I’m so pleased to share my conversation with Katie Taylor, the founder of the Latte Lounge, an online platform to help women over 40 thrive, at home and in the workplace. This is the perfect bookend to last week’s episode, with Katie sharing a very raw and honest account of her experience of perimenopause and menopause.
In this episode, Katie shares:
- How she was misdiagnosed with depression
- The shocking moment that coincided with the start of her perimenopause journey
- How she was finally told that she was experiencing perimenopausal symptoms after being dismissed and made to feel like a hypochondriac
- How she used her experiences to help other perimenopausal and menopausal women feel less alone
- And of course, the story of her first period!
Katie says that it’s important not to be scared or afraid of perimenopause and menopause!
Thank you, Katie!
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Le’Nise: Hi, Katie. Thank you so much for joining me here today. I’m really excited to speak to and hear your story. So let’s kick off by talking about the story of your very first period.
Katie: Sure, well, thank you for having me. Firstly, obviously, it’s a pleasure to be here. So the story of my first period, well, it’s a funny one. I actually was the last in my class and I hated that. I actually thought there was something wrong with me because everyone else had sort of had their periods by the time they were about 13. And I was desperate to have it. And I think it was literally probably about the day before my 14th birthday that I finally had my period.
But it was a funny story actually, because about well, in my just when I turned 13, I remember I’d been in an art class at school and there was lots of paintings that were hanging up to dry and everything. And I’d obviously brushed past very quickly one of these paintings. And when I got home, I remember sort of taking off my skirt from school and there was red and brown paint all over the bottom of my skirt. And I thought I’d started my period and I was like, Oh, fantastic. And I was about my style. It’s my period. And she’s like, No, you haven’t, that’s paint. And I was really disappointed and then I had to wait almost a year.
Le’Nise: Well, so in the end, how old were you? About 14.
Katie: It was just literally probably a couple of days before I turned 14. So I did feel really old compared to my kind of classmates.
Le’Nise: And. And how did you learn about what was happening? What was happening to you?
Katie: Well, I think I learnt about periods mainly from my friends and also, you know, because watching them go through it and they were all sort of saying how they felt. And so I kind of I think because I was pretty much the last in my class, I sort of I already had it sort of expected because they were talking about pain. So I’d expected to be in pain. Moody, I had, you know, my mum was her moods were kind of up and down as well. So I just assumed that’s kind of how I would feel.
But I did, you know, I suppose I also learnt from watching TV ads or in magazines about sanitary products that were advertised and obviously we learnt about it at school, but it wasn’t something I took that much notice about at school. I would say it was more from my social crowd.
Le’Nise: And when you think back about some of the things your friends may have told you or some of the things that you you saw, is there anything that you you were surprised by or that you kind of shake your head and just think, oh, wow, that was just so naive.
Katie: I think it was just more that they were all sort of saying how much pain they were raised and trying to get off. And we always had to go swimming at one of the local swimming baths and it was always freezing and dark and horrible, absolutely hated it. And so they always sort of, you know, tried to get out of swimming and get their mums to write letters. And I was desperate, beause I absolutely hated going swimming. So I was like, I actually wanted to get my period just so I could get out of swimming. But I guess nothing they said, I suppose, can never really prepare you, but I don’t think it was quite as bad. I think there was a lot of hysteria as a class sort of group. Everybody was comparing notes.
Le’Nise: That’s so interesting because I spoke to someone recently and she said that no one talked about it. You know, they all wanted to get it, but then once they got it, no one talked about their periods. No, none of her friends group compared notes like like you mentioned. So it’s just so interesting just to see the different ends of the spectrum. Yeah. When you think back to the conversations that you used to have about it with your friends, was there a kind of feeling of excitement tinged with like, well, we need to kind of get get off swimming? Or was there any kind of shame intermixed in the conversation?
Katie: I don’t think it was shame. I think there was a lot of embarrassment because I was in a mixed school. And, you know, it’s the same time when your hormones hits and you’re also suddenly taking a real interest in boys and going to parties. So I think there was a lot of embarrassment there. And I’m also grew up, yeah, I’m Jewish and I grew up in a Jewish family, you know, modern Orthodox Jewish family. But I think, you know, I think in our religion, a lot of wome are brought up to just be real copers and just to get on with it and not to make a fuss.
