This is a post about my period. There I said it. If this topic makes you uncomfortable please do not read.
And just as a side note, this is a topic that I’ve discussed with every member of my immediate family, even my boss and a few co-workers. I am not ashamed.
Let’s see. Where do I begin with this topic?
This is a subject that I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while, but I never knew quite how to approach it. The truth? I haven’t had my period in over a year. It’s easy to make assumptions about this statement, I mean everyone does, but – as with everything in life – there’s so much more to it then that.
So, let’s start from the beginning shall we? Here is the story of my period. I have no answers, no theories, no conclusions – just a story.
This may be going way too far back, but I got my first period when I was 13. It was irregular at first, but after a year or so it was normal. I was one of those lucky ones who never really dealt with mood swings or had major cramps. My period was a problem-less one and I was thankful for that.
When I was 18 I started on the pill. Again, no problems. Everything was normal and every month my period arrived right on schedule. However, I loathed taking the pill everyday and moved on to the NuvaRing for a couple of years. I loved it. I only had to deal with the ring once a month and after that it was a ‘leave it and forget it’ type of approach. Unfortunately my insurance stopped covering the NuvaRing and I was forced to go back on the daily pill.
After years of slowly gaining weight I decided to do something about it. I started running, I started eating right, and I started getting healthy. I, also, ended a two year relationship with my boyfriend. The break up left me single and alone for quite a few months afterwards.
When the time came to renew my birth control prescription (in October of 2008) I opted out of it. I was tired of taking the pill and couldn’t really see a point to it anymore. This was about the same time I was training for my first half marathon and was stepping up my running game. I went from 10-15 miles per week to maybe 20 -25; give or take a little.
I was running and enjoying my life, but something was missing. Oh yeah, my period. I was so busy with training, blogging, and making new friends in my new city (I had just moved to Orlando a couple of months prior) that I forgot I was supposed to be getting my period.
A couple of months went by and I really didn’t think anything of it. When my annual gyno appointment started approaching that January, I started doing the math. Turns out I hadn’t had my period since I went off birth control 3 months prior. Time sure does fly.
At the appointment I explained to my gyno exactly what had happened. I had lost 30 pounds the previous year through eating right and running. I had gone off birth control that October and had been getting my period regularly before that, but hadn’t seen it since. She told me that it was perfectly normal to not get a period after going off birth control and if I waited a few more months I would probably see it again.
I asked her about my running. I wanted to know if training for my half marathon had anything to do with my period. She told me that it was a possibility. Everybody’s body responds differently and it could be that since my body wasn’t used to running that much mileage, that it was responding the way it knew how.
She really had no answers for me besides not to worry about it and that going back on birth control would bring my period back. If not I should call her and make another appointment.
She gave me a prescription and sure enough my period appeared like clockwork the following month.
I continued taking the pill and continued getting my period for a few months. Then, while training for my second marathon (where I maxed out at 40-45 miles per week leading up to the race), my period stopped coming again. This time I was still on the pill when my monthly friend stopped making her visits.
Again, I was so busy training, blogging, and loving life, that when my friend stopped visiting, it didn’t even cross my mind to worry about it. A couple of months went by and I was still on the pill and still not getting my period. Finally, I stopped taking the pill altogether and decided to wait it out for my yearly exam with my gyno to see what to do.
She still didn’t have any answers. She told me I was healthy as a horse. Healthy weight. Healthy body fat. Healthy cholesterol. etc.
I have a family history of hyper-thyroidism, so we had blood work done to rule that out. Everything came back normal, except for my estrogen level. Apparently I had the estrogen level of a “pre-pubescent little girl.” Great. How do I fix that? Her answer: more birth control.
She wrote a prescription, but I never got it filled. I wanted my period to come back on it’s own. I made a 3 month follow up appointment and continued doing what i was doing.
Still, no period.
The appointment came and went, but no answers.
I cut back on running. I gained 5 pounds. I told everyone under the sun about my problem and was surprised to hear how many people were going through the same thing.
