June 28, 2005
I Don't Want Kids Anyway
WARNING: For you soft-skinned folks in the boys' cabin our our little bloggie summer camp, this entry is going to touch on "Women's Issues." So if you can't handle that, go read The Economist or something.
Two of my favorite bloggiefriends have had interesting things to say lately that inspire me to once again delve into the topic of "women's issues." Now why it is that when people say that, they usually mean "women's reproductive health issues," as though that's the only issue women have, is another story. I will leave it to Christina to de-construct.
Here was Christina's question in a recent comment:
Also - uh - I wonder if exercise in combo with cr is/has/will provoke that nasty, unmentionable - amenorhhea? If so, is that a tolerable side effect for you?
That's a very good question! I suspect that the exercise is increasing my hunger, and you're absolutely on target about the timing. Exercise is super important for bone and cardio health, not to mention that I find it great for my mental health too. It also keeps MR from worrying that my bones will all collapse fifteen minutes before the introduction of the immortality pill (or pardon me... the "indefinite postponement of age-releated disease and disability pill." ;) So I'm not going to quit exercising. And I'm on a quest to drop my calories further. Is this likely to result in amenorrhea? Probably, eventually, yes.
How do I feel about that?
I absolutely hate being a menstruating female. Now I'm sure there are some eco-feminist types out there, blessings be upon them, who think we should rejoice in these symbols of our womanhood, worship our fertility, be thrilled to death about cramps, maybe even enjoy natural childbirth. Not I.
Like, uh, gross.
I used to have really, really bad cramps. So bad I would almost pass out. So bad that my doctor put me on birth control pills at 15 because I was taking so much naproxen sodium for the pain that I was in danger of eating a hole in my stomach.
I spent more than ten years on the Pill. Pumping hormones into my body. I discovered, upon going on and off a few times, that the Pill makes me hungry (uh, duh, it mimics pregnancy!), moody, makes my sex drive go down (really great when you've just gone on it because you've started a relationship, then your sex drive drops. Lovely.) and basically makes me a miserable, unhappy person.
So I went off it. For good. Shortly before I started CR. Now I have cramps.
They're not nearly as bad as they used to be pre-CR, but they're still bad enough that I once took about 6 Zinc tablets thinking they were Advils and spent the entire night in agony waiting for the medicine to kick in. Then I figured out that they were zinc, but you've already heard that story.
The entire process is silly. I hate it, I don't want to do it anymore. So if I am headed for amenorrhea, then I'm absolutely thrilled. It may become my favorite CR side effect.
Now everyone is going to freak out.
Isn't it just unnatural for a woman not to menstruate?
Well, I don't care. I don't know if anyone has noticed, but there's something a bit unnatural about controlling one's calories so that one can extend one's lifespan. I'm not trying to win a Natural Woman contest. I dye my hair, I shave my legs, I wear make-up and high heels. I get my nails done professionally, because if I try to paint them myself, it looks like Jackson Pollack was my manicurist. I am not interested in natural. I like nature just where it is... somewhere in the national park system. I don't bother it, it doesn't bother me.
I will not be doing any camping, unless you consider having a glass of pinot noir on the balcony of the Marriot camping out. (I stole that line from something my mom said about 25 years ago, btw.)
BUT WON'T I DAMAGE MY FERTILITY?
Frankly, I doubt it. The data that seems to point to fertility damage from long term amenorrhea is taken from anorexics, and they don't have much in common with us. They damage their heart, lungs, internal organs with malnutrition, while we improve the functioning of just about everything by being super-vigilant about our ON and keeping our calories low. The rodent data points to old rats becoming Mommy Rats when re-fed after years of CR'd amenorrhea, just about the time when their fat rat sisters are getting old and grey. So I'm guessing that if I wanted to have kids later in life, say at 40 or so, I'd be in better shape to do it if I were to up my calories after years of CR than if I were to eat ad lib between now and then.
And guess what? I don't care! Because I don't want children!
I don't like children. When I was a child, I didn't like myself. I don't find babies cute. I find kittens, puppies, ferrets (yes, I am trying to get Goodgle adSense to put the ad for the ferret store on the blog again) and tarantulas cute. I find CR'd genius boys cute. I find eggwhites cute, and men with geeky watches. I don't find small children cute at all.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm okay with other people's children. I actually like my niece, and I have enjoyed the occasional conversation with a five year old. But none of that makes me want children of my own.
Part of my not wanting children comes from genuine appreciation for the sacrifices that parents make. Parenting is the hardest job on earth, and I don't want to do it. Parents give up so much of their own identities to bring up healthy, sane children in an impossible environment. I admire and respect the parents I know, and I don't wish to join them in their self-sacrificing lifestyle. I'd rather contribute to the species through my work and my blog and my cooking than by raising another human being or two.
MR doesn't want children either. Never has. Isn't that convenient?
Besides, do you really want to encourage the creation of skinny red-headed mini-creatures that would go around telling everyone not to eat that???
The world is better off without.
