Yes, that’s right. Gentlemen, change the channel. I’m going to be talking about menses today…periods…the “curse”…that time of the month…for an ENTIRE post. Because the subject is on my mind this morning…and, of course, on my expensive Egyptian Cotton sheets!
For an organ that is described as “no larger than a human fist”…7.5 centimeters long/2.9inches (per Gray’s Anatomy, not to be confused with the CBS show “Grey’s Anatomy”…and far more reliable than Wikipedia!), and weighing only 30-70grams/1-2 ounces “normally” (and without an “occupant”/baby), this little reproductive organ can sure store VOLUMES of blood/endometrial tissue when it feels like it! For those of you *not in the know* about the “normal” menstrual cycle, most women (males, breathe a loud sigh of relief here if you didn’t stop reading as instructed…you DON’T have one of these) experience a sloughing off of their endometrial lining every 28 days or so (aka, the period, the curse, the menses). For some women, “normal” cycle times are between 21-35 days, so don’t feel like a failure if you can’t claim to “bleed with the moon”!
Generally, during a “regular” cycle, women lose approximately 35ml/1.8 ounces of blood per period/menses. For some women, this blood loss is more, and for some, considerably less. For MOST of us, it just SEEMS like gallons and gallons of wasted “baby lining”! But if the truth be known, that entire amount is just about enough to fill 1½ shot glasses (I will refrain from any sickening “Bloody Mary” jokes here). And researchers tell us generally a woman’s heaviest “flow” day is on the 3rd day AFTER she begins her menses (which fits in nicely on the time line of my “Carrie” moment!).
Female menstrual cycles can be affected by many variables…age and weight are certainly two main factors. Age, because as we age, EVERYTHING begins to wear out (actually, our hormone levels change), and weight…well, because mainly the hormone, estrogen, is primarily stored in our fat cells. So, the more *tire* one has around the gut, the more estrogen there is believed to be available in the body. Other common variables are certain diseases, climate and altitude (don’t ask me about THIS one, I just read it somewhere…probably on a bathroom wall), diet, smoking and exercise (I DO love to include those two bad habits together!), pregnancy (no brainer here…at least I “hope” this is a no brainer why there’d be a change in the menstrual cycle?!?), fibroid tumors, and medications. And this list is NOT exclusive. Hormone changes/fluctuations are what influence the female menses the most, and these changes can occur because of the above list (and for other reasons too exhaustive to list here). Which reminds me of a really bad hormone joke: Q: Do you know how to make a hormone? A: Don’t pay her. But I digress as usual. LOL
But seriously, if only briefly…the word “hormone” comes from the Greek word “hormao”, which loosely translated means, “set in motion”. And that’s exactly what the sex hormones in the female body do—prepare the uterus, each and every month to conceive and hopefully carry a child…to “set in motion” the birth of off spring with an everlasting lifetime of grief and despair…if you happen to be a Jewish mother. LOL And, at some point, even the female body recognizes it would just not be COOL to be applying for Social Security while taking Lamaze Classes! Eventually, like it or not (and not soon enough for me), the female body enters a phase called “peri-menopause” (that wonderful time where it just can’t decide: Social Security or day care?) and finally menopause.
We’ve all read or at least heard about the affects of pregnancy on Multiple Sclerosis. And surely we all know by now, it is NOT the fetus/baby that has been shown to be the causative factor in a marked DECREASE in MS symptoms/flares (“we” DO know this, don’t “we”?), but the drastic HORMONE levels that get rearranged when a woman becomes pregnant. Estrogen levels steadily increase as do progesterone levels, which prepare the uterus and the body to maintain a viable pregnancy. As we age, estrogen levels steadily decrease, causing a cessation of menses, otherwise known as “meno-pause” (menses pausing…get it?). Nobody really knows yet WHY this complex and changing hormonal balance in the female body during pregnancy and co-occurring with MS causes a generalized REMISSION time…it just does. But I STILL don’t recommend all of us women with MS run out and knock a bun in the oven just to get a break from our MS symptoms! I think I’d personally rather be numb than dumb. Hehe…
Another fact whispered in the female MS circles but sorely under investigated is WHY the menstrual cycle seems to temporarily WORSEN our MS symptoms. I, for one, would testify in a Congressional Health Care hearing that this is FACT…I really don’t need a scientist to confirm this at the current stage in my life! I am sadly one of those “other bleeders” who has NEVER had a regular menstrual cycle…and, after the past 5 years of MS diagnosis, my MS symptoms drastically and suddenly worsening are one of the ONLY red flags (yes, I DID mean that flag analogy to be funny) I have, signaling me it is time for that pseudo-monthly deed to occur. My joints stiffen, my spastic calves worsen, the MS hug either returns or worsens, a headache sometimes occurs, and my sleep becomes wildly disturbed among other things. These symptoms all return to baseline or disappear once Aunt Flow pays her visit, but generally come on or worsen about 3-5 days prior to Auntie’s visit.
I am also one of those women (who I consider FORTUNATE) to have experienced a chemically-induced menopause while on NOVANTRONE. That’s right…I stopped having periods for almost a year and hoped the Novantrone might have thrown me into early menopause…couldn’t be THAT lucky, however. Once I was off my every three month IV schedule of the big “N”, I simply reverted back to my regular irregularity of “the curse”.
I personally believe (without ANY scientific backing whatsoever) our hormones and our immune systems are in a delicate balance and directly influence each other…possibly more so than any of our other systems in the body. And I believe a key component to unlocking the mystery of Multiple Sclerosis lies directly under our noses in our hormones…both in the female AND male bodies (Let’s face it boys, IF YOU’RE STILL READING! You ALSO have small amounts of female hormones in your bodies just like women have testosterone levels.) Unfortunately, no one at the National Institute of Health is running out to offer ME a grant to study and investigate my belief…but then again, they really aren’t bending over backwards to throw ANY money into MS research. And this, I believe, is because MS is still considered a fairly rare disorder…oh, and the fact it doesn’t generally render anyone impotent or affect the breasts directly.
Well, enough about this sensitive subject…or is it just ME who’s sensitive? Probably…I tend to be a tad bit “temperamental” with the red tide. If I’m not crying my eyes out and believing Armageddon is around the corner, I am plotting someone else’s death, i.e., homicidal ideation! Time to go check the sheets that are in my dryer and get back to numbering my “menstrual hit list”…don’t worry…YOU’RE not on it. Or ARE you?!? Moohahaha…