I rip the box open and skim through the little pamphlet inside. The teeny manual tells me that it works to alleviate symptoms of menopause—no more hot flashes! However, that’s not the reason I need to wear estrogen patches (I am far from menopause, thank goodness). Rather, I was prescribed the patch to counteract my hypothalamic dysfunction. In laymen’s terms, my hypothalamus doesn’t produce nearly enough estrogen for my body to function properly. There are a number of reasons for this—malnutrition in my younger years, stress, other factors—that resulted in me not having a period for years. However, that’s all changing thanks to two little stickers.
In the beginning, I wore just one patch. Carefully, I peeled the translucent, dime-sized sticker from its backing and placed it strategically on the skin above where my ovaries would be. After about two weeks of wearing just one, I got blood drawn to count the new estrogen levels coursing through my body. The doctor said it was not quite high enough, so I’ve been instructed to wear another patch at the same time. Then, in three months if I don’t get a period on my own, I am to take a 12-day course of progesterone pills.
One of the first things I did upon receiving my prescription was check out the website of my lovely patches for some more info. Minivelle is an “estradiol transdermal system” or, according to my gynecologist, an easier and more efficient way to get estrogen into your system because it goes through your skin. Its primary purpose for existing on the market is to provide relief from the discomforts of hot flashes, night sweats and other menopausal symptoms. This particular patch is made of what’s called “bioidentical estradiol,” which is plant-based estrogen that is chemically identical to estrogen made by the human body.
It’s also FDA approved to prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis; a fear that I had for myself since my body has lacked estrogen for so long. A bone density test in November put my mind at ease, however.
Another great benefit of wearing patches is that I only apply them twice each week instead of worrying about having to take a pill every day. Also, because the patch sends estrogen directly into my bloodstream, the liver doesn’t need to metabolize it like it would for an oral pill. Because the oral pills go through the digestive tract, they often contain higher levels of estrogen, which isn’t necessarily beneficial for the body.
Side effects, as listed on Minivelle’s website, are minimal. But one thing I did notice was my mood swings; within the first couple weeks of wearing the patches I became a walking ball of emotion, crying during commercials or listening to random songs on the radio (things that have never happened to me). Also, libido significantly increases in my experience, so just beware and use protection, ladies.
Ultimately, I received the greatest gift of all, and that was simply having a period. My mom and grandma cried upon hearing the news of my first period, the first natural one I have had since I was 17 years old (I’m 21 now). I have so many people to thank for getting me through these rocky years when I didn’t know what the heck was going on with my body. Thanks to a spectacular team of reproductive medicine specialists (as well as continuous support from family and friends), I’m finally back on track and saying “hello” to my flow once again.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.