This post deals with the medical condition Menorrhagia (heavy, prolonged menstruation) so you’ve been warned! This is my story.
I started my period when I was 11. In the beginning it was just 7 days but it was heavy. On my 2nd and 3rd days I could never manage to get through a class without bleeding through my pad/clothes (I used heavy flow pads). Vacations were always a challenge, often a nightmare. Every year the family would head for the beach and more often than not I’d be on my period which really limited my activities (swimming was out of the question). On one occasion I went with my family to a mini golf place not more than a 5-10 minute walk from where we were staying. I decided to ride the bumper boats against my better judgement. The ride was short but by the time I got out of the boat I was soaked in blood. My friends never bled at night during their periods but I bled especially heavily at night so I couldn’t sleep on my back or even roll over. In the 3 seconds it takes to roll from one side to the next I would bleed through my clothes and the mattress as well. If I accidentally slept on my back the mattress would be soaked. I couldn’t lean back even slightly when sitting up or the blood would run out before it had a chance to be absorbed. I was very inactive when I was younger and couldn’t keep up with my peers physically I was always out of breath. I was probably anemic. Given that I was being sexually abused I was very tight-lipped about my condition and did not go to the doctor at all during this time. I lived with my mother and grandmother who had both experienced very difficult periods. So by the standards of my family my situation seemed typical.
When I was in high school my cramps worsened. I went to the doctor for the first time and I will share it only because I feel it shines light on a very important issue. The doctor was hostile from the very beginning. He was misogynistic and unsympathetic. He accused me of exaggerating the pain to get out of school. He decided to perform an exam. I told him that I was on my period and that I was bleeding. He told me that I was exaggerating about the blood flow and that it would not interfere with the exam. It interfered and he had to stop the exam. He then became angry with me for lying to him about my period (he felt that there was way too much blood for it to be the 5th day). He decided to have an ultrasound performed. He didn’t perform the ultrasound himself. The nurses who did were sympathetic and very nice. The ultrasound revealed lots of Ovarian cysts. He wrote me a prescription. He barely said a word to me after that and I don’t remember being given any real explanation other than I had cysts on my ovaries. I was conservative in my use of painkillers, stingy even. There was no further inquiry into my case but he continued to renew the prescription year after year. I went to the hospital at one point for the pain of exploding(?) cysts but nothing was ever really investigated, it was always just here have some pain relief.
In college I noticed some changes in my cycle. I went from a 28 day cycle to a 20-25 day cycle with stress bleeding between (stress could result in a period beginning at random). My periods also increased to 10-13 days. I wasn’t able to use tampons (insufficient/tilted uterus). In college I studied Nutrition and I followed a very healthy diet, I was fit but I was still struggling with anemia on and off and problems with my potassium levels (my vitamin panels were always outstanding except for iron/potassium). At 26 I got pregnant and my anemia worsened. I remember thinking that the labor pains were like period pains which struck me as a little odd. The doctor told me my first period after giving birth would be extremely heavy and not to be concerned unless the clots were large (I forget the diameter precisely). I always had rather large clots with my periods on the 2nd and 3rd days so nothing struck me as abnormal. Actually I considered it to be a typical period.
In my early 30s my periods got worse. They were ranging anywhere between 10-24 days (the length kept increasing). My cycle was 14 days on average but that too varied with stress. My periods were such that it was impossible to have a job and I was confined indoors sometimes for a full week at a time. Oddly it was my neurologist that sent me to the gynecologist for menorrhagia. When I was being investigated for Epilepsy she asked me some questions about my menstrual cycle. The gynecologists I had been to rarely inquired beyond my last period and I never really offered any information. My experiences with gynecologists at that point were very negative excluding my obstetrician who was absolutely fantastic. I can’t really explain why I suffered so long without saying anything. It wasn’t really until my mom started to require blood transfusions/hemorrhage during her periods that it dawned on me how dangerous it could be. When she hit her 50s with no end in sight to her periods I thought how long am I going to have to live with this shit?! My mom had a full hysterectomy in her mid 50s which stopped her period. My husband had been telling me for years that my periods seemed abnormal/excessive. The gynecologist prescribed Provera 10 mg/daily. Provera improved the quality of my life, saved my life I feel. Sometimes I do bleed for a few days and sometimes I can’t sleep for cramps but it is rare. A few months ago they switched my medicines and lowered my dose that was after an unsuccessful attempt to implant Mirena. I bled for 3 days initially but I figured my body was just adjusting. After that it was okay for a spell and then I started bleeding again. I bled for 14 days, not heavy but persistent bleeding. On the final day the bleeding and cramping intensified so I called the doctor. I started to feel extremely fatigued toward the end and ended up taking iron tablets for a while which helped. On Wednesday I went in to see the doctor and was given some options (in the meantime I am taking Provera). My options are Novasure and a partial hysterectomy. I have been researching since I got the news. I researched partial hysterectomies when looking into treatment options for Menorrhagia previously. I did not think I would be offered the option because of the conservative nature of treatment in Sweden but I still looked into it. I even talked to my therapist about it. I have decided to go with the partial hysterectomy (if you want I can write a post with my reasons). I will schedule the appointment soon, maybe within the week and get back to you.
One of the reasons I shared this is because so many people have been shamed by doctors or others into silence. Often as women issues with menstruation are dismissed as pleas for sympathy or special treatment. I am pretty sure everyone here has had one of their concerns (health or otherwise) prematurely dismissed by someone and has had difficulty getting the help/support they needed/deserved.