Parental Responsibility In The UK: What Are Your Rights?

To be able to make legal decisions on behalf of a minor, you must have something called ‘Parental Responsibility’. Sometimes, people may refer to this as their rights as a parent, but it entails having the power to make judgments and approvals for a child.

Mothers will have this naturally from birth. As of 2003, a father will only have Parental Responsibility if he was either married to the mother at the time of birth or listed on the birth certificate. This means that if you find grounds for divorce for separation in UK, a father will still have a legal obligation and responsibility to his children.

Parental Responsibility gives you the power to make a number of decisions for your child until they reach adulthood and are legally allowed to choose for themselves.

Schools

When you apply for a school place for your child, you must have parental responsibility. Regarding your child’s education, and permissions relating to this, you must be able to give legal consent to where their education takes place, as well as to hold yourself accountable for any fees or other consent forms throughout that period.

This parental responsibility also holds you accountable for ensuring your child is present at school, and to liaise with their teachers to help them engage with their schoolwork.

Parental Responsibility is not only important when your child first starts their educational journey. It is also necessary to transfer schools, as well as to change schools when your child gets older.

Medical Treatment

Legally, only one person with parental responsibility needs to give their consent to medical treatment. This means that, so long as both parents have this PR, a child will be able to gain medical attention no matter which parent they are with. This can make things difficult if the child is staying with their father and he does not have Parental Responsibility.

If the treatment involves an emergency or a situation where waiting could potentially be fatal, it is possible for medical professionals to proceed without requiring any form of consent. Likewise, if the medical professionals deem that the treatment is vital, they may take the situation to court to have any lack of consent overruled.

Piercings

Parental consent by an individual with Parental Responsibility is required for a minor to be able to have a piercing. Again, just one parent needs to be present to sign for this, however, it can be a good idea for all with PR to have given some form of verbal consent.

Gaining Parental Responsibility can be achieved by completing a PR agreement form, or applying for it through the courts. This will hold you accountable for the welfare, financial responsibility, and care of the child up until they are an adult. This is a responsibility, as opposed to a right, and should not be taken for granted or abused.

Child Car Seat Guidelines To Keep Your Little Ones Safe

When you are planning your budget for the arrival of your new baby, one of the most important items to include, apart from the pram or pushchair, is the safest and most secure child car seat you can afford.

Using a child car seat is a legal requirement in the UK so make sure you learn the rules surrounding them to ensure you don’t get pulled over and fined.  (My US readers should check out the latest information regarding child car seat safety here).

The car accident statistics make grim reading. Each year around 25 children between 0-11 years are killed while travelling in cars with approximately 250 sustaining a serious injury and around 6,000 being slightly injured.

Even if you don’t have a car yourself, if you are planning to travel anywhere by car, the law says that children must use a child car seat until they are 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first. (Source: UK Government)

As children grow, the type of child car seat they can use changes until, eventually, they progress to what is known as a child booster seat.

However, once children are over 12 or more than 135cm tall they must wear a seat belt.

In Ireland and in some European countries such as Germany and France, this height limit is higher at 150 cm.

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 14 years are restrained correctly in accordance with the law.

When can a child travel without a child car seat?

The law says that “a child aged 3 or older can travel in a back seat without a child car seat and without a seat belt if the vehicle doesn’t have one”.

In most cases, though, this means that children under 3 must always be in a child car seat.

Exceptions to the rule

There are exceptions to these rules are different if:

  • the child is in a taxi or minicab
  • the child is in a minibus, coach or van
  • the child is on an unexpected journey, for example, an emergency
  • there’s no room for another car seat

In a taxi, for example, if the driver doesn’t provide the correct child car seat, children can travel without one – but only if they travel on a rear seat and they must wear an adult seat belt if they’re 3 or older.

Whilst children can travel without a child car seat or seat belt in a coach if they’re not available, they must travel in rear seats in a minibus if child car seats or adult seat belts aren’t fitted and seat belts must be used if they are available.

If your vehicle does not have room for a third child car seat in the back then your child must travel in the front seat with the correct child car seat.

Children aged 3 or older can sit in the back using an adult belt.

To be honest, I find these rules rather confusing and it would be great to see some sort of public awareness campaign relating to child car seat safety.  Unless parents go searching for these rules online, it is hard to see how they would discover them otherwise.

Buying a child car seat

For the first time parent, buying a child car seat can be quite daunting.  Not only are there loads of brands to choose from, but the car seats are classified in groups:-

  • Group 0 – weight up to 10kg (22lbs)  – birth to 11 months for boys, and 14 months for girls.
  • Group 0+ – weight up to 13kg (29lbs) – birth to around 12 months to 15 months.
  • Group 1 – weight 9-18kg (20 – 40lbs) – Nine months to around four and a half years.
  • Group 2 – weight 15 – 22kg (33lbs – 3 st 13lbs) – three years to seven years.
  • Group 3 – weight 22 – 36kg (3 st 7lbs – 5 st 9lbs) – six years to twelve years.

As you can see, to choose the right seat for your child, you have to consider their age and their weight.

Then there is the choice between rear-facing seats, where the baby obviously faces the back of the car seat and forward-facing seats for older children.

Safety experts say that rear-facing seats are safer than forward-facing seats for children under 4 years old and advise that young children should be kept in rear-facing seats for as long as possible. Despite this, generally, according to The British Medical Journal, many babies are switched from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat at 9 kg or around 8 to 9 months.

There is a wealth of other safety factors and design features to consider, for example, recline positions, the ease of adjusting the straps on the safety harness, compatibility with adult seat belts, washable cushions and a booster cushion for newborns who may be too tiny for even the starter car seat.

There are also loads of accessories to go with your car seat, from waterproof covers to toys you can attach to keep your little one occupied when on the road.

You can also buy pram systems where the child car seat can be attached to the pram frame so that you can lift baby straight of the car and onto the pram wheels without having to transfer them over from the car seat to the pram – no fun in the pouring rain and a gale I can tell you!

There is so much to consider that your best bet is to find a child car seat retailer who offers the widest choice and helps you compare the different makes and models at a glance. There are plenty of online retailers who will help you do this, such as Online4baby.com. and, during the current COVID-19 pandemic buying a child car seat online may be your only option.

We bought all our children’s car seats from Mothercare who have sadly gone into administration but their staff were able to demonstrate how to fit car seats in our vehicle for us – which was worth its weight in gold for a nervous first-time mum.

Whatever you choose, be sure that you are buying the best child car seat you can afford for your children and make sure you keep up with the latest Government rules and regulations.

If you in the UK, you are only allowed to use an EU approved car seat. Car seats approved outside of the EU (for example in the US), cannot be used in the UK and US-approved seats cannot be used in Europe. Whether BREXIT will affect this ruling remains to be seen.

