Her: When you went off birth control did you have any noticeable side effects after having been on the pill for years?
Me: Yes. Pregnancy. Every time.
(Insert Sister rolling her eyes heavenwards and deeply regretting having asked me the question in the first place.)
BEFORE ANYONE ASKS: NO, this is NOT me telling everyone my sister is pregnant. Because to my knowledge she is not. Quite the opposite, in fact.
She thought I was joking but she knows my (and her own) history... we are fertile girls after all!
That, of course, wasn't what she meant at all. She actually wanted to discuss side effects of going cold turkey off the pill and what it would do to her. She had been reading internet "medical" data and chat room horror stories and had successfully freaked herself out. She'd had some symptoms and wanted to know if this was "normal". So, she came to me, her big sister, for some advice. (Mom was probably busy.)
I told her, reasonably I thought, that she should consult her doctor and that some of the things she had read about where possible but it was unlikely that she would get ALL of the symptoms at the same time. She knew all of that.
But I also told her something that she didn't know yet... "normal" changes after the age of 35- menustrually speaking. But that she knows her body best and she has to pay attention to what it is saying. She also has to share that information with the doctor to get the best information.
I illustrated this with a personal story, with a point, from a couple years ago. SPOILER ALERT: this story is about my period so if that sets off your T.M.I. alarm scan right down to the bottom for the point of the story.
I went to see my personal doctor because I was concerned that my cycle had been doing some wonky things. Until that time I had always been regular like precision Swiss clockwork, both on and off the pill. Now I was +8 days one month and -2 the next. It was very odd. So, of course, I did some internet research and had convinced myself that I had early stages of ovarian cancer. (Yeah, I'm an idiot. Not the point. Keep reading.)
So I go to my doctor and I describe my lack of normal cycle. He listens and then asks me my age. I tell him. He said that this change in my cycle could be that I was now over 35. That things change at about this age for women.
I emphasized how regular I had been, like, forever and was he very certain that there might not be anything else at play here. Seeing that I was not going to let this go he dug around on the inside of his desk for a little bit until he procured a little pad of paper. This was a menustral tracking chart. He then advised that the only way we would know if this was normal was if we tracked my menstrual cycle for 6 months or more. (Insert smug doctor face of knowing I would go away for at least 6 months and let him deal with patients who had real issues.)
So I dug around in my purse for a moment and handed him a piece of paper. I told him that I had already charted this information on my own over the previous +12 months and I still saw no pattern. (Bazinga!)
He was a little dumbstruck as he looked at it for a moment but evetually concluded that it was well in the range of normal but that normal, for me, had obviously changed since I had turned 35. He also added that I'd had regular PAP test which showed normal results so we had no reason to suspect anything odd was at play here. He also added that he thought I was a very peculiar woman for having had that charted already.
My answer to that was that how was: of course I had it charted. I noticed a difference and how was I supposed to prove a trend if I didn't have any data?
Any I bring it around to my points and I have a few:
- Being aware of YOUR body is what is relevant. You should know your normal and know when your body is deviating from it.
- Stay away from the internet for self diagnosis.
- Charting and graphing- all the cool kids are doing it! You should too.
All of this sisterly advice in 140 characters or less. Not bad but I'm not going to quit my day job.