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Pain, periods and perimenopause: How dismissive doctors left me looking for a scientific approach

At 50, Jo was told to “get over” a sudden onset of debilitating period cramps that resulted in sick days off work in agonising pain and feelings of exasperation and hopelessness.

When I was 47/48 I had an operation to remove fibroids. My iron count was down and I was feeling drained. I’d noticed my period had become a lot heavier and when I eventually mentioned it to a girlfriend she suggested I see a gynaecologist to investigate fibroids, as she had had this herself.  So I did.  

Why this information isn’t spoken about and common knowledge I have no idea.  I had the operation.  The surgeon was very pleased with herself. I felt the operation and my health was more about her than about me and decided to change gynaecologists if I ever needed one again.

 A year or so, after the operation, I began to get debilitating cramps when I got my period.  This pain came from out of the blue – I couldn’t straighten up to walk. For a couple of months, I had to take a day off work a month – it was that bad. 

I got my period when I was about 12 – and it was always as regular as clockwork and pain-free. Aside from the fibroids, I’d probably had 3 headaches and maybe 2 instances of cramps in nearly 40 years.  I’d be moody maybe once every 3 months or so – overall I had a pretty good time of it.

Needless to say, I was worried.  It was nothing I’d experienced.  I got a referral from my GP and saw a male gynaecologist this time.  He was dismissive.  Didn’t even examine me.  I sat in his office while he told me with authority that if I’d been 45, he’d be recommending surgery – but because I was 50 – I should just “give it a couple of months”… and I’d get over it.  

He said it’d be just like “my period” was when I was 17 – but I hadn’t experienced this. I told him I didn’t know where he got his information from – but I’d NEVER had cramps in my whole life.  He basically patted me on my pretty little head, told me it was nothing and to get over it and sent me on my way*.  

No understanding. No solution. Not impressed. I was stunned more than anything. Luckily, I explained this experience to my chiropractor and he saved my life by recommending that I see Elizabeth – a nutritionist and herbalist who he thought could help. 

(Herbalist?… oh, god – am I going to see someone who says water has memory?  I’ll go – I’ll see… what did I have to lose?) 

In my first consult Elizabeth quickly put to rest my reservations with her scientific approach. She asked detailed questions about my health and my situation. She also asked that I look into specific tests with my GP so we could take a closer look at my physiology and biochemistry. 

By doing this she noticed that I had an infection and suggested that both me and my boyfriend at the time needed to get a script from our doctors. She also gave me some liquid herbs and other tablets. Doses and times were discussed.  I followed her recommendations to the letter.  I was also taking my temperature to help track my cycle. My next period? PAIN FREE!!!!

I got a little slack the next month (I was feeling ok… maybe it was an aberration?)  and I’d run out of some things before my next appointment… my period hit – I had to take a day off work with the pain I was in. This was no placebo.

My next appointment I made sure I had enough of everything until the next appointment. I followed the instructions to the letter. She’d seen my new bloods and she’d adjusted my herbs. I never fell off the wagon again.  I have been pain free ever since. My period has changed – I ended up having my last on the 8th of August 2016 so I’m officially peri-menopausal. 

I’ve continued to see Elizabeth during this next phase and looking at what is commonly cited as the most common symptoms of menopause – this is what I’ve experienced:

  • Changing or irregular periods Mine has stopped since 8/8/16
  • Hot flushes Experienced none
  • Night sweats  Experienced none
  • Insomnia  Experienced none
  • Fatigue  I am tired a bit – but I attribute that to stress in the workplace and relationships – and age.
  • Anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression  None at all.  I expected to have mood swings (wanting to rip someone’s head off, etc. as girlfriends had regaled in their stories) but haven’t had them.  I’ve also been in a rather nasty living situation and remained 98% calm – even when pushed.  (I was more volatile when I was younger).
  • Loss of confidence, feelings of being invisible  No loss of confidence.  If there’s feelings of invisibility – I think that’s more a social than a menopausal thing –  “women of a certain age” find their currency has gone down in the social stakes.  I am extremely visible among friends and colleagues & most strangers. If you met me, you’d know I’m certainly not invisible, nor will go quietly into the night…
  • Changes in libido or sex drive I noticed a change in my sex drive in June – but it was after I moved in with someone who was rather erratic and controlling – so that was probably psychological more than anything.  Elizabeth changed my herbs and I am now fine
  • Weight gain  My weight has fluctuated all my life.  No real change there
  • Dry skin My skin is ageing – but not noticing dry skin per-se
  • Vaginal dryness Around June I was becoming a little dryer than normal (I’m usually extremely well lubricated) – BUT Elizabeth adjusted my herbs and I’m back to normal (even without a partner – maybe because I left him…? Ha!)
  • Increased “PMS”  Been the calmest I’ve been since I did a course with ASM in March 2014… so NO – no moodiness at all.  And when I was still getting my period, I think my PMS decreased over the years.
  • Urinary leakage or urgency I think that’s more of an age thing (men get it too)  I haven’t let a bathroom opportunity escape any time since I turned 40.  I have “leaked” when I’ve sneezed at certain times – but hey, I did that once when I had hayfever in my early 40’s.  So I don’t think it’s related to menopause.
  • Aches and pains in muscles and joints  I’ve always had some kind of pain in my legs (since I can remember) – No specific “extra” aches or pains in muscles or joints. 

I attribute this easy transition to Elizabeth and her brilliant, scientific approach to my health. I know other friends of mine who have done it tough during this period of their lives.  I’m glad I met Elizabeth when I did, so she can guide me through the minefield that is menopause. 

I’m adopted, so we really have no baseline to go from in terms of my familial history.  Elizabeth has based a lot on my blood work and what she’s learned about me.  

Elizabeth is professional, scientific and intelligent. She knows her stuff.  What she knows – works.  Immediately I felt at ease, as she’s approachable and personable. She’s a great communicator. You know you can trust her with the information and you know she sincerely wants to help.  She wants results and she gets results.  I can only recommend Elizabeth to any female who needs help – at any time in their life. Every woman should have an Elizabeth in their corner.”

Elizabeth always takes her time.  She is thorough in her questioning and compares how things are changing from appointment to appointment, to adjust her approach as necessary.  She’s a brilliant communicator with a superior level of emotional intelligence.  She doesn’t miss a trick. She listens. She’s empathetic. She can read between the lines. She understands human behaviour and can see people for who they are.

I can only recommend Elizabeth to any female who needs help – at any time in their life.  I just wish I could be more articulate about how amazingly important her work is.

When you’re left with platitudes, ineptitude and no results – disappointment doesn’t begin to explain the exasperation & hopelessness you feel when you’re in pain and need help.  

Whether it’s the pain of not conceiving or the physical pain of periods or menopause – having Elizabeth with her knowledge and care means getting results that you can happily live with.  She doesn’t over promise.  She delivers.  Every woman should have an Elizabeth in their corner. I’m grateful that I was referred to her and I refer every single woman who ever mentions to me that they’re in pain because I KNOW she can help. 

*To be perfectly honest, I sincerely wish I’d had the presence of mind to grab his balls and twist and then ask him if he had that kind of pain in his balls, would he leave a doctor’s office with such a dismissive diagnosis? 

A big thank you to Jo-anne from Elizabeth and the Life on the Inside team for sharing her story!