Painful Period? You Have Options to Save Yourself from Misery

Alright, ladies, it’s me again. That lady that nags gently reminds you about scheduling your annual health screenings and check-ups. Well, this time I’m here to talk with you about your period. Specifically, learning more about your own reproductive system, things you need to be paying attention to, and how to take control.

woman on period clutches abdomen in painWarning to my friends, family, and any coworkers that might be reading: some of this might be TMI, but hang with me – every detail has a purpose. In fact, it is because “period talk” is often deemed as a taboo topic that many women suffer through terrible and often very painful periods month after month in silence. We rarely calibrate with one another on this topic, and naively assume that some of us for whatever reason are just sentenced to a life of pain and misery until we hit menopause. Well, I’m here to tell you ladies that your period should NOT be a life sentence of pain and misery, and you have options.

My Story

Long story short, I recently had a total hysterectomy and said good riddance to my uterus, cervix & fallopian tubes. To be clear: nothing was life-threatening, I did not have cancer, and yes of course I considered less radical options first. I landed on the idea of a hysterectomy after a series of discussions with both my primary care physician as well as my OB/GYN, and after first trying a number of different treatments for iron deficiency anemia. My husband and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were D-O-N-E having kids and while my lady parts had served me well to bring two beautiful baby boys into the world, it was time to say goodbye. However, given that I am now 40 years old and do not have a history of ovarian cancer, my OB/GYN recommended that I keep my ovaries and avoid the need for any hormone replacement therapies which I gladly agreed to.

What was shocking to me though was the response from female friends, family members, and even coworkers when I told them about my upcoming hysterectomy. It was as if I had suddenly been taken under the wings of women who had gone before me, endured the same challenges with their periods month after month, and made the same decision as me when it came to a hysterectomy. I had pretty detailed conversations with roughly a dozen women who had hysterectomies and the resounding sentiment from every single one of them (including my OB/GYN who I absolutely adore!) was, “Best decision I ever made. Should’ve done it sooner.” The more I spoke with those women, the more I was able to connect the dots on my own journey with pretty terrible periods and the more confident I was in my decision to move forward with the hysterectomy.

Painful Period? You have options

woman standing in front of the ocean with arms outstretched in victory stanceAs I reflect back on my decision to have a hysterectomy, here are 3 things I wish I had known and acted on sooner:

  1. Periods should not be debilitating – Millions of women suffer debilitating pain from fibroids or endometriosis and the vast majority suffer in silence. Thankfully, I did not experience either of those conditions but my standard run-of-the-mill period definitely left me debilitated on more than one occasion. My typical period would last a full 7 days with 4-5 of those days consisting of an extremely heavy flow, I regularly experienced mind-numbing cramps, I would get weak in the knees from the pain, and on too many occasions to count I can recall standing under a hot shower willing myself the energy and pain tolerance to make it to the office that day. That is not normal, ladies.  Sure, mild headaches, mild cramps and some bloating are normal. But your period should not be debilitating each month. If it is, you need to consult with a medical professional.
  2. You should be discussing your periods with your OBGYN – If you are not discussing your period with your OB/GYN at your annual checkup, you need to be. Especially if you’ve experienced any changes. After the birth of my second son is when my periods changed for the worse. I was actually on a business trip when I got my first period several months after his birth and I genuinely thought I was hemorrhaging. All of a sudden, Super+ tampons weren’t cutting it anymore and the clots that I would pass each month were alarmingly large in size. Not to mention, the level of flow increased significantly. My doctors are confident that the amount of blood I was losing each month is what contributed to my iron deficiency anemia – my body simply couldn’t keep up with the production of new blood to prevent the anemia. But for the first 2 years of my youngest son’s life, I just assumed that was normal after having multiple children and never mentioned the sudden change to my OBGYN because I didn’t think anything was wrong.
  3. You have options – After I finally sought medical advice to address the issues I was experiencing with my period, I was blown away by the various options I had available to me. For me and my particular situation, the order of escalation for treatment recommended by my OB/GYN included:
    • Intrauterine device (IUD) – This was a hard no for me because I did not want to be on (birth control) hormones and I have never liked the idea of an IUD.  However, IUDs are extremely helpful to many women and provide much-needed relief.
    • Tranexamic acid – This is a prescription medication that controls bleeding by helping it to clot faster and in some women, it can reduce the number of days of menstrual flow. I tried it and unfortunately, it didn’t really do anything for me. Dosage is also pretty obnoxious because you have to take 2 pills 3 times each day that you are on your period. Between the high maintenance nature of 6 pills per day and the fact that I have always tried to take little to no medications if at all possible, I only took the pills for one cycle and moved on to the next level of treatment.
    • Endometrial ablation – This is an outpatient procedure that consists of removing a thin layer of tissue (your endometrium) that lines the uterus. My OB/GYN says it basically microwaves the lining of your uterus, with the vast majority of women experiencing significantly lighter periods or even no periods ever again. My mom actually had this procedure done in the early 2000s and never had a period again. I however was not as lucky after I had it done a few months ago. Apparently, I have a “larger than average uterus” {Who knew? LOL!} and the device that is used during the procedure was not able to get to all of it for it to be successful. I feel the need to add here that my failed ablation was very rare, but nonetheless, it did not do much for my periods.
    • Hysterectomy – Just saying the word “hysterectomy” makes people squirm because the surgery has had such a long and complicated history through the years. People immediately think about their Grandma who spent a week in the hospital when she had it done in the 1970s and wasn’t herself for weeks. No longer the case, y’all! Mine was done laparoscopically via 4 tiny incisions in my lower abdomen and required an overnight stay in the hospital. But it was quick, easy and the recovery was minimal. Did I mention the *BLISSFUL* and extremely quiet overnight stay in the hospital free of children and any responsibilities?! I joked with friends that my two uneventful C-sections prepared me for the recovery because I was up walking that same day and able to resume pretty much all of my normal day-to-day activities in under a week.You do have to be super careful with body movement, not lift anything heavy, and aren’t fully cleared by your OB/GYN for about 6 weeks after the procedure but I was back to my old self very quickly.The obvious perks of the hysterectomy are that you no longer have a period ever again and 2 organs that could potentially develop cancer down the road {your uterus & cervix} are no longer there. Some women report feelings of depression or grieving after a hysterotomy because it is irreversible and completely eliminates the possibility of ever having another child. But that ship has sailed for me and I am 100% OK with that reality. Instead, I am looking forward to that period-free life like no other and planning a tampon bonfire with girlfriends!

So there you have it. If you leave with anything from this post, please let it be the fact that your period is not a life sentence for pain and misery. There are millions of women out there just like you, and plenty of options available to help. The suggestions above obviously heavily rely on being fortunate enough to have health insurance, which is sadly not a reality for so many. However, there are a number of alternative resources available through the Department of Health and Human Services to protect your health. Check here for more information.


 

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Vicki has always had Texan blood pumping through her veins. Raised in Katy as the oldest of four girls and now a resident of Kingwood, she’s known for her undying and somewhat fanatical love of all things related to H-E-B, Amazon Prime, Taylor Swift, and Texas A&M, her alma mater {WHOOP!}. She has a passion for supporting other working moms in the workplace, as well as military veterans. Married to Paul since 2011 {also an Aggie and a veteran}, she has three kids:: step-daughter Madeline {2003} and sons Hamilton {2014}, and Harrison {2019}. By day, Vicki is a full-time working mom who works in HR and by night she’s a closet “60 Minutes” & “Real Housewives” fan. Always first out on the dance floor for “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Vicki enjoys unwinding with friends over a glass of wine, a new craft brew and/or a H-E-B cheese ball.

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