The change in my life all began after my own experience of perimenopause, and I started to share the knowledge I had learned with friends around the kitchen table who were struggling, and then friends of friends started asking for help too.
Then I had an opportunity to help within the wider community when my GP surgery asked if I would be willing to help run a well being group. I didn't hesitate as I had all of this information in my head and needed to put it to good use. I felt determined to use my experience to make a difference to others, as no woman should have to suffer in the way I did for so long.
So I volunteered as a "Health Champion" in conjunction with the Blackmore Vale Partnership. With the wonderful support of the social prescribing team and other Health Champions we now run 3 group support meetings a month.
Hi, my name is Rowan and until recent years this has not been my day job. My career has been in the equine industry for over 30 years, caring for and training horses and coaching riders.
It soon became clear that the demand for menopause support was high, and I had more and more requests for one to one support and couples guidance. Interest began to flood in from local organisations to raise menopause awareness within the community. So I eventually decided to create the Social Enterprise, Dorset Menopause Support as my "work" in this area was simply overtaking my day job at an overwhelming rate.
This has been made an easier transition due to the advice and support from Dorset Community Action, and with their continued support I hope this will evolve into a Community Interest Company, so it can grow and increase to benefit the community in the future.
I believe that every woman should have access to factual, evidence based, up to date medical information, advice, education and emotional support, so they can be in control of their own health and wellbeing through perimenopause and menopause.
Many women struggle to lead a normal lifestyle when perimenopause and menopause enters their lives, some to devastating effect. I am dedicated to offer support, guidance and information, so more women can learn about this time of change within their body and can then choose how to best manage their symptoms. After my own experiences of perimenopause and the struggle to find the right information and help that I needed, it became obvious that the majority of medical professionals need to educate and update their knowledge on
menopause. In most cases this is not the fault of the medical professional, simply the training is not mandatory within the medical curriculum. So I also feel passionately about improving education within women´s health.
I must make it clear that I do not have a medical background, but after my own extensive research and experience, I have retrained as a Menopause Support and Wellbeing Coach and hold certification and membership with the Newson Health Menopause Society and The International Menopause Society. To compliment this I have certification in Nutrition and Health and Wellbeing. I am fully insured for menopause consultations and have a current DBS certificate.
My story: ‘I was at rock bottom – now I support others through their menopause’
Rowan shares her experiences of menopause-related anxiety, UTIs and heart palpitations
Rowan was running a successful business when she started to experienced physical and psychological symptoms that impacted her confidence and her career – but no one mentioned the perimenopause or menopause.
Here, she shares her story.
‘I lost my father when I was thirty-nine. He had brought me up, and I had cared for him before he died, and it hit me particularly hard. So when I had the symptoms of what I now know as perimenopause, I initially thought it was grief. But then it went on, and on – even two years later I’d have emotional days when I couldn’t stop crying.
‘I had been a fit and active outdoor person my whole life and had been working in the equine industry, running a busy event yard, teaching and riding semi-professionally. Yet here I was in my early forties, suffering from broken sleep, anxiety and lost confidence. It began to have a serious impact on my riding career, as the anxiety became unbearable and I had panic attacks. I felt so unwell all the time – like someone had knocked me off my feet.
I thought I was too young to be perimenopausal
‘The only thing I knew – or thought I knew – about the menopause at that point was that I wouldn’t have to worry about it until I was well into my fifties, and then it would just involve getting a bit hot and sweaty. How hard could that be? I spent half my life sweating doing physical work, anyway. I had no idea it could hit women of my age, or even in their twenties.
‘I’m sure now that by the time I was 42 I was perimenopausal. Hot flushes weren’t a big thing for me, but I was running a temperature and felt overheated the whole time. I developed urinary tract infections – I got electric shock pains through my pelvic area, had a really painful pelvis with cramping. I thought I was diabetic because I was really thirsty and wanted to go to the loo all the time.
Night sweats and heart palpitations
‘I went to see a GP because I thought I was run down. It was having a real impact on my life. I’d stopped competitive riding, but I was still trying to work and be active and do my day job. I had night sweats; I’d be shivering; I’d be woken up with heart palpitations, which was really unnerving.
‘The GP ordered blood tests and everything came back negative. Further down the line, I was tested for Lyme disease, connective-tissue disorders, Addison’s disease – but nobody even mentioned menopause or perimenopause.
‘I said to the doctor that I thought it was my hormones – that I thought my estrogen and testosterone were low – and asked if I could be tested for that. He couldn’t even look at me. He turned away and said I’d have to talk to someone who knew something about that.
‘At this stage I was really struggling. This wasn’t like a cold or flu, something that would go away in a few weeks. It was constant.
‘I saw another GP and she gave me HRT. But I wasn’t given any information about it. She asked me if I wanted patches, gel or tablets. How was I supposed to know? I said I’d try tablets, so she wrote the prescription and off I went.
‘Within three or four days, my temperature had come down, my dizziness and nausea had gone and I thought, ‘Thank God, it’s worked’. But after several months, the symptoms came back again – and my muscles ached, brain fog crept in and I felt utterly exhausted all the time. I went back to the GP. I had done some research and now knew I needed body-identical HRT – and a much higher dose.
‘My life changed when I watched a menopause documentary and found a menopause specialist. I had to wait three months for the appointment and by that time I had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue. I tried to carry on, and then I slipped a disc in my back. I couldn’t work – I couldn’t stay awake; I was at rock bottom.
Feeling listened to
‘When I got to the specialist menopause clinic, I finally felt listened to. They understood what was going on, and the help I needed. I was told to keep increasing the dose of the estrogen every two weeks until I felt better. I was on testosterone as well, and after several months, I felt great. All my symptoms had eased, the chronic fatigue had lifted, the brain fog had gone and I was back to teaching. It took longer to sort out the progestogen, but I feel brilliant.
Supporting others through their menopause
‘Now I volunteer at my local GP practice running menopause-support meetings. This isn’t just a meet-up-and-have-coffee thing – it’s a place where women can come and gain more knowledge about the menopause and how to deal with their symptoms with up-to-date medical information. I’ve also set up a Facebook group.
‘I’m very lucky to feel as good as I do now, but it hasn’t been without a fight. Women shouldn’t have to go through this. We’ve got to come out of the dark ages, and there’s still a long way to go.’
Click on the links to read more about my story
Interview with The i Paper (Newspaper)