And don’t be afraid to ask for advice. The best child car seat retailers won’t hesitate to answer all your questions – and don’t worry, you’re sure to have quite a few. I know we did!

Is it safe to use secondhand child car seats?

The Royal Society For The Prevention Of Accidents (RoSPA) advises that you do NOT buy a secondhand child seat as you cannot be sure of its history.

The child seat may have been involved in an accident and the damage may not be visible. The instructions might have been lost, meaning that you can’t be sure you are fitting and using it correctly.

Second-hand seats are also likely to be older, to have suffered more wear and tear and may not be designed to current safety standards.

If you must use a second-hand seat, only accept one from a family member or friend and then only if you are absolutely certain that you know its history, it’s not too old and you have the original instructions.

Wherever possible, buy a new child car seat for your child.

Should You Allow Your Teenagers to Drink Coffee?

Many of us adults grab a cup of coffee to help us kickstart our day but coffee consumption among teenagers is growing and, as a parent, you may be wondering if that’s a good thing. The common perception is that coffee is bad for adolescents. So, should you allow your teens to drink coffee?

The simple answer is yes but strictly in moderation as an excess of caffeine can be dangerous.

How much coffee is too much?

Many, me included, drink two, three or even five cups of coffee daily to keep us all day functional. Of course, our interest is not so much about the coffee but its caffeine content.  

The effects of caffeine are different for each person. Some people might feel jolted and jittery from a single cup of coffee while others will feel nothing from drinking three cups. The best amount of coffee depends on your personal tolerance levels to it.

That being said, no doubt that there is a daily maximum consumption limit of 1 cup for teenagers that you should not surpass regularly. Teenagers should avoid consuming more than 100mg of caffeine in 24 hours. 

How does drinking coffee affect growing teens?

It is easy to think that coffee will affect teenagers the same way as adults, but it isn’t necessarily true. It is believed that teenagers are more likely to develop a caffeine dependence by drinking coffee regularly.

There is further concern that regular coffee consumption can affect the emotional development of teenagers. Caffeine inhibits neurotransmitters in the brain, and it is possible that these neurotransmitters may be permanently damaged by overdosing on coffee.

Excessive coffee drinking is also a known factor for losing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. Caffeine tampers with the chemicals in the brain that are responsible for helping us feel calm and peaceful.

With too high a coffee consumption, the benefits of the brain’s chemical messengers are denied them and the excess caffeine may make them anxious and agitated.

However, drinking coffee in moderation is not a problem and can have plenty of health benefits.

Drinking coffee in moderation is healthy for teens

Coffee is the world’s favourite hot drink, with an estimated 2.25 billion cups consumed every day globally. The famous French writer Voltaire is renowned for drinking up to 50 cups of coffee every day and lived until the age of 83.

If you are a teenager, there is no harm in sticking to only one cup of coffee in 24 hours. Make sure you don’t consume any other beverages that contain caffeine when you are on coffee (for example sodas and sports drinks).

Coffee boosts brainpower 

Coffee with sugar can turn you into a little genius for a while because the combination of caffeine and glucose activates certain sectors of your brain.

The caffeine in coffee acts as a mild stimulant to the central nervous system. This neuronal activity triggers the release of adrenaline that affects your brain and body in several ways.

Your heartbeat increases, blood pressure rises, breathing tubes open up and sugar is released into the bloodstream for extra energy. Depending on the level of intake it can improve attention and concentration.

Coffee can help you get better grades in class 

Coffee can be a saviour is school and can definitely help to manage hectic schedule if appropriately consumed. You should know the right way to consume caffeine if you are planning to use it during your exams or tests.

Caffeine, like most drugs, is subject to the effect of tolerance, and it works on many receptors inside your brain. When you repeatedly use caffeine on a regular basis, the body upregulates or downregulates these various receptors to maintain homeostasis. The body generally reacts to drugs or chemical interference by trying to maintain a balance.

The solution is only to use coffee occasionally to prevent tolerance. If you drink coffee daily, try to cycle your caffeine.

Caffeine cycling means a brief period of stopping or decreasing consumption to reduce tolerance. A good starting point for caffeine cycles is to go one to two weeks without consuming caffeine in any form, to reset your tolerance.

Coffee makes the immune system stronger

Coffee contains an abundance of nutrients and healthful chemicals that can aid your immune system. According to scientists from several counties, coffee reduces the risks of premature death.

This is because coffee alters your immune system, making it stronger and healthier. Coffee contains a lot of antioxidants and phenolic compounds that play a crucial role in cancer prevention.

Coffee also improves your liver, heart, and digestive system. The best option is to stick to natural and freshly ground coffee because instant coffee contains fewer nutrients and more chemical additives.

Coffee reduces stress due to the release of dopamine serotonin, which triggers a good mood and lower risks of getting depressed. 

Most parents would never think of giving their teenage kids a cup of coffee, yet many teens consume drinks with just as much if not even more caffeine than coffee.

The truth is that these caffeinated drinks could pose far more of a risk to our teens’ health than a daily cup of coffee.

Where do you stand on caffeine consumption for teens?

What Are the Different Childcare Options for Toddlers in the UK?

They say that raising a child takes a village, and anyone with a toddler is likely to agree! While working parents routinely need childcare, even families with a stay at home parent rely on external childcare at some point. If you have children, you’re expecting a baby or you’re planning to have a family in the future, it’s important to know what your childcare options are.

By having a strong support network around you, you can ensure that you have the help you need, as and when you require it. With this in mind, take a look at the childcare options you could use for toddlers in the UK:

Toddler Childcare Options in the UK

1. Day Nurseries

Nurseries typically care for children from birth right up to the age of five years old, so they’re ideal if you’re looking for a long-term childcare option. Private nurseries, local authority nurseries and even workplace nurseries are all available, but you’ll need to check your local area to find how many are situated close by.

It’s worth noting that reputable day nurseries can have long waiting lists and the facilities at each nursery do vary. If you’ve got your heart set on your child attending a particular nursery in your area, be sure to talk to them early on and find out how long their waiting list is.

2. Nannies

A nanny is typically employed by a family to take care of one or more children. Some nannies work on a live-in basis, while others live-out and only visit your home when they’re taking care of your children. Although this can be a great option when you want to access flexible childcare, it can be expensive. Furthermore, parents are required to adhere to relevant employment regulations when they hire a nanny.

3. Childminders

Childminders tend to be self-employed and take care of children in their own homes. In most cases, a childminder will look after numerous children at once, although there are limits on how many kids they can care for at one time.

If you’re considering using a childminder, do check that they’re registered with the relevant body and that their certificates are all up to date. Again, reliable childminders are in high demand, so there can be lengthy waiting lists involved.

