Martha & Sally talk about the collection of changes that made Sally realize she was in perimenopause, even as her doctors continued to claim that her hormones “looked fine” and they didn’t “think” she was in it yet.
We explore these questions and more and arrive at some answers in this episode.
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Hey there here's what's coming up in this episode. we joke about the clitoral atrophy and you need to use or lose it, but you also have to use it. You're using your Vagina with your husband all the time. I'm inferring that from what you said. Yeah, you're not someone who's like, I don't remember the last time I was penetrated. But there are a lot of us who that is the case, and if penetration's not your preference for masturbation, then you're probably not putting anything inside there. So this is a device that does that. you use the vibration for excitement? Sure. But you can also just stick it in and scroll through Instagram it's a beauty treatment, so I sometimes put on some eye gels. and I'll put on a lip mask I'll stick that thing in. turn it on and, scroll. Welcome to the My Aloof Vagina Podcast, where we explore the distress and surprise of our midlife transitions. We take menopause seriously, but we don't take ourselves seriously, we believe that learning what to expect in perimenopause can be entertaining. It's inevitable, so we may as well equip ourselves and have a good. time In this episode, my friend, Sally and I talk about the collection of changes that made her realize she was in perimenopause. Even as her doctors didn't think she was in it yet. Is part of the change, more connected to the messages we're getting about being too old or past our prime. And how do some of those messages contribute to the increase in rather flippant recommendations to just get a hysterectomy What, if you aren't ready to give it up your career. Your sex life, your uterus. You're right to reinvent yourself. We explore these questions and more and arrive at some answers in this episode. So stick around. By the way as always anything we talk about during the show is referenced in the show notes for each episode links, more details photos, those kinds of things. You can find them any time right there in your podcast app or at myaloofvagina.com I'm your host, Martha and I confess I get the irony that we start this conversation talking about how as women. Facing menopause. We're targeted as consumers. And we end this conversation talking about how I happily spent hundreds of dollars on a device for my vagina. And two years later. No regrets. awareness, doesn't always mean refusal to engage. It's simply. That being aware of what is happening. And that's where Sally and I begin acknowledging that the challenges at this stage and our utter lack of preparedness. Make us an enticing target for marketers. There's a lot of opportunity to catastrophize natural things. a lot of the content, and it's getting better, but a lot of the content was catastrophizing. And they do that because they need to sell you something, right? They want you to buy their program, or they want you to buy their lotion, or they want you to do whatever, but. I'm a little bit allergic to selling to me withSally:
And so I found that I was going really deep into medical, medical, medical where it was a little drier because I couldn't stand that every guest on every podcast, or that's an exaggeration, but many guests on many podcasts were just. The news was grim, right? What was gonna happen was grim and, and the way you were feeling was grim. And then their entire communities built around how we're all going to feel sorry for ourselves together and agonize. And there are real things to agonize about, but I thought, wow, there's enough trouble in the world and in my life. I don't need to add more by pathologizing. transition in such a way that I feel put upon and victimized by the fact that I get to be 50.Sally:
You know, Martha, it's so funny listening to you talk about., I'm just struck by a few things. One, I talked about this podcast with a few friends that I tend to go on like morning walks with, before work. And these are women who are mostly a little bit older than me, pretty much they've gone through perimenopause already. And I mentioned. and one of them had a reaction that, well, like I don't get it if it's about perimenopause, or like, how could you even have anything over a half hour about that? And it was so shocking to me I was like, there's so many issues. There's brain fog and there's changes in sexuality, and there's the way that you look and there's the way society perceives us and it's the fact that none of us have any idea what's going on. We're in their bodies and nobody ever talks about these things and all this stuff it really struck me I'm like, my God, there's this huge thing that more than half the world's going through and no one talks about, you know, like brain fog. I've really experienced that really badly. I literally sit around thinking, oh my gosh, I have early onset Alzheimer's. Uh, my grandma had dementia at 87, but I just turned 50 this year. I must have it, you know, you have all of these. Thoughts But