'It's such a taboo, no one talks about it': Yorkshire woman helps launch Menopause poster campaign after years of pain went undiagnosed
Clare Shepherd, 65, from Sheffield, has helped create the 'Pausitivity' movement to empower women to know what is going on with their bodies.
It comes after Clare spent years with symptoms so bad that she would often double over in pain - but doctors were unable to diagnose what was happening.
Mrs Shepherd said: "I'd seen several doctors over several years with a whole range of symptoms. They kept saying 'we'll try this' or 'we'll do this test' but the pain just got worse and worse.
"It was frustrating because I didn't know what was happening to me.
"To know that something was going on in my body but no one can help you find out what it is is just awful.
"I remember one time I was driving and I was honestly so scared that I would crash my car because the pain was severe."
"It was only a chance meeting with a friend who suggested it would be a good idea to get my hormones checked. So I went to see a private doctor and they confirmed I was menopausal and had endometriosis."
Clare's menopause had arrived when she was in her early 30s, just after the birth of her second daughter.
However, it took seven years and seven doctors for her to get her diagnosis.
During that time she was offered beta-blockers, the contraceptive pill, sent for scans and, at one point, even told it was the “baby blues".
Clare believes that the doctors never even considered it could be a hormonal problem due to her age and lack of one famous symptom - the hot flush.
The mum-of-two said: "I was too young for them to even consider that it was menopause.
"I'd never had hot flushes either which is on the GP check-list for menopause but that's a common misconception because a lot of women never get hot flushes.
"So by the time I was diagnosed the endometriosis was so bad that I had to have a full hysterectomy. This meant I would go through the surgical menopause.
It was during this time that Clare decided to retrain as a nutritional therapist, to learn how to manage her symptoms naturally and also help other women going through the menopause, so that they don't suffer as she did.
She now runs her own business called Your New Life Plan, which offers holistic, tailored nutrition programmes for menopausal women.
However, Clare believes that, despite having gone through her early menopause more than 25 years ago and having successfully run her business for years, nothing has changed.
She thinks that GPs and women are still ignorant of what the menopause is.
She said: "Nothing has changed. Doctors and women alike are ignorant of menopause, the symptoms, and how to best manage them.
"It's such a taboo subject.
"It's something that is just not talked about even though half of the world are women. There's such ignorance about it.
"GP's aren't adequately trained in it. Many women have told me that they are disappointed in how they were treated by GPs."
It is this issue that she was discussing online with two strangers that prompted the 'Pausitivity' campaign.
She said: "I got involved in a conversation on Twitter and we were talking about how dreadful it is that women struggle and that there is so much happening that people don't understand
"We were angry and frustrated that there is so little consistent information available to women introducing them to the symptoms of menopause.
"From that, the Pausitivity team was born.
"We designed a poster titled 'Know Your Menopause' which outlines the symptoms of the menopause and we began our campaign to get it into every doctor's surgery in the UK.
"Just knowing the symptoms will inform and empower women to go to their GP armed with some knowledge of their own body.
"It's a disagrace that women's health is swept under the rug by the NHS.
"However, we've made progress with PCOS, endometriosis and now we're noise is being made about the menopause.
"Women will get this sorted. All women need to know that there is help and they don't have to go through the menopause alone."
Clare Shepherd is a finalist in the Inspirational Women of Sheffield Awards 2020, sponsored by JPIMedia.
She is up for The Dr Helen Mary Wilson Award for Health.
The awards will take place on International Women's Day on Sunday, March 8.