Our parents are not committing suicide because we don't want to produce grandchildren. MOMR already has grandchildren (thanks Chris!), my dad has a grandchild with my step-mother, and my mom is the biggest advocate of me not having kids aside from MR. She knows how much work it is to raise children... she had me! And I was a really, really good kid. The kind of kid who actually enjoyed sitting quietly in the library reading the books while mommy worked late.
Which brings me to Wanderingfeet's recent post (see DAY 36 for the issue in question) re: the pressure to get married, have kids, all in a compressed time frame. Women do feel a whole lot of pressure to get married and have kids. I know that during the time period when I wasn't seeing anyone, for quite awhile before I met MR, I would frequently be questioned about why a nice girl like me wasn't married. Lots of my friends were seriously stressing about the husband hunt, and complaining that their biological clocks might be ticking. Now don't get me wrong... I found singleness pretty darned annoying after awhile... in large part because CR hasn't dampened my libido one bit... but I've never heard so much as a peep from my "biological clock." Everyone kept saying I'd turn thirty and suddenly start coveting Kenneth Cole diaper bags and trips to Babies-R-Us. It didn't happen. I haven't even wanted a new kitten, or a houseplant. I'm just not a having kids person. So the mild risk of injuring my fertility is just about as significant to me as the possibility that CR might impair my ability run for President of Bolivia. It wasn't going to happen anyway.
There are health concerns that may be associated with amenorrhea. One of them is possible bone loss. I am combatting that through what strikes me as a pretty darned agressive supplementation program including Strontium, K2, and no doubt other things I don't understand but take cause MR says to and brings me my supplements in bed. They are expensive, and I often joke that MR spends as much money on supplements as I spend on my car, but it's worth it to protect my bones.
I also am doing bone building exercise, both cardio and weight lifting. I actually like doing push-ups... makes me feel so, well, cool. I'm a girl who can do push-ups. Wow. I am impressed with myself.
It seems silly to me, now that I've determined that living as long as I can, as healthy as I can, is a top priority in my life, that I would sacrifice the ability to do so because a) I'm afraid of losing my fertility, which I don't want anyway or b) I'd rather die with big bones.
Of course, CR is a sliding scale, a slippery slope, and there are benefits to any level of CR. But I want the benefits to the hardcore level of CR. I'm having so much fun now... why not maximize my chances of having fun longer???
So to answer your question: amenorrhea is a side effect I can live with.
And if MR and I develop any bizarre urges to parent, we'll raise prize winning CR'd mice.
Posted by april at June 28, 2005 9:19 AM
Hmmm... This is most likely an ignorant question, but will amenorrhea at 30 possibly lead to early onset menopause? If so, think this through very carefully, April. I assure you, menopause is not pleasant (unless you're fool enough to let your doctor talk you into going on hormones)and (in my opinion) is something to be delayed as long as possible. Hot flashes, etc., etc. make monthly periods seem like a very minor annoyance by comparison. JD :-)
Posted by: Judith at June 28, 2005 1:08 PM
I seriously doubt that amenorrhea will lead to early menopause. In the rodent studies, that's not what happens, and even malnourished anorexics don't appear to hit menopause any earlier than anyone else.
I am encouraged by the fact that my mom barely had any menopausal symptoms at all... no hot flashes, nothing annoying. Her doctor attributes it to her low cal, almost completely vegetarian diet. I'm hoping the same works for me!
Thanks for all the kind words about my cooking!!!
Posted by: april at June 28, 2005 1:53 PM
I am only 6 months into real menopause (maybe) - but so far it's great. I had hot flashes for one month and then they went away. They didn't bother me that much anyway - since being warm feels better when you are thin!
I think little April/MRs would be intense and adorable. But, I respect your choice not to have children. It's your life. As you say, children are a huge investment. I feel like mine have been worth it. But I am really expecting 50+ more years without childrearing at this point.
Posted by: Mary at June 28, 2005 5:56 PM
Good for you, April. I turned out, (much to my surprise,) to be a breeder, but I completely understand and support your decision to be child-free.
I also can't tell you how flattered I am that you mentioned my blog in your blog --Suzanne
Posted by: Suzanne at June 28, 2005 6:03 PM
May I humbly suggest that you post your blog entry or some variation to the cr society list?
However ghettoized "women's issue" are, I think its good to bring gender into what is typically a gender neutral dialogue. Perhaps (hmmm) it would prompt further discussion, views, experiences etc of other cr women.
Posted by: Christina at June 28, 2005 10:21 PM
I understand your position on these issues completely. I've never wanted kids either and find the monthly cycle such a pain that my MD agreed to let me take my birth control pills continuously. I take a break every three months instead of every three weeks. That being said, I am mindful of Walford's admonition that we should not let our body fat get too low. He says amenorrhea is an indication that body fat has dipped too low.
Your post also makes me wonder if the BC pills are contributing to my hunger. hmmmm. Thanks for the courageous and thoughtful entry.
Posted by: Laura at June 29, 2005 7:05 AM
Hi April, thanks for your post on hunger. Very funny--but you raise two great points. It is likely that my hunger management is so much better during the day because there are so many more distractions. I will have to work on finding some better ones in the PM...
