Davina McCall health: Star felt ‘frightened’ during menopause – ‘I didn’t cope very well’

Davina McCall gives health update after 'fracturing' her foot

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In a bid to draw more attention to the myths, challenges and changes that need to be made concerning the menopause, Davina is writing a book – titled Menopausing – in which she hopes to start some form of an “uprising”, so she, and all those who wish to join her can put an end to “the shame and horrific misinformation surrounding menopause”. Her journey to challenging menopause stigmas started when she released a Channel 4 documentary titled Sex, Myths and The Menopause, in which she sparked a candid conversation about the topic, and got to tell personal real-life stories.

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a project that has affected me so deeply,” Davina said ahead of the broadcast in May 2021.

“I get home after filming and sometimes I just sit down and cry… from deep frustration and anger at how we are failing women. This film isn’t just for menopausal women, it’s for their partners, their fathers, their brothers, and their sons. We’re all in this together.

“I used to think that menopause was an age thing and now I realise it’s a woman thing. For far too long, there’s been a shroud of embarrassment, shame and fear around this topic, and this is where it stops!”

The National Institute of Ageing describes menopause as the point where a woman stops having her monthly period.

In the years leading up to that point, changes within their bodies, which is known as menopausal transition or peri-menopause.

This period of transition usually begins between the ages of 45 and 55, and can last up to 14 years – the average being seven.

This period affects each woman uniquely and in various ways, with some suffering more severe symptoms. Naturally, the body begins to use energy differently, with some women experiencing weight gain whilst others experience changes in their heart and bone health.

Speaking on DJ Annie Mac’s podcast Changes, Davina recalled her personal experience with menopause. She said: “I didn’t cope very well.

“I think I was lonely. Loneliness was the biggest thing. I just felt so isolated and frightened in a way.

“And I didn’t feel like I had anybody to talk to about it, and that was the really scary thing. I was really low and if I had presented to the doctor that I was feeling low, he would have put me on antidepressants.

“A lot of peri-menopausal women get put on antidepressants but the scary thing is, I hear from a lot of women who get put on antidepressants, but they don’t work.

“But antidepressants don’t work on hormonal depression, so then you think, well they’re not working. I need stronger ones, if it isn’t depression then what is it?”

The National Institute of Ageing continues to explain that mood swings are one of the most common symptoms of menopause, with scientists unaware of why these changes occur.

The site states that it is possible for other factors such as stress, family changes, ageing parents or a history of depression that could make these symptoms worse, but in other cases these symptoms may develop without a known cause.

“You’re so out of sorts,” Davina continued to say. “It is hormonal related depression and anxiety, and it is just about understanding that, I mean even pre-taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can feel like a huge weight has been lifted.

“Talk to the person who looks like they might be having symptoms and not saying, and say ‘Hey. Do you think it might be this?’ Because they will be so relieved.”

Other common symptoms of menopause, according to the NHS include:

  • Hot flushes – short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make your skin red and sweaty
  • Night sweats – hot flushes that occur at night
  • Difficulty sleeping – this may make you feel tired and irritable during the day
  • A reduced sex drive (libido)
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety
  • Palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
  • Joint stiffness, aches and pains
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs).

As Davina mentioned, the most common form of treatment for menopause is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This treatment aims to replace missing hormones as most symptoms are a side effect of low oestrogen levels.

Oestrogen is a group of hormones that play an important role in the normal sexual and reproductive development in women. The hormone is produced mostly in the ovaries, as well as the adrenal glands and fat cells.

Available in multiple different forms such as tablets, skin patches, gel or implants, HRT relieves most women of horrific symptoms and can also prevent thinning of the bones, which can lead to osteoporosis – more common after menopause.

Although there has been past evidence to suggest that HRT increases the risk of breast cancer and blood clots in some women, research remains to state that the benefits hugely outweigh the risks.

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