Tossing and turning in bed, dripping with sweat, Suzanne Noble felt mortified. She was in bed with her 34-year-old boyfriend – and in the grip of menopause-induced hot flushes.
“In my 40s I was all about high heels and tight dresses as I spent 10 years having fun after my divorce,” says Suzanne, now 60, who is supporting the Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign.
“I thought I’d feel sexy and attractive forever, so I was shocked when the sleepless nights and hot flushes arrived as I turned 50. It was so unsexy,” she says.
“I’d been seeing this guy for about a year before it hit me like a ton of bricks. Before, I’d always felt up for it – but now I felt so unattractive as I lay sweating next to him."
I suffered a general lack of desire and found my libido dropped off a cliff
She added: “My sex drive was also dissipating. I grieved for it, and it made me sad because I realised it would never come whooshing back.
"Although I had no physical issues sexually, I suffered a general lack of desire and found my libido dropped off a cliff. We started drifting apart and broke up after a few months because I didn't want to put that on him.”
Fabulous Menopause Matters
An estimated one in five of the UK’s population are currently experiencing it.
Yet the menopause is still whispered in hush tones like it’s something to be embarrassed about.
The stigma attached to the transition means women have been suffering in silence for centuries.
The Sun are determined to change that, launching the Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign to give the taboo a long-awaited kick, and get women the support they need.
The campaign has three aims:
To make HRT free in England
To get every workplace to have a menopause policy to provide support
To bust taboos around the menopause
The campaign has been backed by a host of influential figures including Baroness Karren Brady CBE, celebrities Lisa Snowdon, Jane Moore, Michelle Heaton, Zoe Hardman, Saira Khan, Trisha Goddard, as well as Dr Louise Newson, Carolyn Harris MP, Jess Phillips MP, Caroline Nokes MP and Rachel Maclean MP.
Exclusive research commissioned by Fabulous, which surveyed 2,000 British women aged 45-65 who are going through or have been through menopause, found that 49% of women suffered feelings of depression, while 7% felt suicidal while going through menopause.
50% of respondents said there is not enough support out there for menopausal women, which is simply not good enough. It’s time to change that.
Suzanne, a mum of two grown-up sons from London, had also begun to feel invisible in her career.
She was working in technology at networking events, and says she was "usually the only older woman".She said: "People would say stuff like, ‘I can't imagine my mother creating an app’.
"At one singles event I attended, the women had breast implants and blonde hair and it felt like everyone was vying to be attractive. It all seemed a bit desperate.”
Over the next few years, Suzanne experienced most of the common menopause symptoms, and as well as flushes and sleepless nights, she found she gained weight, too.
I had to work harder at fitness to stay in my normal clothes
“I was doing the same amount of exercise and eating the same food, but suddenly this extra fleshy bit appeared around my middle. I had to work harder at fitness to stay in my normal clothes,” she says.
Suzanne decided not to take HRT as she was concerned about a possible link to breast cancer. The NHS states that there is little to no change in the risk of breast cancer if you take oestrogen-only HRT.
But when she was 53, she opted to change her life, selling her house, launching her own tech company – and highlighting her hair bright pink.
“That transformed the way I felt about myself. I stopped feeling like I was in a sea of blonde women all trying to retain their youth and sex appeal.”
Refusing to let her fluctuating hormones stop her, she also threw herself into online dating.
I had many evenings on WhatsApp trying to persuade guys they didn’t need to see me naked every five minutes
“Although my sex drive wasn’t as high as it once had been, I certainly never got lonely. I went out with guys for brief periods, though it was never anything serious.
"I also hooked up with guys when I travelled – you know, one in every port!” she says.
Then, in 2018, she joined Tinder – much to the amusement of her sons, now 27 and 29.
“They said, ‘Nobody meets anybody on Tinder, Mum.’ And it’s true – there were a lot of timewasters. You could tell a lot of them were married, and I had many evenings on WhatsApp trying to persuade guys they didn’t need to see me naked every five minutes.”
What is the menopause and what age does it usually start?
Menopause is a natural part of ageing, which usually happens when a woman is between the age of 45 and 55.
In the UK, the average age for a woman to go through menopause is 51.
It occurs when oestrogen levels in the body start to decline.
During this time periods become less frequent or they can suddenly stop, and after menopause occurs women will be unable to become pregnant naturally.
Around one in 100 women experience menopause before the age of 40, and this is known as premature ovarian insufficiency or premature menopause.
Many celebrities have spoken out about their own experiences, including Lisa Snowdon, Davina McCall, Michelle Heaton and Zoe Hardman.
What are the symptoms?
Menopausal symptoms can start months or years before your periods stop, and can last until four years or longer after your last period.
- Hot flushes
- Changing or irregular periods
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Anxiety and loss of confidence
- Low mood, irritability and depression
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness or discomfort during sex
- Reduced libido (sex drive)
- Problems with concentration or memory
- Weight gain
- Bladder control
Suzanne experienced "a lot of bad Tinder dates" but was blindsided when the app led her to her current partner of nearly three years, Bob, 64, a visual artist and project manager.
"He was charming and funny, and I found him attractive – I still do. Our kids are of a similar age and we share lots of interests.”
Despite their relationship going from strength to strength, the pair still live apart in north London.
“I don't want to get married, I just want a nice time with somebody from Friday to Sunday. Bob was a little unsure at first but he got used to it. Besides, it's easier to be sexy when you only see somebody at weekends,” she says.
It's easier to be sexy when you only see somebody at weekends
But while Suzanne says sex in her sixties is great, there are changes she’s had to accept.
“Sex doesn't have the same urgency that it did when I was in my 40s. But being intimate doesn't have to be about penetrative sex all the time. It can just involve massage or touch.”
She has now put her own experiences to good use by launching Advantages of Age, a social enterprise offering advice on sex and menopause, as well as other topics affecting those in later life.
She also contributes to a Facebook group called Sex Advice for Seniors.
“It upsets me when people tell me they can't orgasm anymore,” she says.“They probably can, but it might take longer, or they might need a little help, with lubrication, or a partner spending more time on foreplay.
Sex doesn't have the same urgency that it did when I was in my 40s
“Sex goes to a different kind of place, a much gentler place when you reach a certain age. A lot of women get upset about not feeling attractive anymore, but there are so many ways you can feel sexy and experience intimacy."
"There's such a lack of information available for older men and women about sex. It’s a wasteland.”
But Suzanne does welcome the fact that menopause is less taboo these days.
“It’s definitely talked about more now. The Fabulous campaign, Davina McCall and others in the public eye are paving the way for women to feel more comfortable about it.
"And the more we talk about it, the more we will accept that it is just part of every woman's life.”
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