Sports presenter and former gymnast Gabby Logan on IVF and early perimenopause, her exact HRT regime and what testosterone did for her libido
If you’re looking for a new podcast to enliven a boring commute or long run, you might like to try The Midpoint, in which BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan chats to her guests (everyone from Jo Whiley to Gary Lineker to beauty editor Nadine Baggott) about what being middle-aged means today. Sometimes her husband Kenny, a former Scotland rugby international, pops up – the couple recently hit the headlines when he spoke very honestly about his prostate cancer diagnosis on the podcast.
One subject that comes up a lot on the show? Menopause. Gabby - who turns 50 in April and is mother to twin 17-year-olds Lois and Reuben - feels passionately that it’s something that women should feel able to discuss in detail, unlike her mother’s generation: “My mum still maintains she didn’t have a menopause and lots of women back then didn’t really talk about it,” she smiles. But knowledge is, of course, power so here is what Gabby has learned along the way.
Perimenopause symptoms can be more subtle than hot flushes
"I didn’t have the obvious symptoms of perimenopause. It was much more mood-related and emotional than physical things. I wasn’t having night sweats or hot flushes but I’d been conditioned to believe they were the key signs of menopause. Because of the things I was experiencing were quite low-level, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to acknowledge it – that feeling that you should just get on with it and be stoic."
Your 'witches’ coven' is an invaluable resource
"One of the best things to do is chat to your friends of a similar age about menopause because they will have recommendations for what might help. Sometimes the best source of information comes from those witches’ covens! I was prompted to address my menopause symptoms after Mariella Frostrup came on my podcast. At the end, I thought, “The penny is dropping here. A lot of the things she’s talking about are things I feel have crept into my life.” Not big, obvious things, instead small, insidious things."
Having IVF can impact menopause
"I didn’t know until I started reading more and educating myself that if you’ve been through IVF, you can have perimenopausal symptoms earlier. With IVF, you’re altering your hormone levels to get pregnant so you’re already manipulating them in a certain way to create ovulation. So, if you’ve done that to your body a few times, you can change the balance of hormones. After having IVF [the twins were born in 2005], I didn’t really engage in female health matters in the following years. I was so over the medication of my body - all the injections and so on. But at 47 and after speaking with Mariella, I thought, “I need a proper wellbeing assessment, to get some bloods done, to see what’s going on here”. I did that privately and learned a lot about myself. Obviously, you can go to your GP and get support that way, but I decided to treat myself. Instead of buying a new handbag, I did that."
You’re not being a hero by holding off on HRT
"When I first started on bioidentical hormones, I felt that I was somehow betraying myself – I thought, “Have I taken an easier option? Should I just have just got on with it?” But that’s like saying you shouldn’t have an epidural or gas and air when you give birth. If we need help, we shouldn’t be made to feel like we’re letting the side down. I use one pump per day each of Testogel [testosterone]and Estogel [oestrogen] and take a progesterone tablet in the evening. I was pleased at how quickly I felt better after starting on HRT. With the testosterone, for example, my libido improved massively."
Take time to find what works for you
"Education is the key to everything, isn’t it? If you have some knowledge about what’s going on with your body, you can learn how to navigate that period and understand what options are available. There are at least 38 symptoms and not everyone’s going to have everything (hopefully!) so pick and choose the things that work for you and help your symptoms.
"I get sent all the books about menopause because of The Midpoint. Dr Louise Newson’s The Definitive Guide to the Perimenopause and Menopause just landed on my desk, Davina McCall’s book Menopausing and so on. Sometimes you might read a whole book and nothing in it really speaks to you but there might be one paragraph where you go, “Oh! That makes sense, I need to know that.”
"For me, my focus has been on diet – for example, I feel better for not eating lots of sugar. It just doesn’t agree with me anymore and my taste buds have changed. When I go out to eat, I can really taste if there’s too much sugar in a sauce. As for supplements, I take Menopace Max, which is formulated for women who are going through this stage of life."
You’ll probably need to tweak your skin and hair care regimes
"My staple skincare has always been Metrin, which my mum started using in her twenties when we lived in Canada. She brought it back to the UK and we’ve always used it. But my skin does now need a boost in winter time so I’ll add in a serum. I’ve also realised it’s important to use something moisturising on your neck as you get older. And my hair feels a bit rubbish now. I have very curly hair it’s more wiry now. I use Living Proof shampoo and conditioner and occasionally a Powerplex salon treatment too.
It’s important to be open with your family about menopause
"We started having a family conversation about menopause during lockdown. When I started to recognise that I was being short-tempered and impatient, and that was connected to my changing moods and I could alter that [with HRT], the kids were delighted! Kids should learn about menopause in school. They should learn about what’s happening to them and about what happens later - because menopause is like puberty mark two.
"That said, my son Reuben’s friends are taking the mickey out of him because my face is currently all over the Tube in the Menopace ads. They’ll say to him, 'Reuben, is your mum going through the menopause?!'"
You can’t exercise your way out of menopause
"I thought I could up my exercise regime and I’d feel better emotionally. With menopause, I assumed that if you eat well and exercise well, you’ll be OK. But it isn’t really like that. That’s like saying to a 13-year-old, 'If you eat well and exercise well, you won’t get cramps for your period.' So, when I started to feel a bit low, I thought, 'I need to do more exercise, I need to work harder in the gym.'
"Women tend to push harder, harder, harder. But that’s not great for our cortisol or adrenalin levels, or our immune systems which are already challenged by what is happening to our hormones. I now understand that exercising well doesn’t have to mean feeling exhausted afterwards. My body reacts really well to Pilates, and I work hard at it, but my lungs don’t feel like they’re crying afterwards. And sometimes an hour-long brisk walk is just what I need."
There’s plenty to celebrate about menopause (honestly!)
"How you frame something can change how you feel about it. Menopause comes at a time when you should be about to experience this great decade – you have all these learnings, all this wisdom, often your children are a bit older so you have more freedom and time to do whatever you want to do it, be it work, projects or hobbies, and you may be a more financially free. So, it’s good to be prepared and know how to stop symptoms impacting on your enjoyment of this time of life. Whether you are J.Lo or Janice from the Lidl counter, it’s a real thing that we all go through it but there are ways of living the best life we can."
Gabby Logan is the brand ambassador for menopause supplement Menopace