So I think it was different, but I’ve also grown up in a very medical family. So my dad is one of five and they’re all professors and doctors. And a lot of the, my father’s a breast cancer professor, although he’s retired. So a lot of the conversations around our dinner table were always about women’s health. So for me, I wasn’t it was okay. I well, I didn’t feel embarrassment or shame because I was fascinated by sort of human biology and the female anatomy just because it was such a common topic of conversation in our house. So I was more interested in what was happening and why. And I, you know, I asked a lot of questions, not so much to my father because, yes, it’s still embarrassing to talk about, you know, bleeding at the dinner table. It’s just not it’s not this is not the done thing. But I was more interested in what was going on. But also, I wanted to be sure that, you know, if I was going to a party that I was, you know, I wasn’t going to leak. You know, basically that’s always your biggest worry is, you know, making sure you’ve got sanitary towels with you and whatever.
Le’Nise: What’s really interesting is you what you said about growing up as like growing up in a Jewish family and something that I was reading about when I was doing the research in my book was the the mikvah. I don’t know, please correct my pronunciation and the purification baths and how there’s a lot of Jewish women now who are kind of reinventing what that means and like using it as a kind of time where they can kind of settle into their bleed and using it as a moment of self-care care rather than like, you know, you have to purify yourself because you you’re bleeding and that’s dirty. And I found that so fascinating. Yeah.
Katie: I mean, look at the very religious Jewish community. You know, that’s absolutely right. The intercourse is not doesn’t happen during women’s periods. And these very, you know, religious families that they’ll sleep in, often sleep in separate beds and they go after they’ve had their after that period is finished, they’ll go to the mikveh. For those who are listening, it’s almost sort of like dipping into a bath of water and coming out in, as you say, as purified. And I think for people listening, they might think, well, that’s a kind of weird thing to do because, you know, bleeding is in, you know, unpure. It’s just a natural biology, but it’s it’s not obviously I’m not a religious Jew. I’m just a sort of modern Orthodox Jew. So it was something that I’d heard growing up, but it wasn’t something that particularly affected me.
Le’Nise: Okay, that’s interesting. And so you had grew up having these really open conversations about women’s health. And so did you feel like once you got your period, you were maybe a bit ahead of the game in terms of your understanding of your body and what was happening? And then just out of curiosity, cause sometimes what I’ve seen in some of my in conversations with other guests who come from a background where there’s, you know, medicine or something like that, they take on a kind of like teacher role with their friends. Did you did it with some did something similar happen to you?
Katie: I mean, as a teenager, not so much. I kind of was curious, but obviously, you know, I suffered with my my periods. I had terrible, terrible pain, terrible headaches. My moods were awful. I had awful acne. So to be honest, I and I felt very angry. My my the periods weren’t a joyful time for me, and I couldn’t wait for them to be over. So I always sort of felt like I was almost sort of just trying to sort of survive those five days before almost coming back to normal. But in terms of sort of talking about it, I felt at the time I knew everything I needed to know is only now. And obviously we’ll talk about what I do a bit later. So now I know what I know that I realise how little I knew actually about, you know, women’s health and, and periods and hormones and how they can affect you post obviously post school.
Le’Nise: And you talked about being feeling very angry when you had your period because of the pain, the headaches, the acne. What did you do about it?
Katie: Well, I mean, I used to take obviously pain relief and my mum always used to give me a hot water bottle and I’d sort of curl up, you know, under the covers. And that just really was not just felt very unhappy and miserable. But, you know, I didn’t I wasn’t I guess because I was a doctor’s daughter, I was never allowed aday off school. I had to be seriously unwell for that. So you just kind of got on with it really. It wasn’t, you know, anything more than that. And because everyone else was obviously in the same boat, you know, I was no different from anyone else.
Le’Nise: And then once you moved into your twenties and thirties, what was your experience of your period like then?
Katie: Yeah, and this is kind of why I wish I had sort of known a bit more than what I know now. So I started, I got married. I got married very young. I was 24 and we tried to start for a family and I found it quite difficult to get pregnant at first, but I managed to get pregnant and then unfortunately I had a miscarriage. And after that I and the miscarriage I noticed I was spotting it was sort of some brown spotting. I thought perhaps it was just a period, but so I didn’t really know that actually it was a miscarriage.