externally, with our actual circles, we don't talk about it. But I feel like when it comes to marketing and advertising, they know what's going on. So like we go to our doctors for a checkup, they don't even really ask us about it. Are you still getting your period? Or you're not? You are. Check the boxes. Go on., but advertising and stuff, you're right. They totally do. And they, I feel like they're, there's just like feeding on our fears and it's real. I mean, it's real. I have a friend who's going through a lot right now and may or may not have to do a really big career change, like She doesn't really wanna do a 180, but she might need to do a 180 just because, you know, financial reasons and other stuff.. And Paul had this comment to me like, you know, she needs to do this. She needs to start acting on this right away. She's 50. And It's not gonna be easy. And it just struck me. Yes, that's society. and it's true because of the way that we're viewed in society and the way that we're looked at and. Really horrible because for we as women, we're going through this huge change with our bodies we are reminded every day that we're sweating and can't sleep and have brain fog and forgetting words and, feeling super emotional and going through all this stuff that we really are changing. And you know, you think about as a woman, , you're a girl. You go through puberty. You're like, now I'm a woman. I'm a woman now because I have my period, because I have breath. You go through menopause. What are you? Are you still a woman? Are you just like some old woman? Like, what are you? And so it's just so terrible because like you're saying this. Catastrophe, thing that's being sold to us along with society saying, Hey, maybe you are too old to reinvent yourself now. And it's at a time where I think so many women need to reinvent ourselves. We are also sort of having maybe delayed midlife crisis. I feel like men have it earlier than us. it's just different. So now our body's changing. We're having this crisis, and then people are saying, actually, you're too old. You're too old to think about this. And yeah, so I was saying the neck thing. Now that we've been in Covid and we're all looking at each other in screens, all of a sudden I'm like, oh, I have this neck. And where did that come from? And I used to have such a smooth. Now it doesn't look smooth. And by the way, I still get my period every single month, . So I'm like, why is this happening? I can have a baby with an old ladyMartha:
Tell me about itMartha:
Well, the sequence too of, of the evidence of our age, it can be different from woman to woman. I've talked about how all these symptoms, they're like a playlist, a massive playlist. It's a mystery playlist for many of us. We don't know everything that's on it. We only know, you know, the shuffle maybe that our mom had if she told us about it, or the shuffle that our older sister had or something, and then we each get a different shuffle. So we may not even get all the same symptoms and they don't necessarily come in the same sequence. So for some people it really is their period, that's their first signal, or the hot flashes,Sally:
or the neck or whatever. And I think that's partly why it's so distressing, and I think that's partly why the medical. System has such difficulty with it because there's not a natural progression of the disease, the disease of living long enough to, you know, be done with the estrogen and done with having babies, you know, which is technically what it's about with our bodies. You present with different things and they, you don't present with a wrinkly neck, although, gosh, I wish they would pay attention to that. But you present with the different things and most of them, they can point to it being anxiety related and they may not be wrong because you know what? The whole thing induces anxiety. You're like with your friend. This idea that we're past our. And that just came up with the Oscars with Michelle. Yo, she won. And she said in her speech like, ladies, don't let anyone tell you your past, your prime.Sally:
I know. I loved when she said that.Martha:
me too, in part because I I could be, I could be perceived as past my prime, right? So it really landed, but also because it's a reminder that. Those rules and those glass ceilings and those boundaries and those societal standards are totally arbitrary and based on, you know, how the economy works or how marriage works, or how culture works, and the culture is shifting since our primary focus. Doesn't necessarily have to be mothering or wife hood. It can be, and we're not just put out to pasture now just because our uterus is no longer hospitable to a baby. Right. Although that's still how the medical system treats itSally:
a little bit. Like, oh well you're uterus what aren't. Well, it's a part of my body.Sally:
You know, Martha, when I had my last child, I had a complete placenta previa. And so, you know, and if anybody doesn't know what that is, it's when your placenta grows over your cervix. So you can't just. Have a baby because you bleed to death. So it was a very, very difficult, pregnancy. I was on bedrest. this is when my marriage fell apart. And they said, you may have to have a hysterectomy. So I'm a researcher, , so I was just researching, researching, researching everything. and I was reading all of this information and how when you have an orgasm, your uterus actually contracts a little bit. And how there was a, just a very few studies done that if you had to get, a hysterectomy for any reason that you should have them leave the bottom of your uterus in your. Intact and just take the rest of it out because it can help you sexually still feel good. And it can also help hold everything in. And when I spoke about it to my doctor when I was pregnant, and I consider her, you know, pretty with it, doctor. She said to me, what are you talking about? I've never heard that before. And I thought, oh my gosh, this is someone who's literally a surgeon who does this all the time, and they don't even know. And it was. It was just shocking to me.Martha:
I don't think they know the I don't think it's relevant to them. I think. if the institution knew that leaving in your cervix. and some at the bottom of your uterus. The fundus, no, that's not the fundus. The fundusSally:
but leaving that, whatever that neck of it in there would affect your pleasure and your, your quality of life. I don't believe that. Even if they were aware, they would take that into account with their prescriptive measures because our pleasure is such a lowSally:
So there's informed hysterectomies, And so I've recently had friends who had hysterectomies for reasons like endometriosis or long-term suffering and all those things. And friends who had them for no good reason. At least that's how they feel now. the perspective is, on the, the uterus holder, whether that was what they wanted and what was the right thing for them. But because of these hysterectomies without full informed consent, there are a number of women, especially younger women, who get a hysterectomy and afterwards, regret it because they didn't know the different options or they didn't know the impact. And a friend recently had one and she had suffered for a long time I considered that an informed hysterectomy. And we talked about it a lot. and she said, oh yeah. And then like that day they said, do you wanna keep your cervix? And I said, I don't, I don't know. why? and he, her surgeon said, oh, some women like to keep it. And she said, no, just take it all out. that is how that decision was made. And her particular situation may actually have been one where you wanna get rid of it.Sally:
Who knows, but the idea that it was such a casual last minute question as you're about to be scrubbedSally:
Yeah. And the answer is will some people like to have it. listen. If somebody, for instance, uterine cancer, things like that, you obviously, regardless, you'd want it all gone and, there might be some grieving, but you know, but that's what has to happen. But for other people where if it's being taken out for some different reason, that that might not be, Something that's gonna have long-term effects, whether it's there or not, from a medical perspective, not from a sexual pleasure perspective. Yeah. I mean, you have to have a discussion that is more than just, well, some people like it. Well, I don't know what that is. And yeah, in that moment you've got so much other anxiety you're about to be, put under and they're going to cut this part of your body out that, feels central I think to some women for their, Being a woman. So it's a lot. Yeah, an issue for sure,Martha:
Yeah. did you get a hysterectomy?Sally:
I didn't. No, I didn't need one. No. But I did all my homework. I'm always like that,Martha:
Yeah, I'm like that too. In fact, it's why. I didn't have a hysterectomy. Ultimately when fibroids, they were terrible. I'd had issues for a while and didn't realize that's what it was. Back issues, all sorts of things. And when I found out one of them was so gigantic, grapefruit size between imaging. It had grown and grown and grown. And in the ultrasound office. Because I said, what do people do? And they said, oh, you know, You're 45, you can always just have hysterectomy. And I walked out of there on air cuz I had thought it was something much worse, I'm getting a hysterectomy. I called my boyfriend, Hey, guess what? I'm getting a hysterectomy. He's like, whoa. He's like, I don't have to get um, a vasectomy. I'm like, no, baby is And I felt that way for a few days, Because I was like, oh, what a relief. And then I started, to look into it, right? And I realized there were alternatives And there might be reasons, and that's when they first read about, you know, your uterus They don't even know, cuz they don't study it that much. It may release some hormones that you through the transition. A scaffolding for your guts,Sally:
The scaffolding part for your guts is a huge part of it.Martha:
Yeah, and So I read all of those things and thought, well, if I can avoid it, I want to avoid it. If I can't avoid it, my health is important. And I, was fortunate enough to be able to select a surgeon that. Amazing. She's incredible. Um, Alison Jacoby, and she runs the U C S F. Center for fibroid studies or something insane. Right. And so, I went in to her with my list of things. I'm like, I think I want ultra frequency radia. Like, I had all these things. And she said, honey, your biggest fibroid is bigger than a grapefruit and it's grown since your ultrasound a month ago. hear your options. because of course she felt confident cuz she does 'em several times a week something called a myomectomy where they cut it out and it's a bloody and it's, quite a recovery and, and they have to cut you open. I have a C-section scarSally:
and it's a lot and, and there are a lot of reasons sort surgeons wouldn't wanna do it. But I was f really privileged and really fortunate and she was in my insurance but. If I were not a researcher, I would've been booking hysterectomy that very week because it seemed like the proper so I think that's why that's such an issue for me and why I always talk about it because I think about how close I came to doing that in an un uninformed way, and also how many friends have had them and have felt later, like, they maybe they would've done something differently if any other alternative had been offered or if they'd had a chance to explore it and make the decision to do it, knowing more about what was gonna happen,Sally:
Yeah, for sure.Martha:
so and it seems so crazy that that's so long ago now that it's eight years ago. Like life is long. Hey, this is your cheeky reminder to join my list. Then I'll send you treats and behind the scenes stuff and more. At least I will when I actually get around to sending emails. just go to sisterhood.my aloofvagina.com to sign up, and I promise I will not bombard your inbox. And if you love this irreverent podcast, please recommend it to a friend. You think will enjoy it so that we know to keep delivering this very specific style of midlife information and stories for you. So I like to ask people and you know, you came on this show so , so you must be willing to talk about it. I did not realize I was in perimenopause because my friends were having the different playlist. My friends were talking about hot flashes. My friends were talking about sleeplessness, and their periods, they weren't having periods. And I was watching for those things and I was a little. Frankly, you know, when I had my hormones tested and I thought, oh gosh, I'm so far away from it. and I don't know why that would be smugged, because really, what's the point? But the thing that was my clue was some sexual dysfunction. That was my canary in the coal mine. That was the thing, the first symptom that made me go and start researching and realize. Perimenopause even existed and what it could mean. so I like to find out from women because it turns out there were all sorts of symptoms, including the fibroid surgery, were clues that my body was entering this transition. is there one a canary in the coal mine? that made you pause and think, huh? Maybe I'm, I'm going through this thing.Sally:
So my period was always clockwork my whole life. you know, my first husband, he was my childhood sweetheart, so we grew up together. while we were dating, we used condoms, but once we got married, we never used anything And as I think, you know, I was a sex educator for teenagers and a health educator. so I was very well versed in the rhythm method and temperature. And you know, in the scientific version, you know, we're not a member of religions that care about that , but, I did it. I knew what I was doing and it worked. It worked for 17 years until I was pregnant with my daughter, who was a total surprise. I had to unfortunately leave work cause I was on complete bedrest. I was not allowed outta bed cuz I had serious hemorrhages during my pregnancy and so I was so happy I was having a girl, and all that. Um, I can't remember what I'm talking about. What am I talking about? See? Brain frogMartha:
Oh yeah. ISally:
the fuck? Why?Martha:
that in. It was, it was about what was, what was your canary in the coal mine? You'reSally:
yeah, yeah, yeah. yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Oh my god. See such a. anyway, we split started getting back out in the world. and then once I started my relationship with somebody that I was more serious with, and so, again, it was like, well, I know as a sex educator, condoms, condoms, all the way. but I hate them. I love them for all the reasons people should use them. And I'm advocating condom use, especially you ladies. You divorce ladies, you middle-aged ladies going out and sleeping with everyone, wear your condoms. But you know, once I was in a relationship, I'm like, I really don't wanna do this. And I had a pregnancy scare I was like 35 at the time. so I went on the pill and once I was on the pill, I stopped getting my period was so great, but after about seven or eight years, so now I'm in my early forties, I started to have just like low level spotting all the time. And I remember actually this summer of Mary's wedding. Driving out on a road trip we were camping and I'm like, A bear is going to eat me. We're doing hiking, camping in a state park. You carry all your stuff, you keep your food up in the tree. I'm like bleeding constantly.. Something's gonna smell this. What the fuck? I can't, you know? And I was really freaked out and I went to my doctor and I like, listen, this