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The Last Hurrah: My Last Period Before Menopause

Marcia Kester Doyle

Written by Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia Kester Doyle

Written by Marcia Kester Doyle

I was so excited to get my first period when I was in middle school; I was finally a woman! But after 33 years of spending a small fortune on bulky feminine products and tying jackets around my waist to hide the unmistakable red blot in the crotch of my pants, I was ready for it to end. Despite those mishaps, I was one of the lucky women who had a predictable period that showed up like clockwork every 28 days, until after my fifty-first birthday when it suddenly just...stopped.

The only other time that had happened was when I was pregnant. I was terrified that I was carrying a late-in-life baby and feared that I would end up on the cover of The National Enquirer: "FIFTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD WOMAN GIVES BIRTH TO TRIPLETS – CLAIMS SHE NEVER KNEW SHE WAS PREGNANT!"  Of course, the pregnancy test came back negative, and only then did I consider that I might be on the brink of menopause.

The strange thing was that my menstrual symptoms did not stop during this weird, phantom period time. In fact, they still appeared regularly for months – but without the blood. I broke out in pimples, experienced painful bloating and had the worst gas. I also experienced Jekyll and Hyde-level mood swings that had me sobbing over Hallmark commercials.

These symptoms became more intense the longer I went without a period. I was bone-tired every day and extremely irritable. The numbers on the bathroom scale also changed – all I had to do was look at a slice of cake, and I'd gain five pounds. My weight continued to increase over the next few months.

Despite still having the usual symptoms that accompanied my menstruation, I went six months period-free. Rejoicing in this new freedom, I cleared my cabinets of all period products and started carrying cute little purses instead of the bulky totes that once held my arsenal of tampons, pads and liners.

All was well until I attended an outdoor festival on a hot Florida day and suddenly felt a dampness in my pants. I squeezed into a smelly, cramped port-a-potty, and there it was – my period, back again.  What followed was a horrible, heavy period that lasted for 10 days, accompanied by searing cramps and a constant backache that left me sleeping with a pillow between my knees. It drained me of all energy and enthusiasm – even chocolate did nothing to lighten my foul mood. Once the period finally ended, I held onto a box of tampons, just in case.

Several months passed again without another period. The premenstrual acne disappeared but was replaced by a new symptom: hot flashes and night sweats. My doctor confirmed what I'd already suspected – I was in full-on perimenopause.

My daughter's college graduation came up later that spring, and I was so excited to get out of town for a few days and see my girl receive her diploma. The suitcases were loaded into the car, my husband impatient as I dashed around the house to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. I took a quick trip to the bathroom one more time before leaving, and there it was again: a red stain seeping into my underwear. This time, I was prepared – I dusted off the box of tampons and tossed them into the car. My period was not going to stop me from my vacation!

Thankfully, that period ended up being very brief, with minor bleeding and no cramping. I was so busy over the weekend that I didn't have time to give it much thought, but I remember hoping that it would be the last time I had to deal with the messiness of menstruation. 

I never got my period again after that episode, and it was a tremendous relief. No more accidents, no more bloating or cramping or acne. No more scheduling my calendar around menstruation due dates.

I never viewed the cessation of my period as the loss of my youth or minimization of my femininity. Instead, I embraced the changes in my body and looked forward to entering a whole new phase of womanhood and freedom.

Recently, when my daughter was visiting, her period arrived unexpectedly. She asked if I had any tampons, so I dusted off that old box once more. Handing her the tampons felt like I was passing down the baton to a new generation. "Keep them," I said. "I won't be needing tampons again."

Nowadays, the only dates circled on my calendar are for birthdays, holidays, or vacation times. I'm living my life to the fullest, one period-free day at a time.

Comments

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Marcia thank you for sharing your experience in this article. There is a serious lack of written information about what to expect. It’s reassuring to hear what other women are experiencing. Tge comments are also helpful so I’m leaving one myself.
PMS has been serious for me all along but about 10 years ago at 38, my period became so heavy I could barely leave the house. Then it got longer and longer. I had about 5 years of bed soaking night sweats. Then I had two+ years where I was bleeding three weeks or even four before getting a week off only to start again. 🤢
During this time I became crippled with arthritis in my spine and fibromyalgia. I can’t help but think it’s all connected.
I spoke to my doctor many times, he said I was too young to be in perimenopause. I wanted an ablation or a hysterectomy but all he would give me was birth control. I tried a variety of brands but I did not want to continue taking any of them for the side effects. I had my tubes tied at 33 and did not need to take birth control for any reason other than controlling those very long and heavy periods. Honestly, I started chasing down God for healing of the crippling arthritis pain and over a time my periods got much more normal. This past year, at 48 I’m having 5-6 day periods. The 2nd and 3rd days I can’t leave the house its so heavy…a super-sized tampon lasts less than an hour. But the other 3 or 4 days it’s much lighter.
I have the same philosophy as you Marcia about being excited for it all to be over and start the next phase of life and womanhood. Thanks again for writing about this. It’s been helpful for me.

Deborah on

Hi, I’m in the UK and there isn’t much advice or help on what to do over hear so I came across your article thanks to Google. I can’t tell you how much you have helped me. My doctor told me I was perimenopausal the day before my 40th birthday, I was mortified. I have been Peri for 3 years and 10 months. In my 29 years of having periods inc whilst Peri my periods have been like clockwork and the flow and length exactly the same each month (I know I’ve been one of the lucky ones). But then the past 2 periods I lost so so much blood, changing 2 towels and a tampon every 45 minutes it made me severely anaemic and put on tablets. This month I am 11 days late, thats a never ever for me. I’m definitely not pregnant as I’ve been sterilised 12 years ago, but the period pain, the cramps this time are absolutely horrendous but yet nothing…no blood. So I was baffled until I found your article that you can have the pains and no blood. So I thank you and salute you for helping me so much to relax about it and also for your words about embracing the future not losing my youth. Xx

Vanessa Brown on

I was 55 1/2 before my cycle finally stopped. The bad part is I have had hot flashes since I gave birth at 30. Hot flashes plus the bodily changes from Graves Disease (thyroid) has been horrible. I’m always the hottest person in the room even after using men’s deodorant. After a few minutes in the air conditioning, I am chilly. A few minutes later, I’m hot again. To make things worse, my thyroid meds cause a tingling sensation in my legs when cool air hits them. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind. When I read that hot flashes could last 10 years or longer for women of color, I wanted to scream. Yes, I’m glad the cycles stopped but, I have gotten more and more symptoms. My mom told me as you get older, you finally get your head together, but next your axx falls apart. I am living proof – the struggle continues.

KayDee on

I became a monster as my periods and I entered our 30s. I was regular and knew to the minute when my period would arrive.
Then I noticed this awful, frustrated anger and I gave into rages, unintentional stupid rage which worsened through that decade.
Then I couldn’t identify when my period was due EXCEPT by my precarious emotions…when the sun broke into the blue sky of my mind,I knew at least one week of grace lay ahead.

Suzy on

I so thought the end was finally coming. I was so excited that Aunt Flo had been gone for 11 months. went 11 months and she shows up out of the blue wity a vengeance for 10 days. Time to restart the calendar :(

CB on

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