We review 'Menopausing' plus other top menopause books by Mariella Frostrup, Dr Louise Newson and Liz Earle to inform and inspire you
At last, the conversation about menopause and perimenopause is opening up. So much so that a book on menopause Menopausing by Davina McCall and Dr Naomi Potter scooped the Overall Book of the Year awards at the prestigious British Book Awards (known as the Nibbies) this week, beating best-selling novels and celebrity memoirs. The judges agreed that the "impressive book captured the zeitgeist of 2022, shining a light on women's health and helping to normalise talking about menopause," said organisers, the Bookseller.
Given that there are 13 million menopausal women in the UK, that's a huge market hungry for information. Over the past five years or so the publishing world has embraced this new movement with a raft of must-read books on perimenopause and menopause, written by specialist GPs such as Dr Louise Newson and Dr Shahzadi Harper as well women in the public eye such as Mariella Frostrup and Liz Earle. These women have been bold enough to use their platform to share their own experiences and make mainstream the confusing world of mid-life hormones.
These reads (and I've devoured them all) all shine in different ways – some are personal experiences, some medical, some nutritional, many are a mixture of all of them. How brilliant is it that the word ‘ perimenopause ’ especially has now made it loud and proud onto the covers of books – who’d even heard of what we now know as 'the change before the change' five years ago? I wish I had when I was going through it. Thankfully, there's now an emphasis now on being prepared, controlling your hormones before they control you, which is also the subtitle of The Perimenopause Solution, below.
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I love the frank and laugh-out-loud funny way that menopausal women are happy to share (a plus-side of menopause, you stop giving a damn what people think) as well as how we’re now talking honestly about the ructions it can send through families (Dr Louise Newson,who has two books on our list, says it made her hate her husband) and how women need to be supported to stay in the workplace to avoid a huge menopause talent drain.
These books are crucial for filling the knowledge gap on the medical options available. Every perimenopausal woman age 45-plus is entitled to receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) from her GP without needing a blood test. Sadly, many women still report being misdiagnosed, especially if they're still having periods, and are often sent home with antidepressants instead.
Here are my favourite reads on perimenopause and menopause. If you have books that you love please share them in the comments and let’s keep the conversation flowing.
Menopausing: the positive roadmap to your second spring, by Davina McCall with Dr Naomi Potter, £11
If you love Davina’s funny, straight-talking, empathetic, oversharing style ("I got a blister on my labia" she says in the intro), you'll really warm to this book in which she shares the considerable knowledge she has acquired during the last few years of talking openly about her menopause. Menopausing is a rallying cry to all women - ladies, it’s happening, you’ve got this, she has your back. It charts Davina’s experience and weaves in letters from the hundreds (including trans men) who contacted her to share their menopause stories. Like an agony aunt she replies: “Oh my goodness, Diane, thanks so much for sharing your story, because it is TERRIFYING how many women get prescribed antidepressants when presenting quite clearly with menopausal symptoms..”. Dr Naomi Potter interjects with sound science. It’s visually a lovely book that is a treat to read while also celebrating all the positives of a second spring.
Preparing for the Perimenopause and Menopause by Dr Louise Newson, £8.97
The first of our selections by the pioneering GP (find her at menopause_doctor ), this came out in 2021 and is a shorter read than her 2023 book, below, but with all the key information and personal experience, plus a really useful perimenopause and menopause symptom checker table that you can fill out and take to your GP. Louise is working to help to educate all GPs on menopause so that no woman should be misdiagnosed or denied treatment. I've spoken to Louise many times and she's a passionate advocate of HRT, which she takes herself, and having looked at the science, especially when it comes to breast cancer risk, says that for most women the benefits outweigh the risks.
This book answers clearly and concisely the most common questions Louise is asked in her clinic and even has an informative section on the beneficial role that replacement oestrogen (HRT) may have in mitigating the severity of Long Covid. It covers sleep, sex, brain fog, supplements and optimising exercise and nutrition for a better mid-life ride.
The Definitive Guide to the Perimenopause and Menopause, £11.49 by Dr Louise Newson
A book that I devoured within a week of its publication in March 2023, this definitive, clear and friendly guide pulls no punches covering not just symptoms, but the latest science, HRT alternatives and women’s personal experiences plus some fascinating personal insights from Newson about her own menopause journey – she even gives her teenage daughter a voice to relay what it’s like to have a menopausal mum. The clear language and structure of the book make this an easy-to-use reference at any time, especially if you are overwhelmed or suffering from brain fog. Chapters include Mental Health and Menopause, Menopause and Cancer and Nutrition during the Perimenopause and Menopause and Why The Menopause Conversation Must be More Inclusive.
Cracking the Menopause: While Keeping Yourself Together by Mariella Frostrup and Alice Smellie, £6.99
Broadcaster Mariella Frostrup was one of the first high-profile (and glamorous) familiar faces to begin talking about menopause and in 2018 made a BBC documentary The Truth About The Menopause sharing her own experience and delving into the latest science. Her book, written with journalist Alice Smellie, just like Mariella herself is funny, intelligent, culturally aware and full of insights from her vast contacts book. She talks to all kinds of women from NHS workers to chief execs and celebrities about their experiences. It jumps from the quirky and interesting (whales are the only other mammals who go through menopause) to the practical and personal. It's gaining quite a bit of traction across the pond too. Recently actress Naomi Watts 'grammed herself bigging up this book, to which Gwyneth Paltrow responded "I feel you homie". This is a book you can send to friends that's feel like a treat rather than 'homework'. Just make sure you buy one for yourself too.