And after the miscarriage, again, I found it quite hard to get pregnant. And so I was sent to a gynaecologist to just have some tests and scans and they said then that I have polycystic ovaries, which kind of it was, it was a bit of a one of many light bulb moments I’ve had since because it was the reason why my periods were sort of so painful and a little bit erratic because they weren’t always, you know, classic five day periods, like most people. And so she actually started me on Clomid, which helped regulate my periods. I had, by the way, been on the contraceptive pill up until then. So that actually did help my moods a bit and regulate my periods before I was starting for a baby.
And I then managed to get pregnant fairly easily. And actually I went on to have four pregnancies, thank God. I’m delighted to say, as sadly they were all via caesarean section because they they lost the heartbeat of my first baby and it was an emergency. And after that I couldn’t have, you know, I couldn’t give birth naturally. So that was kind of my, I suppose, initial experience. And then in terms of sort of post having my babies really that kind of takes us up to, well, my early forties, I had one very bad experience before my sort of perimenopause journey kicked in, which was one night I’d been to a party at my husband’s work do and I had, I was on my period and I had got in very, very late, probably like two in the three in the morning. And I had woke up and thought, Oh, I must change my tampon. And I thought, oh, I didn’t put a tampon in. So I put a tampon in and carried on with my day.
And the next night I started feeling very, very unwell to a point where I was shivering and burning hot and my husband had to call an ambulance. I’ve never been in an ambulance. And it turned out that I’d had a the string had snapped off this tampon. So I obviously put another one in. And I was I had septicemia from a retained tampon, basically, which was really terrifying. And, and I ended up in hospital for about ten days just sort of on an intravenous antibiotics. I mean, thankfully, I’m here to tell the tale, but it was a very scary time and I don’t want people to be scared about tampons. It was one of those just rare things that doesn’t happen, but it just I think it really scared me at the time.
Le’Nise: Wow that is that so scary? Because, you know, you when you’re growing up, you hear about toxic shock syndrome. And, you know, that’s one of those things, oh, don’t leave your tampon in for too long. Yeah, but then to hear that that actually happened to you. Wow. And then when you came out of the hospital, how did you then feel about your next period? Did you use tampons again?
Katie: I never used them again. I was absolutely terrified. But the interesting thing was the timing kind of coincided with my perimenopause journey. So I was becoming very forgetful. So although the string had snapped off, you know, I still to this day think, could I just not feel it or find it? Or was I just very forgetful that it was it? It was hugely embarrassing as well, you know, to tell people that that’s what how I’d caught septicemia. But I never I was too frightened to ever use tampon again.
And I and then what happened was I noticed my periods became incredibly irregular and I started to feel by the age of about 43, a whole host of seemingly unrelated symptoms. So very teary, low mood, brain fog, anxiety. I had heart palpitations, my joints were aching. I wasn’t I didn’t have any hot flashes. And as I said, I was still having periods. But I kept going back and forwards to different doctors over a four year period. And every time they kept saying, I was suffering with depression and they offered me anti-depressants. And eventually I my periods started becoming incredibly heavy to a point where I was flooding. I literally couldn’t leave the house because if I was wearing some white trousers, well, that was just horrendous because there was no warning and I would just flood and I became incredibly anaemic. Doctors sort of offered me things like tranexamic acid.
Le’Nise: I think it’s tranexamic acid.
Katie: Tranexamic acid tablets. That didn’t help and I just became a shell of a woman. I eventually left my job and I became a hermit and I lay at home, basically exhausted all day on the couch. And at no point did anyone offer me any other solution other than, you know, anti-depressants. It turned out I had a condition called Adenomyosis. I had a lot of scar tissue from my caesarean sections, and they couldn’t give me a coil because of these caesarean sections. Sorry, because of the scar tissue.
Eventually my dad was the one that said, look, I think this is hormones. And he sent me to see a gynaecologist who specialised in the menopause and within about half an hour of her, me telling her about my all of my different symptoms, she said, this is classic perimenopause. It was another light bulb moment. I’d never heard of this word, but I just felt a, relieved I wasn’t going mad or wasn’t being a hypochondriac and b, that there was a reason for these symptoms. And for me, the treatment option was hormone replacement therapy. And I just went home and sort of cried with relief on my bed. But there was actually reason why I was feeling like I was feeling, and that’s actually why I set out the work I do now. So, you know, in some ways and quite grateful for that experience.
