It started with the hot flashes.
Well, let me back up. It started with feeling incredibly hot and sweaty after completing simple household tasks like doing the dishes and mopping the floors. I thought I was just overheating from the hot summer days. Or maybe that my body was a bit messed up after having a baby.
At the urging of a friend, I went to see my OB-GYN to discuss what I described as “some possible hormone issues.” Honestly, I couldn’t get over the fact that I was just overreacting to the whole thing. I’ve always run warmer than those around me, which makes for some pretty miserable summers here in the Midwest. And, really, who sees their doctor because they sweat a lot?
My OB asked me how my periods were, if they were regular or not. He asked me where I sweated.
“All over,” I replied, continuing to feel like an idiot. “My armpits, the small of my back, my upper lip.”
Almost immediately, he diagnosed me: “I think you’re going into pre-menopause.”
My jaw dropped, “At 31 years old?!”
But as he explained it more, it made sense.
Back in 2014, after my second in vitro fertilization (IVF) failed, my fertility doctor mentioned that I might possibly have some egg quality issues. After some testing, it was determined that I had diminished ovarian reserve. We tried one last IVF cycle using my own eggs (which failed), before deciding to use an egg donor to get pregnant.
During all of this, no one ever mentioned early menopause to me. No one ever said that maybe I would start feeling the effects of menopause 20 years earlier than I should. All the doctors talked about was getting me pregnant.
And I did. I have a beautiful little girl who is almost 2, but for a while now, I’ve known something isn’t quite right with my body.
Will there be difficulties with intimacy with my husband down the road? Will this mean my periods will end earlier than normal?
Sitting in the OB office that morning, my hands clenched between my legs, I silently listened to him talk about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and how I’ve probably been starting the process of early menopause since the birth of my daughter. My trouble sleeping, anxiety, lightheadedness and night sweats were probably related to low estrogen levels and weren’t just the “weird stuff” that happens after a baby.
I went home with a prescription for birth control pills—an ironic medication for someone who has experienced infertility for the last 6 years—and was told that starting these could help with the symptoms. We needed to get my estrogen levels up in order for my body to stop thinking it’s 45 years old.
I started taking the tiny pills this week, but I can’t help but think about the future. At just 31, I’m probably going to be on HRT for a long time. Of course, I should be concerned about bone loss as a woman in general, but now I wonder about calcium and osteoporosis and bone scans far earlier than I was ever planning.
Will there be difficulties with intimacy with my husband down the road? Will this mean my periods will end earlier than normal? A perk, I can see, but again, as someone who has dealt with infertility, this just seems like another blow—another way my body has failed me.
It’s too early to tell if my symptoms are improving, but I’m hoping all of this is worth it. I still have questions for my doctor and I know there are many routes to hormone therapy I can try in the future. Birth control pills don’t have to be the only treatment.
Obviously, I’m thankful it’s not a worse diagnosis. But it still sucks. It’s something I'm going to have to learn to live with, and thankfully, I’ve had other women reach out to me that share the same situation.
One day soon, I’m going to be proactive, but right now, I think I just need to process all of this.