Something is going on with me and I’m starting to feel like an alien. It’s been happening a while and I’ve been feeling increasingly frustrated. It’s also feels a little ridiculous in an absurd way. I know my blogging has been sketchy lately, and there’s a reason for it. I’m hoping if I share here perhaps some of you can give me some insight (or I will at least feel better by venting a little).
Before I go too far into this though… to my male readers, WARNING! This is about female biological health stuff. If you are at all squeamish about that sort of thing you may not want to read any further. I will probably be using words like “vagina” and may discuss bodily fluids and menstrual cycles and the like. OK, I will be talking about all that. Just don’t say you haven’t been warned.
For the first time in my life I am on the Pill. A progesterone only pill (POP), to be exact, which is supposed to be not as strong as the regular pill and with fewer side effects. I am on the pill because, unlike the vast majority of women who have children, my periods did not get better after I had a baby, they got worse. They got a lot worse. I’d always had the usual menstrual symptoms: cramping, migraines, nausea, backaches, fatigue. But before the baby those symptoms usually only lasted the first day of my period. One crappy day and then I was good. After I had Chance, those same symptoms last for 4 – 5 days of my period. Cramping… for DAYS! I mean, I’m pretty stoic about that sort of thing but still… it’s irritating and incredibly draining. Not only am I having worse periods in general, I’m also having weird pre-menstrual symptoms the week before. Some of those symptoms I might have been having before the baby, but now the symptoms are really apparent. These include acne breakouts, changes to my skin (itchy) and hair (going limp), and what feels/felt like a yeast infection (but wasn’t) trying to start every month.
And my least favorite symptom (besides what felt like a yeast infection – that just sucks AND was screwing up my sex life)… as soon as my period starts my mental acuity decreases; I suffer from a complete inability to focus. This drives me nuts. I am a fairly active person and it feels like my mind and my ability to get things done screeches to a halt each month. Hence, the sketchy blogging as I can’t focus enough to write. And just as before, instead of one day feeling fuzzy and out-of-it, after the baby I now feel fuzzy and out-of-it for several days.
So I put up with this for a few months before going in for an OB-GYN consultation. Yeah, I know I should have gone in sooner… but you know how that goes; lack of time and you keep thinking that the next month will be better. I actually went in after I had a menstrual cycle that was only 21 days (I had always been 28 days like clockwork). I had been taking acidophilus pills and my usual vitamins. I had started thinking that it was a hormonal imbalance, but I really thought it was reoccurring yeast infections screwing me up. My OB and I ran through a bunch of tests for yeast, bacterial vaginosis, even STDs that they don’t screen for at pregnancy (which was a minute possibility but still humiliating) just to be sure we covered everything. We talked about premature menopause, irregular cycles, hormone imbalance, and other more serious issues (of which none seemed likely). The only test we didn’t do was for hormone levels. My OB thought the short cycle might be from stress because that was shortly after Chance was in the emergency room and the short cycle had only happened once. He also said a POP might help with some of my other symptoms if we didn’t find anything from the tests. To his credit, my OB knew Keen and I are going to try for another child so he mentioned that I might just want “to bear with it for a year” and not take the pill until after we try to get pregnant. However, he gave me a prescription just in case.
I waited for the test results, and everything came back negative. Even the yeast test came back normal. I apparently have a perfectly normal vagina (which is what my OB thought when he said, “Um… everything down there…um, looks…OK.” I think he’s seen some pretty scary hoo hoos). It was starting to sound like a hormonal imbalance (it turns out you can have cyclical “vaginal tenderness” with that), so I thought I’d give the pill a try.
Now just in case any guys are still reading this, “hormone imbalance” does NOT automatically mean mood swings, anger or depression. You can have a lot of symptoms, like all the ones mentioned above, from a hormone imbalance and not have a single mood swing in the lot. And I wasn’t/am not having mood swings, depression or anger. (OK, well, I am now starting to get a little irritated with the whole thing. I mean, my computer is still having problems too and, frankly, there can only be one of us having PMS in the house at a fucking time. Thank you very much.)
I’m actually not very surprised that it could be a hormonal thing. My hormones were out of whack when I was pregnant. Two of the pregnancy hormones were very high, and one was low. I had hyperemesis gravidarum while pregnant and my thyroid was all screwed up. My results from the alpha-fetoprotein test (AFP) came back with a high chance for Down syndrome because of my hormone levels and I went in for an amnio and genetic counseling. So indications that I might be off my hormonal rocker were there.
Now I’m on the pill; I’ve been taking it for two months. At first, except for a really heinous acne breakout right away, I felt great. I felt like I had more overall focus and energy. Best of all I did NOT feel like yeast was trying to hold a rave in my hoo hoo the week before my period started. Yay! It didn’t really decrease any of my other symptoms for that first period but I knew that sometimes it takes a few months for the pill to really help.
Then I started having OTHER symptoms, such as cravings for sweets, some weight gain, bloating, more acne… you know, like all the ones the packaging says rarely occur. OK, whatever, I can still deal. Then I had another short menstrual cycle (and again none of my regular menstrual symptoms were any better). NOW I’m spotting to the point that I thought my period was starting again only two weeks after the last one. My boobs are bigger and hurt like hell, I’m cramping, gassy, and I feel generally unwell. It actually reminds me of early pregnancy.
Seriously, I did not start taking this stuff to feel like crap and have periods every two to three weeks. My sex life was already suffering from the faux yeast infections I thought I was having. I’ve heard it might take a few months before everything “levels out”. I’ve even heard that if one pill doesn’t work, you can try a different type. But here’s the thing… I’m 35! I’m going to try to have another child. I was really hoping, since a POP is not as strong as the regular pill, that this might help just normalize me for a few months before we tried to get pregnant again. I don’t want to be strung along, offered one pill after another to find one that’s “right” for me. I’m too old for this. I wouldn’t be surprised if well within ten years I need to start taking hormones for menopause. (My mom started early menopause at 37, right after she had my youngest brother. She then had irregular periods for another 15 years.)
My real beef is this: Even though my OB is a great guy and is trying to help, overall the medical community doesn’t offer any options for dealing with screwed up “female troubles”. The cure all seems to be “give them the pill”. When I had the second short period, I asked a nurse what they normally do for women who have short cycles like that. Her answer was “nothing”. If you’re having extreme pain or bleeding they’ll consider hysterectomy of other extreme measures. But that’s about it. They don’t even start to consider treatments until you’ve had problems for months and months. I’m sorry, but there is something wrong with a medical system that considers the cure-all the pill, and at the same time we have the FDA who is of the opinion that giving women access to contraceptives will make us all into promiscuous whores. There’s just something wrong there. (Yet I’ve never heard that access to condoms will make men into sluts.) Maybe there really aren’t any options, but it just feels like research in women’s health is sorely lacking and often our concerns with our own health seem brushed under the rug by medical professionals.
I’m going to try this for another month and see if I feel any better. If I continue to have short cycles I’m going back to my OB and insist on getting a hormone level test. I don’t want to find out in five years that I’m at risk for ovarian cancer because my estrogen has been too high. I’m also going to look into alternatives that might help. At one point, I was taking extra doses of vitamin E and B6 for PMS but I weaned off of everything when we decided to try to get pregnant. Maybe I should go back to extra vitamins?
Sorry for the long post. This has been so frustrating for me and yet I feel ridiculous about it (though the ridiculousness might be ingrained from our medical system’s attitude). And it’s hard to keep that feminine mystique thing going (hardy har har) when you feel bad and are having none-too-sexy symptoms.
If any of you have been through this before or know someone who has and have insights I’d love to hear them! Thanks.
– the weirdgirl