Le’Nise: Wow. I mean, there’s so much in that story that you just said. Thank you so much for sharing your story. So you had so you had four caesarean sections and then prior to having the caesarean sections, you were on the pill and that was controlling the pain. You were kind of having a withdrawal bleed. And then you came off the pill and then and then you had you were the four pregnancies. Were they in succession? I can never say that word. Succession.
Katie: Yeah. I mean, I had my children quite close together, there’s seven years between the oldest and the youngest, and there’s four of them. So they’re pretty much sort of every couple of years. I just wanted to kind of get on with it, and I’ve always wanted a big family. My husband’s one of four and my, you know, obviously my dad’s one of five. So it was a planned madness.
Le’Nise: And when you went after having each pregnancy, would you go back on the pill to control control of the pain?
Katie: I went back on the pill after each pregnancy until the very last one where my doctor said to me, you know, are you finished with your family? And I said, yes, absolutely. I’m very blessed. And and I was actually because I’d had a caesarean, they offered to if I wanted to have the my tubes tied to help with obviously the contraception. And I think the cause that I was I wouldn’t have probably done it had I not been I suppose already open, cut open. But he offered to do it at the time of the caesarean. And because I was blessed to have had four healthy children, I, I just decided that’s something I wanted to do. So yeah.
Le’Nise: Okay. So you had your tubes tied and then actually how old were you at this point?
Katie: So my daughter. So it was I was 28, so. I think I was about 35 when I had my last child. Six. Yes, yeah. Mid-thirties.
Le’Nise: And then you mentioned that you were around 43 when you started to experience the brain fog and the forgetfulness. So you basically you had you had your tubes tied. I can’t remember what the formal medical term is.
Katie: Something like tubular ligation or something. Yeah, yeah.
Le’Nise: Tubal ligation. That’s right. And so how was your experience of your period in that time between having your your tubes tied and then that time where you went to your doctor or so you went to the hospital?
Katie: Yeah. I mean, it was it was a bit of a sort of calmer time then because things were, you know, pretty regular, monthly and regular, although they were never, you know, five days. They were usually about sort of four, four days. So yeah, I mean, the pain was still the pain really. It really changed. And they, you know, the mood swings still the mood swings. Yeah.
Le’Nise: And so you were your periods were still very, very painful.
Le’Nise: Okay. It’s interesting that they hadn’t diagnosed the adenomyosis until your mid-forties. And, you know, you mentioned the scar tissue, so it just made me think of Asherman’s syndrome as well, which is actually quite connected to Adenomyosis. So for listeners who aren’t familiar, it’s where the tissue cells that should ordinarily be within the womb, within the uterus that we said during menstruation, they actually within the muscular lining of the uterus and it makes periods incredibly, incredibly painful and heavy. And so then you you’ve started to experience these symptoms of perimenopause, and you have this light bulb moment when you went to your doctor and then you were put on HRT.
Katie: Yeah. I mean, I know that my periods would never sort of came up as part of that conversation. Nobody really ever asked me about them. So which I still to this day find quite surprising. They were focussing just more on the mental health side of things. You know, my mood and that’s why I was crying and why I was low when they, you know, they commented on, well, you’re overweight or perhaps you need to, you know, get fit, that kind of thing. But there was, you know, I even went to see a psychiatrist who told me that the my aching joints were I was just imagining and it was all in my head. And that was all part of that depressive illness. And I know it was really, really shocking.
I felt very dismissed. I’m not I’m I was made to feel like a hypochondriac. And it’s crazy because I think growing up, as I said, in a doctor’s sort of family, I never complained about my health. You know, I was very, very calm. You know, I actually like being around a hospital, a medical environment. It’s just something I’m grown up with following my dad, round on ward rounds or whatever. Just so I felt really quite angry that I wasn’t taken seriously. But then, you know, I just sort of thought, well, actually, I’m just going to hide away at home because I can’t keep complaining to my friends. You know, I have a really good life and I’m just embarrassed that I’m not coping.
