Friday, September 10, 2010

The G Spot
Your Questions, Real Answers

Dear G Spot,
I'm loving my 30's but am already dreading my 40's when all THOSE changes start. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about not having a period; I'm just not excited about all the other stuff that comes with it. To make matters worse, I have no idea what that stuff is. Questions abound.
Signed, Apprehensive and Excited in Salem

Dear Apprehensive and Excited,
It sure does seem like women spend their entire lives dealing with change in their own bodies, doesn't it? As a hallmark to the end of childhood, just when you've mastered the art of walking and chewing gum at the same time, you sprouted "breast buds" that completely threw off your center of balance and you started bleeding from a part of your body that still seemed unspeakable.

As a teen, the buds blossomed and you got comfortable enough with the bleeding vagina to give it nicknames and talk about it with your friends which made you, "feel like a woman". Maybe in your 20's you got married and you discovered that the body you had spent so many years getting comfortable with was an entirely different body, one you'd never even met let alone lived in,when in the hands of you new husband came.

If my guess is right, just when you felt like you had your groove going, a living, breathing, alien-creature took up residence in your body and suddenly your body contorted and changed in ways that made you feel both awe-struck and a little bit disgusted.

Maybe now you're in another one of those beautiful phases of life where you are totally in-tune with your body. You know exactly what to do with and expect from the body that belongs to you and your always on stand-by dead sexy husband. However, there looms in the distance the fear of the next phase that is so monumental that it's no longer referred to as "a" change but "The" change.

Personally, I'm a firm believer that women are so skilled at dealing with their changing body that the phrase, "the change" should be banished from your vocabulary. Call it "a change" if you must but if you want to look cool in front of your friends, call it "the menopausal transition".

Then get super hip to the lingo and throw out phrases like peri-menopausal and post-menopausal and phytoestrogens, and please, please don't start using phrases like bioidentical hormones unless you really, really know what you're talking about. If you use that one only because you heard it on Oprah, you will be the woman whose gyno just shakes their head, unless of course your gyno watches Oprah too when they should be reading the most recent publication from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists....I digress.

What most women think of as menopause is actually peri-menopause. It is during peri-menopause that you may notice changes with your period - cycles that are longer, flow that is heavier or lighter, unpredictability when you used to set your calendar to your body and the like.

You may also experience changes with your vagina - the same vagina that first learned to accommodate a tampon and later became so versatile that it could accommodate either your husband's penis or your child's head may suddenly shudder at the thought of anything touching it's dry and paper-thin tissue. You may also experience changes in your mood - increased sensitivity, decreased sensitivity, tearfulness, or if you're like my mom was, a complete loss of your mental faculties and a need for a 12-step program to address your new anger issue. You may also experience changes with your internal thermostat - you may find yourself wakened at night by a surge of heat followed up a bone-chilling sweat or you might need to dress in light layers like it's spring all the time because one minute you're hot and then next you're cold. The good news is, peri-menopause may only last a year. The bad news is, it may last for several years. The good news is you may only have a couple of these symptoms. The bad news is, you may have them all. My guess is that if you are one of those women who quote, "has a fast metabolism" you'll probably also be one of those women who quote, "didn't even notice when my periods stopped" - that theory isn't based on medical evidence though, just life observation from the back of the boob line.

A woman is considered to be peri-menopausal until she hasn't had a period for an entire year. That means if you haven't had a period in 8 months but then are blessed with one out of the blue while wearing white pants at your parents' anniversary party, you start the clock all over again. Once you make it past that 12 month mark and you haven't had a period in over a year, you are considered post-menopausal.

So, when exactly did "menopause" happen? Menopause is technically defined as the permanent cessation of menstruation. Honestly, after more than a decade as a womens' health medical professional, the best I can figure,the moment of menopause is the moment you reach the 12 months without a period mark. So, keep track of that date, plan a party, get a pedicure, go out with your girlfriends and when people ask you what you're celebrating tell them, "it's my menopause".

The burning question for most women in their 30's is, "when will I start going through menopause?" - which you now know should be phrased, "when will I begin the menopausal transition?". The scientific answer is, "go ask your mother". No really, talk to your mom and your aunts and your grandmother if you can. Find out when they first started experiencing symptoms of peri-menopause. Unless you have medical issues that make your situation significantly different than other women in your family, chances are that you will have a similar experience with timing as they did. The average age of menopause in the US is 51 and menopause before age 40 is considered premature menopause. So, if you're 30 you have either 10 good years left or 10 long years to wait, depending on your perspective. So ponder that.....

Please leave a question for upcoming weeks. You know you have one so stop being a chicken and ask it. Remain anonymous if you must.


Marya said...

You know, if I went all that time without a period and then suddenly had one at the 11th month mark, I'd still celebrate. I'd probably get a pedicure but only allow the technician to paint 4 toes on each foot b/c that's how close I would have been to being post-menopause.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this series. I am finding it really helpful. My question is about dryness issues. I have tried several different types of lubricants, but none of them seem to last for the entire experience. I usually have to reapply at least once before my husband and I, shall we say, reach the "grand finale". What can/should I do?