Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Can we talk about COVID and our menstrual cycle for a moment?

I know this may not be the most conventional place to discuss this topic, but after a night of little to no sleep, I'm kind of desperate to have this conversation. 

All night last night, I went down a rabbit hole of old news articles and FB/Reddit groups about how COVID may affect menstrual cycles. I've come up short with answers or newer articles besides this one here published in December, (which is great and on point with what I'm experiencing.)

I can't tell if it's a matter of not speaking about it openly enough or no research, (30%/70%?) but the one thing I have found is that I'm not alone. 

I started to present with COVID symptoms before Thanksgiving. I was a little run down and felt like I was having some allergy issues. I didn't think much of it because I had taken all precautions to avoid contracting the virus. I social distanced by staying home and working from home, and if I or anyone in my family went out, we wore a mask and distanced. But I woke up one day with no taste or smell and knew what I'd feared the most; I had COVID. I went and got tested the next day. I received a false negative result four days later. I proceeded to distance away from my family as I already had been, sleeping on a mattress on my home office floor. I never had breathing issues or a fever, but I had horrible vertigo, nausea, headaches, confusion, and hallucinations (which I still experience from time to time.) I later tested positive for the COVID-19 antibodies. 

When I first presented with symptoms, I was on my period. My periods are usually heavy and challenging due to my PCOS. They are quite painful, heavy, and prolonged. I noticed right away that it was very clotted, much more than usual. I was slightly alarmed by this and mentioned it to my doctor. She told me that they were still unaware of the impact the virus had on different areas of health and that the stress of the pandemic and the virus would change various areas of my cycle. As I neared the end of the virus, my period also tapered off. 

Thirteen days later, my period returned. This time I was experiencing even more clotting, but not the heavy flow and cramps that usually accompany my period. Aside from the massive clotting, things didn't feel too alarming in that department, and I proceeded to feel as though I was getting better. 

This brings me to last week, a few days prior to Christmas. I started getting cramps and back pain that usually accompanies a bad period. Nothing too unusual besides starting early from when I had just finished my last period. As the days continue, my PMS symptoms persist in getting worse. The day after Christmas, I start to experience horrible back pain. I climbed into bed with a heating pad and Midol hoping to ease the pain, but nothing worked. I struggled all night to get comfortable but chalked it up to hurting my back by carrying heavy Christmas gifts around. 

On Monday, December 28, I feel myself getting extremely irritated and tired. I don't usually notice myself feeling so annoyed and emotional, but I could feel anger and frustration rising, and I'd have to talk myself down. The outrage over something so insignificant would increase and sometimes boil over into a meltdown, but most of the time, I could feel it coming and remove myself from the situation before It got out of hand. At this point, I'm begging my body to start already. I know it's coming, but it's been a week and nothing. On Monday night, I began to spot. 

Tuesday morning, December 29, I finally start. I have horrible cramps and leg pain. This is normal for me, and I continue to go about my day with no issues. Around 5:30 p.m. I was making dinner when I was hit with stomach pain. I sometimes have kidney stones from the migraine medication I'm on, and I sometimes get ovarian cysts from my PCOS, but this pain is different. I have to drop to the floor and find a comfortable position slowly. I sat on my knees for five minutes before I get on my feet and slowly walk to the living room, where I sit on the couch. For thirty minutes, I leaned from one side to another, looking for comfort. I took some Midol and a Dramamine because I started to get extremely nauseous. My teeth began to chatter from the pain, and I was sweating. With the help of my husband, I crawled upstairs and into bed with a heating pad. I rolled around in pain, crying for over an hour until it was finally bearable to eat and drink. 

I was finally able to fall asleep but was awaken in the night by the same sharp abdominal pain. This time it wasn't as severe, but bad enough. I tried to get ahead of it by getting the heating pad, taking some vitamin D and Midol. As I write this, it's a few hours later, and it feels like my stomach is still contracted. The pain is better, but I still feel hollow and exhausted. 

As the article I posted above, I don't know how to seek medical care for this. Any questions I ask or fears I express are being dismissed as "We don't know much about this virus and how changes the menstrual cycle; it's a scary thing." 

Currently, I work from home, but as the virus works its way through my community and numbers start to go down, I'll be required to return to work. If this continues, I face the challenge of being at work when this "pain attack" arises, taking a toll on my job. I won't be able to stay in the office and work through this kind of pain. I want some answers. 

I'm aware that I'm so lucky that I came out on the other side of this virus alive and well. If this is the only side effect I have, I will be so lucky, but the lack of information on COVID and the menstrual cycle is so frustrating. I want to know I'm not alone, and I think it should be a public discussion. This happens, and it's natural and shouldn't be dismissed as gross or swept under the rug. There should be an open dialogue about this issue. I'm not a doctor; I have zero medical background, but I'm someone who is struggling to find information about what's going on with my body. I shouldn't have to search through hundreds of posts on Reddit and Facebook to see if there are others out there like me with who I can discuss this. I want to talk to other women who are having these issues, and maybe we can help each other out, be there to hear one another, or offer each other advice on pain management, anything. 

Can we at least make this an open discussion?

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