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Lisa Congdon's experience of early menopause

Lisa Congdon's experience of early Menopause
We dive into one woman’s story on her experience of premature menopause. Menopause before the age of 45 is called early menopause.
We dive into one woman’s story on her experience of premature menopause. Menopause before the age of 45 is called early menopause, however premature menopause happens before the age of 40. And in Lisa’s case, her symptoms started to develop early thirties. 

Premature menopause is rare, and estimated to affect 1% of women under the age of 40 years and 0.1% of women under the age of 30 years. However, that’s still thousands of women that might not be getting the support they need or know of other women going through something similar.

The thought of going through menopause during your 20s, 30s and even 40s feels like something that will never happen to you. We’re educated on periods, safe sex, pregnancy and caring for a child but never about menopause.

"Menopause is still something that can be seen as a bit taboo, though Lisa talks to everyone and anyone about it."

Read on for more details on Lisa’s story, how it felt to find out she had premature menopause and how her life is now…

Lisa Congdon was 37 when she was finally diagnosed with premature menopause and prescribed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), however, Lisa speculates “but at a guess, I'd say I was beginning premature menopause around 32”. 

Lisa and her husband Andy have been together since she was 17, they later got married at 23, and 4 years after at the age of 27 she safely delivered twin boys, Max and Oliver. It was a long 4 years of trying to conceive, filled with “numerous tests and plenty of heartache”, but both Lisa and Andy ultimately got their happy ending.

After the birth of her baby boys, Lisa noticed her periods were the heaviest they’d ever been, though only lasting 3 days instead of the usual 5. She had put this down to going through so much internally from carrying the twins, and so dismissed the change. Lisa recalled “the pain had always been horrific for me since I started at 14”, though she was now being woken frequently by night sweats too.
Lisa’s determination to not let these period-like symptoms get her down was due to her feeling like she needed to keep going for her boys. At times, Lisa even wondered if she had postpartum depression. Experiencing low mood, horrendous periods, lots of tears, plus painful knees and feet – these signs were dismissed by Lisa as the result of “running around after toddlers”.

When Max and Oliver turned 2 years old, Lisa went back to work, working a 20-hour week. “I began to feel stressed and angry and would often shout at cars on the road! I'd get very hot even when it wasn't a hot day. Though again she had put this down to the everyday stressors of being a working mum, “a few years went by, living with these symptoms and not connecting the dots, anxiety crept in alongside the down feelings, and the frustration.” 

Andy, Lisa’s husband, was involved in a life-threatening accident at work, and was “lucky to survive”. With all her symptoms worsening and deeply affecting her day-to-day life, Lisa still tried pushing on through, feeling like she didn’t have time to worry about them as she wanted to help nurse her husband back to health as well as support their boys during this time. 

Lisa shared “I kept going, all with these symptoms affecting me… I put my feelings and aches and pains in a box, and got up every day, got ready for work and put on my mask”, convincing herself that she was ‘ok!’. 

The aftermath of everything that had happened over the last few months triggered a severe panic attack, Lisa decided it was time to have some counselling, having her suspicions that something wasn’t right. “I even asked my counsellor if there was something more as I wasn’t feeling myself.”

It can be quite an isolating experience, especially when comparing yourself to other women or mums. “I wasn't like my mum friends who were working, they were coping. On the outside everything seemed great! I bottled everything up.” Lisa’s counsellor suggested that she should visit her GP and have some blood tests in case she needed a vitamin jab or something similar. Menopause was not considered by the counsellor due to Lisa’s age. 

Lisa shared with us that it wasn’t until January – she had turned 37 in December before – that she walked into the GP’s office, sat down, and burst into tears. Reeling off every single symptom she’d experienced, from mental health to physical pain. Beginning to connect the dots along with some research, it was evident that Lisa was in premature menopause. 

Lisa’s GP had supported her and Andy through their infertility treatment, she also knew of her mum becoming premenopausal at the age of 40 because of the infertility questions asked previously.

“We all knew I'd be early, I thought I'd get to forty. She simply said, 'Lisa I'm surprised I've not seen you before now!' I was at the end of my tether, pretty broken if I'm honest.”

"I'm going to absolutely rock my 40's!"

Once talking through all her options, it was agreed that HRT was the best choice, Lisa recalled, “I went home happy that I wasn’t irrational in my thoughts that something was going wrong, but hugely sad I'd wasted most of my 30's feeling absolutely rubbish, my 20's had been all about getting pregnant and looking back wondering why my hormones gave me so much grief. I then spun it to; I'm going to absolutely rock my 40's!”

Looking back, not knowing whether all the treatment had sparked it to be earlier, the stress of Andy’s accident, or the combination of both, Lisa is soon approaching the 3-year mark of HRT and feels it has been a godsend for her. With all her symptoms gone, along with the decision to have the Mirena coil and gel, she has found this the best combination for her. Truly believing “it saved me, and I have my life back… I am pain free and happy!”

"I have my life back… I am pain free and happy!"

HRT isn’t everyone’s first choice, and some are unable to take it due to medical reasons. Therefore, Lisa’s advice is to educate yourself, eat well, work with a nutritionist if possible (to really understand what your changing body needs), partake in strengthening exercises, relax and have some ‘me time’.

Menopause is still something that can be seen as a bit taboo, though Lisa talks to everyone and anyone about it. She feels that by facing menopause early, it's her place in the world to educate everyone she meets. “Max and Oliver can tell you all about menopause at the age of 12!”. She goes on to explain that once you’re aware that the symptoms you’re experiencing are connected to menopause, you’ll be able to help yourself and “hopefully get through it in a breeze”.

Lisa has shared her personal and honest story with us not to scare anyone, but to educate and inspire. Early menopause can happen before the average age of 51, “and if it happens to you, I don't want you to feel isolated like I did!”.
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