The author of The M Word (Murdoch Books Allen and Unwin 2020) is Dr Ginni Mansberg, the host of television shows Medicine or Myth? and Embarrassing Bodies Down Under. The subtitle on the cover is ‘How to survive in Menopause’ but the word ‘survive’ has been crossed out and replaced with the word ‘thrive’. And that is this book in a nutshell – a comprehensive, medically-based, well-researched exploration of the facts around menopause, including the symptoms, the treatments (both traditional and alternative) and the emotional rollercoaster along the way. As a treating medical practitioner, and also a woman over 50, Dr Mansberg’s extensive and in-depth examination of this issue is done with the goal of helping women (and their men) understand this time of life and design a plan not just to survive or get through it, but to actually thrive and enjoy the advantages of your changing body that come from reaching a certain age.

With chapters such as ‘Meet Your Hormones’, ‘What the Hell Happened to My Vagina?’, ‘Where Did My Waistline go?’ and ‘Somebody Burnt Down My Happy Place’, this book covers every relevant issue from A to Z. Mansberg begins with a frank look at the history of society’s view of menopause, and the response by the medical community. The introduction of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in the 1980’s was at first hailed as the elixir of youth solution, but then by 2002 the drug regime had suffered irreparable harm when headlines correlated a link between HRT and breast cancer. The tenuous way this turnabout occurred, and the associated suffering of women the world over as they abandoned treatment, causing an avoidable return to symptoms and despair, is highlighted as one of the worst cases of a combination of harmful news stories based on misreported studies and a pharmaceutical industry that ‘walked away from women’s health’ rather than invest further in the issue. But Mansberg believes the revolution has arrived and it’s time to ‘take back the power around menopause’. Her book guides women on that journey.

Never judgemental, and always open to individual women’s particular issues and circumstances, Mansberg offers a holistic approach to dealing with the many uncomfortable, painful and emotional effects of menopause, and she does so in an easy to read and accessible way, with a sense of humour. (Her Gwyneth Scale, rating less scientifically researched therapies, on a scale of ‘zero Gwyneths, being reasonable and worth a shot, to three Gwyneths being, in my opinion, batshit crazy’ is a hilarious assessment of some of the more obscure remedies!) She complements this information with plenty of anecdotal evidence and stories of individual patients, as well as statistics and the results of studies. Mansberg says: ‘This is all about you and your choices … [I have given you] access to the best information we have available today … to give you agency over your menopause journey … I have covered [everything from HRT] to the lifestyle, mind-based, complementary and home remedies … many of these have some terrific evidence … some are shockers.’ Her take-home message is: be proactive in your approach to menopause, find a good GP (and a specialist if necessary) and advocate for your own improved health.

From hot flushes to sexual difficulties, from weight gain to mood swings, from incontinence to prolapse, from medication to mindfulness, from brainpower to skincare, this is the ultimate guide to menopause and how to not only survive it, but to thrive.