In today’s episode, we dive deep into the world of perimenopause and how it intersects with the postnatal period.
With so many women waiting until later in life to have children, this is an important topic for women to get their heads around.
Postnatal meets Perimenopause
To help us do that, I am joined by my guest, Linda Stephens, who brings her expertise and insights on women’s health to help you navigate this transitional stage in your life.
We explore the hormonal changes, physical symptoms, and emotional challenges that can arise during this time. Together, we discover how understanding and nurturing our bodies can lead to a graceful transition and a renewed sense of self.
Some of the key questions we explore include:
- What are some common symptoms experienced by women during the perimenopause stage? How do these symptoms compare to those experienced after childbirth?
- How can understanding the natural hormonal cycle of women help them navigate their energy levels and productivity throughout the month?
- How can create a more supportive and accommodating environment for women during the perimenopause transition?
- How can taking care of the adrenal glands help support hormonal balance during the perimenopause stage?
- Why there is a lack of awareness and knowledge about this treatment option among healthcare professionals?
- What are some techniques or practices mentioned in the episode that can help shift the body into a parasympathetic state and support adrenal care?
- How can we prioritise good fats, fiber, and quality carbohydrates in our diet to support our hormones?
- How societal expectations and pressures impact women’s approach to exercise during this stage of life?
- Why it is important for women to educate themselves about the changes they will experience during the late 30s to post-menopause stage?
- How can women embrace the “wise woman” phase and let go of societal pressures to stay young and slim? What steps can we take to promote positive self-acceptance and embrace the changes in our bodies during this stage of life?
Resources mentioned during the episode
To help you make the most of this information, here’s a comprehensive list of resources mentioned in the podcast:
1. Fear Clearance Tracks
Audio tracks designed to reduce fears related to pregnancy and childbirth. These tracks address common fears such as fear of pregnancy, fear of childbirth, fear of losing control, fear of losing dignity, fear of change, and fear of uncertainty.
NEW TRACK NOW AVAILABLE: Fear of Pregnancy.
View all fear clearance tracks here
2. Birth Wound Healing Activation MP3:
This Healing Activation was created to help you to heal from the emotional wounds and traumas related to any birth experiences you’ve had. This would benefit those who have had difficult or traumatic birth experiences.
But because we’ve ALL had a birth experience: our own arrival into the world, then everyone would benefit from this wound healing track. Particularly those who suffer from Tokophobia, because often, the trauma that is at the root of their phobia is the trauma of their own birth.
This birth wound healing track also helps you to release ancestral trauma. If your mother or grandmother (or great grandmother) had a difficult birth, then you will be carrying the memories of those experiences and they could be affecting how you feel about pregnancy or birth.
3. Fear Free Childbirth Shop
Visit www.fearfreechildbirth.com to access these resources that aim to provide emotional support and healing for individuals facing anxieties and fears related to pregnancy, childbirth, and postnatal experiences.
4. Linda Stevens Wellbeing
Explore Linda’s offerings, including online courses, retreats, and workshops, to support your journey through perimenopause and women’s health.
The Bathroom Method Bootcamp: Access free exercises and guided meditations designed to strengthen your pelvic floor and enhance your overall well-being.
5. Dr. Mindy Pelz
She is an expert in women’s health and intermittent fasting. Her YouTube channel offers valuable insights and guidance on optimizing your health. https://www.youtube.com/@DrMindyPelz
Books by Dr. Mindy Pelz: “Fast This Way: Burn Fat, Heal Inflammation, and Eat Like the High-Performing Human You Were Meant to Be”, “The Menopause Reset: Restoring Balance and Well-Being Naturally”
6. Yoga Nidra
A guided relaxation practice that can help you achieve deep rest and balance your nervous system. You can find yoga nidra sessions online or through various meditation apps.
7. App for Tracking Your Cycle
Linda mentioned the Balance app which can provide insights into your unique rhythm. https://www.balance-menopause.com/balance-app/
8. Adrenal Care
Linda emphasizes the importance of adrenal care to manage stress and hormonal balance. Explore relaxation techniques, such as extended exhalation, low vibrational toning, and conscious rest, to support your adrenal glands.
9. Nutrition for Hormones
Dr. Mindy Pelz recommends exploring intermittent fasting and paying attention to the timing of your meals to support hormonal health. Focus on quality carbohydrates, good fats, and nutrient-dense foods.
10. Yoga and Movement
Engage in activities like yoga, walking in nature, and gentle exercises to promote physical and mental well-being. These practices can help you connect with your body and reduce stress.
Remember that your path to optimal health is unique, and it’s essential to listen to your body and intuition. These resources offer valuable guidance and support as you navigate perimenopause and embrace your feminine wisdom. Take a step towards greater well-being and empowerment by exploring these resources and incorporating them into your daily life.
00:00:01 “Fear Free Childbirth podcast helps navigate postnatal perimenopause. New fear clearance and wound healing tracks added.”
00:08:33 Late pregnancies, perimenopause, and hormone imbalance explained.
00:10:46 Low progesterone, oestrogen, and baby blues fatigue. Women’s brains need these hormones to function well. Going into perimenopause after childbirth.
00:16:43 Track your cycle and symptoms for empowerment.
00:20:47 Estrogen is vital for energy and health.
00:25:44 Having a baby challenges control and identity.
00:34:44 New vaginal oestrogen available in the UK.
00:37:40 Breath, rest, nutrition, and less stress.
00:46:52 Ideal fitness: consider adrenals, intermittent exercise, calming.
00:50:37 Trying different strategies, accepting personal changes.
00:53:04 Freedom in surrender, conscious choices, letting go.
00:56:14 Free exercise and meditation for women.
Meet Linda Stephens, the Women’s Wellbeing Warrior, dedicated to reawakening core strength in midlife women. With a belief that core health is true wealth, Linda empowers women through her expertise.
Discover Linda Stephens at www.lindastephenswellbeing.me. For a comprehensive peri-post menopause wellbeing resource, visit her at www.womenswellbeing.me. Don’t forget to check out her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lindastephenswellbeing for valuable Women’s Wellbeing information and videos.
Contact her at email@example.com.