4. Au Pair

Au pairs tend to be foreign students who want to spend time in the UK and there are many agencies that can help you to find the right person. You will need to provide your au pair with board, food, and pocket money, although individual contracts are negotiable. Some au pairs have childcare experience or qualifications, while others don’t. Typically, au pairs only stay with their host familiars for a matter of months, so this might be a viable option if you’re looking for short to medium-term assistance with childcare.

5. Family and Friends

If you have family members or close friends living nearby, they might be happy to help you out with childcare on a regular basis. If you pay them for their services, however, they will need to register as a childminder. If they offer childcare on an ad hoc, informal basis and there’s no payment involved, however, then it can be an easy way for your nearest and dearest to give you the practical help you need.

Financing Your Toddler’s Childcare

If you’re relying on a nursery, nanny or childminder to provide childcare for your toddler, you’ll soon see how quickly the cost can add up. Although parents are entitled to support with childcare costs, the fees often exceed the grants or free childcare hours you’re able to claim.

Before you decide which childcare options are viable for your family, be sure to consider the financial implications. This guide for parents from newhorizons.co.uk makes it easy to see just how much your budget will increase as your child grows. Fortunately, finance credit can be an effective way to manage your increased expenditure. With access to hundreds of quotes, New Horizons makes it easy to see what your options are when it comes to loans and credit. With a simple search, you can find out just how much you’re able to borrow in seconds.

Finding the Best Childcare for Your Family

When your child is being cared for by anyone else, you’ll want to ensure they’re safe and happy. Furthermore, you’ll need to know that your childcare arrangements are reliable and unlikely to change without advance warning.

Finding the right childcare option can make family life far easier to manage, so be sure to take your time and consider all the options. By visiting local childcare centres, talking to other parents and even interviewing potential childminders and nannies, you’ll get a good insight into which type of childcare is the right fit for your family.

Review: Me & My Menopausal Vagina By Jane Lewis

As women, many of us suffer from annoying vaginal problems from time to time.  These seem to increase with age, culminating in a veritable cornucopia of symptoms by the time you arrive at your menopausal years.

vaginal atrophy - woman looking out to sea whilst standing on rocks

Having written previously about challenges with Vulvodynia and Bartholin’s Cysts, I have often written about the woeful state of gynaecological advice many women receive from their doctors.  This tends to range from “pull yourself together” to “it’s only to be expected at your age” and of course the one I am thinking of having printed on a t-shirt “stick a bit of cream on it”.

Imagine then the pain and distress of having to live with Vaginal Atrophy – think of it like extreme vaginal dryness which gives the sufferer pain that is hard to numb, hard to cope with and impossible to ignore.

Vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis) is thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls due to your body having less estrogen.

Sex is agony, wearing knickers hurts and even walking causes discomfort.  For many women, vaginal atrophy not only makes intercourse painful, but it also leads to distressing urinary symptoms. It is not a problem many of us would feel comfortable talking about to our nearest and dearest, let alone to our wider social circle.

Like any chronic condition, the challenge is not just physical.  It is the mental dissolving of what was once a stalwart and happy constitution.  The questioning of how one small part of your body can come to literally rule your life.

It can feel as if there is nowhere to turn.  No answers.  No support. Just unending discomfort which nags you at every turn.

What a comfort and a relief, then, to find this marvellous book by Jane Lewis – “Me & My Menopausal Vagina”.  On first picking it up you might think that it will be a dry (if you’ll pardon the pun) read about this medical condition, but actually, it is an open, honest and quite a life-affirming read which pulls no punches and yet manages to offer hope at the same time.

Me & My Menopausal Vagina is one woman’s journey of menopause and vaginal atrophy. It was written in collaboration with her daughter, Penny, in a tongue-in-cheek way to help break taboos of vaginal atrophy

For a start, Jane talks you through the various nooks and crannies of your vagina.  You’ll think you’ll know what goes where, so to speak but can you be precise?  It’s important because if you can’t explain where your pain is, it will be more difficult to get the correct help and treatment.

Jane shares her experience of vaginal atrophy and talks about HRT and other treatments.  She acknowledges the effect that VA can have on your mental health and offers suggestions as to how to talk to your nearest and dearest about this condition.  There is also a very helpful chapter on maintaining some sort of sex life.

If you have vaginal atrophy the last thing you feel like doing is having sex but how guilty does that make a woman feel?  And how difficult is it to get your partner to understand that any pleasure has been replaced with painful burning, chafing and even bleeding?

Jane also shares her daily routine for minimising her discomfort and the products that have worked for her.  I have to say I have already discovered the fabulous Yes company with their range of organic vaginal moisturisers and lubricants and I heartily recommend you check them out.

It’s particularly important to understand vaginal atrophy so that we can help our daughters when they, in later life, may suffer the same problems. And of course, there is no reason why our sons shouldn’t be educated about VA so that they can offer support if needed.

One thing is certain.  Vaginal Atrophy needs to be talked about far more openly and long-term treatments need to be advanced.  As Jane says, topical oestrogen products like Ovestin tend to be prescribed on a short-term basis when they should really be offered on a longer basis.

Like me, Jane is conflicted about HRT although she mentions the famous piece of research which links HRT to an increased risk of breast cancer.  That research has, it appears, been largely discredited but the decision to take HRT is an incredibly personal one and the patient needs to weigh up the benefits against the risks. In Jane’s case, she felt that she could not not take it.  I am not quite there yet.

Me & My Menopausal Vagina reads like a chat with a good friend who tells it like it is and doesn’t pull any punches.  Jane says, openly and honestly, that she will always have this condition but much more needs to be done.

If you have started to notice discomfort or dryness down below then pick up this book.  Arm yourself with all the information and then go and see your GP.

You may be horrified to find how behind the times some of them are.  I recently asked about bio-identical HRT and the answer I got was “oh, I don’t really know about that.  You’ll need to go to a menopause clinic and the nearest one is Bristol”.  I’m in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Something really needs to be done because there must be thousands of us suffering and, as Jane says, what happens to all the older ladies in care homes or living on their own.  Many of them will still be suffering the effects of conditions like this.  Who is helping them?

Think of it like this.  If a man went to the doctor with a split, burning, bleeding penis, would he be told to put some cream on it and consult someone 40 miles away? Would he be told it’s just his age and one of those things?  Would he be told it’s all in his mind?

Exactly.

When you suffer from a chronic condition like Vaginal Atrophy (or Tinnitus or Fibromyalgia) – which seems to vanish to the back of the medical priority pile when it comes to diagnosis, there are some books you return to again and again for their wise words.  And because they give you comfort.

This is one of them.

You can find the book on Jane’s website mymenopausalvagina.co.uk or on Amazon.

You can also connect with Jane on Twitter @mymenopausalvag and Facebook @My Menopausal Vag.

Is it Selfish to Have a Baby in Your Forties?

