I don’t usually use my blog to talk about my health issues. But I want to share something that’s going on with me because so many of you reading this are women who are 35 or older. And I told myself that if this – the thing I’m going to talk about – worked for me, I would tell it to as many other women as I could.
I just turned 50, and I was miserable from December of 2014 to just about 6 weeks ago.
- I was weepy. All the time.
- I wanted to kill my husband.
- I felt totally foggy and brain-dead, not able to concentrate.
- I was waking up every night in the middle of the night and being awake for two hours.
- I was exhausted all the time.
- I was gaining weight.
- I felt anxious about everything.
- And libido? What’s that?
About the only symptoms that would normally appear on this (oh too familiar) list that I wasn’t dealing with were hot flashes and night sweats because they were being controlled with synthetic estrogen and progesterone.
Back in December, I had my ovaries removed, so I was flung into instant surgical menopause. And it made me completely miserable. Hot flashes 6 or 8 times a day, soaking night sweats every night, plus everything I listed above. My regular gynecologist put me on synthetic hormone replacement – pretty much the standard in the American healthcare system.
But I still felt weird. More than weird. Awful. I went back to the gynecologist and asked if we could adjust the doses or try something different. Nope, if the hot flashes and night sweats were being controlled, the doses were correct. I went to my primary care doctor and said, “I feel weird.” She did every blood test she could think of and said, “Nope, you’re fine.” The message I got was, (and I quote directly from the gynecologist), “No one ever dies of menopause,” and that I needed to just deal with it.
I got mad. And I got really curious. And I got determined. Several years ago, I had started reading about ‘bioidentical’ hormone replacement. And I knew there were doctors and clinics springing up all over who prescribe these. So I did a bunch more reading.
And what I learned was pretty amazing.
Three things stand out.
One is that the risks of bioidentical hormone replacement are much lower – proponents say non-existent – than synthetic hormones. (My regular gynecologist had put me on synthetic estrogen tablets which increase risks of blood clots, even though I had had a blood clot 5 years ago – yikes!)
The second thing is that the doctors in the bioidentical camp believe menopausal women should feel good. Vibrant. Energetic. Full of zest for life. ‘Uh duh,’ you say, right? Well, apparently ~thriving~ is not the goal in some parts of the regular medical system. Being told that no one has ever died of menopause is not a message that makes me believe that my particular gynecologist was concerned about helping me feel zesty. On the other hand, doctors in the bioidentical camp believe in bringing hormone levels back up to how you felt long before perimenopause even started. We’re talking back to how you felt around age 35. Does that sound unnatural? Well, so was the surgery I had to remove my appendix back when I was 21. But I’m sure glad I went with that. I like being here.
Finally, the third thing that totally interested me is that women produce a lot of their testosterone in their ovaries, which I no longer owned. I read a list of symptoms of women with low testosterone levels, and I had almost every one…and they had all started back in December. Hmm… But most American insurance companies won’t pay for testosterone replacement (even synthetic) for women. Also, synthetic progesterone, which I was taking, somehow bonds with any smidge of testosterone I was producing in my adrenals, which renders it useless.
So I found me a doc who does bioidenticals. He’s an MD, a gynecologist, and his entire practice is hormone replacement therapy.
Did my insurance pay for this? Hell, no.
Was it expensive? Yes, about $1200 to get started plus $80 a month for the prescription. (In following years, it should be only $600 plus the monthly prescription.)
Am I worth it? YES!
Do I feel better? YEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS! I started feeling better within 24 hours, in fact. I’ve been on them for about 6 weeks, and I feel vibrant. Energetic. Zesty.
I just wish I’d known about bioidentical hormone replacement when I was 38 and had my first panic attack and was put on Paxil, an anti-depressant used for anxiety. I was on that drug, which has known long-term effects, all through my 40’s. But guess what? Age 38 is about when women start making less progesterone, which is a calming hormone. I just wonder now how I would have felt if I had started bioidenticals at that point instead.
As I went through this process, I told myself that if this made me feel better, I was going to share this with every woman I could. Because even though no one ever died of menopause, it causes real suffering. But it doesn’t have to.