz’, via the importance of cardigans and why you might start fantasising over the Lakeland catalogue. There’s no medical jargon or scientific explanation of hormones, it’s one woman’s report of what it’s really like on the front line in all its messy, embarrassing, confounding glory. Bodily functions and emotional upheavals are laid bare and the laughs keep coming.
As Jenny writes, “Every menopausal woman owes it to every other menopausal woman to be honest about how she’s feeling and what she is going through, because that’s the only way it’s going to get easier for women in the future”. This is a book to make you feel less alone.
The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health With Facts And Feminism by Dr Jen Gunter (Piatkus)
Menopause is a feminist issue and this book is a rallying cry to take control of your body and your life. Intellectually stimulating, it goes in deep, examining the connection between brain and ovaries; how menopause affects our bones and our heart; the effectiveness (or not) of available therapies. It’s also fascinating on the history of menopause medicine.
Gynaecologist Dr Gunter argues that rather than accepting the patriarchal view of menopause as wholly negative, by empowering ourselves with knowledge we can change the narrative. That’s not to say it won’t all be plain sailing but at least we’ll be in charge of our own boat. As Dr Gunter says, “…there is no greater act of feminism than speaking up about a menopausal body in a patriarchal society. So let’s make some noise.” It feels thrilling, empowering and subversive. Which just goes to underline her point.
Perimenopause Power by Maisie Hill (Green Tree)
This is the perimenopause as you’ve never seen it before, demystified for the social media age. Author Maisie Hill (she’s young! tattooed! hip!) suffered from debilitating periods which led her to change career from bar manager to highly-qualified menstrual health expert. Via in-depth research and case studies, Perimenopause Power not only looks at the (fascinating, illuminating) biological side of things but also examines social constructs like people pleasing and emotional labour.
There’s a fresh, modern feel here with chapter titles like ‘WTF is happening?’ and a section where hormones are given celebrity alter egos: progesterone is Kristen Stewart ‘edgy, doesn’t want to be the centre of attention’ while oestrogen is Beyoncé, ‘can make you feel confident, alluring and sensual’.
There’s a mind-blowing exercise on imagining your postmenopausal life to remind us that, “this isn’t a stage of your life where you have to settle down. You can also rise up”. Pleasingly, this book makes the perimenopause feel like an opportunity rather than an ending.
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