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I have reached the point in my life where I am no longer
asked the date for the first day of my last period when checking in for a medical appointment. Instead, the staff inquires if I still have periods.
The first time this question was posed, it took everything I
had not to slap the perky twenty-something nurse who had asked in the face. I
But, at my last well-woman visit, I had to face the facts. I
am now a "woman of a certain age." And if I thought pregnancy and the
post-partum period were the most intense stages of hormonal upheaval in my
life, the joke was on me.
The times, they are a changin'. And a visit to the doctor
has suddenly become a whole lot more interesting.
You may have reached a certain age, but your doctor will remind you
it is still possible to become pregnant. After all the worrying I'd done about
whether or not I'd be able to have a baby due to waning fertility, once I was past that point my doctor
wanted to talk to me about birth control. But this time, he was referring to
the permanent kind.
Why bother with the inconvenience of something like a daily
pill when there are other alternatives? This will make you question if you truly are finished having
babies. Yes, you were absolutely sure before you went in for your appointment,
but you will leave with a strong desire to reassess your life.
My baby-making days are behind me. And that's OK.
2. Could you kindly move
down the hall?
Once you are done having babies, the obstetrician part of "ob-gyn" doesn't apply to you. You'll be switched to another part of the
practice you've been going to for years.
I actually report to an entirely
different office now.
The doctor I see is one who was once in the rotation to
potentially deliver my child. But he is done delivering babies and focuses
solely on women in my stage of life now. His office is down the hall from the main
one. Not a single pregnant woman in sight. I'm not sure whom they are trying to
protect with this move. Are they
afraid all the young, fertile women will make us old ladies weep for a time
gone by? Or that seeing the future will scare the daylights out of expectant
3. Yes, no, maybe so?
My gynecologist was kind enough at my recent appointment not to ask if I was
still having periods. Which reaffirmed why I have always liked him. But he did
want to know if they are occurring regularly at this point. I told him they are
indeed. In fact, right now, I'm having one every two weeks. Which led to further
inquiry. He nodded empathetically with each answer and jotted notes on my
4. Is it hot in here, or
is it just you?
Your doctor will ask you about a host of symptoms. It
starts out kind of like small talk at a dinner party. Then, suddenly, you have been
thrust into an intense game of 20 questions, and you are sitting in the hot
seat. Speaking of which, are you experiencing hot flashes? Night sweats? Suffering
from insomnia? Having frequent headaches? Trouble concentrating? Going to the
bathroom more often?
Do you make it in time?
For example, are you interested in sex in the first place? Or has your libido gone out the window? Does it hurt when you have sex?
What about bowel movements? I did
not realize I had actually said, "What the does that have to do with anything?" out loud until my doctor responded.
(Ooops.) He gently explained lowering estrogen levels also impact bowel
function. I smiled weakly and said yes, he could check those boxes on "the list"—he
clearly was reading from one—as well.
Then the really fun questions started.
5. Getting any
Your doctor is going to want to know about your sex life, but for
totally different reasons than you are used to. For example, are you interested
in sex in the first place? Or has your libido gone out the window? Does it hurt
when you have sex? Are things getting a little … dry? Falling estrogen levels
can wreak havoc on your romantic endeavors. Your doctor will want to speak frankly
about all this with you, for your own benefit. Those were questions I actually welcomed,
because he had the answers and solutions I was seeking.
When a woman reaches this point in her life, she has two
options: freak out or accept the inevitable.
I choose the latter.
My baby-making days are behind me. And that's OK. I love
where I am in my life. My 40s have been the best decade by far. And if I can
get through a visit to my gynecologist, I can handle anything that comes my