I’ll admit, this is a weird place to be in. I’m 35 years old, going through menopause and raising a four year old. How many menopausal women out there can say the same? Shockingly, there is a lot considering all of the many women I have heard stories from who were also put into medically induced menopause at a young age by having surgery. It’s a very odd position to be in though, nonetheless.
When I was younger and heard the word menopause, I instantly thought of women in their 60’s, with kids already grown up and out of the house. A woman retired and enjoying her days no longer confined to raising children and all that it entels. I never once imagined a woman in her prime, still raising small children, and going through the worst symptoms of her life while doing so. It’s almost not right — As though two opposing worlds have collided with each other in one catastrophic train wreck.
Luckily I have been on some wonderful hormonal supplements beginning on the day of my surgery, that has staved off a few of the torturous symptoms, but even that has been a struggle. The first few weeks after surgery, I felt better than I ever had before. I could tell that my hormones were finally exactly where they should have been. Then a few weeks later, that enthusiasm began to wane as I started to become tired and moody out of nowhere. I went back to the drawing board of doing my research to figure out what could now be causing these symptoms when I was religiously taking the hormones I was told my body would need, and watching my diet. Then I discovered a phrase that I had previously known nothing about, “estrogen dominance.” Wow. Just when I thought that I had this menopausal thing all figured out, I quickly realized that I didn’t. I was frustrated all over again, with the total lack of information that my doctor gave to me about this very huge change which I was going to be experiencing.
All of the while, in trying to read everything I could about estrogen dominance and how to combat it, my eyesight started getting worse by the day. Pretty soon the reading glasses that I only had to use while driving and have not had to update the prescription in years, I was now having to wear for everything — And they weren’t really helping. As recently as this morning, I told my husband that I have to get a new prescription before he becomes just one big, handsome blur in my vision. If for no other reason than being able to fully enjoy my husband’s good looks — I need my eyes to be functioning properly. As I told my husband of my failing vision and questioned about our vision coverage his response was, “Stop reading so much.” He always has an answer for everything. We both know that me giving up reading is not going to happen, no matter how much I have to play imaginary accordion each time. Directions on a pill bottle? Forget about it! I just take whatever seems reasonable and hope that I don’t accidentally overdose. Though it’s pretty hard to overdose on vitamins, but I digress.
The crazy thing about this journey is, no one gave me the statistics on how our hormone levels drop while going through menopause. Typically we think of estrogen dropping and nothing else, but this is not the case at all. Estrogen levels only drop to anywhere between 40-60% in menopause, but the one they don’t tell you about, is Progesterone — Which drops to 0% for most women at menopause. ZERO PERCENT! What they also don’t tell you, is that Progesterone is the hormone that keeps your estrogen levels balanced and prevents you from becoming estrogen dominant. With estrogen dominance comes the rapid weight gain, random hair growth, insomnia, mood swings, itchy, dry AND thinning skin, and the inability to shed those pesky unwanted pounds. Progesterone is what keeps us youthful and yet we know little to nothing about it. What I discovered is that when we only take estrogen and never replenish our dwindling Progesterone, the estrogen in our bodies goes unchecked and we find ourselves in the dilemma of having too much estrogen and not enough of its governing hormone, Progesterone. What’s worse is when we only take estrogen, in effect, we cause ourselves to become estrogen dominant without realizing it! Which explains why so many woman taking only estrogen, still get little to no relief of their menopausal symptoms.