You’re listening to the Fear Free Childbirth podcast with me, Alexia Leachman. Let me help you to take the fear out of pregnancy, birth and beyond with a mix of real life stories and experts sharing their wisdom. I’ll also be sharing psychology insights to help you to cultivate a fearless mindset, be inspired and be empowered with Fear Free Childbirth . And now it’s time for the show.
Hello and welcome back to the Fear Free Childbirth Podcast. My name is Alexa Leachman. Thank you so much for joining me today. On today’s show, we’re going to be talking about where postnatal meets the perimenopause with a lot of mums that are now having babies later in their life, some mums are facing the perimenopause while going through the postnatal period.
So today I’m being joined by Linda, who’s going to help us navigate this delicate stage in life so that you can better manage it and not be succumb to the cocktail of hormones that might be chucking themselves your way as you wrestle with a new baby.
But before I hand over to that, I just want to update you on a couple of things I added to the shop this week, the Fear Free Childbirth Shop. Now, as you know, I’m all about helping you to reduce the fear that you’re carrying around birth and pregnancy. And I’ve got quite a lot of fear clearance tracks in the Fear Free Childbirth store and I’ve been recording some new ones. So I just wanted to let you know about the new ones that have just been added. Now, for some reason, I don’t know how this even was a thing was possible, but I didn’t actually have a fear clearance track for a fear of pregnancy. But now I have. So now you can buy a fear of pregnancy fear clearance track, as well as a fear of childbirth fear clearance track. There are other ones in there also for common fears that women experience around birth and pregnancy, including fear of losing control, fear of losing your dignity, fear of change, fear of uncertainty. All those are already in there as well. And they would be very useful for you to listen to, to benefit from, if you want to let go of the fear. People are getting amazing results listening to these tracks and it can make a huge difference to how you’re feeling. Very, very quickly, I’ve just added fear of pregnancy, so just head over to fearfreechildbirth.com shop or store, that kind of thing, and then you will find the fear clearance audios in the shop.
And I’m also creating some wound healing tracks. So these are really about healing traumas and the emotional wounds that you’re carrying around things. And there is also now a birth wound healing. So for many people, this might mean that when they gave birth and it was difficult or traumatic or it has left an emotional trace of some sort for them, that whenever they think of that birth as a little bit of pang of sadness or guilt or something that’s just not pleasant. It doesn’t have to be a full blown traumatic experience. But if there’s any kind of wounding that you’re carrying on the topic of birth or the idea of birth, this will be ideal for you if you have suffered from a birth experience that wasn’t pleasant, that was difficult or traumatic. And maybe when you think of your earlier birth experiences, there’s a little tinge of sadness or something that’s not entirely pleasant comes up for you. Whether it’s a full blown, kind of really nightmare experience or whether it wasn’t a nightmare, but for some reason you just can’t shake there’s something that you can’t shake about that experience, then that wound healing will be perfect for you. Also, this is going to be perfect for those that suffer from tokophobia, because the thing about tokophobia and any phobia is that there’s usually a root trauma going on there that’s feeding the phobia. And for many that suffer from tokophobia, this root event, this root trauma could well be your own birth experience the time that you arrived in the world. So this birth wound healing is for you too. It’s really all encapsulating to capture any experiences of birth that you’ve had. And obviously we’ve all experienced birth because we’re all here and we’ve all come through from our mothers. So we all have a birth experience within us and memories of that and maybe some of the fears and anxieties that you’re experiencing are as a result of your own birth experience. So this birth wound healing really does capture your own experience of birth, any experiences that your mother may have had while she was carrying you or the memories that she had, because it also looks at ancestral trauma. And this is an element that we really can’t dismiss when it comes to traumas because they have such an impact on who we are today, because the very memories of ancestral trauma are baked within the fabric of our very being. So letting go of any wounding that you’re carrying around the idea of birth is going to really help you no matter what your situation is in terms of facing pregnancy and birth. If you’re planning for a family, even if you’ve not got pregnant yet, if there’s any tinge of fear or anxiety around birth, then maybe it’s to do with your own birth experience. So I would recommend this birth wound healing for anyone really that considers themselves anxious or fearful or scared or even worried about birth or pregnancy. This is going to be a good one for you. So just all you need to do is head over to the Fear Free Childbirth shop and it’s in the Wound Healing Activation section along with many, many other Wound Healing Activations for other things that are very, very common. A lot of childhood themes are in there. Lots of inner child themes. As you know, I’m all about you self healing, helping you to really heal your own fears and anxieties so that you can be empowered, feel confident and calm as you go into your birth experiences. That’s what I really, really want for you. So I’m always looking at ways that I can make that journey as easy for you and as simple for you so that you can own that experience. You can be in charge of your own mental health and emotional well being.
Back to today’s show, then. So today I’m chatting to Linda. You may recognise Linda, who’s been on the show before, and she talked all about yoga and how yoga can support you during your pregnancy and birth experiences, especially the yoga moves. And the way that yoga can support you in terms of helping you to train and get your body ready, but also how you can use it during labour. So you may recognise Linda, and if you want to dig out the old episode, I would urge you to go and do that, and I’ll put a link in the show notes for that. But we’re going to be talking today about that transitional journey from postnatal to perimenopause.
And the reason I really wanted to have this conversation is because this perimenopause can really start very early for some women, maybe late 30s, early 40s, but that’s also when many women are now choosing to have their babies because they’re leaving it later. So it could be that you are wrestling with early signs of perimenopause while you’re breastfeeding a newborn. And so the cocktail of hormones that’s going on, you could be feeling like you’re really being battered left, right and centre and not knowing how to handle all that. And that can be very unsettling, very overwhelming, very emotional. So Linda’s going to talk through that, how we can start to figure out what’s going on, and maybe even those of you that maybe have got toddlers now and maybe heading into your early 40s, maybe mid to late 40s, depending on when perimenopause hits for you. This is going to be useful for you too, as you navigate this important next stage in your life. This is a stage that I’m going through at the moment.
So I found this interview incredibly helpful and validating for some things that I’m also starting to try out in my life. So I think this is going to be a really important conversation. And even for those that maybe have a little bit long way off from perimenopause, listen to this, because this is coming your way. So you might as well start getting ready and thinking about it because there’s some really useful, timeless advice that Linda shares that goes beyond the perimenopausal phase in terms of just how to live a healthy life and have a healthy pregnancy. So let me just hand over to my chat with Linda. I hope you enjoy it.
