Children and the menopause: the importance of talking
In this episode, Dr Louise speaks to the youngest of her three daughters, Lucy, about all things menopause. Lucy, 12, recalls making her mother an HRT tote bag when she was six, plus hiding in her room when there were arguments at home, when Dr Louise was struggling with her symptoms.
Lucy shares her experience of having her mum in the public eye, gives Dr Louise sage advice for dealing with bullies and offers her views on why menopausal women need help to remain in the workplace. In a survey conducted for her book, Dr Louise discovered 75% of women had never discussed menopause in their home when they were growing up. Barriers included a lack of knowledge, embarrassment, lack of communication, being short on time and feelings of shame around the topic.
While Lucy has had lots of conversations about the menopause at home, she reveals that school education on the subject was limited. But conversations with children about the menopause are important as they can help normalise it.
This World Menopause Month, help us start the most menopause conversations – ever. Everyone’s menopause is individual and to help others understand and manage their menopause, we must break taboos, educate and start the conversation.
How to get involved
- Have a conversation about the menopause
- Log your conversation on the balance app or website
- Share that you’ve got involved by tagging us on social media, using the hashtag #PauseToTalk
Dr Louise Newson: Hello, I’m Dr Louise Newson. I’m a GP and menopause specialist and I’m also the founder of the Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre here in Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m also the founder of the free balance app. Each week on my podcast, join me and my special guests where we discuss all things perimenopause and menopause. We talk about the latest research, bust myths on menopause symptoms and treatments, and often share moving and always inspirational personal stories. This podcast is brought to you by the Newson Health Group, which has clinics across the UK dedicated to providing individualised perimenopause and menopause care for all women.
Dr Louise Newson: So today in the podcast, I want to introduce to you my youngest ever guest. I’m very excited that my 12-year-old daughter, Lucy, has agreed to come and talk on the podcast, which is something I never thought I’d be able to do and didn’t really expect to think about children when it came to the menopause. Because if we Google menopause, of course it’s always old women with grey hair. But Lucy probably knows more than anyone else in the world who’s 12 about menopause. So welcome, Lucy. Thank you for joining me today.
Lucy: Yeah. Hello.
Dr Louise Newson: So, this is your first podcast experience?
Lucy: No, not the first. Not the first.
Dr Louise Newson: Oh, we tried before, but it ended up in giggles, didn’t it?
Lucy: Yeah, it did.
Dr Louise Newson: So I’m going to ask you a few questions and you can answer as honestly as you’d like. So the first question is, Lucy, do you think you know much about the menopause?
Lucy: I definitely know more than anyone at my age, but compared to like you, I really don’t. But I do know a fair bit.
Dr Louise Newson: Yeah, of course. So if someone said to you, What’s the menopause, what would you say to them?
Lucy: It’s when your periods stop or like they’re stopping and you lose some of the hormones, like oestrogen and testosterone in your body. So you start having symptoms that aren’t very nice.
Dr Louise Newson: And what about some of the symptoms? What have you learned over the last few years? What symptoms have you heard about.
Lucy: The main one is hot flushes, which I think it was a few years ago and our school came out and they said you could go cold water swimming to prevent that. And you got really annoyed about that. There’s also like vaginal dryness and libido. And I swear there’s like cold flushes as well as hot flushes.
Dr Louise Newson: People can sometimes get cold flushes. Yeah.
Lucy: Depression, anxiety. Isn’t dementia another kind of thing, like memory loss?
Dr Louise Newson: Some people, that we know that women, the longer they are without hormones, the greater the risk of dementia. But yeah, memory loss is really common. And there’s all sorts of symptoms and they don’t occur with everybody and they can come at different times. And lots of people don’t have symptoms or they don’t have all the symptoms. And some people do have a lot and it’s definitely the mental health symptoms so the low mood, anxiety, memory problems, fatigue, irritability. Some people just get really cross. Obviously, I was nothing like that was I when I was perimenopausal. Do you remember?
Lucy: I actually can’t because I was like, four so I really don’t remember.
Dr Louise Newson: But do you remember that your sisters talking about it?