Le’Nise: It’s really it’s shocking, but it’s not shocking that you were dismissed in that way, because I hear it so often and I’m so sorry that you you had that experience. When you think back, knowing what you know now, when you think back to your experiences of getting I mean, perimenopause isn’t a diagnosis, but, you know, actually just hearing that word and then going on the HRT, what do you wish you you know, you could have said to yourself, would you wish you know, you could have said to your doctors.
Katie: Well, it’s something that I now tell all the women who I help in our community said when I got home from my own diagnosis. So I set up a Facebook group and and I called it the Latte Lounge because I wanted it to feel like a sort of a coffee shop online where women could talk about their own and not just perimenopause and menopause, but all sort of their midlife health and well-being concerns. And one of the things I’ve created is a downloadable symptom checklist. It’s free for anyone who who wants to get a hold of it. And I had no idea that there were so many. I mean, there are up to probably 50. All symptom checklist has 34 of the sort of most common symptoms. And I think I just wish that I had learnt about at school that, you know, not just about menopause, but the perimenopause section because we sort of we learn about not getting pregnant, we learn about periods. So we learn about having babies and then your education stops and you don’t know anything. And you sort of have heard of that word menopause. But in your mind, that’s just some grey haired old lady who’s got a hot flash and she’s sort of fanning herself rocking in a corner. And I think I you know, I wish I had been taught at school and I wish I’d been shown this sort of symptom checklist because the symptoms are not dissimilar to some of the symptoms you suffer, you know, you know, when you have periods.
So, again, such as those such as the low mood, you know, heart palpitations, anxiety, that kind of thing. But the other thing that I obviously found out now I’ve been working in this field for sort of six, seven years, is that there is no mandatory menopause training at medical school. So I you know, so doctors are coming out with a very sort of scanty knowledge, especially about this perimenopause, which, you know, can often be ten years before the menopause. So I just kind of wish that, you know, there was a lot more training at medical school that we were taught about it at school. I talk about it non-stop to my daughter and to my well, all of my three sons as well, because I think we need to be that generation that again, to not just educate ourselves, but the younger generation. And so I just think it’s about being informed because, you know, information and knowledge is power. And I think the more we can all learn about this next phase of our life and and go in to a doctor’s appointments, you know, the quicker we’ll all get diagnosed and hopefully treated.
Le’Nise: You mentioned you have these conversations with your daughter and with your sons. Do you talk is it is it about periods? Is it just generally about health? What I’m interested in the conversations with your sons, because I think that is so it’s obviously important that we talk to our daughters about this and have open and honest conversations with them. But I do think there is really something about bringing in boys to the conversation. You know, I have a nine year old son and he his school is he’s about to go into a mixed school. And I said to him, you know, you’re at the age where some girls, they might get their periods and they might get their periods in school. And so if you see a girl, if maybe she has a stain on the back of her, her skirt or her dress, there’s also your jump jumper to them. So they, you know, they don’t feel embarrassed, you know, just be really nice about this.
And he looked a bit confused, obviously, had never thought about thought about it. But I really want to kind of plant those seeds early on. And he knows all about periods because he hears me talking about them all the time. He’s in the living room and I’m talking about all of this stuff, so he just knows. But I don’t think he had ever thought about it in the context of his life and his soon to be classmates. So I think that’s really interesting. So I’m just interested in your conversations with your sons.
Katie: Yeah, well, I guess it’s a bit like you. My kids are so used to hearing me talk about perimenopause and menopause all the time. It’s almost like, you know, they’re rolling their eyes going, Oh, here she goes again, you know? So but the good thing is they they are informed.
And one of the things I didn’t mention was I actually ended up having to have a hysterectomy. So what happened was my womb became so bulky and it was stopping the blood flowing to my ankle, well, to my feet. So my ankles are swollen. So I had to have a hysterectomy. And once I got better from the hysterectomy, I remember it was about eight weeks later and I had to go to of a family party and I was sitting next to one of my male cousins who I love dearly and, you know, we’re a very, very close family. And he sort of turned to me and they said, How are you? And I said. Yeah. I’m okay. I’ve. I’ve been. I’ve been in hospital. I had to have an operation. And he went, Oh, you know what was wrong? And I said, Oh, I had a hysterectomy.