The Perimenopause Solution: Take control of your hormones before they take control of you by Dr Shahzadi Harper and Emma Bardwell, £12.99
Two trusted health experts (who also happen to be perimenopausal themselves) have joined forces to write this book which covers a dazzling breadth of information reflected by their specialisms. Dr Shahzadi, founder of the Harper Clinic in London, is a doctor with specialist training in menopause and Emma is a nutritionist, lifestyle expert and member of the British Menopause Society.
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This book had a pro-ageing approach and is warmly written with chapters such as '47 ways to lose fat that don't involve calorie counting' and ideas on what constitutes a good menopause diet. It's an inclusive book; on relationships, for example, it doesn't assume that the reader is in a heterosexual couple - there may be two of you going through perimenopause at the same time. It covers pretty much everything aspect of this life stage from knowing your rights in the workplace to mental health (Menopausal Mood Disorder is a real thing – good to know when you think you're going crazy) and working smarter to help gut health, sex and sleep.
Still Hot!: 42 Brilliantly Honest Menopause Stories by Kaye Adams and Vicky Allan, £8.19
Joylessness isn't listed as one of the symptoms of menopause but for many women, including broadcaster and regular Loose Women panellist Kaye Adams, it's a creeper, that takes hold by stealth as our hormones dip. This common vanishing of mojo is all the more distressing as it's often at odds with the person we used to be.
In the foreword to her book of first-hand accounts, Kaye describes how uncharacteristic panic attacks in her 50s were her first sign. Both her parents passed away and at work she tried to plough on regardless in 'menopause denial'. Still Hot is the opposite of that putting your fingers in your ears strategy, which Kaye admits didn't serve her well. She's gathered the stories of 42 menopausal women from the famous – makeup entrepreneur Trinny Woodall to TV presenter Lorraine Kelly to news presenter Louise Minchin – as well as firefighters authors and campaigners. Their contributions are grouped under headings such as rage, fog, grief, freedom wisdom. Whatever you're feeling, you'll find someone here who has been through it.
The Good Menopause Guide, by Liz Earle, £16.24
This was the first book on menopause that I bought and I've lent it to friends who have all said how much they enjoyed it. Menopause can be a scary time and the beautiful lifestyle and food photography in this hardback, alongside Liz's well-researched advice and 60 menopause-friendly recipes, somehow make you feel like that all will be well. Liz herself had a late baby at 47 and was caught completely off-guard by the menopause as a new mum. Her primary symptom was sleeplessness, which led her to seek out HRT and deepen her knowledge of holistic support too.
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The factual first half part of the book covers all the basics as well as topics such as how to protect your oral health (receding gums, tooth loss, burning mouth can all be caused by plummeting hormones) hair loss and libido. I had never heard of facial osteoporosis (yes, bone loss happens everywhere, including to the orbital bones around the eyes, which can cause them to hollow) until I read it here. Eating enough calcium and vitamin D (walnuts have both) for our bones is crucial at this stage - and there are plenty of recipes that offer support, in the second half of the book. My personal favourite is Liz's delicious Meno-tea Loaf with walnuts, flax seeds for phytoestrogens and apricots for iron. It's an inspirational book that makes you want to take care of yourself.
The New Hot: Taking on the Menopause with Attitude and Style by Meg Mathews, £14.23
Meg Mathews' menopause story will be all too familiar to women who've been caught by surprise by symptoms in their forties when they (and their GP) believed they were too young to be menopausal. So out of character were her symptoms – extreme tiredness, brain fog and blues – that Meg thought that aged 47, she might even be pregnant again or have glandular fever. Her GP put her on anti-depressants. At one point she didn't leave the house for three months until she forced herself to go to an AA meeting (she's a recovering addict). A member pulled her aside and suggested it might be menopause. From then on Meg was on a mission, and set about finding remedies, from natural to NHS prescribed. She settled on HRT with CBD to manage menopausal anxiety.
She's a big advocate of menopausal sex and masturbation, not just for self-esteem and happy hormones but for vaginal health too. Over the years she's talked to countless top experts across health and wellbeing for her successful Meg's Menopause Podcast and app, who contribute to this bite-sized book, with a forward written by Dr Louise Newson. I keep this by my bedside to dip into. It's written in accessible snippets and I love the fact that Meg is conscious of people's budgets when recommending products and treatments, and the fact that not everyone can or wants to take HRT.
Menopocalypse: How I Learned to Thrive During Menopause and How You Can Too, Amanda Thebe, £12.65
You might guess from the cover of this book written by British-born personal trainer and nutrition coach Amanda Thebe that it's brimming with attitude and humour and doesn't shy away from detail. Amanda was used to being supremely fit, but when she turned 43, she suddenly had to lie down one day after her regular boxing class and couldn't get up. Her head felt like it was clamped in a vice and the room started to spin. She assumed she had a virus (interestingly, it's now being found that some women who have had Covid are having their menopausal symptoms missed because of the similarities with Long Covid).
These episodes, which came with nausea and vomiting, would happen for a few days every week. There followed two years of inconclusive tests, during which time she nearly drove her husband and children away with her rages. However, an appointment with her gynaecologist - who instantly recognised perimenopause - saved her life. This book is born out of her experience. In part one, she says, "I lay out all the shitty stuff." But encourages readers not to be put off by the doom. "Persevere until Part 2... this is "where we get deep and dirty into solution-driven actions you can take today."
Full of no-nonsense hacks, including photographed weights exercises to follow, this is your best friend's guide to finding your strength, vitality and sense of humour.
Follow Victoria on Instagram @victoriawoodhall