by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
I’ll never forget it. I was 20 years old, having just graduated from college and home for the summer while preparing to take off for a long-awaited trip to Europe. My whole life lay ahead of me—and I wasn’t even able to get motivated to renew my passport. Despite all the wonderful things I had to look forward to, I was miserable. I felt bloated and weighed down, physically and emotionally.
I remember sitting in my mother’s car outside a pottery shop while she went inside. I was thinking about all the things I had to do: get my tickets, shop for new clothes, and call the close friend who would be traveling with me. This should have been an exciting time, so I couldn’t understand why I felt so numb. Only a few days earlier, I had felt thrilled to be going off to explore this new chapter of my life. But now I was filled with despair. What in the world had happened to me?
Looking back on that bewildered 20-year-old, I wish I could tell her what I know now. I wish I could say to her, “I know you feel overwhelmed and confused. But there is a simple explanation. You’re suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, and the good news is that help is readily available.”
My hormonal journey
I struggled with hormonal issues throughout my 20’s. Every month I wondered whether this one would be just difficult or a truly grueling ordeal. All too often, I felt like an alien had taken up residence inside me, bringing with it bloating, nausea, ravenous appetite, low energy, and terrible cramping. Usually I enjoyed life – but not when these symptoms flared. When I became a nurse-practitioner, I discovered that I was far from alone.
Many of my patients struggled with difficult PMS, painful periods, or challenging perimenopause – the transition into menopause that typically begins in the early or mid-40’s and continues until menopause finally takes over. My patients were also dealing with endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and premature ovarian failure (POF), and other fertility issues. Many women felt, as I did, that hormonal issues were playing far too big a role in their lives. We all longed for a straightforward solution.
When I would ask women to tell me about their PMS symptoms and how PMS affects their lives, they would say, “I’m just not ME when I’m PMS-ing.” Or they say that they miss work each month from the headaches, cramps, or irritable bowels that come before their periods. But because so many of us suffer from the PMS symptoms, we may not search for answers to feel better because we think it’s normal to “feel hormonal” once a month.
Well, I am here to tell you – chronic symptoms of PMS are not normal. And they may even point to a hormonal imbalance that may affect how your body responds later to perimenopause and menopause.
After years of experience at my clinic, I can assure you that there is no reason for you to suffer every month. There are a variety of ways that you can help to reduce the hormonal fluctuations that cause your PMS symptoms. This will set the stage for a healthy, balanced future.