Hello, Linda. Welcome to the podcast.
Thank you so much for having me, Alexia. It’s lovely to be back.
Now, for those eagle eyed well, not eagle eyed, but eagle eared among you. You might recognise Linda’s voice because we’ve spoken before on the podcast talking all about yoga and the moves that can help you to prepare for birth. But Linda also works with the whole gamut of well being for women. And so we’re going to dive into another really important part of the journey today that I think more and more women are really experiencing, and that is that postnatal to perimenopause phase where some women, because they’re birthing later, are diving from one straight into the other. Let’s just start with postnatal, first of all, and what’s happening with the hormones so that we can start to understand how this hormonal mix is correlating or how it bleeds. Not bleed. Bleeds. Isn’t that useful word I just picked that doesn’t bleed?
That’s the thing.
Straight into the perimenopause phase. What’s going on?
It’s kind of like a whole societal thing, isn’t it, where we are finding that women are having pregnancies later on in life. So it’s not unusual at all to be in your late 30s, even early 40s, when you’re having even your first baby. And the thing is, roughly on average, women will start to go into perimenopause between 35 and 38 years old. So perimenopause literally means you’re starting to have an ovulatory cycle. Your menstrual cycle isn’t actually around you, it’s not defined by your period. It’s defined by your ovulation in the middle of the cycle. And if your ovaries are not releasing an egg in the middle of that cycle, you’re not producing progesterone, which is our key chill out hormone. It’s the hormone that is anti anxiety. It helps us to sleep. It’s a smooth lining of the gut. So it’s incredibly important in about 400 different pathways in our body and our brain. So if we’re not producing progesterone in the second part of our cycle, we start to experience all sorts of issues which are very, very similar to what we are experiencing when we’ve just given birth and we’ve just birthed our placenta. And our progesterone level just absolutely plummets along with oestrogen levels. Early perimenopause, when we start to have those ovulatory cycles, progesterone is starting to drop away quite rapidly, more so than oestrogen. So we tend to see from about 38, we’re starting to have not every cycle, but quite often we’re starting to have those and ovulatory cycles. We’re starting to diminish in our production, our ovarian production of progesterone, from about 35 to about 50, we lose about 70% of that ovarian production of progesterone and about 45. So mid 40s, we start to diminish our production of oestrogen. And it’s a dysregulation. It’s when our oestrogen is a bit high in comparison to the progesterone. That’s when we are experiencing night sweats, brain fog, heart palpitations. Itchiness, dry eyes, dry mouth, pelvic floor issues. As you can see, it’s very, very similar to straight.
We’ve had a baby going into that period where the progesterone is super low, oestrogen is low as well, maybe not quite as low as progesterone and baby blues. Unbelievable fatigue being wired, but tired, not being able to sleep when baby sleeps. And the problem is, women are going from losing that progesterone, having birthed their baby, losing that oestrogen, being very low on these key hormones. And it’s really important to understand that women are… our brains are oestrogen rich, male brains are testosterone rich. Our brains are oestrogen rich. So we need these key hormones to function well. And we’re going straight from this period of being very low in these key hormones straight into perimenopause. So it’s not like we’re going back up and reaching sort of mid 20s levels of our normal hormone production again. And our ovaries are going back into production, they’re not. We might have ended up getting pregnant, because what happens is, when our ovaries are starting to shut up shop, they’ll have big bursts of oestrogen. So it’s like one more baby, one more baby. So you might actually be very low in oestrogen, but suddenly you have these spikes like this, and it might be in that spike in one month where you are ovulating that you get pregnant, but then those hormones that start to crush down afterwards. So, of course, pregnancy, our body goes into hyperdrive and we produce a ton of progesterone. But once that’s all gone post pregnancy, and if we are in our early 40s or late 30s, you are a totally average, normal woman if you are then in perimenopause.
So you mentioned there’s a change in the cycle. What did you call it?
An ovulatory cycle simply means that you don’t produce an egg, that cycle. So you can still be having a period. I might be a little bit scantier, a little bit closer together, a little bit further apart, but to be honest, most of us of our generation don’t really track our periods like the younger girls do these days. You might not even notice that you’re not ovulating. And it might be just that you’re starting to really suffer with insomnia or you’re starting to find that you get really severe PMT, because, of course, PMT, our progesterone is so affiliated with our level, our mood levels. So if you’re already very low in progesterone right before your period, you’re going to be getting really snarky and bitchy and flying off the handle. People will, or a lot of women, experience much worse digestive issues. IBS issues get way worse because progesterone is incredibly important in the thumping action, if you like, of the intestines. It’s really important to know that if you are experiencing classic perimenopausal symptoms and you’ve got a new baby and potentially other slightly older children as well, and you feel like you’re going mad, it’s not you, it’s your hormones.
It’s all made for hormones.
But there’s an awful lot of things that we can do to help ourselves. And I would say it starts with education on what is actually going on with your body. And it really needs to graduate through a total paradigm shift on how we approach wellbeing. Women’s wellbeing, at this very crucial stage, and I would say from your late 30s through to post menopause, so 52, 53, 54 that decade or so is not a time to be pushing through, trying to do a marathon, trying to beat these fitness goals, et cetera, et cetera. It is really a time, and this is probably a bit controversial saying this, because we all want to know that we can do more, more and more. It’s time to stop up the leaky colander, yeah. Does that make sense? Or the leaky boat. It’s a time to really focus on adrenal care, because our adrenal glands take over the production, the key production of those hormones when our ovaries shut up. So, yeah, I’d like to talk a little bit more about that because I think that’s super, super important. And it’s a time of actually kind of stepping into the whole wise woman phase, which, yes, is hard when you’ve got little children around and you’re trying to look after a baby, et cetera. And a lot of women need to go through a grieving process, a letting go process of the younger them, and actually almost do as stepping in a metaphorical, stepping in of this new aspect of themselves. So it can be extraordinary transitional, an extraordinary transitional time. It can be an incredibly empowering time, but not if you listen to the media, which is totally focused on staying young and slim and basically looking like you’re 25 forever. It’s really got to be learning about what is going on with your body and embracing being a woman in midlife and how exciting actually it’s going to be in the second spring, they call it, after menopause. We enjoy that second spring when we actually nurture the body and the brain in this midpoint, this decade or so of huge transition, just as hormonally huge as going into puberty, just as huge.
