While a normal period generally lasts anywhere between three and seven days, I recently had one that went way beyond that timeframe. Over a month later, I was still bleeding—and yes, it was as awful as it sounds.
My first visit to the doctor left me feeling hopeful.
I have a very regular period to the point that I can usually track it down to the hour. When it went out of whack, I immediately went to the doctor to see what she had to say. After an examination, she said that I looked normal and this just happens sometimes. Apparently, pretty much anything can screw up your cycle from time to time but it goes back to normal on its own. Good news! They took a pap smear and told me to come back in a couple weeks if this was still happening.
The first week of my extended period was really heavy.
It was like a bloodbath pretty much daily. There were no cramps, no headaches, nothing that usually accompanies this horror show; the only mood swings I experienced were when I’d feel rage because I knew my period was leaking again. It was just a week of me running to the bathroom every few hours, meaning that I was also not sleeping well at that time.
Things briefly improved the second week.
I’d just started seeing someone right before this started happening, so it’s hard to say who was the most eager for this mess to be done and over with. Seeing as I’m the one who was also dumping her Diva Cup every other minute, I’m going to say it was me. It slowed to spotting and I thought maybe I was finally in the clear. My new guy assured me that he wasn’t grossed out by period sex, but there have been few things in this world that pushed me farther away from “the mood” than an unexplained deluge of my own insides pouring out.
All these changes messed with my hormones.
Digestion issues, yeast infections, low libido—the list of side effects of unbalanced hormones is endless. Oh, and because of the mess my body was in, the pap smear came back inconclusive and I was told I’d have to go back for another one when I stopped bleeding. If only I knew what that would be!
Shortly after, my period came back with a vengeance.
I immediately went back to the gynecologist because I knew something was wrong. Of course, the internet spat out various cancers I probably have, different undiagnosed disorders I must be suffering from, and malignant cysts that must have appeared. Now thoroughly terrified, I made an appointment for the next day.
The second doctor visit was disappointing.
This time around, the doctor didn’t even examine me. She told me that sometimes this sort of thing just happened and that there was nothing to be done. Again, she said to come back in a couple of weeks if it was still going on. She also told me to try taking high doses of ibuprofen because it apparently slows down blood flow. I asked if that was also terrible for my liver and she told me not to worry about it. My vagina was already a damn mess, so why should I care about my liver?
I wasn’t the only one disappointed.
To his credit, my then-boyfriend initially took the news like a champ and offered support. Though when he later assured me for the dozenth time that he was down with period sex, I reminded him for the dozenth time that my vagina was suffering through an unnamed medical issue and was not open for visitors. I wasn’t just frustrated, I was scared. I was tired from not sleeping enough and stressed because on top of all this, I was still going to work and trying to live my every day as normally as possible. So when I had to say no to him yet again, no matter how gracefully he took the rejection, I felt guilty. Great.
I gave up on medical professionals.
It turns out there are a few names for super long lasting periods: menorrhagia is a particularly heavy long period, and when it lasts for more than 21 days it’s called polymenorrhea. One of my closest friends who’s suffered through her share of menstrual issues told me about something called an “anovulatory cycle,” which is an irregular cycle where your body just doesn’t ovulate that month. If there isn’t enough progesterone to make an egg, the uterine wall will build itself up for nothing, at which point your body just says “screw it” and starts scraping away the whole mess, possibly leading to a super long, heavy period. Just knowing that I have people in my life who’ve also been through something similar eased my fears about the whole mess.
Women need and deserve better health care.
Did I hear of any of these names from a trained, licensed health care professional? No. Would knowing that there are actual diagnoses have brought me some comfort? Absolutely. How many women and menstruating people endure the anxiety of not understanding their bodies because there isn’t enough treatment, proper care, or education? I would have liked to spend the first month and a half of 2018 not rushing to the bathroom concerned that I was dying and feeling brushed aside by doctors. Saying “this just happens sometimes” isn’t enough.
It did finally end and I’ve gone back to normal.
Eventually, after 35 days of irregular bleeding, it did stop. My period has since resumed its incredibly normal cycle—and better yet, I am no longer with a guy who made me feel guilty about a medical issue. I couldn’t be happier.
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