My own story of reproductive depression follows a very typical trajectory. It commenced at the onset of puberty and premenstrual depression, post-natal illness and climacteric depression followed. As well as problems as an adolescent, I also suffered with severe post-natal depression after my first child. After the birth of my second son I experienced a psychotic episode,from which I never fully recovered.
Catastrophic effect on my state of mind
For years I struggled with acute anxiety and severe depressive episodes, which were cyclical in nature and often left me unable to work. Despite having an inkling that my problems may be hormonal in origin, they were frequently dismissed by healthcare professionals and even on occasions attributed to being psychosomatic in nature. As you can imagine, not being believed was extremely traumatic and often worsened my anxiety and panic attacks. I was also given hormonal contraceptives in both tablet and injection form, which I now know actually worsens the condition as they contain progestin (synthetic progesterone). I did not know then that I was intolerant to progestin and this had a catastrophic effect on my state of mind. Years of incorrect therapies followed which included anti-depressants, anti-psychotic medication and sedatives which were highly addictive and often pointless. I also tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and hypnosis.
During the early part of 2010 and after years of chronic fatigue and a severe decline in mental health, I came across the work of Professor John Studd. I was absolutely astonished to read about the correlation between hormones and depressive illness, and it was a real lightbulb moment and one which profoundly changed my life. By this time I was acutely unwell mentally but I was also beginning to show the signs of spinal degeneration and decreased bone density.
As soon as I realised that my symptoms were cyclical, I was able to seek out the correct treatment both for the pre-menstrual dysphoria and for the symptoms caused by the transition into the menopause, which were becoming severely problematic. I was suffering from numerous physical manifestations including severe anaemia and vertigo. Worse than that were the suicidal thoughts and crippling depression that would leave me bed ridden for two weeks each month and completely traumatised.
Once I began receiving the correct treatment I was able to manage my symptoms effectively and with astonishing results. I simply cannot tell you how life transforming it has been. I still have to have blood tests to measure my hormonal levels but on the whole I really feel now as I approach my 49th Birthday that my life has just begun.
As a result of my experience I have now dedicated my life towards helping other women with the same disorder. I’m an activist, a writer and a blogger. I am also happy to liaise with as many healthcare professionals as possible in the hope of raising awareness of this misunderstood condition. I have spoken at conferences and have appeared in many magazine and newspaper publications. My hope for the future is that all women will have access to this treatment programme and feel validated. This in itself will be both empowering and life affirming.
None of this could be possible of course without the solid professionalism of Professor John Studd and his team of specialist gynaecologists, who continue to put the spotlight on hormonal issues and the correlation with poor physical and mental health.
He has simply changed my life and the lives of thousands.
Caroline Church is author of I Blame the Hormones which is described as "Following the story of one woman battling long-term depression, her determination to root out the cause, and her ultimate discovery which freed her from its prison."
The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods ceaseFull medical glossary