I’m the doyenne of menstruation around here, with my two year old post “53 and a half and still menstruating” consistently in our top 10 posts every month. I wrote an update a year later, in which I expressed a bit more frustration with my status as a Menstruator Emeritus.
Well here it is, three months after I turned 55, and blam, here I am, too old to invest in a diva cup, but bleeding like a young thing.
But here’s the thing: on my 550th period or what have you, I’ve learned something new. Yesterday, I was complaining about cramps, being tired and having a sore throat. In the Time of Covid, a sore throat is one of those EEEK moments.
But then I started reflecting, and I texted Susan — “I complain about a sore throat every time I have my period, don’t I?”
“Yup,” she said. “It’s so weird.”
Whenever I feel crappy when I have my period, I just sort of vaguely handwave “hormones.” But I tend to assume that hormones translates into grumpiness, fatigue, sleep problems and hot flashes (like my classic experience on Sunday, where I strode around in a tank top outside in 10 degree weather, complaining that my thin cotton tights felt like snowpants).
So I finally looked it up. And apparently, flu like symptoms around your period are a thing — and more specifically, SORE THROATS are a thing for some people.
How come I never knew this? I talked about the flu thing with a colleague a few years ago — a cardiologist, no less — and she said she had that too, but had never heard any medical colleagues talk about it.
First, estrogen and progesterone surge when you ovulate then dip when you don’t need them for baby-making, and this dip can cause achiness, sleep disruption and fatigue. And then the hormone prostaglandin kicks in to cause the familiar uterine cramps and the less discussed intestinal and stomach cramps, hot flashes and — sometimes — fever. (This may explain why I get a lot of weird uterine cramps even whenI’m not bleeding). AND – apparently –these hormones can cause a rarely-studied but not-unique-to-me sore throat.
According to a sleep doc I found online, progesterone can be an upper airway muscle dilator, and when the progesterone dips, your throat muscles relax more, which can lead to weird sleep stuff and sore throats. And — even if it’s not that muscle dilation — the hormonal shifts can exacerbate existing allergies, like mine to all the pollen and all the cats.
So, A) I’m not imagining it. When I menstruate, I feel like I’m getting the flu or a sore throat, almost every time. It’s a Thing. And B) I don’t have covid19. And C) apparently the universe is not done teaching me things through my period. Oh, universe, you trickster.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives in Toronto. This is what a 55 year old who hasn’t hit menopause yet looks like. Her cat opened that closet door.