40 OVER 40 Kate Muir

July 23, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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#13

Kate Muir

Journalist and TV Producer

 

Kate Muir 29 copy 2Kate Muir 29 copy 2

 

I am so excited to introduce you to the next woman in my 40 OVER 40 project.  This is Kate Muir.  She's a journalist, documentary maker and author and is on a mission to educate anyone who will listen about women's health.  

If you watched the ground breaking documentaries with Davina McCall about the menopause and contraceptive pill then this is the woman you have to thank for it.  She'd never even made a documentary before but was so spurred on by the complete lack of reliable information out there that she decided to take matters into her own hands.  She and Davina have played a significant role in the huge increase in women taking HRT, medication that has personally saved my sanity and quite possibly my marriage.  What a woman.

Her book, Everything You Need to Know About the Menopause (but were too afraid to ask) is out now in paperback and she has a new book all about the contraceptive pill coming soon. 

Read on to find out more about Kate and see the photographs I took during our wonderful session together, including one of her gorgeous dog, Skye!

Thank you Kate for being part of this project.

 

Kate MuirKate Muir by Jenny Smith

 

Can you tell me how the menopause documentary came about?  What was your own experience like?

The documentary came out of my own peri/menopause disaster eight years ago, which was not just a car crash but a full Thelma and Louise off-the-cliff experience. In particular, I had no idea that 1) not remembering ordinary nouns and 2) having heart palpitations and anxiety attacks at 4am could be cured almost instantly by taking hormone replacement therapy. There was very little information out there then, and nothing on the safer profile of body-identical transdermal HRT, plus the mental health aspect of menopause just wasn’t talked about enough. So I decided to make a documentary, never having made one before. We got turned down twice by broadcasters and third time lucky, Channel 4 came on board. After the production crashed in lockdown, I asked Davina McCall if she wanted to present. We had an hour-long conversation about both our menopause experiences while she was driving home, and by the time she parked, she said: “Yes. I’ll do it!”. We made two documentaries, and since the first one came out in 2021, a million more women have gone on HRT in the UK, not just due to us, but a massive, rising menopause movement.

 

Kate MuirKate Muirby Jenny Smith

 

Are there any stories from other women that stand out in your mind since researching the menopause?

The first story I heard, which made me make the documentary, was from Dr Louise Newson – who was sorting out my HRT – and she told me about one of her patients, a nursery school teacher, who was diagnosed with “treatment-resistant” depression in her forties. The teacher also had symptoms like vaginal dryness and urinary tract infections, but those weren’t picked up. She was given various anti-depressants for a year, and when that failed she was diagnosed by a locum as bi-polar and sent as an outpatient to a mental hospital where she was given 12 sessions of Electroconvulsive Therapy, ECT, on her brain. Afterwards, she became completely agraphobic and couldn’t leave the house. After seven years of struggling, she Googled hormones and depression, bought a motorhome so her husband could drive her safely to see Dr Newson, and got HRT. A week later, her hormonal depression started to lift and she walked her dog for the first time in years. I was horrified at the lack of knowledge around hormonal depression, and I decided to write a book too.

 

Kate MuirKate Muirby Jenny Smith

 

 

What menopause myths have you heard?

That “menopause is a transition that goes away”, when in fact your hormones never come back and your body remains depleted forever, unless you use HRT. Even if you don’t want to use HRT or can’t because of an underlying condition, this massive change needs some extra care, with improved nutrition and exercise. Herbs will never take the place of hormones. 

“HRT causes breast cancer” – there is a small increase in breast cancer risk on the old oral HRT made with synthetic progestins, but NO increased risk of breast cancer has been shown with the new body-identical estrogen and micronised progesterone. 

 

What words of wisdom do you have for other women entering their menopausal years?

Get wise. Don’t trust the headlines. Go to trusted sources backed by the latest science like the free Balance menopause app or website. And once you’re sorted, remember that menopause is about metamorphosis, not misery. I used to feel like a clapped-out banger when I was in perimenopause, and now I’m on body-identical HRT (estrogen, progesterone and the hormone women make most of, testosterone) I feel like a Tesla – level every day and full of energy. 

 

The new documentary and book focuses on the pill - what surprised you the most when researching this topic?  What advice do you have for women and girls thinking about going on the pill.

Again, the mental health aspect around the contraceptive pill – so many women just putting up with “feeling a bit flat” or real depression. We did a poll of 4,000 women and non-binary people which showed that 57% were worried about their mental health on hormonal contraception. What women need to know is that each pill type affects every woman very differently, and each synthetic progestin in the pill has different effects, so swapping over is really worthwhile – or trying a coil if the pill doesn’t agree with you. I’ll be explaining that in detail in the book. Don’t just keep calm and carry on. Also, The Lowdown is a brilliant contraceptive review website.

 

Kate MuirKate Muir by Jenny Smith

 

During our session you told me about a injection for men’s contraception that is being trialed, can you tell us more about that?

It’s basically a temporary, reversible vasectomy. They inject some “Vasalgel” gel into your vas deferens – the tube from the testes – and it hardens and blocks sperm but not liquid. When you want to be fertile again, the gel can be dissolved. It’s in human trials in Australia and going before the Food and Drugs Administration for further trials in America. It will be a chance to share the contraceptive burden.

 

What more do you think needs to be done in terms of menopause awareness?

Doctors and medical students need better education, and women need to be aware that body-identical HRT has a long-term protective effect on their bodies, far beyond just stopping menopause symptoms. It helps prevent osteoporosis, which one in two women get over 50. It lowers the risk of cardio-vascular disease, colon cancer, joint pain, Type 2 diabetes and dementia. A recent study in the British Medical Journal linking HRT and dementia in Denmark was mis-reported in the press – the study was on the old oral HRT with synthetic progestins and not the new, safer body-identical kind. Such an important distinction.

 

Kate MuirKate Muirby Jenny Smith

 

Personally I’ve never felt better since turning 50, what positives are there for you in terms of mid-life?

I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, and I’m on a crusade to change women’s knowledge around their own bodies and hormones, be they on HRT or the contraceptive pill. Also, I’m having a fantastic time with a new partner and a new career. 

 

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Be honest, not polite, when it really matters.

 

Anything else you’d like to share?

Get a dog

 

Kate Muir Kate Muir by Jenny Smith

 

Thank you so much Kate for being part of my 40 OVER 40 project.

 

I think it's fair to say that our hormones have affected us all at some time in our lives be it puberty, PMT, pregnancy or the menopause.  If that's you then check out my podcast, Dear Hormones, hopefully it'll make you smile. You can listen to it here.
 


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