Today is day three of my period. I’m not wearing a tampon. I didn’t wear one on day one or two either. In fact, I haven’t worn a tampon for months, maybe even more than a year. These days my periods are so light that I only know they’re here by a very slight colouring of the loo roll. In fact, earlier today, knowing I was going to write this, I giggled when I wiped my hands and the juice from a blood orange left more of a mark on a tissue than an earlier bathroom visit had.
Things used to be very different. I used to plan my work diary to avoid leaving the house on day three of my period. If day three fell at the weekend and I was away I would take my own towels to wrap around me like a nappy in case I ruined a friend’s mattress. Dates, nights out, exercise – all of them would be embargoed if it was day three. Day three was when the floodgates opened. Literally.
Then in summer 2016 a pub conversation with Livvy set in place a chain of events that led me, five months later, to surgery. Nothing serious – just a simple 15 minute procedure to remove what turned out to be “a multitude” of polyps and insert a Mirena Coil to stop them coming back again. Today, I would delight in answering the white trouser question very differently!
Had that conversation not happened would I still be on that frankly horrible monthly rollercoaster, living in fear of public embarrassment? Or would I have eventually taken myself to the doctors of my own volition? I’d like to think the latter, but who knows; I was already putting up with ridiculous levels of inconvenience and had made it my normal. And too many women do this. One of the reasons I’m so glad to see Sub Bee’s new meme, Menstruation Matters is because it provides a place where we can all share our stories and experiences and where we think someone might need a gentle nudge to seek help or just a friendly word, we can help.
So is it all a bed of roses now? Not exactly, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with. Although my monthly bleeding is nothing more than mild spotting now, other things have changed. I rarely (ok – sorry – never!) had period pain but now I get very definite cramping. I’d hesitate it to call it real pain but because I’ve never experienced cramps before I do get a bit cats bottom mouth about them, especially as I cramp but don’t bleed. The most problematic change is emotional. When I was talking to friend around the time of the op and told her I was going for the Mirena Coil she replied: “ah, PMS to FMS!” I pressed her on this. Apparently FMS is fat miserable and spotty. These were the side effects she’d read about when she was researching her own procedure. Fat we’ll come back to. Spotty – I have been annoyingly fortunate on that front all my life. But oh my, miserable? Yes!
I’m not talking ongoing constant malaise but as regular as clockwork a few days before my ghost period arrives I get truly distressed about things. In the old days I’d get all ranty and cross, now I just get really really upset with someone-is-pouring-a-watering-can-down-my-face level of tears. It’s mildly annoying but unlike the hormonal swings of my twenties, when the pill didn’t agree with me, I feel more robust when it comes to coping with these dips. They just happen. It just is. It lasts 24 or 48 hours and then it passes. What I find most fascinating is they’re never irrational tears. When I used to get angry and rant, that was often about stupid pointless things of no consequence or out of my control and afterwards I would feel stupid. Now, I find myself intensely upset about things that I may have been trying to push under the surface for the rest of the month and then – boom! – in the same way a hot flannel will bring a spot to the surface and make it easier to pop, my cycle brings all that emotion up and out. It took a while to cotton onto my new patterns but now I have I am more prepared for them and I examine more closely what that emotional purge is telling me.
And then the fat thing. The official paperwork says fewer than 5% of women experience weight gain, although 5% of the number of women who have one fitted is probably a lot of women. I have put on a fairly significant amount of weight in the two years since the op. But I would be really really disinclined to say that’s coil-related, it’s almost certainly life-style related. Many people talk about ‘eat less, move more’ as a method of losing weight. I generally gleefully subscribe to the ‘eat loads, move loads’ method of making sure my clothes continue to fit! I’m lucky enough to usually enjoy good physical health and I love exercise so this isn’t usually a problem but a stupid accident on a bus last spring left my knee in a sorry state and seen me in and out of X-ray rooms and MRI pods. Of course, I haven’t tempered my eating or drinking to match my reduction in exercise – if anything I’ve done more of both in response to work stress. In short, I’m 99% sure consumption and lack of movement is the cause of my weight gain and that in time normal service will resume. However, if someone was to say to me it is all because of the coil, would I have it removed so my favourite clothes fitted again? No bloody way. Excuse the pun! I never want to find myself hiding in a graveyard washing my legs or cleaning my carpets at 3am again.
So that’s my before and after! If you’re experiencing periods that are disrupting your life, don’t be like me and wait years to get it sorted – book an appointment with your GP right now!