Saturday, June 9, 2012

Midlife & midcycle

When I was growing up in the 1970s on the Canadian Prairies, sex education was non-existent. There was one brief unit on the reproductive system (both male & female) in Grade 12 biology, near the end of the year, delivered by a redfaced & clearly uncomfortable male teacher -- far, far too late, I thought, even then.

(The teacher had various rolled up charts at the front of the room, depicting the various systems of the human body -- respiratotry, circulatory, muscular, etc. -- tht he would pull down with a hook-like contraption. During one class on the reproductive system, he pulled down the chart -- which some mischevious student had papered over with a Playboy centrefold. The entire class, including the teacher, exploded in laughter, & the tension was broken somewhat.)(We all noted, giggling afterwards, that the teacher carefully folded up the picture & stashed it in his desk drawer.)

(I don't recall any pregnant girls in school the year I graduated -- but the following year, when my sister was in Grade 12, her graduation photo included two very pregnant classmates. There were also  two girls pregnant in Grade 11 and another two in Grade 10. Planned Parenthood posters suddenly started appearing on the school walls.)(I wonder if they would allow that today??)

(Those two babies of my sister's classmates would now be 32 years old. They probably have babies of their own. In fact, I know that one of them also got pregnant as a teenager, & now has a teenager of her own. Yikes!!)

(Sorry. I digress.)

*** *** ***

I'm an avid reader, & I've always considered myself fairly well informed about my body and how women got pregnant (and, more importantly as a young unmarried woman, how NOT to get pregnant).

But I didn't realize just how much I still had to learn until, determined to get pregnant again as quickly as possible after Katie's stillbirth, I purchased a copy of a book I had seen in the bookstores that came highly recommended by several members of my online support group -- "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" by Toni Weschler (otherwise known on message boards & the like as TCOYF).  I highly recommend this book to all women, whether or not they have fertility issues, and I think every teenaged girl should be handed a copy.

After months & months of charting my cycles (without success) and watching for the signs of impending ovulation detailed in the book by Weschler, followed by almost two years of infertility testing and treatment, I got to know the rhythms of my body pretty well,. And I noticed that, right around the time I was ovulating (or supposed to ovulate), along with the temperature readings and cervical fluid consistency, there were often other things happening with my body -- cramping, lower back pain, gas, heartburn -- sometimes a bit of spotting.

The fact that these symptoms followed a fairly consistent pattern & appeared to be tied to my cycle made me feel better. Still, I was concerned (or at any rate, annoyed) enough that I went to Dr. Ob-gyn and even had an ultrasound done, about 10 years ago --which showed there was nothing wrong with my gynecological parts (that I didn't already know about -- e.g., my bicornuate uterus) -- although I did receive a surprise diagnosis of gallstones, of all things, which did show up on the ultrasound. (I still have them -- never have had them out). (I read on one website that high levels of estrogen can contribute to gallstone formation -- which is one reason why they often show up in pregnancy. My estrogen levels during some of my fertility treatment cycles were sky high at times. Makes me wonder...)

There's actually a medical term for this midcycle pain or discomfort:  mittelschmerz, or middle pain. It's often described as a sharp, brief pain on one side. Sometimes, I could/can feel the discomfort more on one side than the other, but often it's more generalized abdominal discomfort -- and in my case, it often lasts for several days.  Dr. Ob-gyn said there wasn't much he could do for me, aside from putting me back on birth control pills. At the time, we were still ttc, and since then, I haven't particularly wanted to mess my body up with even more hormones than it had already been subjected to. And while it can be uncomfortable & annoying, it's rarely if ever debilitating. Some months are better or worse than others, obviously.

The reason I started thinking about this is that on the Life Without Baby blog's Whiny Wednesday post this past week, one commenter mentioned that she tended to have PMS-like symptoms at midcycle. As it so happened, I was just getting over some similar midcycle symptoms myself. This was one of my "worse" months in awhile. About a week ago Friday, I started feeling crampy, & when I went to the washroom & wiped myself, there was a small pink stain on the toilet paper. It didn't develop into anything more (= it wasn't an early visit from Aunt Flo), and when I checked my calendar, I realized I was right at midcycle.  The cramping continued, along with some horrible bloating, lower backache and heartburn. I started wondering, again, if something was really wrong with me -- but Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone flipped a switch -- I suddenly started feeling a whole lot better, thank goodness.

I don't recall feeling this kind of midcycle discomfort when I was younger.  Of course, I was on the pill for 13 years, from the time I was 21 until I was 34. I suspect perimenopause might also have something to do with it. (On days like I had last week, I keep thinking menopause can’t be much worse than the peri phase. :p )

I do remember a couple of times as a newlywed, in my mid-20s, when I was still on the pill, that I was sideswiped by some mysterious cramps -- a "stitch in my side," a momentary spasm of abdominal pain out of the blue that had me doubling over & gasping -- one time while visiting my parents, once while dh & I were out walking in our neighbourhood. I had to sit down on the curb until the moment passed & I felt able to walk home again. Because it didn't happen very often, came out of the blue & was short-lived, and because I was young (& dumb), I shrugged it off as "one of those things" and never thought to mention it to my dr. Now I wonder... but if I was on the pill, it wouldn't have been ovulation. Would it??

Anyone else suffer from midcycle discomfort & spotting, occasionally or regularly?


  1. YES!!! And you just opened up a whole new world to me. I obviously need that book...

    I think I may be clueless.

  2. It could have been ovulation, even if you were on the pill. The pill works in two ways - to stop you ovulating, mostly, and to make your uterus inhospitable for implantation. Some people do ovulate on the pill (and even, unbelievable as it may seem to those of us with IF) get pregnant on it, while taking it properly, but the second function should stop an embryo implanting. This is particularly true of the progesterone only pill. I find my cycle is changing now I'm into my forties - my PMS is definitely worse and my cycle is shorter.

  3. I totally agree with you that every teenage girls should have TCOYF. Even when I wasn't getting pregnant, I felt immensely empowered discovering that I understood what was going on with my body. And even now, when everything is up in the air, what I learned from TCOYF still helps me foresee when AF is going to arrive, regardless of when her last visit was. I'm not getting the mid-cycle spotting, and I've only had ovulation pain when on clomid, but these days I am getting the terrible PMS and horrific and gory AF visits as I get older.

  4. YES! Last Monday through Wednesday I was a weepy, cranky, oh dear Lord life is so overwhelming mess! Then like your experience...FINE by Thursday!

  5. Yeah, I had that mittelschmerz thing more than a couple of times. I'm thinking that a lot of GPs could also stand to read that book.

  6. I definitely get midcycle pains, usually alternating sides from cycle to cycle. I never thought to consider whether or not that came with other PMS-like symptoms, but I'll pay attention now. Sometimes just knowing what it behind something like that is a relief.

  7. Okay, I had it yesterday - ugh!Ow, really?

  8. I have had mid-cycle pain most of my adult life. It seems to be getting worse now that I am in my 40s. The pain lasts several days. I pretty much knew what it was though (even when I was young). I can't recall how I found out what it was though.

  9. I don't experience mid-cycle pain, but sometimes, after a strenuous workout,usually cycling or aerobics, I have light bleeding and cramping. It usually is gone by the following day. It doesn't happen frequently (I am too lazy to work out strenuously very often, haha)but often enough that I have come to expect it after (sometimes during) a good workout.I have no idea why this is.