You talk about raising self awareness, so does this awareness. Are you talking about educating yourself around this transition, around the impact of hormones, or about being more aware about where you are in your cycle and how you’re responding? And I think you’re going to say both, but what did you mean when you said you need to become more aware?
A lot of women will go from having a baby and they won’t necessarily start cycling again on a regular basis. Perimenopause and then they might end up having a few periods, but they might be quite scanty and quite all over the place. Yes, having an awareness of your cycle, cycle tracking is so powerful. It really is. And starting to track your symptoms as well. So starting to track when you have a migraine, when you are leaking, when you find that you’re getting stress, incontinence or urgency issues. Tracking when you have Insomnia, tracking when your skin gets really super, itchy because by tracking what’s going on. So just keeping a little journal and every evening maybe just jotting down what your energy levels are like, tracking how much water you’re drinking, how your body is responding to any kind of exercise and movement you’re doing. If you feel knackered or if you feel energised it is really empowering for you. Because when they say know thyself, you have to know thyself because we’re all very different. So my levels of natural progesterone from when I was in my twenty s and thirty s will be different from yours. Yeah. So what’s normal for me and if I went to go and do a blood test, is going to be very different from you. And the trouble is doing, to be honest, the trouble with doing blood tests in perimenopause is that literally, day to day, almost hour to hour, our hormones are all over the place. You might go and see what your hormone levels are doing by going and having a blood test. But when you’re there, if you just happen to be having a spike in your oestrogen, then you’re going to look like you’ve got regular levels of oestrogen. But it might be that later on that day your oestrogen levels are plummeting down. So it’s very difficult to have blood tests that will actually show what is going on with your hormones. Unless you are on HRT, that’s a different story. Then it’s more telling the doctor how your body is absorbing the hormone replacement therapy. But prior to that, it’s more about your symptoms. So there is this called the Green Climactic scale and doctors will get you to fill in a very, very detailed form which will show them via all of your symptoms, roughly where you probably are in your perimenopausal journey.
Yeah. And I know that there are lots of apps out there that enable you to do this. I just wonder if you’ve got any recommendations, any apps that you really like or that really work and help you because it’s all very well tracking the symptoms or what I’d really want from an app is, oh, you’ve got this. That means it’s this hormone, like to translate that information meaningful rather than just you just go, oh right, I’m just, I get really angry on it, whatever it is, to kind of turn into something useful. Are there any apps that help?
Balance app is very good. So the balance app was developed by Newson Health. It’s kind of like the initial one, the first one, and it’s great. I would recommend the Balance app to just to track your cycles and things and just getting to know a little bit. I mean, you can just go and look on, I mean, I’ve got lots of articles on what these hormones do. It’s just important to know that progesterone, it’s your mood regulating, calming chill hormone. So if you’re feeling like you’re going to kill somebody or you’re going to throw a chair through the window, or you find yourself just screaming at the kids and then going, oh, my God, where did that monster erupt from? Then it’s probably that you are low on progesterone and we really need to look at caring for your adrenal glands. So your adrenal glands can be producing the progesterone that your ovaries are no longer producing. Does that make sense?
Whereas oestrogen is our focus, it’s our drive, it’s our energy, it’s our get up and go. It’s the elastic in our skin, it’s the ability to respond to a bit of impact and not wear your pants or the detrusor muscles of the bladder to not be inappropriately spasming and making you have urgent continents. Oestrogen does so many, it keeps the heart pliable. It’s an essential hormone to keep our bones growing. It’s absolutely essential for our brain. So if you’re suffering more from issues around dryness, depletion, itchiness of the skin, dryness and itchiness of the eyes and mouth. Yes. Inability to sleep as well, then it might be that oestrogen is the main problem. I’m just going to caveat that by saying progesterone and oestrogen, they work like the sisters that fight, but essentially they fundamentally need each other. So they work well when they are in balance. When we are premenopausal, so not peri, but pre. So when we’re just ovulating every month beautifully, then we’ve got very high levels of oestrogen and pretty high levels of progesterone. And they just, we are changing constantly, but they’re pretty balanced. And then we go into if we’ve had a baby, we go into this postnatal period and they both plummet down, but especially progesterone. And it’s the differential, this is the tricky bit. It’s the differential between oestrogen and progesterone. So if they’re not nice and balanced and close together, if one’s up high and one’s down low and it’s normally oestrogen that’s higher and progesterone that’s lower, that’s normally the case. It’s that differential which causes most of the symptoms that women will recognise as being perimenopausal. So this is what happens when we go into early perimenopause. I’m going to say postnatal is, say late 30s, early 40s. Give us another year or so and we’re in perimenopause. Perimenopause, the progesterone drops down first and around about 45, roughly, sometimes 43, 44. That’s when the oestrogen starts to go, one more baby. No, one more baby. No, one more baby. And when the oestrogen is high and the progesterone is low, it’s those days, but it’s that time which is really difficult. So one of the things that women who are especially those experiencing real mood issues, depression in a postnatal stage and who are in maybe late 30s, early 40s, going to the GP, it would be worth talking about perimenopausal issues and maybe supplementing progesterone. So these days we can get body identical progesterone. It is exactly the same molecular structure as the progesterone that we produce ourselves from our ovaries or adrenal glands. It’s not a progestogen, so it’s not the same as what’s in the pill or in the coil, which is a progestogen. It’s a synthetic version. So progesterone, it’s supplied in the UK as a product called Utrogestan. It’s micronised means basically, it’s bashed into tiny, tiny, tiny little pieces, little capsule, and it can be taken orally or intra, vaginally, up the vagina, and that can supplement, it can bring up your levels of natural your natural levels of progesterone, so that there isn’t such a differential between the oestrogen and the progesterone. That is going to help with mood disorders, anxiety, heart palpitations, insomnia, depressive feelings, because we’re actually working at the hormonal level. Whereas an antidepressant, it can help. It can help, but it’s not actually a long term solution, if you like. So really important to work with a GP who understands women’s health and has been kind of recently trained in women’s health and understanding that it’s highly likely if you’re an older mum, that you are going straight into perimenopause.
