Monday, 14 January 2013

Early Menopause or Hormonal Imbalance - Take Charge Of Your Womanly Health

Modern day society has a rather dismissive way of handling women's issues. It either numbs them out with drugs or provides women with little knowledge on the subject. Luckily, we have the internet & excellent female (and male) authors out there taking the lead on finding balance for womankind.

Something that both horrifies me, and astonishes me, is how little the younger (and older) generations of women know about their bodies. I put my hand straight up alongside them, as I was exactly the same until womanly 'issues' arose in my own life. I wonder how many women use the contraceptive pill to stop a menstrual cycle simply because they have a special event coming up or are going on holiday? This playing with the hormones can have a major effect on the way our bodies and minds function.

I knew of one woman who had the contraceptive injection in her arm. She told me, rather happily, that she no longer had any periods whatsoever, that she felt it was fabulous to not have to put up with the dreaded 'curse'. I shook my head and shuddered inside. Women have forgotten how to be women, they have forgotten how essential the cycle is. It was not just a random mistake of nature that we menstruate, everything in our bodies works together like pieces of a puzzle.



What do you know about oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone?

Do you know what function they play in the body? In a woman's body especially?

How long is your menstrual cycle?

When do you ovulate?

If you do not menstruate, do you consider the effect this could have on your fertility if you are planning to have children in later life?

All of these questions need to be asked, and if you do not know the answers, you really need to look into this for your future female health.

The Contraceptive Pill

When I was in my teens I took the contraceptive pill for around 8 years. I was initially on the pill called Marvelon. This pill made me weep uncontrollably and put on weight.  Even then I knew this was not right, yet I trusted the doctors believing artificial hormones were okay for my body.


Now, I am not advocating no contraception, but ask that all women take a good hard look at what they are taking and what they need to know for the future.

After 8 years I came off the pill when backpacking in Australia. It seemed to coincide with my own self questioning. Coming off the pill also caused a rush of hormones that caused my libido to sky rocket (prior to this the pill had completely reduced my libido - which kinda poses the question - why bother?). I had a healthy period of passionate sex with my then partner, which once the hormones reduced again, went away. Now at 36 I have little libido. It is gradually increasing by using natural progesterone cream but I know I have some re-balancing to do now, hence this post.

Now, if I had not had some issues arise over the years, I may not have looked into hormones, my body, what it all means, but looking back I realise how crazy it was to not know about my own physical functions. So this has made me take a large introspective look at myself as a woman and I encourage you to do the same.


Prior to using natural progesterone cream, I had chronic cramping during menstruation and this was one of the main reasons I originally began looking at the subject of hormones. And I still have a lot more to learn. I am by far, no expert, a novice right now, but hope to share as I learn.

I realised when looking into it, a little cramping was natural, but chronic cramping was not. I used to roll on the floor in tears and in pain. Pain killers, hot water bottles, nothing soothed it, and the more I felt stressed about it, the more the pain increased. I also had hellish PMS (premenstrual syndrome). I was a demon woman, and I still have my moments (thankfully not as much now since using natural progesterone cream). The PMS included rage and anger for no reason and incredible despair. I literally felt I was losing my mind before using natural progesterone cream.

Natural progesterone has helped me, but not completely balanced me, and I am looking into increasing my dosage, changing my diet, and really focusing on well-being more.

Regarding conventional medicine, I discovered that my first trip to see the doctor was a complete farce. He was a male doctor who could not even look me in the eye when I mentioned vaginal dryness. He further sent me for blood tests, randomly timed and he did not even consider that at different times of the cycle different levels of hormones are present. So needless to say, my blood tests came back normal. And as I know from investigating, blood tests are not always the most reliable source of information, especially for women who are still menstruating. According to Dr John Lee*, a saliva test is far more conclusive for testing hormone levels. These tests can cost around £200, a lot for most women. So getting to know our own bodies is very important to getting our power back.


Female Reproductive System


My new doctor is female; she listens to me, yet she still does not fully understand hormones.  Today she said that excessive facial hair has nothing to do with hormones or testosterone and is just one of those things that happens sometimes. Again, I shook my head and bit my tongue, because as far as I can see it's 'Hormone Lesson 101', that it is related to the hormones. Anyway, it is more hopeful in that she is putting me in for more blood tests, but around the time of ovulation and menstruation, within the same month. I am keeping everything crossed that something shows up this time to understand it further. If not, I will simply continue my own self balancing and getting to know more about what I can do for myself.

