Hello lovely readers, thank you for not running away from the title of this somewhat personal post, talking about of all things, hormones! Bioidentical progesterone has completely changed my quality of life in the last 3 months since I began taking it, and so I thought I should definitely share this with you all. I’m assuming if you are reading you are either a) very nosy hehe or b) suffering from wacky hormones and hoping this post will help you. No matter which category you fall under, I welcome you here and hope sharing my personal experience is of help to you.
Symptoms That Led Me To Bioidentical Progesterone
Back in March I visited my OBGYN for my annual exam and after explaining to her the symptoms I had been experiencing with increasing intensity over the last year, she suggested we test out my hormones to see if perimonopause could be the cause of my various symptoms which included intense irritability and mood swings the week of my cycle, as well as recurring insomnia.
Now I’ve previously shared with you all the sleeping issues I’ve had on and off for years, as well as some of the remedies I have tried with some success that improved my sleep. But no matter what I tried, absolutely nothing would help with the 3-4 am wakings I would experience the week going into my cycle and during ovulation. And as time went on, the effects of those wakings were getting worse and worse. For years I’ve been able to shake off a few days of bad sleep, and eventually catch up once my cycle was over and rebound fairly quickly. But in these last few months I felt like I was hit by a truck each time I had a middle of the night waking, and the side effects of the insomnia compounded over time, until I eventually felt like I was never well rested, even after what felt like a good night’s sleep.
My PMS symptoms of irritability and moodiness were also getting more intense in the last several months, only made worse by the insomnia. When I had finally visited my OBGYN, I was practically in tears explaining to her how intense my symptoms had become.
The interesting thing about perimenopause, and menopause symptoms for that matter, is that they are varied and unique to each woman. Common symptoms include hot flashes, irregular and/or heavy periods, dryness in ahem, all regions of your body, irritability and sleep disturbances. Personally, I really only experienced the sleep disturbances and irritability, as well as heavy but very regular cycles. My symptoms could be exactly like yours or totally different, so its best to really pay attention to your own body and track your symptoms throughout the course of the month.
My OBGYN ordered a few hormone tests including Estradiol (estrogen), FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and Testosterone. She did not test for Progesterone as she said levels vary so much depending on the day they’re tested that it’s not often an accurate indicator. In doing my own research it appears that all hormone levels vary depending on the phase of your cycle, but for some reason she felt the ones she tested were the best indicators of what was going on with my body, so I didn’t press the issue. After all, she’s the expert with years of experience, and I’m just using Google 🙂
At any rate, my testosterone levels appeared normal, but my FSH levels were in the menopause range, and my estrogen was a bit on the high side, whereas it decreases as you reach and arrive at menopause. She explained to me though that estrogen can often rise before it falls during menopause, so seeing elevated levels in combination with my symptoms and other test results was not unusual.
If you need a refresher course (like I did) on what all these hormones are, their function and how they affect us, you can read this fairly straightforward article.
After evaluating my results as well as my symptoms, she decided to put me on 200 mg of bioidentical progesterone, called Prometrium, and I take 1 pill a day on days 14-28 of my cycle.
What is Bio-identical Progesterone?
Bio-identical hormones are identical in molecular structure to the hormones women make in their bodies. Made from yams and soy, it’s finely ground for better absorption in the body. Bioidentical hormone therapy is often called “natural hormone therapy” because bioidentical hormones act in the body just like the hormones we produce, but without the dangerous side risks of conventional hormone replacement therapy, which includes heart disease, stroke and increased risk of breast cancer.
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, you know that my approach to treating any health concern is to seek natural alternatives first, but if those don’t work, or if things are serious, I have no problem at all turning to “conventional Western medicine.”
With regards to hormonal health, I have been trying for a couple of years now to go the more “natural” route, using essential oils, supplements and lifestyle adjustments. But guys, it just wasn’t working and I was open to trying something new.
The great thing about bio-identical hormone therapy is it is a treatment plan that both my crunchy natural, naturopath and my western medicine OBGYN could both agree on. Just because it comes in a prescription bottle doesn’t mean it isn’t safe or is “unnatural” and so I feel 100% comfortable taking it. My OBGYN also feels that this is one of the most effective and safest routes to treating hormonal imbalances in women like myself.
Finally, Relief of Symptoms!
I’ve gone through 3 cycles on the progesterone and I felt almost immediate relief. I haven’t slept this well, so consistently, in years. In fact since beginning the progesterone, there have only been about 2 nights where I didn’t sleep well, and those were due to dogs and/or kids waking me up in the night.
Emotionally, I overall feel more calm and balanced during my cycle. I even managed to go through the extremely stressful process of selling our home, buying a new home, the closing of both escrows and then moving in the midst of the craziness that is MAYcember, with my nerves and emotions all in tack. Seriously, if there were ever a time for me to be an emotional wreck, it was in the past 6 weeks, but I was able to get through it feeling calm and relatively at peace.
My cycles haven’t changed much, but I have noticed they are a tad bit lighter and there is a more abrupt start and stop. Previously I would spot for several days before starting, but that has gone away.
Other Side Effects
The only somewhat negative effect I have noticed is that since starting the progesterone I have experienced a low-grade migraine the first day of my period, but since hormonal migraines are typically related to estrogen levels, not progesterone, I am unsure if that was just a coincidence. I actually put a call into my OBGYN today to inquire.
I also noticed that for the first few weeks after beginning the progesterone, my appetite was insatiable. I was starving all day long and was eating more to satisfy my hunger, causing me to gain a couple of extra pounds. But you guys, it has been 100% worth it just to be able to sleep and gain my sanity back! My appetite has since settled back down to normal, and on my 5’10” frame, I’m sure no one is the wiser 🙂
So this is the part where I tell you that I’m not a doctor and this is just my personal testimony, and should not be taken as medical advice. But I encourage you to seek out options if you are feeling crummy and suspect hormones may have something to do with it. I am so glad I did. It’s hard to really express how much my quality of life has improved since I’ve been sleeping better and haven’t felt so ragey 7-10 days out of the month. But I suspect if you’ve been there or are there right now, you know. Sleep effects everything, and I didn’t really understand just how bad my sleep problems were until they were gone.
And this concludes my story! Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have, and I’ll do my best to answer them 🙂 I of course am not an expert, but have learned a lot in the last few months as I have sought out and advocated for a treatment plan. I go in for follow up