Now I’m so used to just throwing these words out there. Well, his response really shocked me, and he went, Whoa! Like that was too much information. He sort of recoiled. And I was like, Oh, my God. Wow. Okay. I wasn’t expecting that. You know, I was expecting oh, I’m sorry to hear that. And and, you know, he immediately was all very awkward and sort of I had to sort of try and make him feel better. And I sort of dropped a napkin on the floor and I oh, I’m just going to pick up my napkin. And and I went home that night and I’ve just now thought, my goodness, you know what? Well, you know, that generation of men where there’s still that, oh, you know, women, really is disgusting and don’t talk about that sort of thing.
So I’ve ever since that experience, I’ve been a bit like you. I’ve said to my boys, look, women have been ridiculed all for as long as I can remember. Men are like, Oh, God, she’s on her period. Or, Oh, you’re so moody on your periods. Oh, it’s your hormones you menopausal today. And you know, oh, God, don’t go near her. And and I hate that because actually, you know, we can’t help. It’s, you know, is our hormones and none of us want to be miserable or moody. So I sort of brought my boys up, especially in the last decades, to actually sort of say that, you know, men and women are a very different we are, you know, to some extent of dictated by our hormones. And, you know, women, unlike men every month we are, our moods, are going to be affected and it’s about being understanding and supportive. So I think if men and boys are taught about why we are like we are, that they could be sort of much more empathetic and understanding.
And also, you know, it saves relationships and marriages because a lot of women I hear from in the last year, you know, the most common rates of divorce is 45 to 55. And sadly, suicide is highest in women during 45 to 55. And that’s because, you know, some women do suffer very, very badly and get to a very, very dark place. And, you know, you often hear from men saying, I don’t recognise my wife. My husband didn’t recognise me. You know, you can literally change personalities and become a very different person. And I think the more that we teach boys and men to understand and be, you know, empathetic and supportive and also to to go and go with your partner, perhaps to a doctor’s appointment to say, how can I help? I think would be a lot happier if if and it’s important that men and boys are, you know, educated and brought up in that way.
Le’Nise: Yeah. Yeah. You so you mentioned that you had had a you had a hysterectomy. Was this after you started the HRT? Okay. So you had already been using the HRT to manage some of the perimenopausal symptoms that you’ve been experiencing. And then and then you had the the hysterectomy. Was it a full or partial hysterectomy?
Katie: Because by that point, I was just flooding so much they couldn’t control the bleeding. We tried all sorts of different things. And then once my legs started swelling, which sort of felt like we had pretty much tried and tried everything I said. So yeah, it was a full hysterectomy. And, you know, thankfully I had started on HRT before, but there’s a lot of women who have to have hysterectomy is either perhaps through, you know, for medical reasons or or or because of, you know, menopause symptoms.
And when they remove the ovaries, you’re plunged into menopause immediately. And there’s a lot of women who are not counselled about that and they and are not even offered HRT. And for those who are listening, who might not know, and I just think it’s vitally important that anyone that’s been told they have to have a hysterectomy, that they have the conversations about what may happen hormonally to them afterwards. And and the agency is part of that conversation.
Le’Nise: And so you you had the hysterectomy, you were on HRT. And then did you have to go on a different, different form of HRT after the hysterectomy? What was your experience like you were in you went into medical menopause. And, you know, obviously, that’s quite a shocking experience as you described. How supported did you feel with your doctors navigating that, that new experience?
Katie: Well, I. think by that point, because I was under a really good gynaecologist and I knew that, you know, what was going on and what to expect and and what to ask for. So I knew I only needed to be on oestrogen then. So all we did was we just stopped the progesterone. So I used to be on a combination patch, but you know, after then I only needed the oestrogen.
And so like, I mean, looking back now, it’s actually the best thing I ever did because I’m relieved to no longer have that horrible flooding and periods. And for a while it was a bit weird because you always have to know where you are with your period so suddenly for the first time in your life, never have them. It’s kind of a strange thing, but I think, you know, for those that, you know, perhaps haven’t finished their family, it can be devastating. But for me, I just looked at all my blessings and that I was so lucky to have full, healthy children. And actually, it was it was it was a relief not to, you know, have any more periods. And also, you know, I’d become severely anaemic.
Le’Nise: Well, if you don’t mind me asking, because we’ve kind of put together a timeline, which I just find I always find fascinating to do because it helps others who might be experiencing something similar, understand, maybe have like a reference point for their journeys. How old are you now?