The hormones we are left with after menopause continue to recycle themselves and remain functioning. However, to that, if you are left with zero percent of Progesterone then it will stay at zero unless you begin supplementing it. Once your body accumulates enough of it, it will then hold onto what it has and use it to govern the estrogen keeping it at a well-managed and maintained level, as well as keep those menopausal symptoms at bay while keeping us youthful. No one told me this! I had to discover it myself, as I’ve had to do with all of the information for which I’ve compiled on the subject of menopause.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon a documentary created by a Gynecologist who has made it her mission to inform women on menopause and how to have a normal, fulfilling life during and after it. Admittedly she said that menopause is barely, and most times not at all, taught about in medical school. Many doctors she interviewed echoed the same sentiment — That they only learned about menopause once they were in practice and had a menopausal patient sitting in front of them. Talk about the blind leading the blind! How can this be? This stage of a woman’s life is equal to puberty and childbearing years, combined, and yet there is little to no information being taught to these doctors on what menopause actually looks like and why? So we go to our Gynecologist, whose trained in women’s health, thinking they will have the answers when our sex drive has trickled down to nothing, when we cannot sleep at night, feel like our skin is on fire and our brain function has permanently left the building along with our moods being all over the place and depression making its way to our doorstep — And little do we know, that this “specialist,” has no more training or information on the condition and effects of menopause than we do. It’s a travesty!
For instance, I didn’t know that the vagina losses its consistent blood flow and viscosity after menopause. I didn’t know that its walls thin out and become so dry that it begins to close up and shorten all on its own, simply due to a change in hormonal balance. I didn’t know that increased blood flow to the area and moisture was also part of keeping both bladder and urinary tract health, maintained, after menopause. And one particularly disturbing thing that this documentary shed light on , was that the vagina can actually fall out. Yes you read that right, our lady parts can literally fall out of our bodies. Ever leave the grocery store with that gnawing feeling that you’ve forgotten something important? Now imagine that what you forgot was your vagina, which fell out on aisle four next to the canned beans and you will understand the kind of horror I felt in that very moment of hearing this unsettling fact. What this brave doctor did say about avoiding this occurrence was through the maintaining of vaginal health by keeping yourself well moisturized with topical estrogen cream made for vaginal use, and actively maintaining blood flow to the region through stimulation. Regardless of hearing the remedy for this, I was still utterly horrified.
I am 35 years old, with a full life ahead of me and an intimate life that I would like to keep intact, and yet my doctor never even thought to tell me any of these facts, when she told me that she would be placing me into early menopause.
By the end of this informative documentary and my hours upon hours of research, I found myself a little angry inside again. I could not believe that this important information is being withheld from women, or that we’re just expected to figure it all out on our own. Not having a complete picture of what is happening to your body, as women, is scary. The only thing that my mind can equate this feeling to, would be having your first period as a young girl but having never been told what a period is, why it happens, what to do about it — Oh, and how you can possibly survive through hemorrhaging for seven days straight. Terrifying.
There simply aren’t enough doctors willing to do their due diligence as medical care providers, to us women in menopause. They are there in our pubescent years, they’re there when we begin having children, and once we moved past those phases, it’s as though the medical community abandons us. They don’t properly inform us on how our hormones work and which ones do exactly what for the body. They don’t tell us that taking estrogen without supplementing Progesterone will lead to estrogen dominance and keep us in a perpetual state of those horrible peri-menopausal symptoms. They don’t tell us that our vagina actually have to be maintained in specific ways, in order for them to stay healthy. We see Viagra and Cialis commercials all day long, as if to say men’s sexual health is important — But when it comes to a woman’s loss of sex drive and painful experience during intercourse due to menopause, it isn’t important at all. “We’ll give your husband a pill where he’s going to want to get at you all of the time, but we could care less that it will be painful, uncomfortable and totally undesirable to you, as a woman.”
Intimacy in a marriage is one of the most, if not THE most, important aspects to a healthy relationship and yet our medical community is only concerned about the man’s ability to have said intimacy. When women go through menopause, we don’t lose our DESIRE to be intimate, we lose our DRIVE to be intimate. Our body and our brain does not match up, anymore. Our body has shut down to all aspects of arousal and yet our emotions and our minds continue to be stimulated. Does anyone realize how frustrating and disconcerting this can be for women? We equate a good deal of our security in a relationship and security within ourselves as women, to how we are desired by our mate — But in menopause, this feeling undesirable, just pops up in our own minds! No one has to do anything differently for our hormones to make us feel as though we aren’t womanly enough and therefore no longer desirable. Depression starts to set in and then when our husband’s touch us, we have this unwanted need to slap their hands away because we feel not good enough, not sexy enough, not young enough anymore to possibly be attractive to our partner. It truly feels as though our bodies have totally betrayed us. Menopause is a mind game that leads us women into believing that we have nothing left to offer as women. And it all stems from an improper balance of hormones and a total lack of information as to what is really happening in our bodies.