EARLY MENOPAUSE

Many people believe the menopause begins in your 50's, but I believe more women are beginning menopause and pre-menopause long before this time. My grandmother started her menopause when she was 36 and my mother and aunts were in their 50's, so it pays to talk to female relatives to see what they experienced. I feel the women's movement in the 1960's helped women take control of their reproductive cycles through the contraceptive pill, but it also left a legacy of women so out of touch with their own bodies that we now have hormonal imbalance that is becoming more widespread. I fear this will increase as the new generation are being put on the pill much earlier, many for acne related problems, even before they are sexually active, along with hormones in the food and environment. Which does have a big effect on our cycles.


The women's movement gave the power to control, but took away the power of knowledge. Every woman has her own unique body knowledge, has her own inner wisdom regarding her body. We lost that knowledge, and hopefully the growing trend in healthy lifestyles and well-being will correct this imbalance somewhere.

When the contraceptive pill came in, women were living guinea pigs for drugs that were not tested for long enough through generations, and did not fully consider the unique response to artificial hormones that our bodies  have. The pharmaceutical industry profits from both the use of the contraceptive pill but also profits from treating the side effects of long term usage of the pill. HRT (hormone replacement therapy), became a fixer for the menopause and the menopause became a term used in a negative way. Women everywhere began to dread the change, seeing it as disease and not a natural cycle of  growth and change. Drug companies played on women's fear of the change and the effects it would have on their lives.

Over the course of writing online, I have met many women with many hormonal issues, a large number of young women suffering from endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, fertility issues and more. This is a telling sign that something is not right in the way we approach women's bodies.

When I mention menopause to most people they say "you're too young", but am I? It may be that I have no menopausal symptoms whatsoever but it is possible.

Some of the symptoms I have been experiencing over the past 10 years and more so the past 2 years are :


  • Hot flashes on an evening, they last between 30 minutes and an hour.
  • An increase in facial hair, in my chin area, dark black long hairs.
  • A lack of libido.
  • Anxiety/palpitations at night that have me gasping for air and can be scary.
  • Vaginal dryness.
  • Skin issues/acne
  • Despairing thoughts around ovulation and menstruation time.
  • Thirst around ovulation and menstruation time.

My new doctor said she felt the vaginal dryness was from the natural progesterone cream, but it was clear she had no idea what natural progesterone cream was and had no knowledge of it. I had to tell her this issue came about years before using the cream.

Now, I am convinced these issues arose because of taking the contraceptive pill in my youth and taking the morning-after pill twice (high doses of oestrogen when I took it). Now, the morning-after pill contains artificial progestogen, which is supposed to be safer, but it is still an artificial hormone, and I feel personally, for me, that this high dose really sky rocketed other hormones and made my hormones completely off-balance.  So for me, the idea of adding artificial hormones back into my body (eg.HRT) sets off alarm bells ringing.

So tomorrow I am having another ECG taken at my local surgery (if you have worrying heart palpitations it pays to get your heart tested for peace of mind anyway) and next month I will be getting a series of blood tests carried out on hormones again. And hopefully discover what my fertility is like. Even though I have no thoughts about having children right now, I don't know what I will feel like in the future, when with the right partner. For me, getting the knowledge is most important to me. Once I know what is happening then I can look at ways to get my natural balance back. 

When I am able, I will try increasing my natural progesterone dose, but will wait until the tests have been carried out first. And also refining my diet and looking at the dietary options for getting my balance back. 

For me, I am relieved I have this knowledge. I also encourage keeping a 'red diary', making notes on your cycle, what emotions you feel, symptoms you have, for at least 3 months to keep track, and if necessary seek professional help.

Most of all get to know your own body. What does it feel like? Do you sense when you ovulate? Do you know when your period is coming?

I hope to write more over the coming weeks as I gain more knowledge. I feel the more information out there for women to make better, more informed decisions is very important. And to start conversations so we can get to understand what is going on is also very important.










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