If you had asked me when I was a young career girl just setting out in the world whether I would be having a baby in my forties, I would probably have told you absolutely not. Back then, pregnancy in your forties seemed to be an accident of fate, not something a woman would, or could actively choose. Despite this, I had my children at 43 and 45 (I’m now 56) and I know that I have been extremely lucky.

pregnancy in your forties - baby on a bed drinking from a bottle

My grandmother had a child at 45 so, whether or not there is a genetic predisposition to being able to have children later in life, I’m still aware that I managed the best feat of my life just in time – which leads me to …

Pregnancy in your forties

Is it selfish to have a baby in your forties?

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is “is it selfish to have a baby in your forties?”.  Aside from the fact that, if you are financially solvent and in good health it is nobody else’s business, I think that nature designed us to have babies until menopause – which is, on average around age 51.

The question is, are you happy to accept that you may not be around for your kids as long as younger parents?

Even then, life does not hand anyone a guarantee of a long life span – the COVID-19 epidemic has surely proved that one.

And what about crime rates, poverty, climate change and all the other global issues facing us daily? Is this world really a great place to bring a child into?

History teaches us that our world today is safer than that experienced by previous generations.

Ultimately you must do what is right for you – whether to have children or indeed not to have children is your choice – not that of a keyboard warrior on Twitter!

Oh, and by the way, I rarely see older dads getting criticised.  Usually, it’s a slap on the back and a hearty ‘well done’!

So, that said, here’s my story.

Is natural conception still possible?

What was surprising was just how long it took. Despite being in my 40’s I somehow thought that conception would be nothing short of immaculate and when it took over a year, I found myself reading numerous books on improving your fertility the natural way and taking my temperature every morning to track ovulation.

My temperature never seemed to budge. Tracking the ‘ten most fertile days’ made sex about as exciting as cardboard and turned it from recreational fun to a chore and a duty.

I suffer an early miscarriage

I lost my first child at approximately 6-7 weeks. The charmless consultant gynaecologist we saw made it clear that he viewed this miscarriage as nothing more than a missed period. “You can hang on to see if there’s a heartbeat”, he told us, “or we’ll have you in and whip it out”. A managed miscarriage at home was the option we eventually took, wanting to see if the initial scans were wrong. They weren’t.

Pregnancy in your forties - Caitlin

Caitlin born 2007

It was back to the temperature taking and the headstands for about another year until, one Valentine’s evening, having practically given up, we went out for a romantic meal and got ever so slightly sloshed.

Caitlin was born the following November. And then, the October before Caitlin’s 1st Birthday, Ieuan was conceived. Having waited so long for Caitlin, we assumed it would take a couple of years to give her a sibling. I should have listened to my wonderful midwife who told me that once you have had a child, it’s as if your motor starts to work properly and that I shouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t take long.

Ieuan, born 2009

Pregnancy Scans

We were aware of the risks of late pregnancy. I had a nuchal translucency scan (which we paid for) with Caitlin and amniocentesis (on the NHS) with Ieuan. What we would have done in the event of any genetic problems, I still couldn’t tell you.

I had two perfectly healthy pregnancies

Aside from a slightly low iron level for which I was required to take supplements in order to be admitted for Ieuan’s Caesarian, I sailed through both pregnancies.

As an older mother, I was put under the care of a consultant and this led us down the route of a hospital birth close to an operating theatre and surgeons rather than the candle-lit water birth in a nearer hospital I fancied.

I suffered the discomfort of permanent indigestion for the first trimester with Caitlin and very mild morning sickness with Ieuan but that was it.

I did put on a lot of weight (4 stone) with Caitlin but I found that eating cheese was the only thing that stopped the terrible heartburn.

Both babies were born by Caesarian

Caitlin was delivered by emergency Caesarian as her breathing became laboured due to the umbilical cord becoming wrapped around her neck.  Ieuan was born by elective Caesarian.  I did have the option of a VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarian) but given my age, preferred the reassurance of a swift and managed delivery.

The recovery time after a Caesarian is something to consider.  I had anti-clotting injections and had to wear special socks for a few days and, of course, driving and lifting were no-nos.  My recovery from both C-sections was swift and, apart from having to have antibiotics for an infected scar, I was quickly back on my feet.

I do think that having two Caesarians close together may have had an effect on my abdominal muscles and my back but that could equally be a factor of all the weight I gained.

I struggled to breastfeed

I really wanted to breastfeed but after 10 weeks with Caitlin, we discovered she really wasn’t putting on weight so we swopped to Formula.  When Ieuan was born he went straight on to bottle feeding.

I found breastfeeding challenging and certainly not the straightforward experience I was expecting.  There’s an art to getting your baby to latch on and you may well need to be shown how to do it.  Of course, some mums take to it like a duck to water, but I wasn’t one of them.

I should point out too that I find the bullying of those mums who choose to have their babies by Caesarian or those who, for whatever reason, choose not to breastfeed totally obnoxious.  Luckily I have not experienced either but I do know mums who have. In these cases, it really isn’t the baby who needs to grow up.

Why didn’t I do it sooner?

I have friends older than me who have had children at an equally late age. I also have quite a few friends in their mid-thirties who think that they have all the time in the world to reproduce, when the truth is, the clock is ever ticking. Some of my friends must look at me and think “well, SHE did it” but it’s easy to kid yourself, isn’t it?

I regret not having had my children at least ten years ago. In the end, my career (as a Marketing Manager and later Director) simply could not match up to the joy of having kids but I didn’t meet my husband until I was 41.

This is the dilemma facing many women. Do we put our heart and soul into a career and hope that Mr Right will just come along, by which time we may no longer be fertile or able to carry a child? Or do we pursue a partner and children whilst we are still in our most fertile years, hoping that we can resume our education and career when the children are in school?

Can Women Ever “Have It All”?

I am a great fan of the late Helen Gurley Brown (who, with her husband, created the Cosmopolitan magazine empire) and read her book “Having it All” (still available from Amazon) from cover to cover in my early twenties. Helen believed the sky was the limit – primarily in terms of work and sex, but I think most women will agree that today, “having it all” is an impossibility. That said, I’d still recommend Helen’s work just to admire her incredible work ethic and zest for life.

I’m now faced with the prospect of staying as fit, healthy and mentally ‘young’ as possible. Not so much because I worry about the opinion of other mothers (although I’d be lying if I said I was totally immune to it), but for the sake of my children. As Hubby says “well, we just can’t conk out early”…

Pregnancy in your forties is not a decision to be taken lightly. All pregnancies are life-changing and I think older mums face a different set of challenges in terms of juggling their health challenges with the needs of young children. Facing the fact that you might not have as long with your kids as younger mums can be hard – but there are no guarantees of long life at either end of the age spectrum, are there?

