Monday, January 30, 2006

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you bleed...

I never expected to get pregnant easily. I didn't come into this world until five years after my parents were married, and I know that wasn't intentional. I didn't start to menstruate until after my fourteenth birthday. I can count on one hand the number of times I've gotten my period without some sort of hormonal supplementation. All in all, it's not a good formula for "gets knocked up on the first try."

Hmmm...maybe some details would be helpful?

When I was ten or elevent years old, probably due to some physical developmental concerns (I was never entirely clear on what those were), I had a series of wrist x-rays done. The bone growth reflected a lag time in my physical development of about eighteen to twenty-four months, and I was told to expect all the usual changes to show up later in me than in other kids. Of course that had little effect on me, and shortly after I turned twelve the "Why didn't I get my period yet?" whining was nearly non-stop...until my mom told me that menstruating would me that my pubertal development was done, and did I really want my breasts to be that small? (OK, so she wasn't 100% accurate, but it got me to shush on the matter.) My mother said she got her period "a little late" - some time around twelve and a half, I think - and factoring in my alleged developmental lag, age fourteen would be right on target to follow her genetic lead. Conveniently enough, I saw that first reddish-brown stain about three months past my fourteenth birthday. Like clockwork, my next period showed up just about a month later. Ha! I thought. None of this early cycle irregularity for me!

Ha, indeed.

After that second showing, my period disappeared. Granted, those next few months were very stressful (more on that another time), but total amenorrhea was not the most normal thing, either. Finally, nine months after my first period, I paid a visit to my mother's gynecologist. She prescribed a course of Provera (progesterone supplements) - take a pill a day for five days, and a few days later you should start bleeding; come back and tell me what happens. It worked, I went back, and she gave me more pills and told me to do the same every couple of months, giving my body enough time to maybe start menstruating on its own between courses of medication.

I did that for about a year before my next visit, at which point she put me on birth control pills for six months in the hope it would jump-start my reproductive system. That was a load of fun - being the prudish little virgin at a sleepaway pre-college summer program, and trying (not) to explain the birth control pills in my underwear drawer. While the pills gave me regular cycles (duh) and bigger breasts (perk!) the "jump-start" didn't work, and the gyn prescribed the Provera again. She advised me to take it as I like, leaving up to three months between induced bleedings. And unlike Ornery's doctor, mine was kind enough to tell me that this was indicative of reduced fertility: "You'll probably never have children without medical intervention."

Well, that's a nice thing to tell a sixteen-year-old, isn't it? In retrospect, I appreciate being armed with that information from early on, but it was kind of a bitter pill to swallow at the time. Also, in retrospect, my gyn must have had a lot of trust in me, because who tells a teenager that she can have sex without the risk of pregnancy?

I used the Provera for the next several years. I think I menstruated on my own once or twice in there, but I never bothered to write it down. Over time, the induced bleeds became heavier and my "menstrual" cramps got worse, and so eventually I asked my gyn to put me back on birth control pills. Result: lighter periods and yet bigger breasts. I stayed on combination hormonal contraceptives, in one form or another, from then until a little over a year ago, when Ezra and I started trying to have a baby.

At 8:51 PM, January 30, 2006, Blogger Beth said...

It is kind of like being Alice in Wonderland, but without the delightful Mad Hatter and March Hare, isn't it? I am with you on the developmental delay thing - I was 15 and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. Now at almost 29 I started my first pill of Provera tonight after another unsuccessful Clomid cycle. Thinking of you.

At 2:53 PM, January 31, 2006, Blogger Ornery said...

Oh man, reading your post is almost like experiencing deja vu, except for the whole nice doctor thing. Your post got me thinking: though I still strongly believe my doctor should have said something about possible fertility problems when I was younger, would that have made me more careless about using condoms? Maybe, probably, who knows.

Thanks so much for commenting on my blog. So glad that I found yours.

At 3:47 PM, January 31, 2006, Anonymous wessel said...

Goodness, couldn't the doctor have said it in a more diplomatic, reassuring way? Like, "when you get ready to have children, be sure to go and see your doctor because you will need some intervention." Grrrrr. I simply HATE stupid doctors.

Sorry, I just had to get that out.

At 4:22 PM, January 31, 2006, Blogger Lut C. said...

I didn't long to get my period when I was 12-13, I had already learned it was messy business from my friends.

I didn't realize 14 was that late either.
Of course, I only have a Google M.D.

At 10:35 PM, January 31, 2006, Blogger J said...

Just thought I'd share another side of the "I got my period late/early" discussion. My mom got hers at around age 11, and still had a lot of trouble having me. This was in the early 80s and not in the US, so there weren't as many options available...and it took them 5 years of serious trying and medical intervention such as it was (and 12! years of marriage) before they had me. My aunt got hers at nine, and still didn't have kids until she was married for 6 years (although I don't know the story behind that one...). I got mine at 10 and don't expect to have an easy time when I decide to have kids.

So, even if you get it early (like we do...everyone, even my mom's cousins...) it doesn't mean that you'll be totally fertile.

I really find your blog interesting and love finding a new post up!

At 9:46 AM, February 01, 2006, Blogger Robber Barren said...

Prop - Nice to see you visit!

Ornery - That's exactly what I was thinking! Maybe my doctor just had a really good read on me? (As it turns out, unsafe sex practices were never an issue.)

Wessel - The doctor may have been a little more gentle at the time; I don't remember word for word what she said. I do remember, overally, not being offended or too scared by that point I was already pretty sure the problem existed, so I just took whatever she said as confirmation of that fact. Generally speaking, I also hate stupid doctors. I jsut don't think this doc was one of them. :)

Lut C. - Better than my education...I'm still in Google's pre-med program!

J - I didn't say (and I don't think) that getting one period early necessarily translates to good fertility...just that delayed menarche is sometimes (not always! my quite-fertile sister-in-law was even older when she got her first period) associated with an underlying reproductive problem.


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