Katie: So I’m 53 now, but the whole sort of perimenopause journey started at 43, so I feel like I’ve been on quite a journey.
Le’Nise: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And so if anyone’s listening, so isn’t sure what perimenopause is, is it something that can start in the late thirties and is a very natural part of the kind of menstrual reproductive lifecycle where you just start producing, you stop producing as many mature eggs, and then that has an impact on progesterone production. And then eventually there are different phases of of perimenopause. And then this eventually leads into menopause, which is actually just the very last period.
And let’s now talk about the Latte Lounge. So you had this experience, you went home, you set up your Facebook group, which I think is fantastic because you had had this very disempowering experience. And then you said, actually, I’m going to go out and help others. I don’t want others to feel how I feel, how I feel now. So tell us more about the Latte Lounge.
Katie: Yeah, so absolutely. So the Facebook group grew very organically the first night I set it up. I had 2,000 member requests in 24 hours and I was like, Oh, my goodness, okay, I’m not alone. This is, as you know, this is going on all over the place. I was shocked at how poorly women were informed and and belittled and confused and lost and treated pretty badly.
And I think because I’m a doctor’s daughter, I thought, I can’t just let these women dump their problems into a Facebook group and just try and figure it out from other very well-meaning women. I need to actually help them properly. So I put together a medical advisory team and I built a website to start really with three key aims which are to support, inform and signpost women to the right resources or people or places so that whatever they come to us about, we will do whatever we can to support them.
And I think, you know, because we’re the sandwich generation, we’re often juggling children. We’re at perhaps ageing parents, we’ve got relationships going on and looking after our own work and home and life and sort of wellbeing. Nobody really shines a spotlight on us, the women in the middle. And, you know, we have this sort of pressure cooker situation going on. So I just wanted to kind of be that place where, you know, often in the middle of the night when women perhaps are not sleeping well or they’re worried or they just have a sort of very quick question that we’re kind of we kind of capture those problems and we try and help them and be that through, you know, our podcast or through our articles on our website.
I also run an event called the Midlife Festival, which is an annual event where we bring together some of the world leading not just menopause and perimenopause experts, but all women’s health and wellbeing experts talking about nutrition and and fitness and things like breast cancer and heart health. And just so that women can learn from selves in a very easy fashion from home and, you know, not be scared by sort of some really complicated medical terminology, but just where the facts are explained. So, you know, we do that and we have a very small private membership as well for women who want a lot more hand-holding. And we’ll run masterclasses there. And again, I’ll help them behind the scenes so that you can just really sort of feel the best we can feel and then, you know, embrace life and enjoy then this next stage really.
Le’Nise: Yeah. What I feel so excited and enthused about is this new thinking about moving into forties, fifties and sixties. You know, thinking about I think about when I was a teenager and how, you know, the sixties was thinking about your being in your sixties. There’s this stereotype of women just on they’re on the decline, you know, having a short, short haircut, maybe, you know, it was curled, skin, just very, you know, looking very dehydrated. There’s this real stereotype and you think now, like, you know, all the amazing women in the public eye who are in their forties, 50s,60s, who just look so vital, you know, they have this vitality about them. And I think it’s so it’s so amazing, you know. I I’m 43 and so I am kind of I know that I’m in the kind of early stages of perimenopause and I’m in denial at the moment.
But, um, this, this term midlife, I just want to ask you about it because it’s something that I, I, I’m seeing a lot at the moment and I, I, I struggle with that a little bit on a personal level because I think of myself, I’m 43. I don’t think of myself as being a midlife woman. But then I look at the sign behind you. It says Latte Lounge. Top Tips for Women over 40. It’s a commercial coffee shop for all midlife women who arrive in midlife, but I don’t feel like that at all.
Katie: Yeah, I think it’s, um. It is a funny word. I think it’s, you know, hopefully we’re all living longer, thankfully. And that’s because, you know, leaps and bounds have been made in science and medicine. But I think, you know, you touched on women looking so much more vibrant than perhaps the image we were brought up to believe that women are old and grey and and knackered and finishs, but we’re living longer. We’re working longer.