If you are considering pregnancy in your forties, I’d advise visiting your GP to check you are fit and healthy before trying to conceive so that you give yourself and your baby the best possible chance of a successful pregnancy and a healthy delivery.

The process may take quite a while and you may find out that you need help to conceive but it is better to discover this early on rather than risk the heartache of miscarriage and other pregnancy complications.

The Curious Case of Sherlock Holmes And A Mum’s Missing Career

It is a Tuesday. The rain is streaming down Baker Street. Still warm horses are steaming gently, their cab drivers sheltering under rough-hewn cloaks, chewing baccy and waiting for fares. Mrs Hudson has let me in and I climb the stairs in anticipation of meeting the great Sherlock Holmes and his faithful assistant, Dr John Watson.

I have come to interview Sherlock as my private detective in the case of “The Missing Career Opportunity”. His is one of the keenest minds of the last century and, since I have a time traveller’s railcard, there is no other applicant so worthy of an interview to help me find the job I have in mind.

The sad wailing of the Stradivarius greets me.  The great man looks me up and down with some disdain. There is a moment’s pause whilst he meditates on my somewhat bedraggled appearance.

” I see,” he says, nodding to Dr Watson to begin note-taking, “that you have recently travelled a path most dank and wearisome; your coat is cut to suit a woman of much smaller stature and there is an indescribable stain on your left collar”.

I am amazed by these revelations.  “Yes,” I concede, “I have travelled via First Great Western’ Steam Service from Cardiff and purchased this garment at Ye Olde Ebay.  The stain owes much to a toxic substance known as “Ribena”.  Mrs Hudson winces and retreats to the kitchen to prepare a brew of good, iron coloured British tea. Sherlock has his back to me and is toasting his knees against the open fire. When he turns around, his trousers are smoking slightly. “Well, I just hope it was the tooth kind variety”, he opines.

Mrs Hudson appears with a plate of cakes. Decent sized cakes made with real ingredients (in defiance to her own arch-nemesis, the evil Mrs Kipling). “Now,” says Sherlock, “what is this case, this so urgent case that requires my deductive genius and undeniable powers of observation?”. “Sherlock,” says Dr Watson, “your knees are on fire”.  After much flapping of today’s copy of The Times, Sherlock throws himself into a winged armchair and steeples his fingers.  His bright blue eyes are piercing.

“It is the case”, I say, feeling the emotion welling up, “of the missing career opportunity”. “Then, tell all you must,” says Sherlock and he closes his eyes to listen to the sorry tale I have come to relate.

“Some six years ago,” I begin, haltingly, I had a job. Not just a job. I thought of it as a career.  I worked in marketing for lawyers“. A frisson of mild horror vibrated around the room. I continued. “I had worked for many years to establish myself, a humble woman, as a trusty team member, a purveyor of ideas, a steady pair of hands and someone who never shirked from buying cakes”.

Sherlock snored gently. Mrs Hudson whacked him with The Times.

“Then, I… well… I”, “Go on” shouted the great man, “relay all! I am ready to hear”.  “Well, I said, I had a baby. Planned. Twice. And then, I became a stay at home mother“.  “This is indeed a serious case”, said Sherlock,  “the wilful throwing away of cakey-fied employment but, if I may be so bold, it’s not really up to Moriarty’s standard, is it?”

“Oh ho,” I say, feeling my dander rising, “You think not?  Do you know what happens to women like me trying to return to a job market awash with frisky young graduates, all with 10 A* levels?  Do you know how many decently paid temporary jobs there are left for mothers?  Do you know (by this point I am feeling an approaching fit of the vapours), HOW MUCH CHILDCARE COSTS????.

“Mrs Hudson, the gin“, shouts Sherlock, clearly well versed in the universal language of tear-sodden mothers at 4 pm.  I am braced by the aroma of Juniper.  Sherlock gets his pipe out and stuffs it full of something herbal and mysterious.  After the quarter pin of gin, I can no longer feel my feet.

“Your case is simple to solve”.  proclaims Sherlock.  “and you yourself are the criminal here”.  “What??” I say, gripping the arms of my chair since the room has started to swim slightly. “Indeed, Madam”

“Now Holmes,” says Dr Watson, “be gentle, she has to get back on that train”.

“Your crime is simply this – you have underestimated your own talent, dedication and hard work. You do a disservice, Madam, to all those for whom you worked before, who trained you, advised you, encouraged you and ate your cakes. Is it right that their investment should be cast asunder for all time?  No! You must take steps to put matters right”.

By this point, I am feeling vaguely ashamed. “Take steps, Madam” shouts Holmes, “take steps to right this injustice”. “How?” I ask, “Tell me, Mr Holmes, what should I do?  What can I do?  My children are young and I am cruelly constrained to be free only between 10 am and 3 pm”.

Sherlock picks up his violin. Its mournful tones fill the hazy air. Ignoring the fact that the music sounds uncannily like the theme from Coronation Street,  I prepare myself to receive the Holmesian wisdom needed to purchase my liberty.

“You must contact a strange and mystical organisation. They call themselves a “recruitment agency”. They are agents of employment; they help horse-mongers, philatelists, brewers and peelers, nannies and nursemaids and those whose interests are secular and scientific” says Holmes.  “Slow down,” mutters Dr Watson.  “How can I be expected to write that fast with a fountain pen?” Sherlock glares at him.

“You must face your fear. You must…” and here Sherlock stands and returns to toasting his charred knees in front of the fire, “stop making excuses”.

Snatching the pen from Dr Watson’s hands, he scribbles what can only be a clue of momentous importance on the back page of “The Times”. You will need this!”, he tells me, handing over a scrap of newspaper. I look at it.  “Henry Ford builds an assembly line for Model T Fords” I read.  Holmes snorts.  “The man is clearly mad.  No – look again”.  I stare hard at the paper. My eyes are swimming, my head is pounding and the air is full of a miasma of herbal fumes, gin and fondant fancies (without the annoying paper cases).

And suddenly, there it is – the clue I have been looking for – in the great man’s scrawl – “The Revamp-A-Mum Recruitment Agency – We Don’t Pay a Maxi-Mum the Mini-Mum”.

It strikes me at this point that the interview I have come to conduct has not gone the way I planned.  I have been roundly trounced in the questioning stakes.  I have learned little about the great man but, it seems, he has learned much about me.  Somehow, Sherlock has solved the mystery without my needing to employ him.

“Mr Holmes”,  I stammer,  “You have completed the assignment for which I required your help without us discussing fees.  I will contact this recruitment agency of which you speak. I feel you should be justly rewarded for your perspicacity”.

Once again, Holmes steeples his fingers and regards me with some amusement.  “There is one matter, nay one question, one confirmation of a future truth that you can give me”.

I breathe in, in anticipation at what this matter could possibly be.

