The Impact of Hormones on my Crohn's Disease
I’d experience days of diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and even vomiting, which ultimately led me to seek a professional opinion. I was told that oral contraception should help my symptoms, and although I didn’t love the idea, I was willing to try anything.
Increased symptoms right before my menstrual cycle
After I began experiencing symptoms of IBD, I noticed that my GI distress was significantly worsened during the days leading up to and of my period. My GI doctor recommended switching to a contraception option that would reduce the number of periods I got in a year - from once a month to once every three months.
This offered me a big relief! I was basically out of commission during my period because of the havoc the symptoms caused in my body, so decreasing the number of times I had to experience this was ideal.
When my husband and I began trying to conceive our first child, I stopped taking oral contraception. I was already on Remicade infusions every 6 weeks, and not far from what would be considered remission. My periods (and the associated GI symptoms) were manageable for the first time in my adult life, and I felt really grateful. I also doubted that this would last.
Anxiety and stress around periods and symptoms
Let’s skip ahead to these past few months. My period returned shortly after I gave birth to my daughter, and it was significantly heavier, stronger, and longer than it had been before childbirth. For several reasons, returning to oral contraception was not and continues not to be an option I’m willing to consider. So for me, this has been a constant source of anxiety and stress.
Lately, I’ve noticed a symptom of Crohn’s disease I had not previously struggled with for a while resurface. The dreaded concept of urgency. I recently wrote about an experience I had at Target - one I’m sure that many of you can relate to.
It wasn’t until after this article I realized that moment happened just days before I got my period - and once my period concluded, my struggles with urgency were reduced, at least for a little while.
How to manage symptoms of Crohn's before a period?
I reached out to my GI doctor, begging the question of how to manage the influx in symptoms of Crohn’s disease when my hormones increased surrounding my period. Did we treat the symptoms, knowing that they weren’t due to disease exacerbation, but rather menstruation?
Did we address my period, knowing that oral contraception wasn’t currently the answer? There had to be a way to relieve me of these challenges that were now happening several days a month.
Together, we decided that symptom management, for now, would be the right approach. For me, that means preemptively taking an anti-spasmodic and an anti-diarrheal medication twice a day the week before and the week of my period.
Now, this isn’t an exact science, because as many IBD patients can understand, my period is not regular and I don’t always know when exactly it’s coming. So, I have to be mindful of both my menstrual cycle, and my corresponding GI symptoms, and work proactively to prevent physical challenges and discomfort for myself.
If any of you have noticed something similar, I’d love to hear your story below.
Do you keep a food diary to help manage symptoms?