I was about six years old when I had my first encounter with a tampon. I was in my Mum’s room, smearing her “good cream”, which was a pink glass bottle of Oil of Ulan, over my face when I came across a large, white, tablet-shaped foreign object.
“MUM!” I yelled out down the hall “Can I eat this lolly?”
Mum came into the room, looked at me trying to unwrap my treat before sitting me down to tell me the most hideous and disastrous lies I had ever heard in my short life. What she tried to tell me was that every month, when I was older, I would bleed for a few days FROM MY VAGINA and that this was totally normal.
I fled to my bedroom and lay on my bed, patting the Hollie Hobbie wallpaper, and made a promise to myself that I would never let that happen to me.
Seven years later and Hello Sailor! Mother Nature spares very few women this “rite of passage”.
According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, the average woman will experience 450 periods in her life, and what I am finding, now that I am in my mid-40’s, is that they are not quite as reliable as they once were.1 And they are angry!
They used to call it, “When Flo comes to visit,” but as you get older you can possibly replace the word Flo, with any of the following:
White pants remain hanging in your wardrobe for at least a week, because quite often after five days of menstruating, there is an encore performance just when you thought it was safe.
And so just when you’re done bearing children, your hormones change again as your body tries to turn itself into a man. You grow hair above your upper lip and your chin starts to resemble that of a goat. Pull up at any set of lights at any given town, and there is a fair chance the lady in the car next to you is plucking strays from her chin.
Because that’s what we do now. Let us acknowledge that we are not going through these radical times by ourselves. No more shall we look away in shame, but instead, extend a sympathetic look and raise your own tweezers in solidarity.
We are, now more than ever, in tune with what is going on in our bodies. It begins with the pang of ovulation, heralding the imminence of Shark Week. You can look back on some of your recent behaviours and recognise that it was not necessarily you getting annoyed, it was the hormones that were making you cranky.
Your partner might bravely enquire whether it is “that time of the month?”
It is around the mid-forties age that period talk with your girlfriends reaches a frenzied peak, with hot cups of tea and sympathy dished out as medicinal solutions. You start to sync up and compare symptoms with those who are suffering, the strongest ones elevated to martyr status.
Nobody else understands but us women.
And because there is no cookie cutter solution to phasing out the breeding years, your menstrual cycle likes to keep you guessing. A 28 day cycle might become a 17 day cycle, as your ovaries start chucking down eggs in a last ditch attempt to get fertilised, which is ironic because your sex drive has possibly taken a one way ticket to Dodge City.
Even the generations above us, those lovely Baby Boomers, were reluctant to discuss what it was like to go through “The Change” but now we know we are not going crazy. We are just a bit more empowered, thanks to open discussion and research.
And now, without further ado, I give you the top 10 signs that you might be perimenopausal:2
So in closing, I would like to offer you the following advice; Knowledge is power. Get to know your body and listen to it. Talk to your friends, your pharmacist, your GP and anyone else you trust.
But mainly, know that you are not alone.
Pfizer 2018. Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Level 15-18, 151 Clarence St, Sydney, NSW, 2000, Australia. PP-DUA-AUS-0302, 07/2018
1. Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Menstruation and Menstrual Suppression Survey. http://www.arhp.org/Publications-and-Resources/Studies-and-Surveys/Menstruation-and-Menstrual-Suppression-Survey/Executive-Summary. Accessed June 2018.
2. Medicinenet. Perimenopause Symptoms, Signs, Remedies, and Treatments. https://www.medicinenet.com/perimenopause/article.htm. Accessed June 2018.