“I had a dream, a vision”  (at this point Mrs Hudson stares hard at the smoking green fug emanating from Holmes’ pipe),  “that in the next century to come, all communication will be by means of an Apple”.

How could I disappoint him?  The truth needed to be told.  “It is true”.  I say. Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson look at me as if I am madder than Moriarty.

“What ho!” shouts Holmes. “Mrs Hudson, pass me a Bramley”.

5 Facts About Tummy Tucks that Mums Should Know About

Becoming a mother is often described as one of the best experiences of a woman’s natural life, but very rarely do they mention the insistent baby fat that comes with it all! In this post I’ll discuss why a tummy tuck can often be the solution mums need to get back into their former shape, as well as a few other essential points that will help make the experience more fruitful, since you will have a better understanding of what is to be expected.

Why Should You Go for a Tummy Tuck?

Nothing can replace hardcore exercise and a good, balanced diet. As a matter of fact, proper dieting and exercise will become an essential part of maintaining the effects of your tummy tuck sessions. Unfortunately, it cannot always be the only solution. The problem with following a strict exercise and diet alone to lose all your baby fat is twofold in nature.

Firstly, mothers need a few months at least to recover post-delivery, especially if the child was delivered via a C-section. Until the wounds heal, and they recover physically, the type of strenuous exercise necessary for heavy weight loss is out of the question.

Secondly, even hardcore fitness enthusiasts often find themselves at sea, while trying to lose fat from specific sections of their body, especially after they have gained a moderate to significant amount of fat.

Scientifically speaking, it is impossible to lose fat from specific sections of the body (spot reduction) through exercise and dieting alone. If the localised fat on your abdominal muscles and love handles have hardened already, it will become more and more resilient to being shed without direct surgical procedures such as a tummy tuck.

What is a Tummy Tuck?

The official name for what most of us know as a tummy tuck is an abdominoplasty. It’s a surgical procedure that is often included in a complete package for a mummy makeover. Keep in mind that the procedure can be applied to men who stand to benefit from abdominoplasty as well. Irrespective of one’s gender, one should expect their abdominoplasty to be able to:

  • Remove pregnancy scars, scars in general, sagging loose skin and abdominal fat
  • Strengthen abdominal muscles, giving them the compactness which they had likely lost due to ageing/pregnancy/excess weight gain

What a Tummy Tuck is Not

Although abdominoplasty is a full-on surgical procedure, it’s not a weight loss surgery by any means. Tummy tucks are a form of plastic surgery, meant to make the patient’s midsection look and feel better than before. The effects are mostly cosmetic, but also highly effective in removing stubborn pouches of fat from the stomach.

Weight loss surgeries such as a gastric bypass or a sleeve gastrectomy are completely different and are generally performed in morbidly obese patients, under severe threat from obesity-related diseases.

You Can Simultaneously Book an Abdominoplasty and a Mediterranean Vacation!

Plastic surgery and grand vacations may sound like two things that are poles apart, but they don’t have to be. Book a complete mommy makeover UK special package at the Baris Yigit Clinic in Fethiye, Turkey to extend your surgical procedure and turn it into an exotic vacation instead. See the ancient Roman and Lycian sites, or swim in the stunning Ölüdeniz Lagoon, before you head for the makeover procedures.

According to Dr Baris Yigit, it only takes a night’s stay at the hospital to recover from an abdominoplasty, and you can find more information about mommy makeovers here on his official website.

Are There Risks Involved?

Every surgery ever invented has varying degrees of risk associated with it, so an abdominoplasty cannot be an exception to that rule either. However, given that tummy tucks are generally not particularly risky, possible side effects are not as dangerous either. Post-surgery bleeding, delayed healing due to infections and a small likelihood of unexpected scars being left behind are pretty much all that can go wrong in rare cases.

All the same, it is still highly recommended that you let the plastic surgeon know about any existing health conditions (if applicable) beforehand. This will further minimise the chances of any complications. Also, keep in mind that the fewer procedures are included in your mommy makeover package, the lower your chances are of developing any future complications. Don’t put your body under too much stress at once, and do not forget to talk to your regular doctor regarding everything, before going under the knife.

These pointers should answer a number of questions for mums planning to go for a tummy tuck, and create at least a basic awareness regarding what should be expected. Your own doctor should also be able to tell you more regarding your medical suitability to various cosmetic procedures or warn you against possible risks that may exist.

How to Help Kids Handle School Testing

Exam time is worrying for most children, and nowadays, even young children are facing tests at school and the pressures that come with them. You may remember facing exams in your own school days and be keen to help your children to do well while avoiding the stress and worry that you experienced yourself. The good news is, while children today do face more testing, there is far more support available. Below is a look at some of the ways that you can help your children handle testing at school.

Talk to Them About Testing and What to Expect

Younger children especially might not understand why they are being tested, what to expect, and what might happen. Learn as much as you can about the processes at their school, speaking with their teacher if you need to, and explain. Talk to them about why they are tested, and explain that tests are used as a standardized system of monitoring progress. Tell them what to expect on test day, and what will happen afterwards. Encourage them to ask questions and explain that you will find out the answers if you don’t already know.

Practice at Home

Tests can be scary, and we’re often more anxious when we don’t know what to expect. Many children make mistakes simply because the process is unusual. You should urge them to practice beforehand, finding practice papers and tests online, and asking the school about past years’ papers.

Praise Their Successes

Go out of your way to praise their successes, however small they might be. Even if they do poorly on a practice paper, praise them for trying, for sitting and taking the paper quietly, and for anything that they did well. Highlight correct answers and praise their attitude.

Don’t Make Them Afraid to Fail

While you should help them to see where they went wrong and why, don’t get frustrated with them. Paying more attention to what went well and using mistakes as a teaching opportunity means that they won’t be scared to fail. They won’t go into the exam frightened of letting you down, and so they are less likely to make mistakes due to anxiety.

Set Aside Revision Time

Revision is crucial, especially as our children grow and start to face more serious examinations. Set aside time for them to revise and make sure they’ve got a quiet and comfortable space to do it. But try not to nag as this may make them resentful.

Make Some Other Plans

You will want your child to be focused on their exams. But, they’ll find it easier to bear the pressure if they have some positive things to look forward to. Make some other plans with them, even small things like a weekend cinema trip, when you need to lighten the mood.

Watch Out for Signs of Stress

Many children suffer from stress and anxiety around exam time. This can affect their performance and also be bad for their mental health. Signs of stress might involve being less chatty than usual, not sleeping, poor behaviour or mood, and not eating properly. If you spot any of these signs, encourage them to take a break and talk to them about coping strategies.

Be Flexible

Remember, exams are a big deal for your child. They’ve got a lot going on, and revision is their priority. Be flexible with other plans, let some of your rules (like keeping a tidy bedroom) slide, and try to avoid any extra pressure where possible.