It’s times like this where I wish that I had some form of medical degree in women’s health to go out there and help educate all of my fellow menopausal sisters in this world, that there is a way through this! That they aren’t alone, and do not have to just suffer through it with the hopes that it will one day get better for them. To combat these terrible menopausal symptoms, we have to be vigilant in maintaining our hormonal and vaginal health! Part of this equation is keeping a healthy sex life as well. Making sure that whether you are with a partner or not, that you find ways to keep the blood flow going to the area, each day. Another part is making sure our hormones are being adequately supplemented. There are many options both natural and synthetic and most women at the peak of their suffering do not care what the risks are, so long as they have a fulfilling life while alive! Me personally, I go the natural route for many reasons, but if I had zero knowledge in natural remedies I can guarantee you that I would be the first one grabbing the HRTs from the doctors hands and running with it! There are things we can be doing that all culminate into us feeling like the women we were before this change, if not better!
One thing we have to do, is start demanding better from our healthcare professionals. If they cannot give us answers than we need to make it evident to them how much we need them to do their research and come back with answers. We need to stop suffering quietly and start making all of our symptoms known to these doctors if for no other reason, than to give them sufficient data that medical school never gave them, on what menopause looks like. Just in doing this, we could be saving so many women who are still in their child-bearing years, from the same headaches and heartaches that we have had to go through, due to lack of knowledge on this subject.
It’s almost unthinkable that in this day and age of medical science that women still have no more insight about their bodies than in generations past. It’s unacceptable that our doctors aren’t taught this in their studies before going into practice. And it’s unfortunate that each day multitudes of women are out there feeling helpless to their own bodies, with no idea of how to fix it and none pointing them in the right direction.
As a woman, I want my relationship to thrive, I want my intimate life to be fulfilling and I want to FEEL like a woman. Instead of some genderless blob, too old to be feminine and too young to be dead. Because I want all of these things, I am willing to stop at nothing to make sure that I am doing everything within my power to not only be informed, but put that information to good practice. These doctors who are supposed to be our advocates, should be doing the same. It is their job and we should be holding them accountable to do so. Why is it that Suzanne Somers is having to write books, hold lectures and get on tv to talk about this aspect of women’s health? Why am I needing to write a blog post about something that should be common knowledge among women? The fact that a Gynecologist felt it important to make a documentary on the subject, shows that women are not being given enough insight into the topic of menopause — Something that at one point in our lives, reaches each one of us. The information simply is not there unless you are dedicated to searching for it and compiling it all together, for yourself. This has to change. We have unlimited information about pregnancy and child-birth. We have doctors who specialize in it! Yet many women never go on to have children. Maybe it is time that there is a special division of gynecological study that educates these upcoming physicians in menopause and allows them to specialize in the practice of menopausal care. We spend half of our life in this menopausal stage and have no one to help guide us. It should not be this way.
As I write this, I do realize that many of you reading it, are men and I somewhat apologize for inundating you with information you may not have wanted to know. But if you are a man with a wife, it is important that you understand just what the love of your life is going through. As much as you may be confused and frustrated at her ever swaying moods and lack of libido, understand that she is far more bothered by it than you and that she doesn’t quite know what to do and is likely not being informed by her healthcare professional. Have patience with her and she will thank you in dividends, that I can promise!
I would also like to thank my own gorgeous, wonderful, beast of a man (who actually reads my blogs) for truly being a saint throughout this very unfamiliar and uncharted territory. The man deserves a medal for his unwavering service! 🙂