So to recap, it’s really about tracking your symptoms. It’s really about really upping that self awareness so that you’re able to discern. Because I’m just here, when you think about depression or anxiety, there’s life that creates that kind of stuff as well. So how do you discern that the thing that you’re feeling is a hormonal led situation versus a you’ve actually just got healing to do and stuff like that? How do you figure that out right?
This is what I assume is the paradigm shift. And I like to say my kind of motto is being in control of letting go of being in control.
Which is the birth thing. Right. That’s a whole birth thing anyway. Yeah.
To be honest, if you’re going to be, later on in life having a baby, it’s likely not necessarily, but it’s likely that you have had a career. You are having a career, you’re a busy woman, you’re used to juggling all the balls. Likely that you’re somebody who’s used to being in control and getting things done, and then you’ve been busy, busy, busy. And then it’s like and you know what? I think I would like to have a child as well. In my experience, and including myself here, when you have, and we’ll say, A type personalities, even though that’s bollocks, isn’t it? But if you’re used to being in control of a situation, suddenly you might be the CEO of a big company and suddenly you’re in a situation. We’ve got this little scrap of a little person who shows you very dramatically that you have no control. Actually, that was a total illusion. It can be such a shattering of the ego. And when you’re dealing with that kind of shattering of the ego and you’re also deeply sleep deprived it can lead to a full on breakdown of who you think that you are in this life. That’s why if I could just talk to every woman going into perimenopause and just say girlfriend, this is not a time to smash the glass ceilings and to push through you have nothing to prove. This is the time to deeply and holistically revere your female form. Be thankful that you have managed your body. This extraordinary the trillions and trillions of cells, the condensed energy that makes up this physical manifestation that you’re inhabiting in this lifetime has created a human being. Now that’s huge. To expect yourself to also then be running your business and potentially looking after other children and older parents and running your social media account and doing all the WhatsApp groups with school and having all of these tabs open and your adrenal glands, which have not changed how they operate. Neither have your ovaries for 300,000 years. They don’t know about all of this stuff. They just see it as stress. Stress, stress, stress, stress, stress, stress, stress, stress. You’ve got so much stress going on girlfriend right now that the adrenal glands are going we have to keep on pushing out cortisol and adrenaline and cortisol and adrenaline and cortisol and adrenaline and we are in this totally revved never turning off state. Totally, totally revved and the trouble is there’s this thing called pregnant alone steel so your adrenal glands once the ovaries start to shut up shop so once they start to diminish their production fair enough. They’ve been popping out those eggs month after month for decades and they are now slowing down. They don’t have as many eggs to pop out anymore so they’re starting to shut up shop. Your adrenal glands need to be nourished and looked after and revered. And instead the adrenals, the pregnenolone, which is the master hormone, if you like, that the adrenal glands produce that pregnant alone either goes to creating progesterone and oestrogen testosterone. Or if you’re it’s going to keep pushing out cortisol and adrenaline instead, and you’re not going to get that really essential oestrogen and progesterone. So not only have your ovaries shut up shot but your adrenal glands are not taking over the job like they should be. So it’s more for us. It’s more for us because we are still being hoodwinked by society to think that we should be little men and have a baby and we should be men in a skirt who are able to work at a level constantly and not understand that what we are doing is we are going into adrenal revving and fatigue. So we have a tiny bit of testosterone that we produce in the middle of our cycle if we ovulate about a 10th of the testosterone that men produce. Men produce testosterone every 15 minutes consistently up until about. 70. And that’s what gives them the ability to constantly go get up at 09:00 and go to work and work through till six or whatever and be whereas with a woman, we have this extraordinary flux through a normal cycle, which is completely shafted once we get to perimenopause. But through a normal cycle, once you’ve just had your period and your oestrogen is soaring, most women for those first couple of weeks before ovulation, they’re like, on it. We can get 200% done in those times. We can get all the stuff done. We’re very sharp here and then we ovulate, and then we go into this progesterone time of being as we’re going towards our periods. And that’s not the time to be pushing through, especially right before your period. That’s the time where we can be creative, we can come up with extraordinary out of the box solutions to things, but it is not the time to be trying to be really articulate in meetings and boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. By understanding your cycle and the general cycle, understanding what these key hormones allow us to do, understanding our extraordinarily unique female hormonal makeup and actually shifting into I’m not going to keep being that pushing forward woman who basically tries to be a small man because that’s what society has asked of us. And instead of insisting all of us need to do it together, we’ve got to all help each other out, insisting that rewrite the playing field, we create a new playing field for women’s bodies and our brains. And this transition time, this decade, if we don’t get it right, the rest of our life is going to be hard. If we do get it right, we can enjoy that second spring. That’s when we can change the world, that’s when we can really make a huge difference. Because our hormones, yes, they’re lower, but they go back into balance again.
And it sounds to me like actually you need to be. Whether or not you’re in your late 30s, early 40s, tracking your cycle and being aware of these hormones and how they impact you is something that all women, the minute they start bleeding, should start that process, because it just raises their own level of self awareness and how they need to change and adapt and flux with their cycle. If you start preparing for birth two months before birth, you’ve left it too late. You need to start thinking about it before you’re pregnant. You need to start planning for pregnancy before you’re pregnant. You need to start planning for this before it happens because suddenly you’re learning. You’re having to do a huge steep learning curve while getting stressed and the hormones are battering you because they’re now out of balance. And you’re like, oh. Whereas if you start in your 20s doing this, then by the time it’s coming around, you’re like, oh, yeah, no, this hormone is out of whack. I know what’s going on here and you can get the heads up, whereas otherwise you’re chasing your tail. That’s the sense I’m getting with what you’re saying.
