Published On: Sat, May 8th, 2021

Davina McCall was warned against talking about going through the menopause publicly

Davina McCall has revealed she was once warned against talking about going through the menopause publicly because it would damage her career.

Speaking candidly in an interview with The Sun on Saturday, the TV presenter, 53, said she received the warning as she was told ageing would be seen as ‘a bit unsavoury’ but she chose to ignore the remarks.

She is set to discuss the menopause and taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in her new documentary Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause.

Shock: Davina McCall revealed on Saturday she was warned against talking about going through the menopause publicly because it would damage her career

Looking back at the warning she was given when she learned she was having perimenopause, she told the publication: ‘I was told not to talk about it, that it was ageing and a bit unsavoury. 

She went on: ‘I lied to friends and told them I wasn’t on HRT. I was so ashamed of being on HRT because it somehow felt I was doing something wrong or dirty. 

‘It felt like I was chasing youth. The idea back when it started happening to me was somehow you’re going against the natural way of life, against the natural path — you should just go through it, be strong and battle on through.’

However, Davina has learned not to feel ashamed about taking HRT, and on Thursday she shared a video showing fans how she takes the medicine.

Reaction: Davina (pictured showing fans hormone replacement therapy) explained that she was told 'ageing' is 'a bit unsavoury', but she chose to ignore the comment

Reaction: Davina (pictured showing fans hormone replacement therapy) explained that she was told ‘ageing’ is ‘a bit unsavoury’, but she chose to ignore the comment

Struggle: Discussing taking HRT, she went on: 'I lied to friends and told them I wasn't on HRT. I was so ashamed of being on HRT because it somehow felt I was doing something wrong'

Struggle: Discussing taking HRT, she went on: ‘I lied to friends and told them I wasn’t on HRT. I was so ashamed of being on HRT because it somehow felt I was doing something wrong’

The presenter joked that taking testosterone wouldn’t make her grow a penis in the light-hearted clip as she applied oestrogen in gel form to her left arm and testosterone to her leg. 

Earlier this week, Davina admitted she was embarrassed about going public with the fact that she had started body-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), in which yams replace the synthetic hormones used in HRT. 

She told the Radio Times: ‘I was scared about what was going on. I found out a newer HRT treatment was made from yams, but was afraid to go public about it.’

‘Somehow menopause is shameful to admit, in a million different ways. You’re past your sell-by date. You’re not a baby-maker.’

Helpful: However, Davina has learned not to feel ashamed about taking HRT, and on Thursday she shared a video showing fans how she takes the medicine

Helpful: However, Davina has learned not to feel ashamed about taking HRT, and on Thursday she shared a video showing fans how she takes the medicine 

Q&A: What is HRT? by Thea Jourdan

 WHAT IS HRT AND WHAT DOES IT DO?

HRT does the work of oestrogen, levels of which plummet after the menopause. Women usually take a combination of synthetic oestrogen and a second hormone, progesterone.

‘Most women in the UK take combined HRT because taking oestrogen on its own can increase the risk of developing cancer of the womb,’ says Kathy Abernethy, chair of the British Menopause Society. ‘Oestrogen-only HRT is usually only given to women who have had their wombs removed.’

ARE THERE ANY RISKS TO CONSIDER?

A major U.S. study in 2002, from the Women’s Health Initiative USA, was the first to ring alarm bells that HRT may lead to an raised risk of heart disease and breast cancer. As a result, many doctors stopped prescribing it overnight.

But the study was found to be flawed — the average age of the women in the study was 63, when the risk of breast cancer naturally rises anyway, and half were smokers.

‘The risks were overestimated for women of normal menopausal age between 50 and 60,’ says Kathy. ‘For most women under the age of 60, and for many over age 60, the benefits of HRT are clear.’

SO DOES HRT REALLY CAUSE CANCER? 

Any risk comes with longer use, says Kathy.

Cancer Research UK says there is strong evidence HRT can cause breast, womb and ovarian cancer, but the chance is low compared to other risk factors. To put it in perspective, while minimising HRT could prevent 1,400 cancer deaths per year, keeping to a healthy weight could prevent 13,200 and stopping smoking could prevent 22,000.

ARE THERE OTHER SIDE-EFFECTS? 

‘Women who take HRT may have side-effects including breast tenderness, headaches, nausea, indigestion, tummy pain and vaginal bleeding,’ says Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Royal College of GPs’ professional development vice-chair. Taking HRT as tablets (not patches or gels) may slightly raise the risk of blood clots.

WHO SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN HRT? 

Those who have a personal or family history of hormone-sensitive cancers, such as ovarian and breast, and women who have had deep vein thrombosis. High blood pressure should be controlled before starting HRT.

WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?

Non-hormonal options include Tibolone (Livial), derived from the Mexican yam, which mimics oestrogen. Blood pressure medication Clonidine, which affects the dilation of blood vessels, can alleviate hot flushes and night sweats.

Bio-identical hormones, derived from plant oestrogens and prescribed by private clinics, are said to be similar to human sex hormones. But the NHS does not recommend these as they are not regulated.

Describing her perimenopause (the early stages of the menopause) Davina added: ‘My sleep was interrupted two or three times a night and it caused a chain of events in my brain that really frightened me.

‘The mental fog and confusion were so overwhelming.’

The former Big Brother host’s new Channel 4 documentary strives to eliminate the myths surrounding menopause, and dispel the shame and fear around hormone replacement therapy.