has been going on for like months now. And they're like so dismissive. well, spotting can happen. And that's another thing with these doctors.. am I starting to go through perimenopause? Is this like an area in the coal mine? This is what's happening. Oh, I don't know your, you know, your hormone levels are all still really high. We don't think so. We don't think so. eventually I went off the pill. for me it was always like a cost benefit thing because I have a history of getting tumors in my breasts, a history of breast cancer in my family. Um, So I was like always like, should I be on this? And so I was like, you know what? I'm getting off. I'm getting older. So I went off it and that all stopped my period came back. And so I'm still really regular, but it's not like it used to be. It and so some of the things that have happened now, . I mean, I do get those flooding periods, right, where it's like really heavy. It comes outta note. I'm like, what the hell? I, I'm gonna say this, Martha, I'm knock on wood, cuz I don't have hot flashes except I'm very hot when I sleep and I was always hot when I sleep like my whole life. But it's gotten worse. It's like the drenched in sweat hot. So that's like a. I look so much older, you know, I'm very petite. Everybody, even till I was 40 people thought I was 25. The minute I got into my forties is just wrinkles and, oh, look at my hair changed., it's used to grow like a weed and now it doesn't. I dunno. So just little things like that, but it was not one clear thing. I feel like newer things in the last year or two, like is it change of life? I, started a new project and in some ways like blowing my life up that way. Like kind of taking a big risk. what is it? What's causing the way I feel? Or is it just perimenopause that's really set it all off and is making me feel this way? Cause And now I one of the signs that I'm gonna get my period is all of a sudden super depressed. Like I don't wanna get outta bed filled with anxiety. And at first that scared me. I thought, oh my gosh, am I developing depression? What's happening? And then I realized, oh, it lasts for a day or two. Always the day before I get my period, and then I'm totally fine. So it's interesting. So all little tells not one big little tells.Martha:
It's a whole collection. and you were versed in, in these things and then reproductive health and all of that stuff. Which things that have happened with perimenopause do you like, what's the bonus ones?Sally:
I answer your question, I wanna tell you like what I'm scared of most So we all age. I'm not afraid of aging, but I feel as if it's accelerated. And so I'm afraid of like this quick acceleration of aging and then just sort of being old for the next 40 years, which I'll be blessed if I can last that long. But you know, that kind of feeling, I'm afraid of that. I'm very afraid of, I'm someone who really enjoys sex and that's always been a big part of my life. I'm very, very terrified about like, what if I lose my libido? I have friends who say they don't care. I mean, that's not how I feel. It's, and I have to say it's a central part of my relationship. We really connect and it's an important part for both of us, and so I'm really worried about that. So that's like my fear, but what am I looking forward to? Well, like everyone, and especially as someone who get a period for so many years, I can't wait not to. I mean, that's so great not to have to worry about that and deal with that. the other part is, and I know this is for some people, it gets better, some people it doesn't. But I really am suffering from brain fog and I'm hoping, I know that a lot of women that gets better once menopause is over. When I was young, young, young, like growing up and even university after that, I had not a photographic memory but almost. And so I could recall. to the horror of the people closest to me. conversations, word for word. Everything that happened, That went away to the point that I was trying to tell someone. I used to have the memory of an elephant, you know, that's saying, and I said, I used to have the memory of a giraffe. And they were like, yeah, you're in trouble.Martha:
that's actually aSally:
no one's ever. A giraffe as a good memory, but them saying that's how bad it was. So anyway, now I hope it gets better. I'm probably delusional because I've had this problem for 20 years, Martha: Well, they do I do wanna mention if, I'm not trying to be a hormone pusher. I really am not. But if your libido starts to wane, there are solutions. I had that fear too. I'm not ready to give it up. I wanna be able to have sex and enjoy sex. Right? I didn't have libido issues, but I had the other issues that we've talked about and named a whole podcast about it. And, I went looking for solutions for that. And the same solutions for that are also used for women with libido. And that is testosterone supplementation. Yes, this, I'm gonna be on speed dial. I don't, I mean, I haven't, it hasn't affected me atMartha:
And for someone who doesn't happen, but if it does, you don't have to just accept it. And since it matters toSally:
just need to keep your eyesSally:
You know, one thing that's interesting, that's kind of new people talk about as you get older, people have vaginal dryness and all that, and I've never had that. I have found that twice now. I've had sort of a whole month where it's not. Horrible, but it's certainly decreased. And when I'm having sex, I can tell but most of the months, it's like crazy. you know, like I'm ovulating every day and there's. So much, you know, I'm like, oh my God, this is crazy And so that's really interesting too, and I haven't really read about that and it's whole month by whole month, so it's not like, well half the month's like this, I'll be like, oh my God, this is 30 days of this. Which first is great, but it's also like, what the fuck? And then the next month it's like, maybe I'm just not ovulating that month, but it's the whole month. crazy.Martha:
I have a thing for thatSally:
not hormones. Yeah, and I haven't talked about it since that first episode, and I will make sure you have the information. There's this thing called theSally:
Uhhuh? I must have heard you say it, but again, I Brain fogMartha:
it was just in passing though. Mary was teasing me about my vfi because I'd spent quite a bit of money cuz it's pricey. And the joke was I bought a $500 vibrator, which is not true, but it's a device, it's actually a medical device. it is a red light therapy. Deliverer. So it's like you have to insert. Like you would, you know,Sally:
an ultrasound, but you, you, insert it, right? And so many things, and it's shaped kind of like a banana. So it's like a curved, it's, it's, it's very lovely and you insert it and then it's, I think the treatment's supposed to be every other day, and you put it in and then you turn it on, and that does red light and warmth inside your Vagina, which is helpful for those tissues. And then there's also vibration, which also is helpful for the tissues because vibration's gonna help with circulation and bringing blood to the, to the surface, and that can help with that kind of vaginal atrophy that happens to us, but also with maintaining moisture because it keeps all that stuff going. we joke about the clitoral atrophy and you need to use or lose it, but you also have to use it. You're using your Vagina with your husband all the time. I'm inferring that from what you said. Yeah, you're not someone who's like, I don't remember the last time I was penetrated. But there are a lot of us who that is the case, and if penetration's not your preference for masturbation, then you're probably not putting anything inside there. So this is a device that does that. you use the vibration for excitement? Sure. But you can also just stick it in and scroll through Instagram it's a beauty treatment, so I sometimes put on some eye gels. and I'll put on a lip mask I'll stick that thing in.Sally:
Don't forget your frownies.Martha:
turn it on and, scroll. my frownies are nighttime things, but I do have, like earlier I had like a forehead mask on that's also from Frownies, which I like. And so I put on the stuff and I do it, and I don't really do it every other day anymore, but in the beginning I did and it made a huge difference really fast as far as laxity and. Um, moisture. And then I did a lot of research about red light. And red light therapy is an actual treatment, so it's not just a crazy thing, but I'll send you that information. Not that you necessarily need to use it personally, but I will definitely put that in the show notes too cause I keep forgetting to talk about it. Um, but it's a great product and it's a, it's a high end beautySally:
Have you seen those things? My son gave it to me for my birthday or Valentine's Day, like two years ago. This is my son who is an adult , but he gave me, it's like a vibrator. It looks like a gun and it has all these different attachments. And then at work, I said, I think my son just bought me a vibrator for my birthday and one of my coworkers like, no, no, they have that at my gym. It's really cool. And you just, you can give a massage, that gun, whatever it's called, but it. Yeah, but have you ever read the instructions on this? I mean, they, and some of the attachments, it's hysterical. it it doesn't say that it is, but it doesn't talk about the Vagina, but it talks about the anus and the buttocks, and I'm like, what? So I thought that that was really funny too. But yes, I wouldn't wanna penetrate myself with that because it is like jack hammering and you really hurtMartha:
this is very elegant. This is like a very, this is a very elegant, looking thing. It's fair. I don't even how to describe it Like I'll, I'll show it. It's like medical grade, hard plastic. So it's, so it's, and now I've had it, gosh, I bought it when this all was going down. It was the first thing I bought before the frowns, before anything else. The first thing I bought was this V fit. Um, and it's been two years, more than two years. SoSally:
I it's, it's a medical device. And, and the truth is, how else you gonna get red light in there? You gotta put it on something and stick it in.Sally:
yeah. a majority of women our age, have had internal sonograms. So it's not like sticking a medical penis in you. Is that unusual?Martha:
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