I think it’s changing quite dramatically. I look at my 18 year old daughter and I’ve got an eleven year old daughter as well. The conversations around women’s health, I mean, obviously this is what I teach, so they hear about this all the time. My daughter tracks her cycle automatically, so do all her friends. It’s just something they do. Whereas I know I’m 51 now and I remember when I first started my circles, I was deeply embarrassed. I mean, I literally put my hands in my ears and was like, no, I wouldn’t listen to anything that my mum tried to tell me. I was so set on basically diminishing and suppressing anything feminine about me because I wanted to work in advertising and it was a man’s world and I needed to be as masculine as possible and just forget about that diminishing kind of woman’s stuff. Whereas I think this generation, the new generation coming through, are way more open to, and so are men, obviously, as well, the beauty of being a woman. And I think unfortunately, we’re having to play catch up and the women just a decade behind me are also having to play catch up. It’s crazy. There’s only in the last couple of years, and I mean literally since me too, in 2018, that there has been funding for research on the female brain in the life stage, as opposed to just assuming we are little men.
I mean, that’s mind blowing, isn’t it?
And so much information has only been coming out now. I mean, it’s just the fact that vaginal oestrogen has only just come out on prescription here in the UK, so not on prescription where you can get it over the counter here in the UK in the last few means, this is something that almost all women will really, really benefit from. It’s not systemic, it does not go into the bloodstream, it just works on the localised area. But the difference it makes for women who are suffering with stress, incontinence or urgency or urgent continents, who’ve got prolapse organs, who have got scar tissue from an episiotomy or tearing, which is becoming hard to deal with once we start to lose our ovarian oestrogen. Many, many women, I’d say 80% plus women start to deal with pelvic floor dysfunction. Now to get some oestrogen back into the area. Intruder vaginally around the vulva and around the sphincter muscles can make a life changing difference. It can literally mean the difference between a woman not leaving her house and having a fully functional life. And yet it’s only just now comes something that you don’t have to try and get. And most GPS didn’t even know that they could prescribe it or didn’t even know what it did until now. We’re starting to get specialist training for GPS in medical school but it only got mandated last year. It’s a cutting edge topic. It shouldn’t be embarrassingly terrible, but it is. I’ve just jotted down a couple of things that I think that I’d love. Midlife woman. I’m going to say midlife woman for when you’re in your late 30s, early 40s, you kind of midlife should be on your radar. One adrenal care. Yeah. So adrenal care focuses completely away from getting skinny again, looking a certain way and focusing on adrenal care. Your adrenal glands are your primary focus. Adrenal care means what I was talking about before, getting away from being in the rev state where we’re pushing out the cortisol adrenaline and getting into a state where we go into the parasympathetic nervous system. So when we’re in that rev state, it’s the sympathetic nervous system and we have mastery over it’s called the autonomic nervous system, but actually we have mastery over it. We can go into that parasympathetic nervous system and that’s when our adrenals are able to go and start to produce the calming progesterone and they need oestrogen.
The adrenals can’t produce both. They’re either on an adrenaline mission or they’re on the other hormone mission. So you need to make sure that you are nurturing them because they can’t do both. Is that right?
Yeah. So it’s a bit more nuanced than that, but let’s just keep that. So things like extending your exhalation with low vibrational toning. So basically humming or singing, anything that is extending that exhalation is toning your vagus nerve. And the vagus nerve goes from the brain, it goes down through all of the organs of the body. It does not ever get activated if we are breathing, shallow breathing or mouth breathing. It gets activated when we extend the exhalation. When you’re sitting around the fire 300,000 years ago and you’ve done your kill and you’re safe and you’re in your tribe and you’re digesting your food, you’re going to be slow breathing. Yeah, like a baby slow breathing. Elephants slow breathe. Tortoises slow breathe. They live forever. Monkeys breathe really fast and that’s why they don’t live very long. But when you are running from the sabre tooth tiger, when you are fighting, when you are in modern life, when you have got all the tabs open, metaphorically and literally, that’s when we’re in that sympathetic system and we don’t extend our exhalation. We’re fast breathing. So slowing down your breathing rate, learning how to breathe properly, learning how to diaphragmatically breathe, if you know you’re a chest breather, if you know you’re a mouth breather, if you know that you’re habitually. Head forward, like go, go, shoulders rounded. Then sort out your posture. Sort out your breathing. Slow your breathing down. Use the buzzy bee breath. Use the if you got a new baby, use your calm the baby calm yourself. Honestly. That’s the key. It’s really easy. That is the key to getting yourself into that parasympathetic nervous system. Yoga nidra, which is in yoga. Yoga sleep yoga. Nidra means taking yourself for 20 minutes, naps, where you have a guided relaxation, taking you into a deep state of rest, into that parasympathetic nervous system and then bringing you back up again. So you’re not going into sleep, it’s called conscious rest. So you are consciously taking yourself into a state where you are deeply replenishing, deeply replenishing at a cellular level and then coming back up. That is so nourishing for the Adrenals. So especially as a new mum, as you know, bub goes to sleep, you might need to do a little bit of movement. And you know we are animals at the end of the day, so if we’ve got adrenaline pumping through us, we need to release it, literally, shake it out like an animal does. So you might need to do a bit of yoga, a bit of dancing, a bit of just literally shaking. Get out for a walk in nature. If you’ve got someone else to mind the baby for a bit, something that will just release the adrenaline and then resting restorative in a pose just 20 minutes or legs up the wall and extending that exhalation, going into that conscious rest. It doesn’t take much. It does not take much and it’s one of those things, the more you practise it, the easier it is. It’s cumulative. So literally, the more you practise the restorative relaxation response, the faster you can go down into it. Two is nutrition for hormones. So basically you got to start looking at intermittent fasting for women. There’s a lady called Dr. Mindy Pelz who’s an American clinical nutritionist and she talks in great detail about intermittent fasting for women’s health. So our hormonal profile, so basically not snacking late and eating breakfast early, but giving your gut a chance to rest overnight to get the gut biome working as well as possible, because of course our gut biome is so correlated with the oestrogen that we’re producing and progesterone that we’re producing as well. So giving your gut a chance to rest overnight and then when you are eating progesterone, needs quality carbohydrates to be produced. So