Exam time can be difficult for the whole household. Remember not to obsess, to let your child take a break, and to not inadvertently apply more pressure by never talking about anything else. With your help and support, this can be a learning experience that sets them up for the future.

Extra-Curricular Activities to Get Your Kids Into

Whilst academic activities are essential for developing kids and teens, many people ignore the fact that they are not designed to promote all-round development. For this reason, extra-curricular activities are significant at every age, especially for preteens and teenagers.

Extra-curricular activities help students learn essential life skills that they cannot learn from academic activities only. Such life skills include problem-solving and teamwork, among others. They help our kids to develop into well-rounded adults.

The most common extra-curricular activities are sports. However, following the pandemic, a majority of our kids cannot embark on most, especially competitive sports, for safety reasons.

Below are some beneficial and educative extra-curricular activities for kids of all ages:

Learning a second language

Research shows that kids learn more comfortably and faster when they are young. Therefore, there isn’t a better time introducing your kids to a foreign language than while they are still in school. It will help give them a foundation that they can build on as they grow older and boost their future success.

If you don’t want to do in-person classes, luckily there are user-friendly apps that enable you to learn anywhere at any time. For example, you can download Babbel to speak a foreign language fluently and in a short amount of time. This app is also available for iOS devices, so not only can it help students do their language studies at home but also on the go, wherever they may be. That means you can easily convince your kids to use their phone for something educational!

Playing an instrument

As a parent, you want to give your kids all the advantages they can get while still under your wing. You can do so by getting your kids into playing instruments from a young age, and nurture it into their teenage years. This is an excellent extra-curricular activity that they can use for the rest of their lives. When they are small, you can experiment with different instruments until you find something that your kid is in tune with. For starters, try the piano. Many experts consider the piano to be one of the easiest instruments to start off with and it also can improve vision, along with hand and eye coordination, which is important if they are about to take their driving exam!

Painting/ sketching

You may never know if your kid is to become the next famous artist unless you allow them to be creative and exercise their artistic side! You can do this by considering to enroll them in online art classes! Allow them to play with colours, experiment with different painting activities, and discover their passion or lack of it. Getting them into the world of art will also help them to gain an understanding of and respect for the art world, maybe you can even inspire them to study art in university. Art is something many educators tend to undervalue, but give your kid the opportunity to appreciate it while you can.

Get them interested in cooking

Cooking classes are an ideal extra-curricular activity for any age! They provide your kids with an added environment where they can practice and explore their creativity freely. It also helps your kids develop focus and teach them skills like handling sharp knives and fire. Make sure that your kid’s cooking activities are well-supervised, no matter what age because they could be dangerous! The knowledge they acquire from cooking classes could be great also for you as a mom, if there’s one evening when you really don’t feel like cooking, you can always ask them to whip up dinner! Oh, the joy of putting our teenagers to work!

Swimming or gymnastics

Pools are finally starting to reopen and activities like swimming and gymnastics will help your kids develop and explore their creativity, acquire new skills incoordination, and improve their focus. These extra-curricular activities also teach them how to collaborate with others and build their endurance. It also helps to explore their competitive side and help them to improve their health, important for if they are about to take an entrance exam!

Each of the extra-curricular activities mentioned above is incredible because your kids can do many of them at home. They can learn new languages through online platforms or one on one tutoring, get interested in cooking, along with several other activities. Therefore, your kids’ learning does not have to be crippled by the pandemic.

What are the Real Effects of Lockdown on Our Children? Let’s Ask the Experts…

The events of 2020 have had an effect on the best of us, for better or for worse. But for our little ones who don’t quite understand what’s happening, it’s been a confusing experience to say the least.

We may struggle as adults to fully grasp the ins and outs of a pandemic, not least because we’ve never experienced one before. But the real challenge lies with parents trying to support their children who, as we know, rely almost entirely on routine in order to feel secure.

Think about it this way: without warning, our children have been told that they can’t hug their friends and family, that school is suddenly out of bounds, and that mum and dad have essentially stopped going out to work. This is a serious shake-up to their normal day-to-day routine, one which their emotional security depends on.

The team at Toys for a Pound asked a few experts in their field to share their views on lockdown and the real effect it could be having on our children, with tips on how to minimise any negative experiences for them.

Dr Sarah Mundy is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist specialising in child and family work. She outlined some of the main effects that the lockdown has had on school-age children.

  • Loss of relationships with teachers and other professionals (including mental health support and social care)
  • Social isolation
  • Frightening news coverage
  • Confusion around rules, distancing and masks
  • Worry about the future – exams, universities etc.
  • Potential mistrust in others – government professionals
  • Loss of routine
  • Lack of control
  • Stress around school work
  • Worry about losing loved ones
  • Specific fears about germs/going out etc.
  • Increased parental stress and lack of availability

She said: “Children may show increased anxiety through increased nightmares, showing a range of emotions (sadness, agitation, numbness), becoming clingy and anxious to caregivers, becoming more withdrawn, regressing to earlier coping strategies, becoming low and withdrawn. There are also concerns that those who are already vulnerable to mental health problems may show increased difficulties – e.g. OCD, social anxiety, health anxiety, being worried about physical appearance, already feeling low and isolated, addiction to screens etc.

“From my clinical work, it seems as though teenagers are struggling particularly with the changes. This is not surprising given they focus so much on peer groups as opposed to family at that stage. However, there seems to be an impact across all age groups. Interestingly, for those children who are adopted and are still quite young, I have seen some benefits of that extra time with their parents – perhaps the “nesting period” they missed when they were younger and when they were first adopted.”

Danger signs and how to help

When asked what signs to look for regarding poor child’s mental health, she said: “What is key is to notice significant changes in their behaviour and emotions – this is relevant to all ages but may show differently depending upon the child and their age.

“For example struggling to sleep, a change in appetite, a change in mood – such as becoming withdrawn or agitated, losing interest in socialising, seeming more fearful (e.g. about going out in case there are germs), being more concerned about their appearance, struggling with school work, seeming disconnected, finding it hard to trust others or accept support.”

PhDr Ivana Poku, who works as a motherhood coach and NLP practitioner, added: “A child being quieter than usual and not themselves is a sign. If you are unsure, it is always best to talk to a professional rather than potentially neglect something that can potentially lead to severe mental health issues.

“Make sure to talk to your children about mental health so they are used to the subject. We cannot expect our children to talk to us about mental health if we don’t talk about it in the first place.

“I also recommend parents showing their vulnerable side to their children. For instance, they can share with their children what they are scared of by saying “I am scared that something happens to you” and then ask them: “What are you scared of?”

