When I was a teenager, there were times I’d be home from school with menstrual cramps so bad, I’d be throwing up. My pad and tampon were never enough to keep up with my flow, and I leaked more times than I can count. This would last for the first few days and happen almost every month.
The school nurse once told me moving around would help when I went to lie down on the uncomfortable paper-covered table because I couldn’t make it through gym class. If moving around helps, then how come a game of dodgeball left me hunched over as I felt every drop of blood gush out of me?
But I can tell you, as a perimenopausal woman, those days were a cakewalk compared to my PMS now. After I turned 40, I noticed my bleeding was a bit lighter and the cramps weren’t that bad — but other symptoms began to appear, and they’ve only gotten worse. Now, five years later, I am a 45-year-old woman who would trade these mood swings for a heavy flow any day of the week.
Not only do I not know exactly when my period is coming like I used to — sometimes I skip a month, sometimes it comes every 14 days — I don’t know what to do with myself when my PMS strikes. It comes over me like a dark cloud. One minute I’m having a great time, loving life. The next, I find myself extremely distracted, overstimulated, and feeling like the smallest task (and everyone’s chewing) is going to send me to the dark side.
My sleeping has gone in the shitter, and I’m always either freezing or sweating. In other words, all the happy mediums in my life have been taken from me.
I used to hear about the effects of perimenopause and think I’d be able to handle it. I’d think, Nothing can be worse than what I went through in my younger years, so bring on the so-called mood swings, sweats, and feelings of rage. It won’t affect me.
Now, I’m over here eating humble pie (and everything else in sight) during my crimson wave and wouldn’t be surprised if I got arrested for disturbing the peace in the near future.
Many menstruating folks experience this, so if you think you are losing your mind, think again.
Scary Mommy talked with OB/GYN Dr. Kim Langdon of Parenting Pod, who told us the reason our time of the month feels like it’s on steroids during perimenopause is because that’s when our hormones start to fluctuate.
“Not every cycle is ovulatory,” she says. “This means that hormone fluctuations can vary widely. As estrogen levels fall, there is a predominance of progesterone that is mostly responsible for the moodiness associated with PMS.”
According to Langdon, lower estrogen is the cause for things like hot flashes, irregular bleeding, problems with sleep — all of which can aggravate the symptoms of PMS and make our moods worse.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m not getting the sleep my body needs, I shut down. I’m forgetful, I’m in a horrible mood, and I’m aggravated that I don’t feel like myself.
I’ve never had trouble sleeping until I started perimenopause, and I’ve tried all the things: melatonin, Tylenol PM, relaxation techniques, lavender-scented things, sex. But despite it all, nothing can put me into the deep slumber I used to enjoy, and I blame the hormones.
Basically we are faced with our regular PMS symptoms, and menopause symptoms which bring a whole other set of problems such as vaginal dryness, problems sleeping, loss of libido, breast tenderness, and migraines.
Putting up with this shit once a month (or more, since our periods are irregular) can throw us out of whack faster than a text from our partners saying they’ll be home late and we are on our own for the kids’ bedtime.
BodyLogicMD affirms this, reporting that,”[It] is also possible that PMS worsens during perimenopause because of your body’s enhanced sensitivity to hormone fluctuation.” So, no, it’s not your imagination if you think your PMS symptoms are changing or getting worse. It really is a thing.
Yes, some will sail through this stage of our lives with little or no change, but the truth is, your hormones are changing and it will affect some of us more than others — and really, it doesn’t take much to throw our minds and bodies out of whack. Pay attention to how you are feeling each month and track your symptoms.
If it’s getting out of hand (only you are the judge of that), contact your healthcare provider and explore options. Your doctor may recommend things like dietary changes or, in more extreme cases, hormone therapy.
Life is short, and I don’t care if perimenopause and menopause symptoms are temporary. No one should have to go through this month after month. And let’s face it — no one who comes into contact with me should have to go through this either.