Highlighting menopause: Carly Tait on the fight for a diagnosis

Premature menopause is estimated to effect one per cent of women under 40, amounting to nearly 350,000 women in the UK. British wheelchair athlete Carly Tait is ready to share her battle for a diagnosis and raise awareness of what is medically known as premature ovarian insufficiency.

The menopause is often explained as a time when a woman can no longer get pregnant, and while this is the case, the change in hormones can also lead to serious health problems if left undiagnosed and unmonitored. Wheelchair athlete Carly Tait was diagnosed with premature ovarian insufficiency – often referred to as premature menopause – in 2020 at the age of 34 and is now speaking out about the challenges she faced in trying to get a diagnosis and support.

Missed opportunities

Carly always had irregular and often debilitating periods ever since she was 14-years-old, and when she was 18 she went on the contraceptive pill. Two years into her sporting career at age 29, she was more conscious of what she was putting into her body and decided to stop taking it.

“Things weren’t regular but I wasn’t worried because I didn’t expect them to be, but when it started to get to about 60 days each time, I started panicking and I would take a pregnancy test but they were always negative,” explains Carly. “I raised it to the British team as well as to GPs. They said because of your intensive training it’s to be expected.”

The idea that Carly wasn’t menstruating regularly because of sport was something she was told time and time again, but her concerns remained.

“All I knew about the menopause was that you don’t have periods, but I didn’t know about the transitional period and what comes with that,” highlights Carly. “I now know that I was 100 per cent menopausal when competing at Rio 2016.”

After Rio, Carly wanted to compete for another year: she started her sporting journey as a spectator at London 2012 and wanted to end it in the same location as an athlete. As her symptoms got worse and her concerns grew, her performance as an athlete didn’t improve and she made the decision to retire in the summer of 2017. 

Investigation

After retiring, Carly and her partner Matthew decided to have a baby, at this time she had four back-to-back 28-day cycles and began tracking ovulation, but then didn’t have another period again.

“To this day my last period was November 2017 which was the last of those four, after that there was nothing,” reveals Carly. “I remember the last one vividly: it didn’t stop for weeks. I went to the doctor as a non-athletic person and I remember thinking they’ll have to take me seriously now.”

Carly saw an on-call doctor instead of her regular GP who told her they should start investigating for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that affects how the ovaries work. 

“I had a scan to check for PCOS and they said it was all normal, but in reality, at this point I was six weeks pregnant and didn’t know. I had fallen pregnant despite not having had a period for three months,” explains Carly. “Because they were looking at my ovaries and not my uterus they missed the baby. They decided to refer me to gynaecology and they said it would be 70 days until my appointment.

“Luckily, I had private healthcare under my partner’s plan so I rang them and said I’m not having periods and this needs investigating.”

Carly with her son

These doctors ran the same tests again, confirming that Carly didn’t have PCOS but that she was pregnant. By this time, Carly was 13 weeks along.

“I was shocked because at this point we were still trying, I had taken pregnancy tests previously and they were negative,” says Carly. “I then had the baby and within a matter of weeks it was like I fell off a cliff: my brain switched off, it was a breakdown.”

Carly experienced extreme depression and anxiety which started to affect all of her relationships. Paired with being a new mum she was told this was postnatal depression and was put on antidepressants.

“I presented myself at A and E because I needed help and didn’t know what was going on,” shares Carly. “At this point still, no one said the word menopause, everyone thought it was post-natal depression but I knew it wasn’t.”

Devastating

After being given holistic support as a new mum, Carly and her partner started trying for a second child, but this time she didn’t want to wait and see what happened.

“I went through my partners plan again and I got an appointment within six weeks, I had two sets of blood tests and the gynaecologist said this is menopause, you’re almost through it,” states Carly. “I asked her to scan me and there was only one or two follicles where a woman my age should have 15 on each side. I had a complete depletion of all hormones.

“It was so devastating because we were trying for our second child and it was the worst news I could receive. She put me on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and I also had to have a scan to check my bones, they said I had osteopenia and that is a direct result of going through the menopause for years without enough oestrogen in my system.”

The diagnosis of osteopenia is of concern for Carly: she was already at risk of falls due to having cerebral palsy and this condition now means that she is more likely to sustain fractures.

“That makes me cross but what makes me crosser is that there were so many opportunities for somebody to connect the dots,” emphasises Carly. “I went private and no one found it, I had a major private institution around me, and I had the NHS, how many other times should I have said it?

“That’s what really upsets me because as a result I wasn’t able to freeze eggs so I don’t have any biological opportunities now to have another child.”

Awareness

Carly will be on HRT for the next 30 years and the treatment has completely changed her life. Now, she’s focused on getting healthy again and raising awareness of premature menopause.

With greater knowledge of women’s health across society, people could avoid a missed diagnosis and the stress that Carly had to go through.

“It’s important that people understand the impact: it’s not just that I don’t have periods, I’m now more prone to heart attacks, my brain is not the same, I don’t have the opportunity to produce my own children,” highlights Carly. “We need to see discussions around women’s health and periods centred around more than how not to get pregnant.”

Armed with the correct diagnosis, Carly is connecting with other woman through The Daisy Network (www.daisynetwork.org), a charity offering information, advice and support for women with premature ovarian failure.

Every year, World Menopause Day takes place on 18 October, helping to raise awareness of the menopause and the support options available. Find out more at www.themenopausecharity.org

Get the latest news and interviews by following Enable on social media: TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Accessibility Tools

Discover more from Enable Magazine

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading