There are at least 34 conditions associated with perimenopause and post-menopause. The impact they can have on the quality of our lives, ranges from being mildly inconvenient, to annoyingly disruptive, and in the most severe cases, devastatingly debilitating. Of course, every woman’s experience is different, with the envy of the masses being the enigmatic, seemingly unaffected women who actually thrive through their menopause transition.
While I wouldn’t say I’m thriving through perimenopause, I seem to be throttling somewhere between “mildly inconvenient” and “annoyingly disruptive,” when it comes to my own experience. That is to say, I’ve been affected enough to learn more about what’s going on with me and how I can manage my symptoms without western medical intervention, but not so “devastatingly debilitated” that I’ve been motivated to take HRT or seriously consider a uterine hysterectomy (which my Ob-Gyn has recommended more than once).
For the time being, the mood swings and the hormonal acne are satisfactorily being managed through the seed cycling and other (slight) modifications I’ve made to my overall lifestyle. The persistent night sweats, occasional hot flashes and relentless brain fog (which is actually much more disconcerting than the flippant name suggests) are the things plaguing me the most these days, and I continue my trial and error approach to managing these issues naturally.
Fortunately, my most disruptive issues have been limited to those I’ve mentioned previously, and have blogged about pretty consistently. So, of the other 29 or so conditions that I could be struggling with, I count myself lucky that I’m faring as well as I am. Even so, I’m pretty sure that I’ve got miles to go yet in my perimenopause journey, and admittedly, have a bit of dread about what cruel and unusual thing my aging body might do next…
I was talking to a friend recently, who was telling me about how after a couple of years, she was still struggling with a disruptively heavy menstrual flow every month. So much so, that she’s had to plan any work meetings and personal engagements outside of her home around her period. After a couple of times of bleeding through her sanitary napkins and clothes –
once out at brunch with friends, and another time during a client meeting – she now tracks her cycle diligently and stays close to home so she can better manage any overflow issues.
While this has not been my own experience (yet) – and may never be, hers was not the first…or second…or even third story, that I’ve heard from my peer group about being held hostage to their periods for fear of social embarrassment and frustration. Another friend shared that she used to make her own sanitary pads, which basically entailed manipulating three or four SUPER absorbent maxi pads to layer on top of each other, to ensure they could handle her flow.
And there was bit of humor in the retelling of a colleague’s story of how one night she woke up to her husband shaking her furiously after thinking she was dying, because of the amount of blood that had stained their sheets while she bled through her sanitary product and night clothes, as she slept.
Or the time a couple of years ago, when, while helping move my nephew into his college dorm, my period started three days early. I asked his mom (who’s my age, give or take a few months) if, by chance, she had a pad on her… She promptly whipped out a stylish make up pouch neatly organized with a selection of different “absorbency options” of pads, tampons and liners, and told me to take my pick. After seeing the quizzical look on my face, she explained that she’d been caught unprepared one-too-many times and now carried a stash of feminine hygiene products with her ALL THE TIME.
These women – warriors all – have been left feeling hopeless, if not exasperated by their experiences, receiving little, if any helpful guidance from their doctors – outside of a uterine hysterectomy. While this “go to” solution is likely more informed by a flawed US healthcare system, in the 21st century, our doctors should really be discussing a range of options beyond surgical intervention, that might address our needs. Of course, what works for one woman, doesn’t necessarily work for another. But in the sharing of their stories, I’ve been listening intently for insight and wisdom around how they were managing it all, in the event that I may one day be bound for a similar fate.
In addition to hearing about how others have coped with their heavy cycles, I’ve also been web surfing for more information about the range of options that might be considered (including surgical intervention) for treatment:
Some women have had success managing their heavy flow by incorporating supplements into their daily diet:
Vitamin C - may help reduce bleeding and can help your body absorb iron. Estrogen and iron are two of the most important growth nutrients in a woman's body development. Estrogen affects the growth and function of tissues such as breasts, skin, and bone. Iron is essential for oxygen transport and energy production.
Iron - Being iron-deficient may contribute to heavy period. Eating an iron-rich diet or taking an iron supplement can boost your levels.
Blackstrap Molasses – is a good source of iron, as well as other nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and selenium. Often recommended by Naturopaths, it’s also been associated with other health benefits, like reducing stress and managing dry or thinning skin. If you’re able to overcome the unpleasant taste, you can take one tablespoon of organic, unsulphured blackstrap molasses daily.
Leakage Protection Products
Leakage protection products won’t actually treat or address the cause of your heavy flow, but they can help you better manage your overflow and minimize any concerns and anxiety about straying far from home, or limiting your regular activities during your cycle:
Period Panties – or blood-wicking underwear, look and feel like regular underwear and are designed with a wicking material that absorbs your menstrual flow. Now more than ever, there are a range of options for women to select from, including styles designed especially for activities like active workouts and sleeping.
Menstrual Cup – If you can get your head around the idea of a reusable insert designed to collect your menstrual blood, this is an option you might consider. Menstrual cups are made of flexible silicone or rubber. As the name implies, they’re funnel-shaped cups that come in different sizes and modified shapes which are designed to accommodate a range of cervix lengths.
Heavy Flow Sanitary Pads – There are also maxi pads that are designed to address particularly heavy menstrual flows. While these may not be a viable solution for those with the most extreme monthly flows, for some women they may be a sufficient option.
Depending on your specific situation, your doctor may be able to prescribe medications like Tranexamic acid or hormone regulating medications, like birth control pills and IUDs to help manage the force for your monthly period flow:
Hormonal Birth Control – thins the uterine lining, typically resulting in less menstrual bleeding; options include includes pills, rings and patches.
Lysteda – or Tranexamic acid is not a hormone. It works by slowing the breakdown of blood clots, which helps to address heavy or prolonged bleeding.
For women who are not planning to become pregnant, or for whom optimizing their fertility is not a concern, addressing their heavy period flow through surgery may be the best and most efficient option. According to Healthline, the most common surgical options include endometrial ablation, endometrial resection or uterine hysterectomy; however, it’s important to understand that each of these will prevent you from getting pregnant, post-procedure:
Endometrial ablation - is used to remove most of your uterine lining with a laser, heat, or radiofrequency energy.
Endometrial resection - similar to ablation, this procedure involves using a wire loop to remove your entire uterine lining.
Hysterectomy - is used to remove your entire uterus.
Of course, I'm not a doctor, I don't play one in make believe (or otherwise), and I don't believe everything I read that Google churns out... However, I am increasingly focused on taking more accountability for my own health, which includes educating myself about treatment options that I can raise with my doctor, if and when he doesn't.