Davina previously revealed she was left in tears of ‘frustration and anger’ while filming the show, confessing: ‘I get home after filming and sometimes I just sit down and cry… from deep frustration and anger at how we are failing women.’

Decision: Earlier this week, Davina spoke candidly about turning to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) amid her menopausal struggle

Decision: Earlier this week, Davina spoke candidly about turning to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) amid her menopausal struggle

Distressing: Sharing her experience ahead of her new documentary, the TV presenter detailed her own 'frightening' journey, revealing she 'went into a bit of a depression'

Distressing: Sharing her experience ahead of her new documentary, the TV presenter detailed her own ‘frightening’ journey, revealing she ‘went into a bit of a depression’

She added: ‘This film isn’t just for menopausal women, it’s for their partners, their fathers, their brothers, and their sons.’ 

In January the former Big Brother host revealed that she believed she was developing early onset Alzheimer’s when she started going through the menopause.

According to the NHS, one of the symptoms of menopause is problems with memory and concentration, as well as night sweats, hot flushes, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, low mood and anxiety.

Important: The Big Brother host's new Channel 4 documentary strives to eliminate the myths surrounding menopause, and dispel the shame and fear around hormone replacement therapy

Important: The Big Brother host’s new Channel 4 documentary strives to eliminate the myths surrounding menopause, and dispel the shame and fear around hormone replacement therapy

Speaking on Gabby Logan’s The Mid.Point podcast, she recalled: ‘I’m learning different things for everything in my brain sometimes, because when I went to my doctor and I said, ‘Look, please help me, I think I’ve got Alzheimer’s because obviously my dad’s got Alzheimer’s’.

‘And I was like, ‘I’m always paranoid – I know I haven’t really got it but am I okay?’ [The doctor] said, ‘It’s called cognitive overload’.’    

In January she also spoke about the diagnosis with OK! Magazine, saying she had no idea why she had symptoms because she hadn’t known about the signs before being diagnosed. 

Saying she feels the menopause should be more openly talked about, she said: ‘All women should know what it is.

‘I didn’t know and I was 44 when I started getting symptoms. I didn’t know what was causing my hot sweats. I didn’t know why I was feeling different.

‘Nobody talks about it, and I just think it should be talked about more generally and taught in schools.’ 

Scared: Davina has previously said the menopause reminded her of when she was abusing drugs as the presenter, who is a reformed addict, said she 'was waking up soaked in sweat'

Scared: Davina has previously said the menopause reminded her of when she was abusing drugs as the presenter, who is a reformed addict, said she ‘was waking up soaked in sweat’

The Masked Singer star has previously said the menopause reminded her of when she was abusing drugs as Davina, who is a reformed addict, said she ‘was waking up soaked in sweat’ and would have mood swings. 

Talking to Loose Women, she said: ‘Obviously I’m a reformed addict and I was waking up soaked in sweat, having to put towels on the bed. 

‘I was thinking, “There’s something wrong with me, I’ve got the flu or a virus or something”.’ 

Confused: Talking to Loose Women in January, Davina said: 'Obviously I'm a reformed addict and I was waking up soaked in sweat, having to put towels on the bed'

Confused: Talking to Loose Women in January, Davina said: ‘Obviously I’m a reformed addict and I was waking up soaked in sweat, having to put towels on the bed’

Hormones: Davina said the symptoms gave vivid flashbacks as she experienced menopause aged 44 (pictured 1994)

Hormones: Davina said the symptoms gave vivid flashbacks as she experienced menopause aged 44 (pictured 1994)

Davina continued: ‘It really reminded me of when I was using and I really hated it… and mood swings, shouting at the kids.

‘I’m not a shouty mother at all and then I’d end up crying in the car, apologising to the children, going, “I’m really sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” 

‘My keys were in the fridge, my phone was in the bin, my libido was through the floor. It was just a nightmare. The symptoms were few and far between.

‘My periods were regular, but sometimes they were a bit longer, sometimes a bit shorter. I didn’t think I could have it so early… but actually it’s the perimenopause.’

WHAT IS THE MENOPAUSE AND HOW CAN YOU DELAY IT?

 Menopause is defined as the changes a woman goes through just before and after she stops her periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.

Some women go through this time with few, if any, symptoms, around 60 percent experience symptoms resulting in behavioural changes and one in four will suffer severely.

Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness leading to discomfort during sex, disrupted sleep, decreased sex drive, problems with memory and concentration and mood swings.

Last year, a fertility doctor revealed women can delay the menopause by up to 20 years with a 30-minute operation that tricks their biological clocks into thinking they are much younger than they are. 

The surgical procedure, devised by the fertility expert who pioneered IVF, sees tissue from the ovaries, thawed, and then transplanted back into the armpit.

It also has the potential to extend fertility – though doctors say the aim is to postpone the menopause rather than give women the chance to have babies into their 60s. 

Ovarian grafting, or ovarian tissue cyropreservation, involves taking healthy tissue from a woman’s ovaries to delay the onset of menopause.  

The 30-minute operation, available privately in the UK, sees a surgeon take healthy cells from the woman’s ovary and freeze them in conditions of -150C. 

Whenever the patient wants, they can be thawed and reinserted through the armpit.

When the ovarian tissue starts to function it produces hormones that prevent menopause from happening.  

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