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Anxious Hormones: Exploring the Links between Hormones and Mystery Driving Anxiety with Guest Kate Muir
Episode 736th July 2023 • The Driving Confidence Podcast • Kev & Tracey Field
00:00:00 00:37:33

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In this episode, Kev and Tracey dive into the topic of how hormonal fluctuations can impact our coordination, concentration, and overall driving confidence with guest Kate Muir.

We chat about:

  • The impact of hormones on anxiety, coordination, concentration and joint pain
  • Hormone fluctuations in men over the age of 50
  • The possible link between perimenopause and mystery driving anxiety

While listening to this episode, ask yourself:

  • Have you experienced symptoms related to fluctuating hormones?
  • Do you feel this has influenced your driving confidence?
  • Do you have a story to share? Let Kate know @menoscandal

Kate Muir

Kate Muir is the author of Everything You Need to Know About the Menopause and the producer of two Davina McCall menopause documentaries for Channel 4. Her next book is Everything You Need to Know About the Pill.

@Menoscandal on Instagram

@Menoscandal on Twitter

Kate's Website

Everything You Need to Know about the Menopause book

Dr Jeff Foster: Man Alive: The health problems men face and how to fix them

The Balance App: https://www.balance-menopause.com/

Channel 4 - Davina McCall: Sex, Mind and the Menopause

                    Davina McCall’s Pill Revolution

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Transcripts

Tracey Field [:

In today's episode, we're delighted to have on Kate Muir, who's the author of everything you need to know about the menopause. and the producer of two Davina McCall Menopause documentaries for Channel 4. And her next book is Everything you Need to Know about the Pill. So welcome, Kate.

Kate Muir [:

Thank you for having me on, and I'm very interested in the crossover between driving and menopause and perimenopause having experienced it myself.

Tracey Field [:

I can't wait to come back to that story, actually. Shall I give a little bit of context in here. This is us continuing with speaking to people, looking more into some of the mystery causes of driving anxiety. So those times when somebody has been driving for years maybe and then all of a sudden, apparently out of the blue, not necessarily because of something that's happened with their driving, that they say that they're hit by mystery anxiety, and that then goes on to become driving anxiety. And, we felt that hormones, perimenopause, menopause, could be a really good candidate for this.

Kate Muir [:

pause. And we did a survey of:

Kev Field [:

Well, This is as a driving instructor, this is something that I was gonna look at to ask and listen to you intently because is someone that's teaching people to drive. We will say about the sleep side of things where people are sleep deprived and how that then affects their driving. They can't concentrate properly, although they think they can. But their function is is just not quite there. And they can't do what they normally do because they're just tired. Although they don't think they are, they just can't function the way they normally do. That's as as a driver's that's one of the biggest things that when I'm training people in the fleet industry or company drivers, you know, That is one of the biggest things that I see is the sleep, and it's it's you've mentioned it there with the hormones and -- And then brain fog as well. So that idea that, actually,

Tracey Field [:

you're foggy at a time when you've gotta make really important decisions sometimes. And maybe there's something in there about that hesitancy that you get sometimes at junctions or at roundabouts or something that's a bit difficult.

Kev Field [:

That you that you normally would find quite easy. Yeah. But now what you can't is, like, Why am I why is that difficult? What why what happens?

Kate Muir [:

I mean, people have told me stories of you know, not being able to suddenly read the map and trying to read the map on their phone, and they're all blurring and not making sense to them yet. They're making a journey that they've made a number times before, and they know what to do, but they suddenly get that kind of complete panic. And the minute one kind of panic kicks then other panics kick off. And, you know, you end up not reading the map, going to Sainsbury's getting there, forgetting half your shopping, coming out, and going, Where did I put my car? Now I know that happens to people normally, but according to my Instagram, which is called meno scandal, I have over 30,000 people sending me stuff on Instagram. So it's a big conversation space. Loads of people are losing their cars all the time.

Tracey Field [:

I mean, do you hear about that? Well, I'm gonna relate it to myself.