Posted by: suzy at June 29, 2005 8:11 AM
I'm right there with you April. I'm 31 and on CR (5'3", 101 lbs, 1250 cal/day). haven't had a period since 2001. And I don't look back - I'm an artist - I have a drive to create ART, not children. Never have. And my boyfriend doesn't want kids either, so it all works out well for us, too. And yes - it IS my all-time favorite side effect of CR! My doctor told me I no longer produce enough estrogen to have a period - he told me that a woman needs at least 16% body fat to do so.
I basically never tell anyone that I don't get a period because people always completely FREAK OUT. It's as if the idea of a woman who is free from the chains of a monthly cycle is the most frightening thing EVER. It's strange.
Posted by: Sarah at June 29, 2005 8:13 AM
i started bleeding late, like age 19 or 20 and skipped
many many periods throughout the years....prob averaging 4 per year. and now slowing moreso, less than 20 periods total in the last 10 years. 2 hot flashes, so far in the past 3 years. im about a minute away from 50. last month my doc said the less periods in a womans life, the less risk of cancer.
a year ago a very big t v crashed on my feet. only one heel cracked. i'd think if my bones were weakened all those little metatarsals would have broken.
a, thank you for another insightful blog!!! xoxo
Posted by: fruitgirl at June 29, 2005 9:39 AM
I don't think it's possible to give an accurate cutoff point, such as 16% bodyfat. That percentage doesn't just depend on the amount of body fat, it's also affected by lean body mass. An increase in muscle tissue can drive the percentage down without changing the amount of fat. Also, it's very difficut to get an accurate measurement of bodyfat% in the first place, unless you have an autotopsy. Anyway, based on several methods (Futrex, calipers, tape measure, experienced eyes of several trainers) my bodyfat has dropped as low as 11-12% without any effect on my cycle whatsoever. I've never once skipped a period. But I do have more muscle than the average woman, so the low bf% is a bit skewed. Or maybe it's just a genetic thing, to have an indomitably regular cycle.
I seem to recall that a sizable percentage of ammenorhea in anorexics and starving subjects is due to certain deficiencies. B-12 springs to mind; maybe others. Have any studies been done on extremely lean but healthy women with excellent nutrition and no deficiencies? I'd love to see them. As far as I know, there are pros and cons to longterm production estrogen (I think I blogged it a month or so ago) and the jury's still out on which wins.
Anyway, good luck, April. It'll be very interesting to see what kinds of reactions you get. I've known geeky male programmers who literally lived on diet Pepsi and M&Ms for years at a time, and nobody ever once felt a need to "express concern" about their nutrtional status or the possible longterm effects on their health or fertility. But if a woman so much as skips dessert, the ED SWAT team swoops in to intervene.
Posted by: Elizabeth at June 29, 2005 12:34 PM
Just a comment to anyone that it applies to about menopausal symptoms. A good friend of mine has been eating soy protein regularly for a number of years. While all her female siblings suffer from hot flashes, she has had none.
It might be something to consider adding to your ON regimen and is definitely safer than HRT. 25g of soy protein in whatever form suits you should do the trick. It might take a couple of months for any noticeable effects but it can't hurt. Not to mention all the other bennies associated with isoflavones, etc...
I started eating edamame and soy beans, as well as incorporating soy flour into some recipes. I am happy to say that after three months I have noticed that my periods are less crampy and my PMS bloating is not as severe.
Anyways, good luck and happy CR!
Posted by: Jeannette at June 30, 2005 8:21 AM
Just wondering if anyone has heard of dysplasia? (abnormal cells in the cervix), caused by the HPV virus.
I practise CR and have done so for some time, and now feel cheated that l am faced with this problem??
Posted by: Snez at July 26, 2005 12:11 AM
I've seen a decent amount of reports and research that ties the physical effect of not bleeding with uterine cancer. Might be that not shedding the lining now and then allows for nasties to get a foothold in there and then turn malignant.
Yikes. So maybe once amenorrheic, it would be good to dose a few times a year on progesterone to induce a cycle....?
Posted by: Miss Tenacity at November 22, 2006 9:28 AM
i have not had a period in 6 months after having normal periods for years (i'm 44 now) i do not have kids and i think i have fibroids...what do you think?
i have a normal diet, normal sex life, i'm educated , great job, normal relationships...nothing appears to be wrong with me except i don't have a period....
Posted by: valerie at June 18, 2008 5:48 AM
I was diagnosed with cervical dysplasia (HPV) a few years ago. It was serious enough that after a colposcopy my gyno told me that I needed to get surgery as HPV can cause cancer and/or genital warts. Usually it requires no treatment at all and goes away on it's own but I was at the stage where my cells were pre-cancer and I had to get them lasered out. My doctor told me that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world and that just about everyone in their lives will get it at some point. In other words, HPV cannot be prevented by CR but can only be prevented by abstinence.
Posted by: Sandra at October 31, 2008 7:40 PM
Question: Do you think if someone really loves you they will sacrafice having or not having kids depending on your desire? In my mind if a person is not willing to sacrafice for the other…it is not true love. Please tell me what you think.
Posted by: BunnyG at March 6, 2010 10:19 AM