Top 10 list of things you should know about your gynecologic health:
- Period cramps are not normal.
Despite what your mother, sister, or great aunt taught you about menstrual cramps-they are not normal. You do not need to suffer every cycle as part of being a woman. Many times, young girls with cramps are placed on hormonal suppression to treat the symptoms. This band-aid treatment becomes less and less effective over time and once discontinued the pain returns with a vengeance. If you want to know the root cause you will need to seek out a physician who looks deeper.
- You are not required to fit the mold of a 28-day cycle.
Assuming women have 28-day cycles and ovulate on day 14 is like assuming every woman could wear a size 6 if they lived a healthy lifestyle. This is not reality. Only 13% of women have 28-day cycles. The phase of the cycle prior to ovulation is variable. This is normal. The same woman could ovulate on day 9 in one cycle and day 15 the next. Stressful situations such as wedding planning, moving, or a death in the family can significantly delay ovulation. It is important to learn a scientifically based charting method in order to reliably know when you are ovulating each cycle. This information can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy.
- You function with a different set of hormones each day of the cycle.
The hormonal curves of women have peaks and troughs. Every day is different. Some days estrogen dominates (around ovulation), other days progesterone (after ovulation). Right before the period starts you are living on hormonal fumes as nothing dominates. Men function with the same set of hormones each day, though the levels fluctuate throughout the day.
- Your body tells the story.
Do you want to know if you have a gynecologic infection? Signs of hormonal deficiencies? Bleeding patterns that warrant medical evaluation? Choosing to chart your cycles using a scientifically based charting system (a free phone app is not adequate) allows you to know when something is wrong. Your body communicates with a language that is interpretable. This knowledge of your body is empowering.
- Abnormal bleeding is not something you should ignore.
Women often live with abnormal bleeding for years before seeking medical attention. It is important to understand what normal looks like. A normal menstrual period has a crescendo-decrescendo pattern or a decrescendo pattern and averages 5-7 days in length. More than one day of brown bleeding at the end of your menses is not normal. Heavy bleeding during your menses that leads to soaking through clothes and necessitates being homebound is not normal. Heavy menstrual bleeding that leads to anemia is not normal. Random bleeding in the middle of your cycle is not normal. Seek out medical attention if you have any of these symptoms. There must be a reason and it needs to be addressed.
- Premenstrual syndrome is real.
See separate blog post. Do not suffer unnecessarily. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) are easy to diagnose and treat!
- The aging process cannot be reversed.
Doctors cannot stop the egg from aging with time. Scientists tout that freezing your eggs while you are young will magically solve this problem- “Freeze them now, use them later.” There is no scientific evidence that the frozen eggs (that you have paid annual fees to keep frozen) will turn into babies later in life. Not to mention the host of medical and ethical burdens that go along with these procedures. The one thing I can guarantee is that the younger you start trying to achieve a pregnancy the better off you will be.
- Approximately one in five couples struggle with infertility.
One of my mentors during training often told the residents, “don’t forget to have your babies.” I thought this was a strange mantra at the time. But with opportunities for higher education and a push for longer acting reversible contraceptives (such as the IUD) this has become a real concern. I strongly advocate using a natural method for planning your family. With a scientifically based charting method you can understand your body and fertility. In this way, any gynecologic issues that rise to the surface can be treated long before you are trying to get pregnancy. You will be more cognizant of your biological clock and hopefully avoid the pain of infertility.
- Getting to the root cause of your symptoms at a young age will benefit your long-term health.
Just a few examples:
- The estrogen dominance in women with polycystic ovarian disease can lead to endometrial cancer.
- Endometriosis is a progressive disease which grows over time causing pain and infertility.
- Heavy menses and abnormal bleeding can lead to anemia, chronic fatigue, and lifestyle limitations.
- Chronic pelvic pain over an extended time leads to anxiety and depression.
- You decide what treatments or devices are placed in your body.
I am surprised at the number of patients that schedule appointments with me to have their IUD’s removed. Why do they come to me? Because their regular gynecologist refused to remove it. Confused I ask, “why wouldn’t they remove it?” The answer is typically, “the doctor said, we don’t remove them for no reason at all.” The patient requesting removal is THE reason. I am a firm believer in patient autonomy. You choose your physician and treatment plans should be made together.