Freelance stylist and writer Fatima Truscott, 44, had no clue about perimenopause until she had to investigate surprising symptoms. In the second of our series of powerful interviews – co-created with TENA – Fatima explains how this stage of her life is to be celebrated

This article is in partnership with TENA.

When I first started presenting symptoms of perimenopause, I had no idea what was going on. I’d heard of the word, but until it actually happened to me, I was totally unprepared. That’s because we still don’t talk enough about the menopause stage of a woman’s life, and it’s a subject rife with myths and stigma.

It’s why, when my periods started getting really heavy a few years ago, I feared something more serious. Because your periods start getting lighter in perimenopause, right? At least, that’s what I assumed. So, after decades of very regular and ‘normal’ bleeds, when I started bleeding so heavily that I was soaking through my jeans, I freaked out.

Plus, my emotional state was shot. I’ve always been a productive person, but I found myself just wanting to curl up and sleep. The PMT, which I’d never really had before, was extreme and I could feel rage bubbling up inside me. I’d tell myself: ‘This is normal, it’s just hormonal, you’re not going mad, Fatima’. But suddenly, I didn’t feel in control any more, and that’s frightening. My GP said it was likely I was perimenopausal, but we couldn’t do anything, as my periods were still regular. That’s when I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about what was happening to my body, so that I could feel like I was in control again.

I started reading about holistic ways to manage symptoms. Basically, embracing my inner hippy! I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s changed my life. Meditation and yoga help me feel better emotionally and physically; giving me that space to tune in to both my mental health and my body. I love the Headspace and Calm apps; they’re great for quick and easy mindfulness exercises.

I now know my cycle well and plan ahead – I know which weeks to go easy on myself! I still experience heavy bleeding and PMT, as well as other peri symptoms, such as hair thinning and adult acne, which I manage with topical treatments. Some days are worse than others. But the massive positive I’ve taken from this is that I know and understand my body so much more now.

My advice to other women? Talk about it and educate yourself. See your GP, but don’t just do that. Talk to your mum, or older friends who have been there and know what it’s like. Surround yourself with like-minded women experiencing the same thing and find that community where you feel comfortable to discuss without judgement. 

Feeling Flush is an amazing Facebook group for ‘young-at-heart women in midlife’, or on Instagram, I follow (@drmenopausecare on Instagram) – great for simple, digestible advice, and much better than simply typing ‘perimenopause’ into Google and getting information overload!

Understanding this stage of life means you go into menopause a lot more prepared. Educating myself means I’m heading into the next stage with confidence, not fear. It means that, finally, I feel like I’m in control again. By talking more openly about perimenopause, we can finally break down the stigma and shame that means so many women go into it unequipped and apprehensive.

Perimenopause is nothing to be scared or ashamed of. It’s not something to hide. It shows our bodies are working and entering a new stage of life. That’s something to be celebrated.

Sensitive protection

Many women suffer from sensitive skin in the genital area – and this is particularly common during peri menopause and menopause due to a lack of oestrogen. So, just like the skin on your face, think of the skin on your vulva as a delicate flower you need to protect. Keep in mind that it can be irritated by things like soap, bubble bath, shower products, cleansing wipes, perfumes – even fragranced washing powder and fabric conditioners. And, of course, bladder leaks during peri-menopause aren’t going to help with irritation, either. The answer? Try NEW Tena Lights For Sensitive Skin

With absolutely no fragrances and dyes, these super-absorbent, discreet pads ensure urine is quickly locked away from the skin, deep inside the liner, keeping you dry and odour-free. Plus, the liners are breathable and dermatologically tested to be safe and kind to your intimate skin. Small but mighty protection!

To read all the inspiring Menopause Monologues in the series so far, view the related articles below.