Lucy: No, I wasn’t part of this conversation. All I remember is that I used to actually prefer to be around Daddy when it came to that, because I remember I had this, like, journal thing that I like drew in, and I drew you and Daddy and I wrote, I prefer Daddy to Mummy. Don’t tell anyone. And that’s all I can remember of it.
Dr Louise Newson: So, yes, my oldest daughter Jessica, your older sister, has been quite vocal about how irritable and short tempered I was. And you were young, but I’m sure you were experiencing… Daddy’s very level-headed. He doesn’t really get cross, but I know that I was getting cross and irritable and short tempered, and it probably did lead to you drawing these things in your journal, which thankfully I didn’t see at the time because I probably would have burst into tears and felt worse.
Lucy: I know. That’s why I didn’t want to tell anyone.
Dr Louise Newson: Oh, but hopefully I’m not quite so irritable now am I?
Lucy: Oh actually, I told I told Sophie, the middle daughter, but she was like, you cannot tell anyone like, she will kill you. Like you can’t even tell Daddy. Yeah, but I remember you used to get in loads of arguments with Sophie. I can’t remember if that’s related, but I used to just, like, run up to my room. I was like, really scared. I think that might have actually been related because I was still quite young.
Dr Louise Newson: I think it was. I was less tolerant of anything. Now, Sophie’s hormones were going up and down as well, and my hormones were going up and down and we’re very similar. We’re both middle children and we both are quite feisty at times, as you know. And I had a really short fuse, and so did she. And yeah, it wasn’t a nice time, but thankfully we get on very well now and her hormones are more balanced and mine certainly are as well. But sometimes we talk obviously about the menopause and I remember ages ago actually do you remember when you were at Rainbows, you had this bag didn’t you and you had to decorate a bag and I came to pick you up…
Lucy: Oh my gosh yes I remember that…
Dr Louise Newson: Do you remember that?
Lucy: Yeah, we had to decorate these like tote bags.
Dr Louise Newson: So everybody came out with bags and they had, well you can tell me what you did in a minute.
Lucy: I remember this now.
Dr Louise Newson: Yes. And so people had glue and glitter and paint and they came out with their mums and this glue was dripping down from the bag. And I thought, Oh no, what’s Lucy going to do? And you just had it folded up and I thought you hadn’t done it. So just explain to everyone what you did Lucy with your tote bag and how old were you first? How old were you?
Lucy: So Rainbows I think it’s like four to six.
Dr Louise Newson: Or seven. Yeah, you’re about six, I think.
Lucy: Yeah. I was like towards the older bit. But it’s basically decorating like canvas tote bags and we could have like, there’s like glue, glitter, like felt-tip pens. I only really used the felt-tip pens, but I do this like half and half thing of before HRT and after HRT, and on the before it was this like woman who had like really bad hair and her like, her dress was, her dress was fine but it was like night time.
Dr Louise Newson: Nighttime and she had a sad face.
Lucy: She was very sad. And then on the other side it was a woman with nicer hair and a happy face and like a brighter dress and it was like daytime and then on the like handles I’d written like HRT HRT HRT like all around the handles.
Dr Louise Newson: Was did your friends say to you, can you remember?
Lucy: I actually can’t remember. I remember being like, Oh yeah, I’m going to make this for mummy, make her so happy. And like, she can use it for like, advertising her company and that but that’s just what was going through my head cos to be honest, I didn’t really want a tote bag because I have so many and I didn’t really need it at that age.
Dr Louise Newson: I was very excited. I mean, this was.
Lucy: You still have it, I think.
Dr Louise Newson: Yeah, absolutely we do. So it was five years ago so we were just opening the clinic and we’d found this building, as many people realise, Winton House in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Lucy: It was before that, I was like five.
Dr Louise Newson: Yeah. Okay. So it was around the time, but, but you were very good because you used to come to Stratford a lot. Because it was over the summer holidays we started to refurb the building and get rid of all the green carpet and the swirly blinds and put in walls.
Lucy: It was fun going over.
Dr Louise Newson: So you used to go over and meet Claire and help us and, and then when we opened the clinic, do you remember what your badge said? You had a special badge, a Newson Health badge.
Lucy: Oh, yeah, I had this, like, magnetic badge. I lost it when I was parking and I’ve dropped on the floor, it was really annoying. But it said Lucy Anderson, Dr Louise Newson’s personal assistant or something like that. And I used to wear it all the time. It was like, very nice. I loved it.
