I have written about Perimenopause before. Looking back over my posts I have written about it twice. Once in October 2012, and again n October 2013. Not sure whey October seems to be the month to write about it, other than all this crap started the week of my birthday the year I turned 46, so maybe my birthday month (October) triggers something. Not sure. But I suppose if that is true than writing about it today makes me a month early. And for those of you who may be squeamish I will warn you in advance that this article is filled with details about mine and other women’s bodily functions, so if it is TMI, I apologize in advance.
Perimenopause is a bitch. Truly. For any woman dealing with it, and that can be ANY woman in the mid to late 30’s until actual Menopause sets in, the time (which is often years) is full of unpleasant, and even painful or embarrassing situations.
I told someone recently that every month that I get my cycle I rejoice because that means I still have enough female hormones to induce a menstrual cycle. However, while doing research about perimenopause what I have found is that I was dead wrong. In fact some scientists believe that perimenopausal women have an increase in Estrogen and a decrease in Progesterone, which is what causes us to have increased symptoms of bloating, cramping and breast tenderness. These scientists also believe that FSH is a major culprit in causing a change to our cycles from a regular 15 days to 10 days plus or minus 4 days.
GREAT! So instead of being able to plan (somewhat) and count the days between cycles now we have a shortened cycle and can be on either side of our “due date” by 4 days. Are you kidding me?
These symptoms are also noted to happen to perimenopausal women:
New heavy and/or longer menstrual flow (yep)
• Shorter menstrual cycle lengths (≤ 25 days) ( so now we have to carry feminine hygiene products ALL the time because we NEVER know when we might start bleeding)
• New sore, swollen, and/or lumpy breasts (This has definitely happened to me to the point where it hurts to even work out)
• New or increased menstrual cramps (I know this is TMI, but now I start cramping days before I start my cycle…..YAY)
• New mid-sleep wakening (this has not happened to me, but I do wake up in the middle of the night sweating….)
• Onset of night sweats, especially around flow (see above comment. This can even happen in wintertime)
• New or markedly increased migraine headaches ( This has not happened to me, but I do have friends who have noted an increase in their migraines as they have entered their 40’s)
• New or increased premenstrual mood swings (Ummm, I have always been a bit moody. However, since I turned 46 I definitely cry more often and want to cut people more frequently…. not sure if that is perimenopause or just lack of tolerance for stupid people. )
• Notable weight gain without changes in exercise or food intake (That has been my ENTIRE life, so nothing new there)
I mean honestly, is this fair in any sense of the word? We have to deal with these symptoms, and more I wager. For my own experience I have the lovely experience of having cramps for days before I even have a cycle and wish I would just start already so I can stop having the cramps and bloating. Also, I never know exactly when I am going to have a cycle. I will be “regular” (meaning a cycle every 28 days) for three or four months, then I will have two cycles in one month, then I will go back to “regular”.
I never know how long my bleeding will last. Some months it is 4 days, some months it is 7 days, some months it is 10 days. And according to these scientists and doctors this shift from pre-menstrual (meaning normal 28 day cycle every month). And my gosh, (super TMI) the bleeding can be so heavy at times! Seriously, the flow can be so heavy you think you are bleeding out. And then, you realize nope, it is just my stupid perimenopause. (well that is what I think anyway, not sure what other women my age call it)
I know my peers are experiencing these symptoms and others. I know because we sometimes talk about it. I don’t know why it is not a more open discussion. Why don’t we talk about these things more? I mean seriously come on, these symptoms affect EVERY woman at some point in her life. Even if you have a surgical removal of organs you will have a “surgical” menopause. Karol had a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer and removal of one ovary and she still has symptoms. One of my BFF’s only has one ovary and she has symptoms. Since millions of women deal with this why don’t we talk about it more? Why isn’t there more research to find treatments or ways to make these symptoms less intrusive for women?
I know part of the answer is because women’s medical issues are not as important to the medical community and researchers as medical issues affecting men. Part of the answer is because it is “impolite” to discuss these things. It is not “nice”. Really, that pisses me off because I can see commercials on tv for medications to help men with their erections (or lack of erection to be more correct), and that is mainstream conversation about men’s health issues as they age. Why can’t women’s health issues about aging be a mainstream conversation?
I for one will do what I can to enlighten women and talk about these issues. Hopefully in my very small part and my very small sphere of influence I can open a conversation that women will participate in with each other, with their health care providers, and with society as a whole so this topic becomes less taboo and more “normal”.
Women who are dealing with this I would love to hear what you are going through and whether this list is all you are dealing with or if we need to add to it.