we need quality carbohydrates. Like I always say, quinol, but I know it’s, other people say quinoa, sweet potato. So good quality carbohydrates. If you’re going to have carbohydrates, it’s not fish and chips, it’s good quality carbohydrates. And then oestrogen actually thrives in a low insulin environment. So making sure you have really good quality protein and we should be having about 30 grams of protein per meal, that’s quite a lot. It’s like a big slab of salmon. Really good quality, good fats. So, you know, before I was talking about the pregnant alone. The Adrenals produce the pregnant lone. So that precursor hormone that will either then produce cortisol or progesterone. And oestrogen, pregnant alone is created by cholesterol. So you need to be having good fats like eggs and salmon and avocados and tons of olive oil in order to create the pregnant alone, that’s going to help you create those hormones. So nutrient dense, good fats, lots of good fiber. So the other thing to know is that if we’re constipated constipation is the number one driver of incontinence issues of bladder incontinence, but it’s also issues we get late in trial 40s. If you’re constipated, we tend to then reabsorb oestrogen, use it and then lose it. We need to be able to detoxify it by pooing it out. And if we’re not, it can be reabsorbed. And then we can find that that differential between the oestrogen and the progesterone gets worse and worse and worse and worse, and symptoms get worse and worse and worse and worse. Getting enough good fibre in the diet in order to make sure that a cup of linseed in the morning with water, very helpful. So number three is do less to do more. So it is the opposite of what we have been taught. If you’re finding yourself that you do have enough energy to and you’re suddenly like, wow, I need to lose this baby weight, which I would say, please just park that. It took nine months to create this baby. Give yourself two years at least in order to lose that weight. It’s much more important that you focus on building your health. But because of the whole Adrenal thing, because of the pushing out of a cortisol, when you’re pushing out cortisol, you have insulin spikes, and it’s those insulin spikes when you’re becoming insulin resistance, which is putting that band of fat around the midsection, which a lot of perimenopause women experience. By doing that conscious rest thing that I’ve just been talking about, by gifting yourself times where your Adrenals are calming down, you’re going to find that you’re going to lose weight doing that way more than in the hour you’ve got off each week. You go, right, I’m going to hit the gym or I’m going to go on a five or ten k run or I’m going to go to a hit class. And then on top of already stressed Adrenals, you’re putting what you think should be exercise, relaxation, but it’s not. It’s actually quite stressful and it’s just pushing up those levels of cortisol even more, pushing up the insulin even more.
So what about like a walk in nature, for example? That’s still going to be good for you, but that’s not going to be stressful or hardcore, but it’s also not conscious resting. But I’m just wondering because you’re not sort of lying on the floor.
Especially if as you’re walking, you’re actually in your senses. You’re looking at the leaves as you pass them. You’re absorbing the colour, you’re smelling the earth, you’re seeing the trees. You’re being absolutely in the senses. That’s incredibly enlivening and deeply replenishing, deeply restful. So, yes, walking in nature, getting out in nature, doing yoga outside, I reckon I’m stronger now in my 50s than I probably ever have even when I was a gym bunny. I mean, yoga can be deeply restorative, but it can be incredibly strengthening, bone enhancing, muscle enhancing yoga and isometric pilates and be very consciously regulating your breath. So you are calming your adrenals breathing beautifully and you’re doing extraordinarily powerful stuff. So I only ever do about ten minutes a day, that’s it. And then I walk out in nature. But I reckon that being smart about it just working smarter, not harder, that’s the key.
So you basically don’t want to break out into a sweat is what I’m hearing.
Look, no, that’s not true. That’s not true. But in an ideal world, if you are doing a fitness thing, if you’re not sleeping 6 hours a night, your baby is still waking up regularly for feeds and stuff, it’s not the time to be doing stuff that’s going to stress your adrenals. But if you’re a bit further down the track, if you’ve already built up your good Pelvic floor and deep core strength again and you can cope with intra abdominal pressure downwards, then by adding in intermittent exercise where for like 20 seconds on, you’re spiking your heart rate up and then you’re taking your heart rate right down. So you’re going sympathetic nervous system, parasympathetic nervous system sympathetic nervous system, parasympathetic nervous system so I’ve developed this thing called Half a hit. So it’s basically a 30 minutes blast class. And that’s what we do. We do cross patterning for the brain, lots of balance work, bring the heart rate right up with exercises and then drop it right down into deep stretches, slowing the breath and then going back up to breath where we’re activating deep core muscles and then down again. And it is good to do little short bursts of exercise as long as it’s followed with adrenal calming. Does that make sense?
So what I want to be doing is going for an hour run on the treadmill. That’s the worst thing you could do. Don’t do that.
I’ve had some friends say that she started training for a marathon. I think she’s like early forties and she put on a ton of weight when she started training for the marathon. So that’s the kind of response that you’re talking about, which is that stress and the body’s like what the hell’s going on? I need to protect myself.
I’ve got a group of mums that I run with sometimes and it’s really interesting. The more the midlife ones are running, the more of a box their physical shape looks like, the more they’re losing their waist and the more weight they’re putting on actually, overall. And that’s the thing, understand that our hormones at this stage of our life is totally different. What worked when you’re in your twenties and thirties, the whole eating less calories in order to lose weight, that does not work. Now, if you’re not feeding those key hormones with good fats. We need a lot of good fats in order to create those hormones. We really need way more good fats in the diet. Like I said before, not fish and chips. We’re talking about avocados, your salmons, your olive oil is brilliant put on everything. If we’re not doing that satiating ourselves, then we’re going to be spiking insulin. And you might be in calorie deficit, but you’re going to put on weight as soon as you eat anything. Your body’s got to go. It’s a total rewiring. It’s a total paradigm shift on woman’s health and fitness. And it’s got to be, I believe it’s got to be an acceptance process. And yoga is called santosha. Santosha literally means sitting with what is now, like being in total acceptance of what is now. Not wishing for something else, not yearning for the past, not projecting into what you would like the future to be, but sitting at what is right now. And that acceptance that Santosha is the key ingredient to change. Because once you sit with this is the body, this is the brain, now what can I do to enhance the way my body wants to operate is naturally wanting to operate. And it’s not trying to be a little man. It’s not revering, revering your womanhood. Exactly.
