Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, specifically the app Clue, I have every cycle that I’ve had in the last three and a half years tracked with excessive detail. But hang on, the maths doesn’t quite add up… three years is 42 months… and I’ve only had 18 cycles… right well there’s warning sign number one – irregular periods. Throughout this blog I’ll illustrate a couple of points with information from my Clue which is almost definitely a gross overshare but hey, here we go.
Remarkably, my quest for treatment began during the last year where I have, for the first time ever, had a natural and regular cycle. But, with my period finally having regulated to a monthly cycle, it made all the symptoms I had been experiencing over a long period of time, condense into a month. Highlighting their severity and increasing their impact.
Acne is the most obvious, but my sisters and my mother have/had normal cycles and acne long into adulthood. It was only once I became very aware of horrible chin acne during the same point in every cycle that I noticed it was, at least, hormonal acne.
Painful and heavy periods have gone hand in hand since menarche (my first period). The more pain I’m in then the heavier I tend to be bleeding. This, has over the years, often resulted in at least two days of doubling up tampons with sanitary pads, frequent changes and dozens of destroyed pyjamas and bedsheets… (I’m still waiting for that TMI filter to kick in). This has become easier to manage with a menstrual cup, if only it could cure the pain too – so far, only ibuprofen can do that. One thing that put me off seeking advice was that I was ‘running’ a lot and irregular periods and even amenorrhea (disappearance of periods) can be caused by frequent exercise, especially running. However, when I say ‘run’ I mean a light jog that usually turns into a long walk and I think it is highly unlikely that my shoddy exercise habits had anything to do with anything. Here you can see how my cramps and painkiller use have increased over time.
Ovulation pain is something I’ve only experienced during the last ten months or so, but while it seems to be somewhere in the vicinity of my ovaries it isn’t as strict time wise. It now is a pain I experience three out of four weeks of my cycle, particularly when I step on my right leg.
Random cramping, leg pain and fatigue are a few new dramas to deal with three out of four weeks of my cycle, particularly if I run. The leg pain is particularly strange as it is a bit like growing pains but in my upper thighs. Over the last four months in particular, lethargy has begun to accompany pain – though whether I’m tired because I’m in pain or whether the fatigue is coming from somewhere else, I do not know. I am a pretty lethargic person anyway so it’s taken a big move in my energy levels for me to notice.
Back pain is something I’ve dealt with since I was about eleven and I actually think might have been the earliest sign. I remember my mum taking me to the doctors and chiropractors to try and ease this dull achey pain in my lower back, particularly when standing for a long time, but nothing ever worked. When I started my period four years later, it was weird to find that this pain that had plagued me for so long, was now part of my period pain every ‘month’.
There are a few other things, some that I’ve discussed in my last blog like pain during sex and constipation before my period and after sex, and some that I’ve only experienced rarely or recently like occasional bleeding during/after sex and spotting.
Thanks for sticking with #Periodically thus far. I’m excited, now that I’ve got all the depressing symptoms and nitty gritty details out of the way, I can really delve in and write about what happens now and why more attention needs to be paid to reproductive and sexual health.