A friend suggested I see an oriental medicine doctor. I went and enjoyed the appointment, but due to the long drive I was unable to make any follow up visits. The doc-to-be did informed me my chi was out of whack during that one visit. He prescribed a diet plan to help set it straight, but I’ve never been one to follow a diet plan. I like to do my own thing and eventually failed miserably following the set guidelines.
At my next 3 month follow up appointment I decided to finally take my gyno’s advice and take the pill she had been trying to get me to take for months now. I took it reluctantly. Why was her only answer to take birth control? I didn’t want to take birth control! I wanted a way to bring my period back without that damn pill!
Since the regular BC had stopped bringing my period a few months prior, she stepped up the game and gave me extra high estrogen birth control to counteract my personal low levels.
The side effects of that pill were almost unbearable. I was moody, bitchy, and over emotional. I hated the way I felt and I could tell I was really starting to annoy Derek and other loved ones in my life. I had my fair share of breakdowns over the course of that month and felt like I was always on the verge of crying.
To top it all of the extra high estrogen pill wasn’t covered by my insurance. It was costing me over $50 a month. Not cool.
The end of the first month came and still no period. I rode that emotional roller coaster for nothing. Granted I was only on that pill for one month and was told I needed to give it a try for at least two or three to make it happen, but I was done. My head was done. I would rather not have a period then feel like crap.
I had my final appointment with my gyno this past August. And after another round of blood tests to conclude everything else was normal – besides my estrogen levels – she was at a total loss. For the millionth time I asked her about my weight and running, but she told me it was fine. With no other suggestions from her besides trying another pill, we decided to try to wait and see again.
I’m scheduled to go back for my annual exam this coming February. Who knows what will happen before now and then. She seems certain if I give it enough time that my period will come back on it’s own.
In the mean time I don’t know what to do, but wait myself.
This past August I attended a session at the Healthy Living Summit on Properly Fueling for Work Outs. The RD presenting had peaked my interest when she spoke of clients that had lost their periods and had come to see her in hopes of getting them back. It honestly had never occurred to me before then to see an RD or any other doctor besides a gyno or enchrodonologist regarding my lack of period.
I thought I was eating right, but was I really?
I spoke with a RD at the conference and told her my story. She had mentioned that I probably wasn’t eating enough or the right food and that I should send her a journal of a week of my diet and exercise routine. I told her it was all on the blog – give or take random bites throughout the day – but I never followed up with her.
I did want to push through the point that since losing my period, I had gained weight to see if that would help. I had also cut back on running over the summer. My body fat percentage is in the mid-range of what is considered normal for my height and as far as any blood tests can tell, I’m fine. She hmmm…ed over those statements and again had no answers. It seems no one has any answers.
During my last two years of period craziness I have been very open about it with friends and family. I will usually tell anyone who will listen and have even had a conversation with my boss about it who concluded “but, you’re not even skinny-skinny” Umm.. thanks.
Heather had wrote a really moving post about this same subject a couple of months ago. As I was reading about her struggles to gain her period back I felt like she was reading my mind. The same thoughts of “It can’t be because I’m too skinny – there are plenty of people out there that are skinnier than me” or “It’s not because I run too much – there are people out there who run more than me” Those are the things I tell other people and those are the things I tell myself, but I often wonder how much of that is true.
I read stories of elite runners like Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliff getting pregnant and having babies and I think to myself “if these elite athletes can get their periods and have babies, then why can’t I?” It’s a very confusing thing, because I don’t know their private history. Did they need help to conceive? Did they continue to get their period as normal and never have a problem? I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t know anything.
So, here’s where I conclude my story. With a big fat – I don’t know. Did I lose my period because of running? Probably. Do I eat enough? Yes. Do I run too much? Do I sleep enough? I don’t know.
After all my research I’ve concluded that not getting my period could be any number of things. But since I’m an athlete everyone’s minds – including mine – seems to narrow down on one thing. It’s not safe to make assumptions. We all have issues and I’m still figuring mine out.
Sorry, for the long drawn out story, but I wanted to set the record straight. So many of you had reached out to me with your own story, and it’s god to hear I am not alone. This is a common problem for women – athletes or not – and there are still a lot of unanswered questions out there.
I’ll keep seeking out any answers that I can, but for now it’s a wait and see game.