Kev Field [:

And -- I was thinking You know, I come out and it's like, where where did I park the car? It's like, right.

Tracey Field [:

I get this is where I mean, a little tactic that I have is I always try and park in the same space. I always try and park in the same area. so that I can be a little bit on autopilot.

Kate Muir [:

I mean, that that's kind of funny, but there are people who get incredibly high levels of anxiety which take them from being, as you said, a normal driver. And I I experienced this a bit myself to not being able to drive on motorways. And finding the either driving on a motorway make them feel sick. I mean, I didn't not do it. but I absolutely had to grip my teeth, and that wasn't wasn't the case before. And during my menopause, I got divorced And so I had to basically, you know, learn to drive again. And a lot of the time, my husband have driven the car. And, you know, because I'm a woman, know, I'd sat in the passenger seat occasionally throwing you know, icelollies to the children or whatever. And so, literally, I was de-skilled as a driver. That also happens. But then I suddenly, you know, having to deal with driving separately and driving zip cars on the corner of the street, so I didn't know what car I was gonna get every day or whatever. And I remember being absolutely terrified I have to say once I went on hormone replacement therapy, which is estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, which is a female hormone, I felt much better. I felt much more confident. And I sorted out my life, and, you know, now I've got a new partner and, indeed, a new car. And, you know, my life is fine. It's fantastic now. But there was that really difficult period which involved stress of two things happening at once I think in midlife, people are not just suffering from hormones. They're suffering from their parents being ill. They're suffering from their teenage children being difficult. They're trying to keep in order. All these things, I think, throw you and if if you're not a confident driver, which I wasn't really, If you just throw me a little bit to one side, you can really throw me, off course. I don't know if that's what you find in the people who come to you.

Tracey Field [:

Yeah. Definitely. Yeah. And this what we've noticed is that when people come to us for help, it's because they have to come to us for help. So it's often when there has been a change. So you mentioned getting divorced and then having to do all of the driving instead of sharing the driving, and it tends to be when you're a married couple, you often divide the driving up with husband does a certain type of driving, and you do a certain type of driving. So that is the common one. But also when people have moved out of the city into the country, and so they can no longer rely on public transport. And another one is when people start family, So before starting a family, you often don't need to drive. You can get away with public transport and things. And then when you have a family, it's a lot easier to be able to drive yourself. So we always see it as this enforced change and that's what makes people seek help. And before then, if they don't need to change, they just sort of cover it up -- Mhmm. -- a muddle along in a way.

Kate Muir [:

Yeah. I mean, one of the things I was thinking about talking about. And it it's almost quite technical and scientific, but it really, really matters when you are going through menopause and your hormones disappear, There are hormone receptors for testosterone and estrogen and progesterone as well all over your brain. So all the different you know, always talk about them as sex hormones. No. They're not. They're far more than that in men and women. They make our brains function. And the one one of the places where there's lots of progesterone and testosterone receptors, and these hormones are going down is the cerebellum and that's coordination. It's at the back of your head, and it's your coordination, and it's your timing. I don't know to what extent That would affect your driving. What do you think?

Kev Field [:

Oh, I mean, massive. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I I would I would have said because it's the coordination part of it, isn't it? It's you know, sometimes you're going along and, you you know, you it's what are my feet doing? I have that quite you know, with people that I'm dealing with. It's like, are my feet moving? Aren't they? Why? I can't need to do this, and it's just a split second that it's and that happens.

Kate Muir [:

Yeah. I've heard that. I remember thinking, you know, a, b, c, you know, accelerates a break clutch and going, c, a, a, b, c. I'm having that I mean, not and I have been you know, I've been driving since I was 21. You know? So it it just seemed extraordinary to have that blank moment and that fear. And and, you know, I wasn't doing it in any other areas of my life in in in that same way. But, literally, a a complete disconnect of brain from feet, actually.

Kev Field [:

Yeah. I don't I don't know what they're doing. They're meant to do this, but it's and I can't move it.

Kate Muir [:

Yeah. And it's like they're fine.

