Is Menstruation Obsolete? #101/15

Category:     Women’s poignant quotes about the symptoms that may happen cyclically   

Q:  Dr. Bob, what are some of women’s quotes about symptoms they may experience during their menstrual cycles.

These quotes are taken from Dr. Sheldon Segal’s book; “Is Menstruation Obsolete?”       

A:        It was only after the appearance of oral contraceptives in 1960 that, for the first time in human history, women were given the option of controlling their own menstrual cycle: prolonging it, shortening it, or simply abolishing it.  [page 34]

The most frequent PMS symptoms are fatigue (92%), irritability (91%), abdominal distention (90%), nervous tension (89%), breast tenderness (85%), mood changes (81%), depression (80%), and increased appetite (78%).  By far, more women than men suffer from insomnia.  A 1998 study by the U.S. National Sleep Foundation found that 71% of women reported that their sleep was disturbed in the premenstrual days and during the first few days of their period. [pages 67 & 68]

“I’ve had people tell me that every bad move they ever made in their lives – breaking up with perfectly good boyfriends, quitting perfectly good jobs – they made pre-menstrually”  says Charlotte Furey, study coordinator of the University of Pennsylvania’s Premenstrual Syndrome Program.  The director of that program, Dr. Ellen Freeman, adds, “To argue that PMS should not be treated is analogous to saying that we would not treat depression.” [page 69]

However, one study on the influence of menstruation in an American factory that employed ten thousand women found that 45% of those seeking medical attention did so for reasons associated with the menstrual or premenstrual period. [page 74]

For dancers and actresses in television or films, the mind and mood changes, inattentiveness, and difficulty in remembering lines and gestures can make performing or filming on those days impossible.  Some of the most successful actresses have insisted on having clauses in their contracts releasing them from work during the premenstrual phase or during menstruation. The loss of a reduction in the senses of taste and smell can be a problem for chefs.  Stories are legendary about bakers who are surprised when the cake sinks or burns because of their premenstrual distraction or forgetfulness.  The disastrous journey of the Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova ended abruptly in 1973 when she had to be brought back to Earth after only three days because she began to menstruate excessively and there was no apparent way to control or stop the flow. [page 75]

In addition to the painful dysmenorrhea, endometriosis is a disorder that can cause considerable pain during intercourse (dyspareunia) and is a major cause of infertility.  Depending on individual situations, the impact on marriages can be destructive.  In cultures that hold fertility high on the list of requirements expected in a marriage, endometriosis can have a serious effect on the lives of women.

The devastating effects endometriosis can cause is illustrated by the following medical account of Marilyn Monroe’s struggle with the disease.  These facts have been drawn from documented biographies written by Donald Spoto and Anthony Summers.

From a medical viewpoint, I’ve also added my own interpretation of the impact her sever endometriosis had in contributing to many of the tragic circumstances of her life. 

In considering Marilyn Monroe’s battle with endometriosis, it is important to remember that until the 1960’s, the ultimate recourse for controlling severe cases was to remove a woman’s ovaries in order to put an end to the periodic stimulation of the endometrial tissue.  Present-day laser surgery was not available and there were no other effective medical treatments, whether medical or surgical, is much more conservative and effective.  Not available during the years of Marilyn’s affliction were the severe forms of hormonal treatment, used now throughout the world.  Ms. Monroe refused to undergo the then-utilized surgery to remove her ovaries – most likely because she desperately wanted to become a mother.  She endured the severe monthly pain by consuming greater and greater quantities of narcotics, ultimately leading to her death by overdose.

According to published biographical accounts of her life and in spite of her image as the ultimate sex symbol conveyed by Hollywood publishers, the actress’s personal sexuality provided her little gratification or satisfaction.  The painful dyspareunia characteristic of severe endometriosis made her resistant, tense, and apprehensive of intercourse.  According to her biographers, Marilyn Monroe expressed her dissatisfaction with sex to her closest friends.  By age twenty, already married for four years, Ms. Monroe complained of terrible cramps that complicated her career as a model, making it difficult for her to stand of long periods of time at photographic sessions.  This symptom, along with the dysmenorrhea and dyspareunia that plagued her, reveals that she began suffering from advanced endometriosis at a young age. [pages 99 and 100]

It was not endometriosis that took the life of Marilyn Monroe but it certainly contributed substantially to her enormous mental and physical suffering, leading to her dependence on the pain-killing drugs which ultimately killed her. [page 105]   

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH

Emeritus Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics

Emory University School of Medicine

Atlanta, GA

To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of all available contraceptives, go to: www.managingcontraception.com and Contraceptive Technology 20th Edition, or Choices 2014 edition .  You can also order these books from our website www.managing contraception.com 

Key WordsIs Menstruation Obsolete?”, menstruation, symptoms, cramps, headaches, fatigue, irritability, curse, risks, exercise, ailments, contraceptives, options, prolonging, shortening, abolishing, PMS, distention, nervous tension, depression, breast tenderness, mood changes, appetite changes, sleep disturbed, periods, Pennsylvania’s Premenstrual Syndrome Program, dancers, actresses, taste, smell, forgetfulness, Russian astronaut, Valentina Tereshkova, bleeding, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, dyspareunia, infertility, Marilyn Monroe, ovaries removed, pain, narcotics, overdose, sex symbol , hormonal treatment, cramps, intercourse, mental and physical suffering

References: Coutinho Elsimar M, Segal Sheldon J. et al “Is Menstruation Obsolete?” Pages: Foreword X, XI,  34, 67-68, 69, 74, 75, 00-100, 105: Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 1999

Current Books that have extensive information on women’s menstrual cycles and ways of treating them:

Contraceptive Technology 20th Edition

Managing Contraception 2015-2016 Edition; the maize and blue edition

Choices 2014