Book review: Menopausing
Charlotte Goddard, NMT features editor, is inspired by the Book of the Year
Menopausing by Davina McCall with Dr Naomi Potter
For many women of my generation Davina McCall is the cool friend who has been sharing advice and support through all of life’s stages – from dating on Streetdates in the 90s, to pre- and post-natal workouts in the 2000s, to looking after ourselves during lockdown with her Own Your Goals app. So it makes sense that she should be the one to step up with menopause advice with Menopausing, which recently won Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. Reading Menopausing is like listening to Davina speak – “I love you,” she tells her readers. “It’s going to be OK. I’ve got your back.”
Menopausing is a very frank account of Davina’s own experiences with the menopause, along with stories from a wide range of women and transmen, and heaps of information on symptoms and treatments. Co-author Dr Naomi Potter chips in with “the science bit” but even this is easy to read and in manageable chunks.
The book itself is beautifully designed and a pleasure to read – I think this is deliberate, as one of the author’s aims is to encourage people to leave it around for others to pick up. Given the nursery workforce is overwhelmingly female, Menopausing is an important read for nursery managers. “I think it is really important that we educate managers, line managers and bosses in the workplace to look out for any of the people who work for them – they need to know the signs of perimenopause,” says Davina. A section on workforce issues includes how symptoms can affect work, how to navigate workplace relationships, how to write a letter to your boss and the need for “menopause warriors” in the workplace.
Menopausing’s style is anything but dry, ironically given some of the symptoms set out in the book. As Davina says: “TMI? Get used to it. This book is going to be full of it.” Given chapter titles like The Dry Vagina Monologues I can attest that it is not a book I was super comfortable reading on the daily commute – but I had a think about the fact that 15 years ago I was fine reading about genital herpes in pregnancy tome What to Expect When You’re Expecting on the train, and pulled myself together.
There is a lot of useful information about the different HRT treatments available and how to get them, which will arm women with the knowledge they need to fight for treatment if necessary. Davina obviously had a great experience with HRT, and shares her joy at how the treatment restored her vim and vigour. She is so enthusiastic and inspiring that I do wonder whether it might set the bar very high – I have almost come away with the idea that once on HRT I will be cartwheeling down the street, rather than as one woman puts it in the book, feeling about 50-60% better than before.
However, while setting out the advantages of HRT the book is clear that some women can’t or don’t want to use it. There is a lot of information on non-hormonal treatment options, herbal remedies, the importance of exercise, healthy eating and skincare, and it is all set out in a friendly, chatty, magazine style: “No fuss five minute make up routine”, “why a kitchen disco might be just what you need”.
Menopausing made me smile a lot, made me well up a bit, and left me feeling supported and inspired. If you want to catch Davina in person, come along to our free Nursery Managers Show where she will be hosting a taboo-busting discussion about the menopause, banishing shame and talking openly about this life-changing experience. You can also learn more from Jacqui McBurnie, chair of the NHS England Menopause Network, during a wellbeing session covering impact of menopause on workforce retention and what good support looks like.
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