“You start out happy that you have no hips or boobs. All of a sudden you get them, and it feels sloppy. Then just when you start liking them, they start drooping.” This is how supermodel, Cindy Crawford, summed up the stages of womanhood. In a real sense, yeah, it’s kinda like that. While being a woman is a wonderful, powerful, and special thing, it definitely comes with its share of questions, curiosities, and oddities. As a woman, our bodies and minds go through several changes in the course of our lives as we journey from adolescence to teendom to adult to elder. Each stage carries with it blessings and challenges. Some stages prove harder than others. If you’ve ever had a moment where you’ve stopped and asked yourself, “Is this normal? Am I normal?” Today, we want you to know, you’re not alone.
There are many shifts and turns throughout women’s stages of life. Today, we’re talking about how the female body changes with age and the questions and worries that can arise.
“You start out happy that you have no hips or boobs. All of a sudden you get them, and it feels sloppy. Then just when you start liking them, they start drooping.” ~ Cindy Crawford
ADOLESCENCE TO TEENDOM
1. I feel agitated over stupid stuff, and I cried because my hair is looking frizzy. What’s wrong with me?
Nothing is wrong with you. What you are experiencing is the normal fluctuations of emotions due to hormonal changes occurring in your body (thank you puberty). Not only does your body have to adjust to these new hormones, your brain has to as well. According to Kids Helpline, “During puberty, the brain starts strengthening parts that allow them to feel intense and complex emotions. However, the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating emotions, deep thinking, reasoning, and decision making is often the last to develop.” That’s why it can feel like your emotions are out of control at times, causing more irritability and frustration. So when that bad hair day has you ready to scream, give yourself grace. It’ll get easier.
2. I’ve changed my pad 3 times in the last 3 hours. Is it normal to bleed this hard?
Every woman’s menstruation is different. Most women tend to bleed for 3 to 7 days and average a menstrual flow of 30 ml, basically soaking up to seven normal-sized pads or tampons over the course of one period. If you’re changing your pad every hour (for several consecutive hours), flooding your period products, passing blood clots, or having to change at night, then these are signs that you’re having a heavier period. It’s still normal to have heavier periods. If you have a heavy flow, it’s important to add extra fluids and salt into your diet that week. Also, if you’ve had a heavy flow for several cycles, then it might be a good idea to take an over-the-counter tablet of iron a day or eat iron-rich foods like—red meat, deep green vegetables, and dried fruits like raisins. You can also supplement with magnesium since it helps to relax muscles, taking the edge off strong uterus contractions. If you’re having a heavy flow for more than 8 days and severe cramping, then you should check in with your doctor.
3. I’ve been trying to get pregnant for two years, and it’s not happening. Why am I struggling?
First of all, you are not alone in this struggle. About 1 in 5 women in the US are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. Second of all, even though infertility is a common issue, it doesn’t relieve the fear, frustration and emotional pain that comes with waiting to conceive. Please know that if you’re struggling with infertility, you don’t have to journey that alone. With the help of healthcare providers, you can discover the whys, hows, and ways to fulfill your dream of having a baby.
4. Since I had my baby, every time I cough or sneeze, I pee myself. Should this be happening?
Unfortunately, urinary incontinence, or the lack of bladder control, is very common after giving birth. Up to almost 1 in 4 women experience urinary incontinence during the postpartum period, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Loss of bladder control increases when you give birth vaginally, if forceps are used during delivery, if you had a higher pre-pregnancy body mass index, or when you breastfeed for a longer duration. During pregnancy and delivery, our bodies are forced to stretch, lengthen, and push, weakening our core and pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor and core will need to be strengthened again. If you’re finding it difficult to do this, then you can meet with a physical therapist for extra assistance.
5. For the umpteenth time today, I have stuck my head in the freezer trying to cool down after feeling like I’ve been on a private vacation to the tropics. I have sweat through another shirt, and my face is beet red. Is this normal?
The answer is yes, it is. What you’re experiencing are hot flashes. This is one common symptom during the life stage called menopause. More than 80% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. Hot flashes can occur during the day or night and have a range of severity. If you fall into the category of moderate to severe, here are 6 tips to help you find relief:
- Reduce stress with yoga, tai chi, meditation, biofeedback, acupuncture & massage.
- Keep the temperature in your home cool.
- Eliminate hot drinks, hot foods, alcohol, caffeine, and cigarette smoking
- Wear light, breathable clothing during the day and to bed.
- Sleep with cooling products, including sprays, gels, and a cool-fabric pillow. Use layered bedding that can be easily removed during the night. Cool down with a bedside fan.
- When a hot flash is starting, try “paced respiration”—slow, deep, abdominal breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe only 5 to 7 times per minute, much more slowly than usual.
6. Something is wrong with my vagina. It’s super dry, and it hurts to have sex. What’s wrong with me?
You are not alone in this experience. Vaginal dryness is considered the hallmark symptom during the stages of menopause. Because estrogen levels are decreasing, the vaginal tissues become thinner and more easily irritated. Though this is common, it doesn’t make it less frustrating. In order to combat dryness and painful intercourse, women can use vaginal moisturizers, low-dose vaginal estrogen cream, and healthy vaginal lubricants like Vella’s Intimate Elixir.
7. I have no interest in sex. It’s like I completely lost my libido. Is this normal?
This can happen at various stages of womanhood and is commonly linked to professional and personal stress and life-changing events such as pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Stress and hormonal changes can diminish your desire. That’s normal. If you’re frustrated by your lack of libido, there are always solutions. Consider talking to a sex therapist for relational tools and a healthcare provider for medication and hormone therapy options.
As women, our beautiful bodies undergo a lot of changes in every stage of life. The Women’s Wellness Collective says it perfectly, “By supporting the stages of our lives and treating ourselves with self-love and self-compassion, we can find the strength to transition through these phases gracefully and to truly enjoy and embrace all that life has to offer, at every stage.” Let’s focus on honoring and supporting ourselves as we elevate our mental, physical, and sexual wellness. It’s a gift to be a woman. Let’s celebrate it.