Somehow I missed the memo. When my periods became unusually heavy in the past year or so, I had no idea why. They’d never caused me problems before. And it still wasn’t that inconvenient. No cramping, no irregularity just…. heavier than usual.
Apparently, this is common for women in their 40s. As your fertility prepares to pack it in, your bits can go haywire – that’s the technical term for it, of course.
I was first alerted to this during a routine blood test when I discovered I was woefully low in iron. I've always had low iron but this was almost off the charts quite literally. My doctor was a bit baffled. "Are you exhausted?"
"Dizzy and breathless?"
Only in my spirit. Not in practice, as evidenced by the delicious cheese burger I ate yesterday.
Listen to Mia discuss her Mirena in this special snippet from our Mamamia Out Loud podcast. Post continues after audio.
Various follow up tests were ordered. A pelvic ultrasound ruled out fibroids (my mum had those and they caused her all sorts of dramas resulting in a hysterectomy at around the age I am now) so it seemed it correlated to my heavy periods. I had an iron transfusion.
But the iron was only part of the problem. The heaviness of my periods was becoming inconvenient. You know what I mean. For the first time, my life was actually being disrupted by my menstrual cycle. Who has time for that?
My girlfriend who is a GP suggested a Mirena - a type of IUD that releases a tiny amount of progesterone into your uterus each day to thin its lining, making your periods much lighter and in most cases actually stop.
I've spoken to a few doctors who have told me it has saved hundreds of thousands of women from having to have hysterectomies. It's used to treat heavy periods as much as it's used for contraception apparently.
Like most things related to female health, once I started asking around, I discovered a world of women who were happily using Mirenas including several of my close friends who had dispensed with tampons all together and one who'd had to have hers removed recently due to constant bleeding.
I posted about it on my Facebook page and got loads more information from women who had them. Some loved, others had problems. I decided to give it a go.
That's when things got interesting. The description of how painful it was to insert (you have to have it done by a GP or gyno, it's not a DIY situation) ranged from "slightly worse than a pap smear" to "worse than childbirth".
In the interests of helping out my sisters who might be considering this form of contraception/period management, I thought I'd make a video about it (it's at the top of this post). You're really very welcome.
What's been your strategy for dealing with your periods as you get older?