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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

I had been experiencing irregular periods but thought age and seven previous pregnancies might have kicked them out of balance. We decided to try for one last baby (baby #8) when I was 41 years old and after almost a year of trying I became pregnant at 42.

But, with my irregular periods, I was not entirely sure of my dates. When I thought I was around eight weeks, my first ultrasound showed the baby was not growing properly.

The second scan, at around 12 weeks, showed minimal improvement and shortly after that I started to bleed – I had a miscarriage.

Subsequent urine and blood tests showed my FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) was high which in my case were indicating menopause and not ovulation.

The doctor told me because the FSH was consistently high and that the fluctuating or insufficient hormones in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy were thought to have caused my miscarriage. She was confident to diagnose perimenopause.

We hoped we might still manage to conceive a "menopause baby, " but sadly it was not to be, and now five years later I am in full menopause with no menstruation, but thankfully far fewer annoying symptoms.

I did a lot of research online after my diagnosis as I wanted confirmation of my doctor's opinion and to understand what was happening to my body and what I could do to ease my way through this new stage of life.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

Since my family has a history of decreasing bone density, I am careful to make sure I get enough calcium (not always comfortable with my dairy-free diet), and I have been careful to keep an eye on my weight.

I have fibromyalgia, so lots of exercises are not possible, so I eat carefully while not denying myself anything. Small portions are the way to go for me, and only eating when I'm hungry.

Cosmetics is a different story. I've pretty much abandon makeup as changes to my skin means it now instantly falls off. I've tried dozens of mascaras, and I can't find even a waterproof one that doesn't give me panda eyes – I get my eyelashes dyed now instead.

Who has been there for you? How?

My antenatal buddies have been a great source of support. We went through pregnancy and birth together, and now we share our menopause journeys. It's great to share tips and experiences, and I has learned lots from those of them who are older than me.

Today, I share with my younger friend because I think it's important to be open and honest about our experiences and not feel embarrassed, frightened or isolated. I believe that no subject is taboo!

My mom and grandmother were helpful too – they both went through a relatively early menopause, and it was reassuring to hear that they had experienced and survived, many of the symptoms I was facing.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I am proud of starting my own business creating original online content at the age of 44 years old. I never thought I could enjoy work so much while educating and entertaining my readers at the same time.

I am, of course, very proud of my seven beautiful children and of my 25-year marriage which many doubted would be a success as we got engaged after just six weeks and married just a few months later.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I am proud of starting my own business creating original online content at the age of 44 years old. I never thought I could enjoy work so much while educating and entertaining my readers at the same time.

I am, of course, very proud of my seven beautiful children and of my 25-year marriage which many doubted would be a success as we got engaged after just six weeks and married just a few months later.

I believe that no subject is taboo!

I believe that no subject is taboo!

What's your advice to someone else living with menopause?

See menopause as a life stage and not an illness. Don't suffer in silence and never feel ashamed about asking for help with symptoms if you are finding it hard to cope with them.

Speak to friends and family about how you are feeling as they might be seeing a new and not always enjoyable side to you, and it will make life a lot easier for all if they understand it is probably your hormones not you causing tension in your shared relationships.

Always remember your menopause is personal to you so don't feel bad if your friend is apparently sailing through smiling and you feel depressed, anxious, or you need HRT or other meds to survive this period of your life.

See menopause as a life stage and not an illness. Don't suffer in silence and never feel ashamed about asking for help.

Is there anything else we should know?

In between writing about menopause and Type 2 Diabetes for NewLifeOutlook I write about my life and my large family on my blog, madmumof7.com.

I was a journalist and news editor for local newspapers for many years but have fully embraced online content writing and social media and do not miss the office at all!

I am an active Christian attending the ancient Anglican church in my little village in England, and I love cake!

I hold a steam train driving license, met my husband hot air ballooning and have swum with sharks at the London SeaLife Aquarium. I love cooking and once heckled chef Gordon Ramsay at a cookery show. He gave me a bowl which my children broke. I'm not still bitter. (I am.)

About Afra Willmore

My Story: Afra Willmore
I am a former journalist and news editor. Presently, I'm blogging at madmumof7.com and writing online content for a variety of websites. I mainly live to write about anything relating to family life as well as autism as my youngest son was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 2016.

Read Afra's Articles on NewLifeOutlook

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