Tracey Field [:

They've been working on autopilot for all these years where you have a had to give it a thought once you've got to grips with driving. And then it's almost like a stutter, isn't it, where the the autopilot has stopped and left you to think about it, and you haven't had to think about it for years.

Kate Muir [:

Yeah. And the other bit of your brain, also lots of hormone receptors. all empty suddenly is your amygdala, which, along with the hippocampus and all these things, is your center for your anxiety. which I'm sure other people have talked about. But, you know, if that is not getting the fuel it's expecting, that's why we're experiencing panic, and that's why we're experiencing panic in the middle of the night. And one of the things I didn't particularly deal with when I was driving because I mostly had hot flashes at night that Well, if you get a hot flush while you're driving. I don't know if that really, really puts you off. I mean, do you stop?

Tracey Field [:

Yeah. I'll get to ask you. Yeah. You have to and I certainly, if there's been an incident so if I've been driving and something's happened. So somebody's cut me up or I made a little mistake. Actually, you go hot and cold anyway. And, of course, as soon as you get that sort of, like, that emotional hot and cold that runs through you, that triggers a hot flash like that. And and so yeah. And it is just a case of carrying on because you have to when you driving, really. It's trying to focus your attention. at least with a hot flash if you're experienced in them is that you do know that they will pass. or certainly in my experience anyway, and I must admit I haven't I'm not at that high end of the scale that lots women talk about. So for me, in my experience, I know that my hot flashes will pass. They will probably pass. If I can focus on something else, then I might not even notice when it finishes. I certainly notice when it's there, but I don't notice it finishing.

Kate Muir [:

The other thing that happens is that women at this point in the middle of the night, they tend to catastrophize. There's very much a kind of, oh my god, I'm gonna crash the car. Oh my god, I'm not gonna be able to do this at work tomorrow. And then by the time it's sort of you get up in the morning, all that's rubbish. But in the middle of the night, you really panicking, and I wondered if that affected people as well.

Kev Field [:

Can I can I ask a question at this point? because we have this quite a lot where people associate their anxiety with driving. So something's happened while they're driving, but it's not actually the driving that caused the problem. And and there is their association with where it happened is their problem. So they although something else has happened,

Tracey Field [:

You know that? Yes. So life stress, hot flash,

Kev Field [:

sudden anxiety because of a hormone drop. And then all of a sudden, like you mentioned motorways, and it normally happens on a dual carriage mode where you going fast. And then it's like, well, I can't do that because it made me feel like this, so I'm not gonna do that. Is that the case from, I suppose, you know, your experience that they would start associating those emotions with driving?

Kate Muir [:

I think it could be I don't know about it was driving, but I know about it with the rest of life around perimenopause and menopause. And that survey I mentioned, 1 in 10 women gave up their jobs and said it was because of menopause symptoms. Now I would imagine 1 in 10 women are doing something odd in their driving quite possibly because of menopause symptoms, and it could be limiting their drive or being more careful. I mean, the other thing I I want to be clear, isn't it? That we're not worse drivers than men. In fact, we're better. We were insurers sort of think that we're we're safe or did they? But we obviously self sensor, I think, in -- Yeah. -- an important I I don't know.

Tracey Field [:

And I can't help but think that if there's 1 in 10 women giving up their jobs, there's probably more than 1 in 10 struggling with their driving in that case because to give up your job is huge. So the chances are more than 1 in 10 are struggling with their driving as a result but they might not realise whats going on. when I was reading your book at the weekend and rewatching the Davina program, what struck me was that I don't think women will be aware that that what the problem is. I I've got a feeling when we hear from people, they just say, It's a mystery. I don't understand it. They're trying to think their way out of the problem. They're trying to find solution that might then be a magic wand that they can go, oh, it was this, and that's okay.

