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Suzanne, Linda & Karen, our hormone heroes

Real life hormone stories
They change at different times of the month and throughout the years. So why not work with your hormones and make them your superpower? These three women did...

"Menopause affected my sex life, but I got my mojo back'' 

After her oestrogen levels dipped, sex became uncomfortable for Suzanne Noble, 62, but she spoke to her GP and found a solution.

"There's no reason why your sex life should drop off as you get older and I found mine got even better, thanks to my hormones. As I reached my 60s, I noticed that sex was becoming more painful. When your oestrogen depletes as you age, your vaginal walls thin and you can get tiny tears that cause an uncomfortable burning sensation. I also had vaginal dryness.   
"It felt like every time I had sex, I ended up at the GP with thrush or bacterial vaginosis, which causes a discharge. My friend said she'd tried vaginal oestrogen and it had transformed her sex life, so I asked my GP if it would be suitable and got a prescription. It's a tiny pill that I insert into my vagina using an applicator. "Within a month the difference was unbelievable. Now my experience of sex is so different - from the amount of lubrication I produce to how healthy my vagina is. It's really comfortable and I don't have to use lube.

"It is hard to talk about intimate issues with your doctor, but if you want a pleasurable sex life as your hormones change, it's important you ask for help. And it really is worth it. I feel like my sex life is better than ever before, thanks to me educating myself about my hormones and the effect they have on my body."

"In the days after my period I feel like a strong woman, mentally and physically"

Linda Agyemang, 44, started running in her 30s and finds being in tune with her menstrual cycle helps her plan training sessions.

"I'm constantly training for something - right now, it's the London Marathon and The Speed Project, a six-person relay run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. "I track my cycle on my Garmin watch and if I have to do a long run on my period, I'll really slow it down because my energy levels are lower at this time. But I like to make the most of the week straight after my period when my energy levels are higher. I'll tend to do my longer runs then and go a little bit harder with my strength training because I feel like I can lift heavier weights. In the week after my period, I definitely feel a burst of energy. When I get to the gym, I'll be hyped up, like: 'Let's do this!'
That's when I feel like a strong woman, mentally and physically. "Mental endurance is important too and I notice how my mood changes at different times of the month. When I'm running with other people, as I do with the group Black Girls Do Run, I don't realise the mileage I've covered.

But if I'm running alone, I have that mentality where I talk to myself and say: 'You've got this, girl!' "I sometimes suffer from hormonal migraines on my period and when they come, I can't do anything - I have to go into a dark room and rest. But I make sure I'm eating well and choose nourishing foods like healthy proteins, fruit and veg. I'd rather do some gentle movement than curl up when I have my period, so I'll take walks and do yoga to relax me, instead of running and lifting weights.

"I know my hormones are going to be changing in the next few years as I head into perimenopause, so I feel like I'm setting myself up for the future by tuning into them now."

"It's back to basics for my skin during perimenopause"

Skin issues don't just affect teenagers, which is why Karen Whybrew, 45, is adapting her beauty routine to work with her changing skin.

"My skin started flaring up a year ago, becoming dry, itchy and flaky around my eyes and mouth. I swim in the sea and the first time I noticed my eyes were red, I put it down to the saIt water. But then I noticed it was cyclical and would happen on the same two weeks every month, so I realised my skin issues were actually to do with my oestrogen levels dropping off.

"People have recommended all sorts of solutions - eczema creams, hydrocortisone and moisturisers. When you have redness on your face, you notice it all the time and I work as a coach, so it's frustrating because I'm always talking to people and filming TikToks. 
"Now I take a more holistic approach. I've stripped my skincare routine back to basics and I use products for sensitive skin.

"I'm also looking at my diet so see if the problem is coming from my gut. I don't eat very much dairy - I drink oat milk and I'm vegan 90% of the time. Self­ care is so important. I feel good because I'm looking after myself and do all the right things - I don't drink or smoke, and I love cold-water swimming in all weathers so I'm hoping my skin will soon start to reflect that.

"While I don't love my flare-ups, they have made me give my skin what it needs, rather than relying on expensive miracle creams for an instant fix. I ensure I make time to cook nourishing vegan food and take regular cold-water swims in the sea, which are so good for my mental and physical health."
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