Cathy, 31, tells of the agony she suffered as she went through menopause at just 13 – The Sun

CATHY Phillips-Brady, 31, a producer and musician, lives in London with her husband James, 30, a musician.

Bent over in agony and feeling faint, I asked the teacher if I could be excused before dashing to the sick bay. I was only 12, but after starting my periods the year before Id endured almost non-stop bleeding and pain. I didnt realise it at the time, but I was having perimenopausal symptoms.

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"When my periods first started aged 11, everything was normal. But the bleeding became heavier then didnt stop for months on end, and the cramps in my lower back were debilitating. I had to miss days of school as well as trips to the cinema or dinner with friends as I was in too much pain, or because the bleeding was hard to control. Worried about my health, my mum booked an appointment at the GP in early 2000.

"I was prescribed mefenamic acid to alleviate my heavy periods and, after taking it daily for a few months, the bleeding eventually stopped. I was thrilled finally I didnt have to spend hours curled up in bed with a hot water bottle or lie to get out of swimming classes.

"Another year passed and my periods still didnt return, but the doctor assured me it was normal for a girl my age to have an erratic menstrual cycle. Plus, going to an all-girls school, we often chatted about our periods and some of my friends hadnt even started theirs yet, so I didnt think too much of it.

"However, aged 14, I started experiencing hot flushes. I thought I had a fever, but one day during a history class in winter I was so hot I started stripping off, but even in a T-shirt I was sweating. I had to have a cold shower twice a day, but doctors said everything was fine and my mum didnt know how else to help.

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"By 15 I was so fed up I went back to my GP and put my foot down I knew my own body and that something was wrong. Thankfully, they referred me to my local hospital in Maidenhead, which ran some blood tests and then referred me to a gynaecology specialist at Londons St Marys Hospital for more blood tests and an ultrasound.

"Over the next two years, I was tested for everything from cervical cancer to blockages in my Fallopian tubes and problems with my glands, but still no one could tell me what the issue was. At one of many ultrasounds, a nurse assured me Id probably still be able to have kids. Id never thought for a second that I could be infertile. She was only trying to help, but it made me worry. I loved kids and had always imagined them as part of my future.

"During this time my symptoms intensified and I had night sweats, short-term memory problems, mood swings, anxiety and thinning hair. Finally, in 2005, aged 17, I was diagnosed with premature ovarian insufficiency a condition where the ovaries stop producing eggs early. I was told I had no eggs left in my ovaries and, as I was now going through the menopause which doctors believed I had started at 13 I wouldnt be able to have kids naturally. They didnt know why this had happened to me.

"Hearing the word infertile, I was devastated. I was only 17 and it was a huge blow. It took a while before the news really sunk in and, while my friends and family were so supportive, I felt a real sense of loss.

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"I was put on a different contraceptive pill, which replaced some of my lost oestrogen and eased my symptoms, before starting hormone replacement therapy. But I wasnt offered any sort of counselling and I felt very alone.

"Going through my 20s knowing I couldnt have children was tough, especially when my friends started having babies of their own. I longed to start my own family, but I accepted it would never happen for me naturally. When it came to dating, I was always upfront about having gone through the menopause. Some guys were understanding, but others werent so things didnt progress any further between us.

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"I met my husband James, now 30, in 2013 when we were singing in an orchestra together. I told him on our first date that I couldnt have kids, and he was so supportive, saying that he still wanted to see where things would go between us.

"We got married in August 2018 and, as I can still carry a child, were looking into egg donation. If that route doesnt work, then well try to adopt.

"Its been a long struggle and I still get menopausal symptoms. I wish Id been able to freeze some of my eggs before they ran out, but in spite of everything Ive faced, I cant wait to start my journey to become a mum.

PREMATURE OVARIAN INSUFFICIENCY

Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) is a condition in which a womans periods stop before the age of 40.

POI affects 1 in 100 women in the UK.

Source: NHS Visit Daisynetwork.org for help and support.

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Cathy, 31, tells of the agony she suffered as she went through menopause at just 13 - The Sun

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