When we last spoke to Davina McCall about her morning routine, it included everything from burpees to gut-friendly granola and jogs with the dog. What she didn’t mention (not that she was hiding it necessarily) was her morning HRT routine. Putting on a series of gels, creams and patches has been her post-shower ritual for the past ten years.
Fresh from the shower and dressed in only a towel, Davina took to Instagram to reveal the individual steps of her HRT prescription. “A big part of my morning routine is my hormones and I thought to demystify it a little bit I would show you how you apply them," she says.
It comes ahead of her must-watch documentary Davina McCall, Sex, Myths and the Menopause on Channel 4 on Wednesday. In it, Davina, 53, shares her own perimenopause journey, which started at age 44, and talks to leading menopause experts such as Dr Louise Newson.
My phone was in the fridge and my keys were in the bin. My night sweats became so bad. I just never slept through the night
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a project that has affected me so deeply," she says . She would get home after filming and cry "from deep frustration and anger at how we are failing women. This film isn’t just for menopausal women, it’s for their partners, their fathers, their brothers, and their sons. We’re all in this together. I used to think that menopause was an age thing and now I realise it’s a woman thing. For far too long, there’s been a shroud of embarrassment, shame and fear around this topic, and this is where it stops!”
Here, for the record, is Davina's HRT routine.
1. Oestrogen patch twice a week
First off Davina reveals a clear ‘hormone sticker’ on her hip. It's an 'old' oestrogen patch called Estradot, the size of a small plaster, stuck below her hip, which it's time to replace. She whips off from the spot just next to her tattoo in the shape of a horn. “It does leave a bit of sticky stuff [like any plaster] but I thought you should see the ups and downs. I wanted you to see it warts and all.”
When she applies her next sticker, she does so on her other hip. “We use stickers because they are transdermal [absorbed through the skin as opposed to a tablet] Transdermal is important because it’s a much better way to take HRT,” she explains.
The patch is translucent “so whatever skin colour you are it goes clear.”
2. Oestrogen gel - daily
In addition to the twice-weekly Estradot, Davina boosts her levels with one pump of Oestrogel, a clear transdermal gel that she rubs into her upper arm. She started taking using it after she was told by Dr Louise Newson that her oestrogen levels were a little low. “I get 100 [she doesn't specify the measurement] from the sticker and I also do one pump of Oestrogel.”
“Oestrogen these days is plant-based,” says Davina.”It’s made from yams. They are very, very different from the hormones that were taken back in the day."
Dr Louise explains how these new ‘body identical' hormones have moved HRT on to a point at which it’s incredibly safe. “Body identical HRT with the oestrogen given through the skin as a patch, gel or spray with micronised progesterone and testosterone are all very different to old types of synthetic HRT tablets," she says commenting on Davina's video on her own Instagram @menopause_doctor . "They are not associated with risks - there has not even shown to be a risk of breast cancer in women using these types of HRT."
3. Testosterone cream - daily
This is a cream that Davina rubs into her thigh. It's a less commonly prescribed hormone, which is not widely available on the NHS. "I think you can get this if your libido is on the floor," says Davina. "But this is more than just about sex drive," she says. "Did you know that testosterone is an enormously important women’s hormone as well? My testosterone was low and I take a pea-sized amount.”
"By the way, taking testosterone does not make you or a penis or testicles or get hairy or anything like that. I am not taking extra testosterone I am just replenishing my levels to where they should be."
Most HRT is a combination of oestrogen and progestogen and many women take the latter in the form of a micronized progesterone pill called Utrogestan. Davina doesn’t take it as she receives it from her coil. “The progesterone part of my HRT, I get from the Mirena coil," she adds.
Routine concluded, she concedes "I know you must think it’s a faff, but I do feel normal again and dare I say sometimes I feel better than I have done in years and years. So for me, the faff is worth it.”
Dr Newson welcomes Davina's openness. ”So many celebrities have been quiet about their menopause and Davina has been so open and transparent about her symptoms and also about taking HRT. This is really helping so many women," she writes on her @menopausedoctor Instagram .
Not everyone will be prescribed the same as Davina, says Dr Newson, who has a wealth of information about HRT options and forums on her Balance menopause support app. “There are many different types and doses of HRT so it is really important that women receive individualised care and treatment for their perimenopause and menopause. Body identical HRT with the oestrogen given through the skin as a patch, gel or spray with micronised progesterone and testosterone are all very different to old types of synthetic HRT tablets. They are not associated with risks - there has not even shown to be a risk of breast cancer in women using these types of HRT."
Davina and I spoke at length about her HRT journey last year as part of a magazine interview. She told me that she was in her mid-40s when she started having, sweats, brain fog and memory loss. "My phone was in the fridge and my keys were in the bin. My night sweats became so bad. I just never slept through the night. I couldn't read autocue, it was affecting my work."
HRT saved her. “From the minute I put the little sticky patch on it – boom, sleep, oh my god the joy! I felt like I was back. I felt so, happy." At the time, she was "very frightened that people would judge me for it." She did her research and went to see a doctor, who explained the benefits of HRT - not just for reducing symptoms but for preventing against disease.
“I just thought that it took away the bad things of the menopause. But actually, it provides you with a lot of help with fending off osteoporosis, which is terrible, terrible affliction that women can have after the menopause. Also, heart disease. I mean, it is actually good for you in so many ways."
Dr Louise Newson agrees it can be a lifesaver. “Taking HRT lowers future risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and dementia. Women taking HRT are less likely to die from all causes including cancer."
There are risks too and Davina believes that every woman should educate themselves, do their research to make their own decision. Her documentary is here to start that conversation. And given that there are millions of perimenopausal and menopausal women out there, some in their 30s, it can’t come soon enough.