Lynette Fay: Let's talk about hormones

Women's relationship with our hormones is one that we should invest in and try to understand from an early age. We all have them and we have to work out a way of living with them

Lynette Fay – like many women, as a teenager I would never have discussed periods at home. Picture by Darren Kidd/Press Eye
Lynette Fay

The first reference to hormones that I ever heard was in the Gaeltacht – at Irish language college, in Donegal. A teacher commented that there were ‘hormones, achan áit’ – hormones everywhere. This was a reference to teenagers discovering the rules of attraction.

That is a big part of it, but for women, our relationship with hormones is one that we should invest in and really try to understand from an early age.

Since I first wrote about periods in this column, I discovered a whole new chapter in my life with hormones, which only goes to further prove the essential need to understand this relationship at every turn.

I read a book recently that I wish had been available when I was 15. It’s one to read again and again as it will apply to me in different ways as I get older. With every change in the female body, so changes our relationship with hormones.

The book is called Hormonal by Eleanor Morgan, who, incidentally, I also spoke to on my radio programme last Tuesday. Reading Eleanor’s book, I realised that working out how hormones brought on through menstruation affect women’s mental health is the key to contentment in life.

Hormonal by Eleanor Morgan 

For as long as women have periods 90 per cent of us experience some sort of pre-menstrual changes, even if only mildly, while there are more than 150 clinically identified forms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome).

How many times have you thought that you were losing it, going mad, unsure of yourself, only to realise where you were in your cycle, then the penny drops? That’s how I cope with it; as long as I know why I’m feeling either weepy or overwhelmed, exhausted or a little bit despairing, I breathe a sigh of relief – because I know that it is only temporary and it will pass.

Like many daughters, or sisters, as a teenager, I would never – not in a million years – have discussed these matters publicly at home. Instead, I probably acted out, huffed, shouted or quietly cried.

For as long as women have periods 90 per cent of us experience some sort of pre-menstrual changes. Picture by Getty Images

In the workplace, I can’t see the day when I am ever honest with colleagues about my hormone balance. I imagine that most women feel like this. The myth still exists that hormones equal hysteria. Any mention of periods or hormones is usually pejorative and dismissive. I would love to hear from anyone who has had the opposite experience. That would be refreshing!

Eleanor’s book makes the point again and again, that we should normalise the conversation about hormones. We all have them, they affect us in different ways, and we have to work out a way of living with them, and managing them.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned to own these feelings and emotions. I had only just (in my humble opinion) got the hang of this hormone malarkey when I got pregnant.

In my early weeks of pregnancy, I was scared out of my wits that my hormones would escalate out of control. As it turned out, I had a very placid experience and became more balanced than I have ever been. But most of all for me, the pain and two to three days of total wipe-out per month disappeared.

Sadly, I got used to this and I did not welcome the return of the imbalance. However, vitamin supplements, sleep and exercise all help.

Sadly, too often, when women try to seek medical advice about hormone imbalance, they are offered the pill or antidepressants. None of which provide a solution.

We will have to live in the hope that someone, somewhere will finally see fit to invest in a better understanding of health provision for women. It might be over zealous of me to hope that this happens before my eight-month-old daughter hits menopause.

* * *

Get it on! Wearing a mask is the right thing to do

TO MASK or not to mask. Who knew that the mask – sorry, face covering – would prove to be so controversial?

While we are receiving mixed messages from government, have we lost our common sense? Please cop on and realise that we don’t live in a Covid-free country – be that Northern Ireland, Ireland, wherever. We need to be careful.

We have become complacent since the easing of lockdown. We are rarely keeping our distance or being respectful of the anxiety of others. It’s time to wise up and keep washing your hands.

Keeping the spread of a contagious, invisible virus under control should be our priority – no matter what it takes? Is it that difficult to understand?

The Lynette Fay Show is on BBC Radio Ulster, Monday-Thursday, 3pm.

Twitter @LynetteFay; Facebook @lynettefay15

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