And I think a lot of the work I do is campaigning as well. So I’ve been campaigning for the last five years with the Make Menopause Matter campaign with a lovely lady called Diane Danzebrink. And and what’s happened is because we’ve been sort of I guess social media has been a force for good in this situation. I think because a lot of us have gone through these experiences, Diane was suicidal with her, her situation, and it’s driven us to all campaign and talk very openly. And so with things like the Davina McCall programme and lots of doctors and women coming to social media or writing books, I think we’re all openly talking about our experiences because we can through the beauty of things like social media and because we don’t feel old, you know, I think, you know, our parents really didn’t learn much about nutrition and exercise and looking after ourselves, whereas we’ve been brought up this next generation, you know, we are we’re learning to how to eat, to optimise our diet and look and feel great. We know we know the importance of exercise for long term health and wellbeing, and we enjoy it.
So, you know, why should we why should we be sort of sitting in the corner, rocking in that chair? You know, we want to you know, I still feel young. I don’t fit. In fact, I feel better now than I did in my thirties. In my thirties, I was shattered all the time because I had four kids. Whereas now I feel happy and vibrant and excited and full of life and really, you know, like I found my purpose. And I just want women to feel, I guess, as well as, as you look and as well as I feel. And that all comes down to just, you know, being informed and, you know, life is for living. And I’ve lost, sadly, you know, few friends over rec,ent years who who didn’t have that luxury. So as as far as I’m concerned, I’m praying I’m in midlife. I pray that I will, you know, live till 106 and well past 46. Sorry, 86.
Le’Nise: Yeah, I hope so, too. So someone listening to this is thinking, okay, I know that I am, you know, I’ve started perimenopause and that, you know, menopause is on the horizon. What would you say to them as a way as a kind of some words of support?
Katie: Yeah. I mean, not don’t be scared or afraid of it. There are many women who sail through it and that’s absolutely fabulous. But just as I say, be informed now so that if perhaps you do start noticing, you know, as you sort of turn 40, that you start to experience perhaps some brain fog or low mood or, you know, even things like dry, itchy skin or these sort of anxiety, heart palpitations that actually, you know, it’s worth just sort of putting two and two together early on and thinking, okay, I am going into perimenopause.
And if you’re not coping, if it’s affecting your life like it did mine, don’t suffer in silence. There is no no one’s going to give you a medal just for coping. And actually there are so those that can go on HRT and want to and I understand there’s a whole group of women who perhaps can’t because of a family history or they’ve had breast cancer, but go and see a medical specialist because a lot of women still can even with a family history. But. Be informed. And, you know, HRT, for those that can take care, prevents osteoporosis, it reduces heart disease. And there’s research going on at the moment that it can help with things like early onset dementia. There’s not enough evidence yet, but, you know, it is being looked at. So there are long term health benefits, so don’t be frightened of it and don’t feel like, you know, you get some sort of medal for oh, I you know, I’m just going to try my best to manage it. If you’re not coping, then go and seek some support. And and, you know, everyone’s welcome to join our Facebook group. It’s free and look on our website and you know, we will support and signpost you if you do need help.
Le’Nise: And where can people find you?
Katie: The website is Latte Lounge.co.uk and through the website you’ll be able to find everything else. And the Midlife Festival is the midlife festival dot com as well. If you want to grab one of the VIP passes, you can watch back the last two years of fabulous experts and the podcast. If you just search for the Latte Lounge, you’ll find it there.
Le’Nise: Fantastic. Is there anything that you want to leave listeners with? Any last words, any last thoughts?
Katie: Well, the only other thing I haven’t mentioned is that I left my job because of my symptoms. And if you’re struggling in the workplace and perhaps your employer is unaware or isn’t very well educated, you know, we can also help with corporates to support you to stay in the workplace. We have a corporate membership that women can get support with.
But just, you know, looking back along my entire fertility journey, I think it all comes down to education. I think the more we learn about it at school, the more doctors are taught it’s at medical school, the more workplaces are educated and supported and that men are part of this conversation. I think by being open about these sorts of things, we’re breaking down taboos, you know, getting rid of the embarrassment factor and just normalising this conversation like like you are, you know, a few years ago, nobody would ever dream of mentioning the word period. So we’ve come a long way.
Le’Nise: We definitely have come a long way. Thank you so much, Katie. Thank you for sharing your story of being so open and honest. All the links will be in the show notes, so please check out the Latte Lounge and thank you again.
Katie: Oh, well, thank you for having me and for all that you do too.