Kate Muir [:

And, actually, even if we help them get a whole light bulb moment. Maybe I was in my forties or I was in my fifties. This could that could have been me. That might have been happening to me. not actually gonna change anything, but what it might do is give you the information and knowledge his power, isn't it? Yeah. And, obviously, for a lot of women, But women who are, you know, like, working the NHS, doing jobs with 12 hours on their feet, they're in theater. They can't stay at their desk and have a little fan there for a minute, and that's gonna solve their menopause problems. They really need to be able to remember the name of the medicine they're giving and stand up for 12 hours. And so for a lot of women, HRT hormone replacement therapy is really, really effective. And also, we were all scared of it years ago, and I go into this in my book, but the kind of hormone replacement therapy that I'm using and Devina's using and lots and lots of women in Britain are using is body identical, and it's not made out of synthetic, old estrogen from horses urine and things like that. It is made from soy, and it's a copy of your own hormone, and it does not have the cancer risk of the previous old fashioned HRT. It is a more modern gene medicine. And it's also because you just rub it in through your skin mostly, if it's the estrogen, goes straight into bloodstream. It doesn't give you clots. It doesn't do all these things. So it's really, really good, and it's not like, oh my god. You can't touch that stuff. Some women don't want to have it and can't have it, but, actually, it's it's, you know, hey. You may be prescribing in the car here. Might you could say, Could it possibly be menopause? Have you been to see your GP? Because it it's not as bad as you you think this stuff, and it's worth investigating in a way that the previous generation really didn't didn't know that. And they're only since we've understood what hormones do in our brains our bodies and our bones and our muscles that they look after all of that and not just the hot flushes. And, also, I'm thinking one of the big things that happens to women is joints joint pain back pain, you know, because estrogen is your your kind of oil in your joints, basically. And if they don't have it, a lot of women could get a stiff neck or a frozen shoulder, I expect that's also. I haven't even thought about all this is driving, but I'm thinking about it as we go along, but you maybe have people with physical pain. I don't know.

Tracey Field [:

Yeah. Definitely not been able to sort of, like, turn around and look properly over their shoulder and Yeah. I mean, you're you're not in. You you're probably the best person to ask that. It's

Kev Field [:

it's quite interesting because, you know, this is completely new to me in the case of driving. But I've now got a new perspective on it, and it isn't I normally think as as is me being a driving instructor, I normally think, is this someone being lazy that they're just not looking? But But, obviously, now I've got I've got to check on as well, I suppose. Yeah. Are they able to? Are they able to? I normally do, but it's I'm thinking slightly differently. Yeah. And I think, actually,

Tracey Field [:

and you just mentioned about, oh, prescribing in the car, bringing it up in the car. This was one of your questions. when we were talking, wasn't it? Yeah. It's like, how does

Kev Field [:

the Davina program was a revelation to me because I just never knew anything about it. So it was like, woah. And I told so many people, men, go and watch it. It's brilliant. But my question is, as a driving instructor, What is it that I can do that, you know, people are with peri menopause or menopause or you know, what can I do as a a a trainer to help them with this?

Kate Muir [:

Well, I suppose one of the things is for them to see it themselves. So I suppose you can ask them, When did this feeling of anxiety start? Was it when you were since you've been driving, or did it start 2 years or 5 years ago and what age, if you don't mind me asking, what age, are you? And, you know, they'd say, oh, I'm 47, I'm 43. And, of course, people can have menopause earlier. So 43 isn't question. 26, you get some people with very young menopause, so it's not. but it's mostly for people in their forties that you would be looking at in fifties. And I suppose also you can just say, I've done a podcast with this crazy woman who's written a menopause book. What do you think about that? We were talking about it, and then you're not making it personal to them, are you? But, you know, or you could say, you know, we've been reading this book or whatever. Or you can say, did you see the Davina documentaries? Who knew it did that to your brain? And I suppose by generalizing it and not kind of poking at someone, and then if they say you can say, we'll look here great resources. Why don't you read a book and see if any of it's gonna help, make a call to your doctor? And then because they talked to a car then because it's very intimate space a car. It's like being a hairdresser, isn't it? Because they've had to trust you And they all you also have to get on quite well. So it's it's maybe a space that you can use in it in a kind of really good way,

Kev Field [:

Yeah. Yeah. You are.

