Let’s talk about menstruation and fertility. I’ll start with the beginning of my own story. I got my period quite early, but not always frequently. I would get my period several months in a row and then not see it for a month or two. No one in my family ever referred to it as “the curse” or “auntie flow” or my “friend”. My mom is a nurse and I understood what menstruation was about, what it was called and what to expect.
I knew that some of my friends were jealous that I got it so early. Earlier than all of them, at about twelve and a half. I didn’t know that my periods were irregular exactly or I knew that was not unusual at the beginning. I didn’t know to keep track of them but I kind of did. None of us like having unexpected surprises when there’s a trip to the beach planned.
I read “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret” by Judy Blume. Having developed early and gotten my period early, I couldn’t quite understand the obsession around wanting breasts or my menstruation cycle. I sympathized with my friends who really wanted the visible process of becoming a woman to start but secretly I wondered why the rush.
Here’s what I most emphatically did not understand about menstruation. I did not understand that it was every month. I mean, I did, but I didn’t. I didn’t realize how constant that would end up being. I was lucky in that PMS was mainly my being irritable, not having physical cramps. I didn’t understand that my period would be a more constant companion than any other relationship.
Boyfriends came and went, friends came and went; my period was every month. Or nearly every month.
That was the other thing that I most certainly did not understand. My period being irregular meant to me that I would sometimes get a break from the whole process. If it occurred to me that something was wrong, it was a tiny voice, quickly moved away from. After all, I was not interested in becoming pregnant, not nearly ready. I don’t believe that it ever occurred to me at all that I had an illness or a disease. If it did, it was an even tinier voice, even more quickly run away from. I just enjoyed not getting my period for a month or so, like a vacation.
Until, of course, I was ready. I met my husband when I turned 18, was married by 22. Ready for babies by 25.
And then discovered that my period going on vacation was, actually, a problem.
More to come on this subject. How about your story? Would you care to share it, anonymously or not?
If you have been trying to become pregnant and it’s not working, here are five simple things to think about
- Discontinue all forms of birth control. I know this is common sense, I know, but still. This includes condoms and many forms of lubricants that have spermicide. My husband of 26 years will still ask me to check the plug when something’s not working. At least 40% of the time, it’s unplugged. So don’t use any birth control methods.
- Keep track of when you are menstruating. Day one is the first day that you get your period. If you have started menstruating after 2 or 3 in the afternoon, count the next day as day one. I write the number 1 in my date book with a circle around it, makes it simple.
- Make sure that you are having sex at the time you are most likely to become pregnant, during ovulation. Usually that’s around day 12-18, depending on how frequent your menstrual cycle is.
- Have sexual intercourse every other day starting at least two days before you believe you will ovulate (using an ovulation kit will help you be more accurate). Ejaculation should be done inside the woman’s body. Again, I know this makes sense, but still, a reminder.
- Don’t use any methods of vaginal cleansing immediately after intercourse, particularly douching. No spermicide of any kind either.
For those of you who understand all of the above, keep in mind that there are those who do not. Not all of us do understand how things are supposed to work, so while these tips may be obvious beyond belief, they may not be for everyone. Assumptions that we understand our bodies and reproductive cycles are often wrong and the tips above are just a simple reminder.
Another simple reminder, if you are under 35 and have been trying to conceive for a year or over 35 and have been trying for six months, it’s time to consider seeing a board certified reproductive endocrinologist, also known as a fertility specialist.