Why do I look pregnant when I get my period?
June 28, 2007 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Why do I look pregnant when I get my period?

I get the following symptoms with my period:

severe bloating
(to the point my clothes don't fit)
(sometimes accompanied by the kinds of cramps that one gets with diarrhea but when I go, I'm too constipated for anything to happen)
back pain
(the day before and on the first day of my period, so bad I have to take a day off work)
sharp pains during bowel movements
(but only when I get my period)

I'm in my 30s and symptoms have gotten worse over the years. My period used to take up one week of my life. Now it takes me three weeks to work through all the horrible symptoms and I am tired all the time. Recently I've been cheating by taking a low dose estrogen pill, I skip the placebo because even with the pill my periods are still bad. So I go without them and have been generally fine and able to lead a normal life again.

(I got caught out this month because I missed a pill and now my period is here oh joy and its back to pain and misery)

I went to an ob/gyn a year ago and he thought the likelihood I had endometriosis was very low. I'm beginning to think about getting a second opinion.

Anyone else have these symptoms? Are these just in the normal realm of menstruation and I am just very unlucky in having them all? Can I keep going with this placebo skipping jive for much longer?

Oh please NO suggestions about getting pregnant/having kids. That is not in my life plan.

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man. Thank you for this question. Just in the past few months (I'm 23) I've started to develop that same sort of bloating thing each month, in addition to already-present cramping/bowel stuff that's never been as serious as yours but is still similar. Last month the bloating was so bad that I had a couple of massage people at the mall ask me if I were pregnant! (And I'm most definitely not—the bloat seems to resolve itself after periods, but only for a couple weeks, and then the whole thing begins again!)

So I'd love to see what the hive mind thinks about this...
posted by limeonaire at 11:22 AM on June 28, 2007

Sounds fairly typical to me. Cutting down on salt prior to your period can really help with the bloating.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:27 AM on June 28, 2007

I definitely think it is worth getting a second opinion with those symptoms! 3 weeks out of your cycle is way too much time to be spending in pain. Endrometriosis or not, it sounds like something is going on, so you need to find someone who will work with you to make you feel better.

Just a thought - a lot of your symptoms are GI related. Have you looked into IBS or something else GI related?

I hope you are able to find a solution soon. Feel better & good luck!
posted by tastybrains at 11:28 AM on June 28, 2007

Are you getting enough vitamins and calcium?
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:29 AM on June 28, 2007

Can I keep going with this placebo skipping jive for much longer?


posted by tristeza at 11:29 AM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

What fixed it for me:

* Avoiding fried food as much as possible all month long, and entirely during the week before and of my period.

* Getting regular exercise (preferably every day, but at least three times a week; things like yoga count).

* Trying to confine myself to giving in to only one day of the PMS munchy "OMG I NEED CARBS" thing. Large amounts of pasta or ice cream tend to make it worse.

I would probably add drinking lots of water, avoiding too much caffeine, and getting enough fiber to that list as well.

But, really, the exercise and avoidance of anything fried or really fatty has made the biggest difference. I didn't start either of those things specifically to alleviate the PMS symptoms, but it's amazing how quickly they did so.

(I've also found that Premsyn is the only thing that will make the uterine/intestinal cramping go away when I haven't been getting to the gym. (And, according to a male friend, it also works great for travelers' diarrhea!))
posted by occhiblu at 11:34 AM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm seconding tastybrains on the IBS. One of the underlying causes of IBS can be changing hormone levels, which would explain why you think it's your period - I would definitely have this checked out.
posted by meerkatty at 11:34 AM on June 28, 2007

Recently I've been cheating by taking a low dose estrogen pill, I skip the placebo because even with the pill my periods are still bad. So I go without them and have been generally fine and able to lead a normal life again.

Not cheating. See the link above or go on something like Seasonale, which gives you four periods a year.

Your menstrual, uh, inconveniences, may fall within a normal range, but they're a whole lot more severe than mine or those of most of my friends (also in our 30s.)
posted by desuetude at 12:17 PM on June 28, 2007

You could try a contraceptive implant. The one I have (Implanon) lasts for three years, and involves no fuss and no periods.
posted by emilyw at 12:22 PM on June 28, 2007

I posted about this in another askmefi question today, actually. I have not had a period in two years, the minute I realized I could skip the pain and inconvenience of my period, I did. The "period" you get when you take the placebo pills is not a period, it's a faux period (caused by the weakening of the uterine lining when the artificial hormone levels drop, nothing to do with ovulation, since you don't ovulate on hormonal birth control) and the only reason the creators of the pill arranged for the fake "period" was to reassure women that they weren't pregnant every month. If I was the kind of person to freak out about pregnancy, I'd just buy a few dozen pregnancy tests and pee on one every month instead of bleeding and cramping for no good reason, but that's just me. Anyway, here's a good article that explains all of this (and the controversy that surrounds it) in more depth.

The risks of hormonal birth control are not going to increase if you skip the placebo pills. There is no medical reason for you to spend one day, much less three weeks, suffering as horribly as you do. If your gynecologist doesn't agree, find another one who does.
posted by cilantro at 12:57 PM on June 28, 2007

I had these symptoms. It was endometriosis. I'd get a second opinion, particularly because of the bowel tie-in. The only way to positively diagnosis endometriosis is surgically, but there are a number of symptoms and conditions that make it more likely.

Here is a list of questions to have answers to before seeing an OBGYN. The Endometriosis Association also has information you might find helpful. It may not be endo, but it's probably worth checking out a little more (for what it's worth, my doctor didn't think I had endo, but sent me to an OBGYN anyway, who diagnosed me as extremely likely to have it within about 8 minutes, so speciality can really make a difference).
posted by carmen at 1:09 PM on June 28, 2007

Consider the IBS suggestion. Definitely look at modifying your diet like an IBS-afflicted person would, if you don't actually want to see a gastroenterologist about it. Eat a tonne of fibre, avoid fatty/fried foods, drink at least 2l of water per day, get lots of whole grains and avoid "white" food like white bread or white rice.
posted by loiseau at 1:11 PM on June 28, 2007

Have you had an ultrasound to rule out the possibility of uterine fibroids?
posted by happyturtle at 1:21 PM on June 28, 2007

Sounds a lot like IBS - I have IBS and it's completely connected to my period. Gets much much worse a week or so before and only finally gets better about a week after. Exercise is key but you can find out a lot more information here. That's where I found out that the menstrual cycle/IBS act up connection is really common.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:48 PM on June 28, 2007

You need to go to your doctor and ask for an ultrasound. You can say it is for your peace of mind, but I had those symptoms and it was endometriosis, too. And you can have IBS which is made worse by the endo.

So do get your doctor to check you out more thoroughly!
posted by misha at 3:56 PM on June 28, 2007

Can I keep going with this placebo skipping jive for much longer?

I've been doing it for over six years. Keep in touch with your Ob/Gyn, get regular pap smears, and enjoy the freedom.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 6:10 PM on June 28, 2007

Fibroids or severe cysts could do this, as well as the endometriosis and IBS that most people are bringing up. Also, have you tried being checked by an endocrinologist in addition to a GYN?
posted by RobotHeart at 8:16 AM on June 29, 2007

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