CAUTION – this post contains references to icky things. If you’re squeamish at all, just give it a miss.
NB – nothing in this post constitutes medical advice. If you are worried about any topic raised today, use your common sense and contact your doctor.
Perimenopause makes its debut
There I was, ambling through midlife, aged 44 1/3, mother of two teenagers and wife to Mr D, enjoying a fabulous family holiday in Disney World, Florida, when ‘WHAM!’, my body decided to misbehave in a queue for a flume ride in Blizzard Beach! Vertically sunbathing as I waited for my turn, I became aware of a sudden warmth where there shouldn’t have been, down there! A quick glance in the direction of my lady garden told me all I needed to know; a flood of biblical proportions had arrived.
‘Oh my God! You have got to be kidding me! I’ve just been to the loo. It can’t have soaked through already!’
I’d come prepared for the usual monthly visit from Mother Nature (standard sized protection installed) yet the evidence was there, a complete failure in the tampon department. There was nothing to be done except make a run for it. Clamping my legs tightly together from the knees up, I scuttled at speed whilst trying to look nonchalant. I must have looked like some strange half crab, half insect woman, without one ounce of nonchalance about her.
Breathing a sigh of relief as I neared my locker, key in hand, I wrestled the door open, rummaged through my bag, and I found what I was after. It was time to deploy the big guns, the ‘extra-super-plus-cope-with-any-flow’ tampax!
Fortunately the stall nearest me was an all-in-one shower and toilet combo. Just what I needed. Phew. One last knock-kneed stroll and I was inside, safe from the holidaying public. Armed with the mega-tampon I cleaned up, rinsed my bikini and I rejoined my family as if nothing had happened. I’m not even sure they noticed. Nor am I sure anyone else noticed. Maybe the drama was all in my head.
Yup! All in my head. Just one of those things. It must have been the hot weather, I reasoned. And then I forgot all about the incident… until it happened again the following month at work! And again the next month
… rinse and repeat
… until 6 months of regular flooding occured before I decided to see my family doc.
That was an interesting visit. After a thorough examination (I hate those ‘internals’) I was given some pills to take and little explanation for the sudden change in my periods. It was, according to the doc, not unusual… just one of those things and to not worry about it. Just to rule out a few things I had some blood samples taken. I vaguely remember hearing the word ‘perimenopause’ from the nurse as she filled up various vials, but dismissed it.
‘Ha… I’m too young for that.’ I thought to myself. ‘Menopause is years away. I’m only 45 (I’d had a birthday between the holiday flood and finally seeing my doc).
So I followed the doc’s advice and tried to not worry, popping the pills as instructed. They helped for a while but not as much as I’d hoped. Over the months I made changes, subtle changes, to my lifestyle to cope with my errant body, trying to give the impression to the world that all was normal. But it’s not normal to ‘double-glove’ as I called it (super-plus tampon and a maxi-nighttime pad) or to soak through it all every hour. Even Mr D was starting to notice: plastic bags on my car seat, a full change of clothes in the office, extra mattress protectors under the bed sheets etc. You get the messy picture.
The follow-up appointment was fun. The doc started off by telling me that all my blood tests were fine, everything was normal. Phew! So far so good. The heavy periods were also normal (eh?!) … for someone starting perimenopause.
‘Wait! What? Me? No! Surely not. I’m way too young!’
Well apparently not. And by the way, have more pills to control the flow. Wow! Thanks for turning me into a human maraca. But why is this happening to me?
The biology bit
The theory is that as we women move towards the end of our reproductive lives, our ovaries may decide to throw one last mother of all parties, dumping as much oestrogen into our systems as possible. This imbalance, very high oestrogen with low progesterone, may be responsible for a massive thickening in the womb lining, hence the biblical floods every month. DId I mention clots. Yup. Nasty-looking big things. It was all I could do not to faint every time I went to the loo.
What happened next?
What can you do to sort this out? In my case, the doc prescribed non-steroidal anti inflammatory pills to stem the flow, before he added progestogen (mini-pill) pills. However, my ovaries were determined to party hard. The doc refered me to the hospital for further investigation (a hysteroscopy) and an IUD. I’d had good results in the past with the IUD, after my last child was born. It would surely work well again. It was a shame my body had gone off the idea.
Just a couple of weeks after it went in, it came whooshing out during a spectacular flood, wrapped round a clot the size of my palm! That scared me so much I called for help and was sent to hospital. Again I was told everything was normal (I was starting to disbelieve this pronouncement. Surely something horrific was happening in there. Oh, hello Health Anxiety!) and to go back to see the consultant for further treatment. Oh, and in the meantime, take more pills.
Tune in next week to discover what happened when I visited the consultant for further advice and treatment.