Raging hormones are certainly an expected side effect of the expectant mom, but when the expectant mom is simultaneously approaching menopause, the term “raging hormones” doesn’t even begin to describe what she’s going through. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine and fertility drugs, this scenario is not the oxymoron it used to be. Indeed, there are more than a few moms out there “enjoying” morning sickness along with hot flashes. I should know. I was one of them. It’s no secret that women are having children later in life.
The National Center for Health Statistics in Washington, D.C., reports that births to women ages 45 to 49 -- the years when most women are approaching menopause -- rose 15 percent from 1990 to 1999. Although more uncommon, births to women age 50 and older are also rising, largely because of fertility treatments. According to Dr. David DiChiara of Beverly Hospital, Beverly, Massachusetts, “Two of my patients in their mid-40s had premature ovarian failure and premature menopause and went the donor egg route. Several got pregnant by accident, if you will, and then two to three years later went into menopause.”
Having worked long and hard to get pregnant myself, I was ready for the morning sickness, the swollen ankles, even the gestational diabetes, all of which I had. I was not prepared, however, for the simultaneous upheaval of my confused 46-year-old uterus. To put it mildly, the old uterus didn’t know whether it was coming or going. On one hand, it was, I suspect, delighted to be a ready receptacle for my blossoming embryo. On the other, it was only too happy to say so long to the monthly menstrual cycles that had wreaked havoc on it for more than 30 years.
Now, 3-1/2 years later, I’m proud to say I’ve weathered nine months of pregnancy, 14 months of breast feeding, and too many months of the Terrible Twos. But it’s the last eight months that have been the toughest for me in terms of bodily changes. As my daughter rounded the 3-year mark, my 49-year-old body was hell bent on embracing the menopausal journey.
I fully expected to have fitful sleep patterns when I was pregnant. Ditto, when I was nursing. I was really looking forward to a more normal nocturnal schedule once my daughter began sleeping her 12-hour stints. But it was not to be. Apparently, as you approach menopause, one of the side effects of your changing hormonal levels can be insomnia. The doctors were quick to tell me that my sleeplessness would most likely get worse before it got better. In fact, they said I might be one of those “lucky” women who could look forward to another 10 years of insomnia.