Kate Muir [:

I was thinking about because I noticing this because of pills, so I'm doing lots of stuff on a premenstrual syndrome and all the hormones going up and down during the normal cycle of a woman, and I was remembering I I had an early job when I was a student working in a hospital on a giant dishwasher that was a bit like a conveyor belt in the airport, and all the dishes were going around. And just in the couple of days before my period, when I was on that dishwashing machine, I just smashed plates all the time. Right? And after what we thought, around the second month, you know, let's just keep her off the dish washing machine for those couple of days before her periods and there weren't so many plates smashed. But I wonder, there's my coordination. There's my driving. It's affected by my hormones. If I'm a plate smasher, what could I be a bad driver on those 2 days I suspect so. I suspect that our coordination because, you know, estrogen and testosterone are going up and down, and they they definitely do affect your cooperation. You know? because those are the days you want to sort of hide under the duvet and stay at home. And it's worse for some people than others, and it's people some people are fine, but some people, obviously, people like me get affected by it. Not seriously, but, you know, It was clear that I was not handling things well.

Kev Field [:

Stay away from the plates. Stay away from the plates.

Tracey Field [:

And when I watched the pill revolution at the weekend, so they were saying then that when women are going on the contraceptive pill, that a third of them were reporting possible anxiety, low mood, depression. So when you combine women on the contraceptive pill, women going through perimenopause, and menopause That's a lot of hormonal anxiety going on that could affect our roads. And I also know that it's not just women, is it? So you mentioned Kate before we press record, but also some men.

Kate Muir [:

Well, it's not quite the same, but men's hormones levels do go up and down. And in particular, as you get older older drivers over 50, I think it's 10% of men over 50 have low testosterone, and that has an almost menopausal like feeling for them too. And so they get depressed. They often get very tired. And I was talking to a male doctor about what we call the andropause, which is when you're short of testosterone. And he said, I've got some lorry drivers that have to park up after a couple of hours and sleep in the lay by because they can't hold their concentration but they could when they were younger And that was one of the points at which one of these lorry drivers recognized that his testosterone or something was wrong with him went and then got his testosterone topped up to normal level and Kaboom, you know, was not needed to take a nap halfway through kind of his shift. But at the age of 70, you know, your testosterone is much much lower. And by the time you're 80, you know, as we get older and testosterone is all about spatial awareness too. and muscle and energy and being on it, all of which are probably quite useful for driving. So, you know, we've got to be sympathetic to each other. I think men and women about this. And and, I mean, I think it's amazing if you can give people this knowledge of themselves and be looking out for it.

Tracey Field [:

Yeah. Definitely. And I'm so glad you mentioned the men, and I'm I'm really interested in the lorry drivers. But because I work in my day job, I work in cancer care. So I work with quite a few men on hormone treatments, and so they have Very similar symptoms as menopause. So it is everybody. Like you say, it's a people problem. We're we're all we all all people have hormones.

Kate Muir [:

Yeah. It's so interesting that the crossover between sort of psychiatry and medicine driving licenses. It's just like you wouldn't you wouldn't have thought it. And I wouldn't have thought this a few years ago, but now putting the picture together. You know? And and I can see what you're saying and what I'm saying that, you know, it could be really useful. could be a really useful thing to write about actually and do a piece as well. Yeah.

Tracey Field [:

Yeah. I think I think The more like I say, the more I was looking into over the last couple of weeks since I've been in touch with you, the more I've just been thinking, oh, I really think there could be something here. I really really think we need to do a bit more. So and do some signposting on our website. Obviously, this podcast that we're so grateful for coming on and helping us talk about it because you've got the information.

Kate Muir [:

Actually, I've also got a great resource for you, which is an app. The it's called the balance menopause app, and it's free. Yeah. And a million women have downloaded it, and it's got absolutely for scientific information that's correct from Doctor Louise Newsom. And some of it's without HRT and some of it's with HRT, and it tackles, you know, anxiety and meditation and, you know, all the so it tackles all the options because, obviously, some people will use other options. it's really worth recommending to people. It's quite a simple thing to say, and they can track what's going on with them and, you know, track their anxiety to track their periods, track the end of their periods, whatever it is. and get get a few meaningful what's what's happening and then check what would kind of scientific medical or correct answers also. So balance menopause app really simple.

