Disclaimer :: I am not a medical professional, and the information and opinions presented in this article are based on my experience and personal research and not of FWMB or CMBN.
When I entered my 30s a few years ago, I was prepared to feel a little older. I knew I would need to stretch more (I don’t, and it hurts), rest more (I don’t, and it hurts), and eat healthier (I don’t, and it just is). However, I wasn’t ready for the hormones that accompany this stage of life.
While 30 is a bit young for perimenopause, my hormones have definitely started changing. The severe cramps and inflamed acne were unwelcome enough, but what really got me was a sudden influx of health maladies that seemed completely arbitrary. In fact, it took a lot of googling, tracking my symptoms, talking to doctors, and just time for me to realize the issues weren’t so random. They were synced to specific points in my menstrual cycle.
Read on to see my findings and coping mechanisms, keeping in mind that this is mostly based on Dr. Google with some input from my primary care physician.
I had exercise-induced asthma as a kid, but it wasn’t too terrible. Once I entered high school, I ditched the inhaler and didn’t ever need it again until I got pregnant with my twins, and then again when I got pregnant with my singleton. After my pregnancies, life returned to normal until about three years ago when I was suddenly busting out my kids’ nebulizer for my own use.
I tracked what I was eating, what allergens were high, if I was sleeping, how much I was exercising, EVERYTHING. Six months in, I realized I always had asthma flare-ups the week before I got my period. A little Google and, lo and behold, The Journal of Asthma published an article in 1997 about women having an increase in asthma inflammations during the premenstrual phase. Yup. It’s a thing.
My coping mechanism: I can take an asthma control medicine at the right time of the month and prevent most of my flare-ups.
I had stress-related migraines in high school, and they come back every once in a while, but not often enough to take a preventative. When I hit 30, my migraines were suddenly coming a lot more often and sticking around for awhile. It starts with a terrible aura around everything and quickly devolves into a debilitating headache.
When I started looking at trigger possibilities, the only one that stuck out was my period. I consulted my PCP and Dr. Google, and it turns out the shift in hormones can trigger migraines for women. Super.
My coping mechanism: I take an Advil and Tylenol regimen the week before my period to control the severity of the headaches. It mostly works.
Outside of pregnancy, I haven’t regularly experienced severe nausea. I have a bit of a delicate stomach and have always been prone to belly aches, but the straight up nausea that started visiting me monthly is a bit of déjà vu from my pregnancies. For a while, I was nervously taking pregnancy tests in the days leading up to my period because it was so bad. Come to find out, this isn’t uncommon as your hormones change.
My coping mechanism: Up my water intake and include sources of electrolytes during this time. Staying hydrated seems to help a lot.
Premenstrual Mood Swings
In addition to once being a 13-year-old girl, I teach middle schoolers now, so I’m no stranger to the brutal up-and-down moods of the tween and teen years. I never really appreciated that beautiful period of time when things seemed mostly balanced and even mood-wise until I once again entered the territory of more-than-moderate anxiety and irritability during the premenstrual syndrome (PMS) days. Apparently, the closer we get to menopause, the more intense mood swings will become. Excellent, really excellent.
My coping mechanisms: Apologize a lot to those around me, and try to stay as self-aware as possible when it’s happening. And run. A lot.
A woman’s body is so complex and has so much going on all the time that it seems impossible to ever figure out why any one thing might be happening at any moment. We all know what it is to deal with less-than-stellar hormonal health issues on any given day. I think about it every time I run while on my period or deal with cycle-related symptoms. We are constantly working to both celebrate and overcome our bodies’ normal functions. Maybe one day we will figure out the perfect balance. Until then, I’m going to stay aware and pay attention, because knowledge is half the battle.