Dr Louise Newson: Which is very nice, isn’t it? So people could, could know that you were really instrumental in helping. And actually, you’ve encouraged me, all three of you, and Daddy of course, and really encouraged me with my work. Because you sometimes hear when I’ve had difficult times or difficult days. But actually what’s really interesting as well Lucy is that I wrote an article which was in the paper, you probably don’t know, last week, talking about the impact of the menopause in schools and how so many teachers are leaving their jobs because of the way the menopause affects them and they’re not able to get the right treatment.
Lucy: When I was at my junior school, I’d been there for a long time. And I remember people coming up to me when I was in like year two and then they were coming to me like, Oh, my mum saw you on the telly this morning. Like, Tell her I say hi or something like that. And that was in year two. So like by year six, like people don’t really talk about it as much actually, which is quite surprising. But that time you were bigger which but most of the teachers like I had this teacher come up to me and be like, Oh yeah, by the way, tell your mum like she’s really helped me and like stuff like that. And yeah, it was really nice. But yeah, I think definitely my junior school was affected the most because they had you for quite a while.
Dr Louise Newson: Yeah, but I went to the school and gave a presentation to a lot of the teachers and I think that really helped them understand, like you say, what all the different symptoms were.
Lucy: I think it did. Because I remember when, because when we, I think it was year four, we were doing this paper test to see like the weight, like how different types of paper like have different weights and she got out this like normal A4 size of paper and she was like, would it be fair if I got this? And then like your flier, which was like A5, and this next to each other and I did that, would that be a fair testing like? No. And I remember saying to the people on my table, like, that’s my mum’s flier and like being like, really proud of it. So yeah, that’s one of my memories in school.
Dr Louise Newson: Do you think men should understand what the menopause is?
Lucy: Yeah, men should understand. I think they should also, like if they understood then maybe they would be more tolerant of it, and like help more women, which would be better for, I don’t know, like the community of people like that.
Dr Louise Newson: Course it would.
Dr Louise Newson: Yeah, it would be best for everyone, wouldn’t it?
Lucy: I think that’s why balance really helps. Your app. Because men and women get it.
Dr Louise Newson: Because then people can understand more can’t they.
Lucy: Yeah. And it gives them better information. And especially, I don’t think many men have it as well, so. But the woman can show the men so they understand it a lot more, which is better.
Dr Louise Newson: Yes. And they can still listen to the podcast. They can still go on the website, they can still learn and support people, I think that’s really important. When you were at school, I remember testing you on some of your science and you had a picture didn’t you of a womb and the ovaries and what were you taught about hormones, oestrogen and progesterone?
Lucy: So we were learning about puberty and stuff and there’d be this, you know, when you like, get the diagram and there’d be like the labels and you’d have to like write them in. My mum was like, What does this produce? Like hormone wise? And all I knew was that, like all they told us, I knew more obviously, is that women produce oestrogen and men produce testosterone, and that’s it. That’s all we learnt. We didn’t learn anything else. But I think that’s why so many people are against women getting testosterone because they think it’s like a man hormones. But it’s not. I don’t think many people in my class even know that.
Dr Louise Newson: No, absolutely not. But I didn’t know it when I was young and I didn’t even know it when I was a junior doctor. No one taught me. And if no one teaches you, you don’t know, do you? And then you just think it’s all about men and oestrogen’s all about women, which isn’t right as we know now. And the menopause is not just about periods. It’s about hormones affecting everywhere in our body, isn’t it?
Dr Louise Newson: So do you think it’s better that younger people know about it so that they can either help other people or know for themselves?
Lucy: Yeah, especially if you’re like, my age as, like, a young woman/old girl. I don’t know that sounds really weird saying old girl. But it makes you aware that when you’re older, like, like Jessica, my old sister, who now has oestrogen, it impacts her life, makes her life better. If, you know for my age what it does and that is good for you, then you’ll have a better quality of life. Because if Jessica didn’t get like oestrogen and stuff, I don’t think she would be as good in the state of mind she is now. I think having you as her mum obviously helps, but I think more young people like me should know about it.
