Let me talk about something that totally sucks about surviving stroke with a deficit as a woman. Having your period. It’s a gross topic, but I found myself in an awkward position after my stroke, after I had JJ and after I started getting my period again. No one wants to talk about the delicate issue of blood, menstrual effects and personal body changes; I was alone with my experiences and questions.
After my stroke and having JJ, 4 years after I had Skas, I had two body and hormonal changes to contend with. I won’t get all science-y and biology class on anyone but I can’t avoid all that comes with surviving stroke just to make my blog easy to read. It seems as though, through my experience, that a woman surviving stroke and pregnancy are weirdly similar. There were so many things that my doctors and I blew off because we couldn’t tell if it was from the stroke, the pregnancy or eventually having the baby.
You survive a stroke and your emotions are jumbled like a kaleidoscope of different breeds of butterflies in a net; that’s a lot like pregnancy. You’re forgetful, you’re uncomfortable in your own body and you become overwhelmed by the strangest things. Your tastes, sense of smell; hell, all your senses are out of whack. These happen with both pregnancy and stroke. Even physical pain and deficits resulting from stroke. You might think, “I don’t know, man, I don’t recall losing my left body while pregnant” and I won’t argue you but when your belly is two feet out in front of you and your hips have widened, making your gait not only painful but also seem more like an uneven waddle, it’s hard to tell what is from the belly being in your way and what is from the loss of total control of one side of your body.
So there I was, 28, a new mom again and learning to cope with the shock from surviving stroke. When you have a baby sans stroke, your body changes. I’m not just talking about your boobs hanging lower than you remembered pre-pregnancy either. Your periods and all that come with that can be unrecognizable to you. With Skas, my periods took about 6 months to regulate but the PMS was altered to a point where I actually considered getting pregnant again just to see if it could change my near full body cramping back to its singular two-day long lower back pain. Everything that was bearable before Skas was reaching a I’m-considering-a-hysterectomy level. It wasn’t that bad but it felt that bad then.
When I had JJ after the stroke I waited about 6 months to see if my body would regulate like it had with Skas. It did not; everything was so much worse. I reached out to my online support group. I got comments suggesting dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, and early menopause. I brought these suggestions to my doctors. Apparently stroke can lead to these things in women if you bleed into/around areas like the thalamus, hypothalamus or pituitary gland.
My bleed, I was told, puddled “near” or “in” the basal ganglia. Not sure of wording.
I went back to my support group to further discuss this; much to my dismay, this is where I discovered how uncomfortable women can get when discussing something perfectly normal. The one thing that connects all women (even barren women because they still have contributions to conversations on menses) is the one thing women want to be hush-hush about. I did meet one woman who told me that what she hated most about her periods after stroke while having a one-sided deficit is the pads.
I can’t put them on straight and they get stuck to my thigh
Ok, this is weird and I could not relate. My periods at this point were just heavy and light enough to only need tampons. Everything was pretty cut and dry; in and out. But I held on to this bit of info because it was weird and funny; and it was also strange that she would tell me this but got all closed off when I asked if she noticed her flow changed after stroke. Is that a creepy question?
Now I’m 4 years post-stroke and let me tell you what, I could totally go for some chick chat if I had a fellow female stroke survivor for a friend that didn’t mind talking about periods.
I’ve experienced the pad stuck to the inside of the thigh. It’s worse and less funny than I imagined. You put the pad where it goes but you can’t control your affected leg enough to get a good spread to raise your panties up to its proper place without shifting the damn pad. Your shimmying abilities are no longer applicable with a lame leg. To make it worse, you’re doing it one-handed so it’s completely uneven from the start. It doesn’t take much for the pad’s glue to disengage and slide the pad to the side where the cheap glue suddenly becomes industrial strength. I try to avoid pads as much as possible. They are terrible when you’re 100% able-bodied, with a deficit you’re one second away from dropping a clot on the toilet seat or getting your panties all the way up only to realize that bulge against your thigh is your misaligned pad.
Tampons are obviously the way to go. I refuse to try a Diva Cup although I would without a deficit. But tampons aren’t exactly worry, stress or mess free either. All women know of the horrors that can happen with a tampon in the bathroom. Accidents happen, man. Mishaps occur and we remember why the sight of blood doesn’t disturb us like men think it should. When you have a weak leg, it’s not exactly easy to spread your legs while standing to remove a tampon. My vaginal muscles don’t seem to be affected by the stroke (Kasper’s thankful, I’m sure) but for some reason, I can’t always control the swing post extraction of tampon. This was not a problem pre-stroke. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to clean my inner thigh because I swiped grossness across it; or the wall because the swing was wide or the floor…
To add salt to this brain injury of mine, with a tampon, you don’t feel it inside of you. I am forgetful since the stroke. I have a hard time remembering when I last changed, was it before we left or after we came home? I don’t need TSS to add to my list of issues. I can’t always remember if I took one out before I put in a new one. It’s yet to happen where I’ve double stuffed. It’s becoming a real fear of mine though. I don’t like checking for obvious reasons but I do check because I will suffer an anxiety attack if I don’t. I leave the house and am in the car when I suddenly can’t recall what I did in the bathroom and I’m stuck with the dreaded question:
Omg, did I forget to put a tampon in after I used the bathroom?