Review: Hormonal by Eleanor Morgan

Eleanor Morgan Hormonal

Eleanor Morgan’s new book, Hormonal, unravels the mysteries of how hormones have such an impact on our lives. This is an essential read for every woman.

What’s it all about?

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Hormonal explores everything from contraception to PMS, in relation to anxiety, depression and taboos about hysteria and the ‘hormonal’ woman. It is a compelling portrait of the modern landscape of women and health, showing us how to navigate stigma and misinformation.

Combining her own experiences with extensive research and expert contributions, Eleanor Morgan explores the relationship between the female body, the female mind and the ways in which women’s bodies are being medicalised. As Morgan argues, we’ve gotten better at talking about mental health, but we still shy away from discussing periods, miscarriage, endometriosis and menopause. That results in a lack of vital understanding for women, particularly as those processes are inextricably connected to our mental health; by exploring women’s bodies in conjunction with our minds, Morgan urges for new thinking about our health.

What did I think?

I wish I had this book when I was 13 and didn’t fully understand the changes that my hormones were causing in my body and mind. I wish I had it when I was put on the pill at 15 to manage the heavy bleeding and extreme pain that came with every period but my GPs refused to investigate. I wish I had this book when I was 30 and was given the contraceptive implant, mini pill, Mirena coil and copper coil all within six months because my GPs didn’t know how else to treat my bloating, period pain and fainting spells. I wish I had this book when, at 35, I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis and discovered that this pain wasn’t all in my head after all.

Hormonal is an essential read for every woman and I’m so glad it has arrived.

Morgan’s deconstruction of the menstrual cycle is what we should be taught in schools. We don’t just need to know the mechanics of what our bodies do every month but how those functions affect us. The chapter that explains the four-week female reproductive cycle will, I promise, change your life. Each sentence uncovers a mystery about why we think, feel, look and even eat how we do at particular stages of our cycle – and it’s pretty comforting to know that those carb cravings or period poos (you know the ones) are dictated by the subtle signals released by our endocrine system each month.

Hormonal is part memoir, part investigation into the science behind the hormones that govern the female body and mind. Morgan opens with a candid description of her early periods – the shame, pain and discomfort that comes with the visceral experience combined with the pride of new womanhood. It’s a complex relationship and one that women juggle for the rest of their lives.

From PMS to anxiety, mood swings to depression, Morgan traces the relationship between our hormonal fluctuations and our minds. It’s truly fascinating stuff. She also investigates how these complexities have been used against ‘hysterical’ women for centuries, and explores some of the most shocking and bizarre ways women’s bodies have been abused and ignored by the medical profession that is supposed to help them.

As a woman with endometriosis who spent 20 years trying to get a diagnosis, Morgan’s book resonated with me on so many levels. Women are very often made to feel that their pain isn’t real or is just part of being a woman (if I had a pound for every time a medical professional has told me that!) meaning they don’t get the help they need to diagnose or manage their illness.

Morgan is one of several writers who are tackling the stigma of periods and championing women’s health issues right now, and it’s wonderful to see. If you want to understand how your hormones affect all aspects of your life, this book is for you.

Hormonal is out now from Little Brown.

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