Dr Louise Newson: Yes. I think that’s so important because, you know, young people like you and your sisters talk a lot more freely than I was when I was your age or sort of your grandmother’s spoke… but they didn’t really talk about anything. They didn’t talk about periods or they didn’t talk about sex or they didn’t talk about hormones. But actually, if you’re talking about everything, you might as well add talking about hormones as well and really understand what’s going on because it’s your body it’s going to happen to you as well, isn’t it? So you want to know what’s going on and then you can recognise and hopefully get the right help.
Lucy: Yeah, because if you know about the hormones in your body, then you’re more aware of what’s happening to you as such. I mean, even for boys, like if they knew more about hormones then A) they’d help women like girls that they meet, they can help them, like if their menopause or like they need oestrogen. But they also can use that knowledge to learn about what’s actually happening to them as well. So I think it would be, it is good that I know.
Dr Louise Newson: It would be beneficial.
Dr Louise Newson: Yeah. So when when I started my Instagram account, Sophie, who’s now 19, was your age, so it was about seven years ago. And you know what she told me off for my Instagram because the boys were laughing because I put in a picture of a dry sponge and I said, vaginal dryness can be fixed. And once people have the moisture back with the hormones, they can feel a lot better. And then I put something about sex being very painful when people have vaginal dryness. And Sophie came home in a very flamboyant way and said, Mummy, this is really embarrassing. The boys on the train were laughing at me, this is awful. I don’t want you to continue doing your work. So I said to her, which I…
Lucy: I mean, not gonna lie, I’d do the same thing.
Dr Louise Newson: Yeah, well I said to her, I’ll take it down then and I’ll stop doing the work because you’re more important than my work. And then she said, Well, keep it going for a bit. Let’s see what happens, because the boys just said it once. And you know what, boys are like, they say something and then they move on to something else. So they weren’t judging her for it. And then I did a podcast with James Smith, who’s a big PT, personal trainer, and loads of the boys contacted Sophie and went, Oh my God, this is really sick. This is amazing. Your mum’s done this. How on earth does she know James Smith? And then they’re all going, Oh my God, your mum’s got so many followers. This is really cool. So Sophie’s changed her mind and she’s very proud. And many of you who follow me on Instagram will have seen the gorgeous book that she wrote, which you knew about, which was a surprise to me from my birthday.
Lucy: I was the daughter in it.
Dr Louise Newson: And yes, you were the daughter actually hugging me.
Lucy: As I didn’t do it, but I was in it.
Dr Louise Newson: You were in the little video.
Lucy: Because I could see that you were you were very tearful.
Dr Louise Newson: I was. I wasn’t expecting it at all.
Lucy: It was so sweet that she did that though.
Dr Louise Newson: So she’s very supportive.
Lucy: She showed me and I was like, Oh, my God, you’re just going to love that. Yeah, she really is. She’s very good at doing meaningful presents and cards as well, which is nice.
Dr Louise Newson: So all three of you have witnessed how hard it is to be a woman at work. Do you think it’s harder for a woman to be high in their career or working hard than it is for a man? Or do you think it’s the same?
Lucy: I think it depends how old they are, because definitely if they’re older, like approaching that, like premenopausal, like menopausal stage, then it is a lot harder. Like I think when it gets to that stage they should be offered help. Like, you know you have like a cycle to work scheme. I think they should have like a HRT kind of thing as well, because then in that way they have like this even ground when it comes to that. But I think when they’re younger, they probably have the same chance because there’s not much hormone changes because they’ve just like got through puberty as such. So their hormones are like more like balanced and it’s easier, I’d say. Well, not easier but you know.
Dr Louise Newson: Yeah, because I met someone recently who told me that she’d changed her job. She said, my job is not so high powered. I’ve gone part time and I have a lower paid job that’s easier to do. Because I’m menopausal I need to change my job. And she hadn’t had any treatment or HRT. And I think that’s really sad, isn’t it?
Lucy: No, because she could have kept that job. Because I think if you keep that job and you realise you’re struggling and then you find like people like you and then you get the treatment you need, you can stay in that job for as long as you want to. You don’t necessarily have to like downgrade as such in your job just because you’re menopausal.
Dr Louise Newson: I don’t want to downgrade.