And all those things you’ve described, like, I’m going through this phase where the things that used to work don’t work anymore. And so I’ve started intermittent fasting, so really extending that fasting window as much as I can, doing those walks in nature. Dr. Mindy Pelts, I think she’s got a really good book out called Fast Like a Girl. She’s got a really great YouTube channel for anybody who wants to learn more about all of this, which is really great. But all these things that used to work for me just don’t work. And it’s taken a lot of me just going hang on a know, tracking everything a lot more closely and doing the calorie deficit, doing more exercise. I was like, hang on a minute. Normally this would like my weight would be dropping off right now, and it’s not. So yeah, I’ve been incorporating some of these things that you’ve been describing. It’s a suck it and see thing. You’ve got to kind of try that. Oh, that’s not working. Try that. Okay. And it’s this constant, pivoting, shifting learning, because what might work for somebody else isn’t necessarily going to work for me. So I’m now tracking everything like crazy and just learning. But I think that acceptance piece is really important because, yeah, it’s like, okay, I am not going to get back into those genes. They’re not even pre baby genes. I’m changing as a woman, and that’s okay. And accepting that rather than trying to be ten years behind me in my life, it’s like I have evolved, I’m different. That’s been an inner work piece, not a physical, not a diet, not running, whatever it is that’s been, okay, this is who I am. That’s, I think, a huge part of that process. Because when you can accept yourself for who you are, then you’re just happier with the way you are. So you’re not trying to do all this stuff. You can just think, okay, I’ve got a really busy time right now, and what I should do is go and go crazy and do the go go, but no, I’m not. I’m going to go for a walk in nature.
Which I am going to achieve, by the rule, on my to do list. But actually, I need this. And that’s where I’m getting my insights, my intuition, my shortcuts come in, my inspiration. For that, I’m very grateful. And yet it’s required a huge step change in how I manage my life. So, yeah, listening to you saying all this stuff, I can resonate it all resonates with me. And I’m definitely still on that learning journey. And I think I should start tracking some of this stuff sooner, actually. But that’s why I want to encourage listeners to really start familiarising themselves with their cycle sooner, making friends with their cycle. Not kind of thinking, oh my God, it’s my period. Oh, my God, just go like, I’m going to be out for a week now, just leave me alone. It’s accepting that this is an important part of your womanhood.
I heard this expression years ago and it just has stayed with me. “There is freedom in surrender.” Yes, that surrender. So in yoga, there’s a word called Ishvara pranidhana, which I love to say, and it literally means if we set where we want to go, roughly, we have this idea of how we want to feel in ourselves. And we make conscious choices to take ourselves along that path, knowing that sometimes the path might zigzag all over the place. But we’re making conscious choices and we’re doing daily practices, daily things that are going to help us move towards that vision that we have of ourselves. So it might be starting the day with hot water, doing five squats after we’ve been to the loo, trying to tune in to do a 15 minutes yoga nidra once a day, or in CBT, whatever it is. We’ve chosen our things, we’re doing our things, getting out into nature walking, but ultimately, it’s not with grasping onto a certain outcome, getting back into those skinny jeans or whatever it is, it’s not then I’ll be happy. It’s going with an open palm and kind of giving over to something that’s bigger than ourselves, something that is that collective consciousness, the co-creation with the universe, the Mother Nature, God, whatever you want to call. In yoga, we say the little self and the big self. Our connection with all that is in Ishvara pranidhana, is that ability, which I feel is so feminine, of giving over with an open hand grace, having the grace to not be holding and controlling everything. And that’s why it gets back to that being in control, of letting go, of being in control and control the controllables. Control what you choose to do for movement. Control the people that you choose to be around. If people are toxic and they make you feel exhausted, spend more time with people that bring, you know what you do when Baba does go down for sleep, do you actually need to do all the tidying up then? Do you need to necessarily do those emails right now? Do you need to be doing your website right now or could you go for the first 20 minutes? I’m going to go into a yoga nidra. I’m going to do a deep rest. It’s a paradigm shift and it’s huge because we have been conditioned from birth, most of us, that our busyness equals our worthiness, to take off that hat and consciously set it aside and sit with the fact that you essentially, as a woman, are enough, just as you are, and that you’re more than enough. And if you’ve just had a baby, you literally create a human being. You are perpetuating the human race. That’s more than enough.
Is there anything more that needs to be said, Linda? I don’t know. I think you said it all.
Apart from the fact that I’ve got thebathroombootcamp.com which is free. And if you want to just get into little bits of exercise, little bits of movement, which can be very helpful for your posture and your pelvic floor, then grab that, because those exercises do work. I’ve got a nice guided meditation. It’s not a yoga nidra, it’s just a nice guided meditation for women who are postnatal and in that perimenopause phase, who just focused around the centre of our being, around the pelvis. And this is a nice way to relax. So if you like, I can send you the link to have a listen.
And where can people find you, Linda, if they want to track you down and go, I love what she’s saying. I love her. Where is she? Where are you?
I’m all over the place. So I’ve got my umbrella website, which is lindastephens with a ph. lindastephenswellbeing.com. So there you can go through to I’ve got womenswellbeing.me, which is where I teach online. And I’ve got a huge plethora of information and interviews with health professionals and all of my different yoga classes and things in womenswellbeing.me. And I’ve also linked through to yogamums.net, which is for birth training and postnatal recovery courses and the like. I run retreats, wellbeing retreats and workshops. So most of the stuff is all linked through Linda Stevens well being.
Wonderful. Well, you’re going to send me all the links, so I’m going to have all the links in the podcast, show notes and links of your meditation. We can also let people know that I’m sure they’re going to want to track that down as well. So thank you, Linda, for joining me on the podcast. It’s been brilliant. Thank you.
Thank you for having me. It’s always such a pleasure.
You’ve been listening to the Fear Free Childbirth podcast with me, Alexia Leachman. Fear Free Childbirth is the online destination for women seeking to take the fear out of pregnancy, birth and beyond with fear clearance, meditations, self healing products and courses, professional training and specialist programs for overcoming tokophobia. And if you’ve enjoyed this episode, then check out the Fear Free Childbirth Mamaship. It’s a bit like Netflix where you can binge on a boatload. More Fear Free Childbirth content to inspire you on the journey to motherhood and beyond. More interviews, more birth stories? More expert wisdom? Visit fearfreechildbirth.com to find out more.