by Georgia Lewis
As a woman of 46, I am hurtling towards menopause. Some friends have told me about hot flushes, night sweats that last all day, brain fog, depression, mood swings, loss of libido, extreme exhaustion, surprise periods in light-coloured trousers and so on – while others seem to elegantly sail through it all without raising a literal or metaphorical sweat.
Then there is the perimenopause. This can last as long as 10 years before This-Time-I-Really-Mean-It-No–More-Messing-Around-Menopause happens. Welcome to my world. So far, my boobs are a bit bigger, which would rock if they didn’t feel like actual rocks. I’ve solved that by reluctantly wearing a bra every day. Previously, I breezed along for decades as a smug A-cupper who only needed a bra for enhancement rather than support. My other symptoms are lighter, shorter periods (hurrah!) and frequently feeling really warm. This apparently makes me nice to share a bed with on a chilly night, even if I want to throw the bedcovers out the window.
So far, so low-tech. But I want to be prepared for whatever menopausal action awaits me, so I started looking into technology designed to help women through this time. Surely innovative minds are on the case? Er, not really, although, bafflingly, I did receive a press release about a sauna blanket for menopausal women. That sounds like the last thing I need when my husband tells me, “You’re giving off heat again.” On closer inspection, the sauna blanket is designed to help with the aches and pains that can accompany menopause, but I’d definitely save that one for the days when I am not the human hotplate.
In short, it’s all about apps. As if my phone wasn’t already at capacity with social media platforms, apps for food and beverage establishments, my usual period tracker and Weather Kitty. Don’t judge me. I like my feline forecasts.
But in the name of research, I got downloading, starting with Health & Her, an app for the perimenopausal women. The Track function is probably the most useful, allowing you to log symptoms, triggers and cycle changes so you can get a picture of your health over time. This takes the standard period tracker app to the next level. When you log on, it asks for quite a lot of detail and allows you to set alarms so you do things like drink enough water and remember to do your pelvic floor exercises – two things I definitely need to do more of. Every time I should be doing my pelvic floor exercises, I get a notification on my phone that says, and I swear I am not kidding, “Time to squeeze”.
Health & Her also contains plenty of useful information about managing the menopause with references to the latest research. I now know cognitive behavioural therapy can help with hot flushes and night sweats, which is definitely relevant to my restless interests.
I was also recommended Mira, a fertility and ovulation tracker that claims you can “interpret your body’s signs like a pro!”. It offers a lot more women’s health information than my usual period tracker, and it is useful for checking fertility levels, whether you’re trying to cause or prevent a pregnancy. The good news for women in the UAE is that Mira ships worldwide, so as well as downloading the app, you can shop up a storm, although most products are aimed at those trying to get pregnant.
Bone density and preventing osteoporosis is another thing to consider during menopause, as if we haven’t got enough to do already. The technology now exists to check calcium levels via a simple urine test. A German/UK company called Osteolabs offers this service – all I had to do was take a sample of my first wee of the day, carefully (VERY carefully…) pour it into a secure tube and post it to a British lab, hoping and praying the tube wouldn’t explode en route.
It takes a few weeks to get the results and mine revealed that my calcium levels are “below the age-appropriate average”. Usually, I am a fan of not being age-appropriate – the older women get, the more we get told to stop doing things that are supposedly only for younger women, which is usually anything remotely fun or flirtatious. But this was not the news I wanted. Luckily, I do not have osteoporosis just yet. Weight-bearing and strengthening exercises, along with calcium, more sunlight exposure and Vitamin D supplements should help stop my bones crumbling to a fine powder any time soon, but the test was definitely a reality check. Lifestyle improvements are frequently boring, but frequently necessary.
Osteolabs currently doesn’t deliver home tests to the UAE, but they can be sent to addresses in Europe and the UK. That said, plenty of UAE hospitals offer bone density tests that use the same urine markers, so it is worth checking with your doctor, hospital or health insurance provider to find out more. And the advice from Osteolabs to discuss bone density with my doctor was something I needed to hear – and I am pretty sure I am not alone here. Technology is great, but there is still no substitute for finding a supportive doctor to help you have a health menopause.