Tracey Field [:

Yeah. Fantastic. Yeah. That sounds like a great thing for us to sign posts. On our resources, and sounds like an easy way for you driving. Well, it's just rather just about the. I said,

Kev Field [:

have you seen this app? Yeah. It is free. Yeah.

Kate Muir [:

Thank you. And actually, for men, the person I was talking about, who was the doctor, he was talking to me about the lorry drivers. He's called Jeff Foster. And he's written a book called Man Alive and a huge and it's about men's health. And a huge part of it is about testosterone deficiency, what to do about it, how to spot it, really useful tool for men as well.

Kev Field [:

because I'm I'm it's it's it's we all share the roads together, don't we? You know? And this is again, if we all help each other, like, things like this plus driving. It it's yeah. It's it's gotta help as opposed to -- You're a community on the road. We are.

Kate Muir [:

I think this will this will kick off a huge conversation. I'm really keen to put it up on my Instagram Twitter and see if lots of people respond and what they say. And then we might learn something more, I think, from women's experiences. because one of the things not happening with with all this people's research and this and that is people are not listening to women. And the minute you start listening to them or do a survey or see what their answers are we all learn more and and get a feel that we're not alone because I think not feeling alone about this is quite important as well. I'm feeling better about it.

Kev Field [:

I've been just talking about, like like, a I I don't think 10 years ago, anything like this would have happened, would it? You wouldn't have spoke about it. Yeah.

Tracey Field [:

Yeah. Definitely. And, you know, that is one of our driving messages through the whole of the podcast people who drive in anxiety is that they are not alone, that this is a really common problem that lots of people don't talk about. So it's got so many similarities with the perimenopause, menopause, The way that people didn't talk about it, they kept it a secret, they kept it to themselves. So, yeah, very common themes there. You're not alone.

Kate Muir [:

Great. Glad we’ve talked about all of that.

Tracey Field [:

So, Kate, when we got in contact with you, was there anything that you thought, oh, I really want to talk about that or I hope they ask me about this. Is there anything that we haven't asked you

Kate Muir [:

No. I the only thing we haven't discussed is losing your car keys, which is obviously a menopausal symptom, leaving your car key in the fridge, losing the phone, putting your phone in the freezer. That is also a symptom of brainfog with perimenopause, but Apart from that, I think we've covered a lot of interesting ground, actually. I I think I think a lot of people would be reassured by this.

Tracey Field [:

Fantastic. And then on a a last note, Kate, can you cast your minds back to when you learned to drive? What did you find the most difficult about learning to drive?

Kate Muir [:

I don't really know my left and my right. I mean, it has remained a problem. I've got better, but I'm not great. And one one of my failed driving tests was turning right what I should have turned left. I I passed my driving test 3rd time around. You're definitely not alone on that one either.

Tracey Field [:

upgrades. Okay. Where can people find you? I think you mentioned your your Instagram was again.

Kate Muir [:

It's menoscanal, all one word. And, also, pillscandal now. I've got 2, one for the menopause, one for the pill, and I've got a website, KateMuir.co.uk. can get hold of me there and send me messages there and things like that. But I also get lots of messages on on Instagram and on Twitter as well with.

Tracey Field [:

Lovely. Brilliant. Thank you very much. Yeah. Thank you so much. given up your time, Kate, and talking about this. And I'm glad you found it interesting as well that you had some thoughts while you were talking there thinking, oh, yes. And that and that. So -- It's really important once we hear back from people

Kate Muir [:

with women of that age, you know, and they haven't said to anyone. I just don't think anyone's properly discussed it. Apart from us.

Tracey Field [:

Yep. We are trend setters. They'll all be discussing it now. Okay. They'll all be discussing it.

Kate Muir [:

Oh, brilliant. Thank you so much again. Yes. Thank you. It was lovely to meet you. Thank you.

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