Lucy: You don’t have to, like, otherwise it’s not really fair in a way.
Dr Louise Newson: No, it’s not.
Lucy: I don’t think it’s that fair.
Dr Louise Newson: No it’s not fair at all is it. And, and then even if, right, just pretend that I was a man for a minute and, you know, some of the bullying and the conversations that I have with lawyers and other people and I come into your bedroom crying, do you think these people would get at me if I was Daddy doing this job, exactly the same job. Do you think he would be seen more of as a hero?
Lucy: I mean, yeah, because I mean, he’s a man, but I think you can’t really bully you unless you’ve actually tried… If you’re A) like a man that has no experience of it whatsoever. Like, for example, Daddy will know the difference between you before HRT and you after HRT, and if there’s like no difference at all. He has the right to say like, Well, what are you doing? You know? And then if it was a woman who has tried HRT and has got like related problems from that then, of course, like they can get mad at you. But currently the people that are bullying you, they don’t have that kind of experience. And like if they had that experience, then they have like the right to bully you. That sounds really wrong, but you know what I mean.
Dr Louise Newson: I know what you mean. And I think it’s difficult because you’ve experienced bullies at school, haven’t you?
Dr Louise Newson: What would be your tip for people who have had bullying? What works when people bully?
Lucy: Just don’t take it to heart, like you’ll always have people that support you. You’ll always have someone that actually cares about you and knows that you’re not that worthless. So just don’t take it to heart at all. Just like ignore it.
Dr Louise Newson: Yes, it’s easy to say, isn’t it? But it’s very, sometimes it’s quite hard to do…
Lucy: Yeah, they wind you, but you can’t let them wind you up, which is, it’s like you can’t let them do that to you. It’s quite hard. Well, after a while you’ll get it, but you just need someone that supports you.
Dr Louise Newson: And I think I’ve got a few people that support me, haven’t I?
Lucy: Like me. And Daddy, and Jessica and Sophie.
Dr Louise Newson: Yes, absolutely. And I think sometimes you don’t always know the back story of people. And there are some people who, well everyone’s got a back story of course, you know, we’ve got back stories. Just knowing that you’ve never met either of your grandads because they died before you were born. Both your sisters have been very ill at different times. You’ve had various operations. There’s always things that have happened. But actually, I think some of these people who bully, they just don’t have the good things that we have. We have a really close family that there’s lots of love and sometimes people don’t experience love in the same way.
Lucy: Yeah, I think having a close family really helps because you can just talk to them about anything and like, you don’t feel that like, distant. If, like, we weren’t as close, I think you would really struggle and I would really struggle and we would all really struggle with just different situations.
Dr Louise Newson: Absolutely would. So I’m very lucky.
Lucy: [00:23:09] Yeah, you are really lucky.
Dr Louise Newson: So don’t change as your hormones start to change Lucy.
Lucy: [00:23:14] I guess I got lucky.
Dr Louise Newson: You’ve done really well on this podcast, and I think it’s been really interesting and informative to have the menopause through the lens of a 12 year old. We’ve not have this before, we might not have it again. Before we end though Lucy, I always ask for three take home tips. So these are three things that I think I’m going to ask you are what three reasons do you think children should know about the menopause? So this is boys and girls. Three main things that you think why people should know about the menopause.
Lucy: So, A) like if you learn about the hormone side of it, it can help you understand your body. Like with puberty, like help you understand it. B) it will help you understand like, if you have a mum like, your mum, and like what’s happening to her. And C) if you’re a girl, then it can improve your quality of life. And if you’re a boy, it still could improve your quality of life. So yeah.
Dr Louise Newson: Very good. So basically everybody, whatever age, whatever gender, needs to know about the menopause.
Lucy: Otherwise, like if you’re a boy, you won’t really enjoy being around a woman as much. Or if you’re a woman, you won’t enjoy life as much, like you won’t get the most out of it. So you should definitely know it.
Dr Louise Newson: Absolutely. Oh, thanks Lucy. I’m very, very impressed and very delighted that you’ve given up your time today so thank you.
Lucy: You’re welcome.
Dr Louise Newson: You can find out more about Newson Health Group by visiting www.newsonhealth.co.uk, and you can download the free balance app on the App store or Google Play.