Activities to promote wellness

Dr Mundy said there are some activities which can help keep your children in a good state of mind, such as:

  • sensory activities
  • outdoor play and learning
  • Joint (non-competitive) activities
  • Play-based learning
  • things that focus on regulating the body
  • Talking about feelings and experiences

Take a look at some summer toy ideas which are ideal for outdoors, from Toys for aPound.

The Powerful Warning Signs You Could Be Menopausal

When you’re a woman in her mid-fifties like me, you start to view all your medical symptoms with suspicion and you constantly ask yourself whether this is the start of the menopause? But what are the first signs of menopause?

Menopause is often cryptically referred to as “the change of life.” But as lovely as this sounds, it doesn’t tell anyone a whole lot about menopause, nor what to expect.

Menopause is something every woman with all her reproductive organs eventually experiences – a natural part of the biological process. It is not a disease or illness, although some menopause side effects can be very unpleasant indeed.

Some doctors claim that menopause is a process that can start with a woman in her 30s and last as late as her 60s.

But menopause occurs in most women between the ages of 45 and 55 and is officially defined as the full stopping of menstrual periods for at least 12 months in a row.

The first signs of menopause can differ from woman to woman and the wide variety of symptoms you may experience in the time leading up to the stopping of your periods is referred to as perimenopause.

First Signs Of The Menopause (Perimenopause)

Irregular periods

One of the most obvious first signs of menopause is irregular, unpredictable periods. Whereas once your periods turned up 28 days on the dot, now some months you are late or perhaps miss a period altogether.

Menstrual periods can suddenly vary between gradually getting lighter, then heavier, and then lighter again.

You are considered to be menopausal when you have not had a full period for 12 months.

Decreased fertility

A menopausal woman does not ovulate and cannot get pregnant. But women in perimenopause should still be cautious.

Pregnancy in a woman who hasn’t completed menopause can still happen, especially if it’s only been a few months since her periods stopped.

I had my children naturally at 43 and 45, although I was showing no signs of being perimenopausal back then.

Remember, full menopause doesn’t occur until a woman’s menstrual periods have stopped for at least 12 months.

Dry Vagina (Vaginal Atrophy)

Menopause is caused by a woman’s estrogen levels decreasing. So a woman in menopause doesn’t produce enough estrogen to keep the vagina and urethra well lubricated.

This causes the vagina and urethra to become less elastic and drier, causing those areas to become itchier and more at risk for infections.

Sex can also be more uncomfortable for women in menopause.

An excellent book on the subject is Jane Lewis’ “Me & My Menopausal Vagina” which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Hot Flashes

The drops in estrogen levels during menopause can also cause what’s called hot flashes. Hot flashes are often the butt of jokes but can be quite bad for some women experiencing menopause.

Hot flashes can last at least 30 seconds to up to several minutes.

They can happen at any time during day or night and are characterized by a flushed face and red blotches on chest, neck and arms.

Some women find that they are actually bathed in sweat.

I have experienced a few of these now (I’m 55) and my experience is of an intense heat that crawls across your body out of the blue.

I strongly suspect that coffee is a trigger of hot flashes for me.

If you suffer from hot flashes at night (night sweats), consider a cooling pillow and bedding made from bamboo – said to be effective at wicking away sweat and staying cool.

Weight gain

It’s common for menopausal women to gain stubborn weight around the middle which is very difficult to lose.

You can find advice on dealing with this, as well as other hormonal symptoms in Nicki Williams’ excellent book “It’s Not You It’s Your Hormones“?

Frequent urination

You may find that you need to urinate more often which is very annoying at night.  You may experience an increase in incontinence and more frequent urinary tract infections – in which case a supplement called D-Mannose may help.

Worse PMS symptoms

Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms may get stronger due to the hormonal imbalance you are experiencing.  Mood swings, bloating, lethargy, headaches and irritability may make your monthly period even more of a trial – when it does turn up!

Sage tablets may help to alleviate painful periods as well as those annoying night sweats.

Tender breasts

You should, of course, be checking your breasts regularly for any changes but you may find that the changing levels of hormones cause breast tenderness.  This should abate once your periods stop but any change in the condition of your breasts should be checked by your doctor.

Lack of interest in sex

The loss of oestrogen and testosterone in a woman’s body can affect her sex drive. Vaginal dryness may make sex uncomfortable. There are some excellent vaginal moisturisers and lubricants on the market.  I highly recommend Yes Oil Based Lubricant.

Trouble sleeping

There can be a number of things that interfere with sleeping, including night sweats and frequent urination. Many women have difficulty in getting to sleep in the first place or will wake often in the night.  A gentle sleep supplement may help.

Skin breakouts and facial hair

Adult acne can get worse during menopause.  You’ll find excellent advice from skincare expert Caroline Hirons on her website and look out for her skincare bible – Skincare: The Ultimate No-Nonsense Guide.

With decreased estrogen levels in menopause, the small amounts of testosterone every woman produces can take over, leading to coarse hair on the face, chest and stomach.

I have a great little ‘fuzz remover‘ which can be carried in your purse to quickly whisk away stray facial hairs.

Dry eyes

It’s not only the vagina that may become drier.  All the mucus membranes may be affected.  If you have worn contact lenses comfortably for years, you may find them more irritating and find yourself reaching for the comfort drops more regularly.

I use Hydrosan Extra eye drops which are contact lens compatible and will also apply Blink Comfort Drops when I’m out and about.

I have been taking a great supplement for both dry eyes and dry vagina – Seabuckthorn Oil capsules.  I have noticed an improvement but you may need to persist with these for a month or two.

Then there’s a good probiotic guaranteed to actually reach the vagina – Optibac For Women.

Menopause is a natural life transition. But sometimes complications in the process of menopause occur.

For example, if a woman knows for sure she’s in menopause (that is she hasn’t had a period for at least 12 months in a row), and she’s bleeding from her vagina, she should go see a doctor.

If a woman thinks she’s experiencing the first signs of menopause but isn’t sure, she can always go to a doctor. Depending on the situation, a doctor might take a blood test to determine menopause.

In this case, a blood sample is usually tested for the level of estrogen and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

During menopause FSH levels increase as estrogen levels decrease. So higher levels of FSH and lower levels of estrogen will show a woman has gone into menopause.

Be prepared, however, for your FSH levels to vary – it may take several blood tests around 6 months apart to ensure that you are fully menopausal.

Mine, for example, have been normal, menopausal and normal!  For this reason, you should still keep using contraception.

Although a 50+ baby would be unusual, according to my GP it certainly isn’t impossible.  Since I had Ieuan at 45 I’m not taking any chances!

The perimenopause and menopause can be a tricky time for many women and I would recommend talking to your GP and also friends and family who have gone or are going through it.

Sharing experiences and what works in terms of HRT or alternative therapies may help you cope better with any health-related challenges.