Know Your Body, Tell Your Friends: My Post Tubal Ligation Syndrome Story
By: Heather King
My right hand, the inside with its lines across the palm and spreading up toward my fingers, is covered in tiny little paper-cut-looking slits. No matter what I try, I have something like eczema and the itch of it is something akin to poison ivy. I scratch at it without thinking at this point. I caught my Dad watching me the other day and stopped, flapped my hand a bit and said, “I can’t help it.”
He said, Yeah, that alone would drive me crazy.
Beyond the Daily Grind
Behind his words and eyes I could see what was behind that sentence. “Not to mention all the other things.” Life things, yes. We all have too much stress and we work on that, begging our busy selves to slow down, for self-care, a break. But beyond that daily grind, I’ve been dealing with physical and mental health issues that came on after my third baby was born. Our postpartum period was rough, but I knew there was something more going on. I waited for the hormonal depression symptoms to lift, but instead it felt like I was being pulled, chained to a boulder, down a sharp incline toward something that made me panic. I didn’t know what it was, but it was causing me more anxiety than I have ever known. I would stand around the house, my baby nearly a year old and I was frozen with fear. It was the kind of fear that borders on panic, right before the bad, bad thing is about to happen. But nothing was happening. I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by life, I was taking its trials with a grain of salt, changing my thinking, staying positive and keeping perspective. I was relying on my family and friends. I was asking my husband for help when I needed more sleep. My depression (more fatigue than sadness) and anxiety (crippling) were worsening despite all of this.
When my husband gently put me in the car to take me to urgent care one afternoon, not knowing what else to do, I told him, my insides are doing this. I’m not doing this. My life is good. I have you guys, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t do anything. I’m so scared.
The doctor could see my depression and anxiety before I even spoke, and as my husband described my unusual behavior, I cried a lot and waited. I waited to be told it was all in my head. But she was so kind. I was finally sitting with a medical professional that believed me. I brought up the fact that I’d had a tubal ligation after my c-section with our daughter, our third. I told her that in all these months that followed, as my symptoms worsened, I had this core of my being gut feeling that it was all related to having had my tubes tied. My itchy skin, my strange digestion changes, my depression and anxiety being so out of control. I told her I had talked to my OB/GYN who had told me she’d never heard of any of these symptoms being related to tubals. This confused me a lot, because I had talked to a nurse on the phone before coming in to the OB/GYN office, and the nurse had mentioned something called “post tubal ligation syndrome”. After I told her about that phone conversation, she got up and left the room, saying she needed to consult with someone. (I had not even googled anything about any of this until I talked to that nurse. Then, before my appointment, I did look PTLS online and found I had almost every single symptom on the list.) When my OB/GYN came back, she reiterated that she didn’t think a tubal ligation could cause these symptoms and suggested that I stop breastfeeding.
I left feeling like just another hormonal woman, complaining about PMS symptoms, even though I trusted my gut. I trusted myself to know my own body. I knew I was right about this.
So I sat with a new doctor that I found because I was losing it and she validated my knowledge of my own situation. She said yes, she has heard that tubal ligations cause a great deal of symptoms for women but doctors don’t acknowledge anything other than changes in your period because that’s the only thing that’s been studied. The mental health side effects, etc., have not been studied, so doctors do not have to recognize the correlation in the many, many women that complain of the symptoms after going into having this procedure done with very little information.
I was not even told that my periods could change.
Many women who have tubal ligations experience a dramatic shift in their periods. Either they become sporadic, constant, or in most cases, become very heavy.Very.
I ended up writing about all of this on my personal blog to do a little of my own unscientific research. I asked women to write to me if they’d had a tubal ligation. When they emailed me, I responded with a set of questions about their mental health, their sex drive, their periods, their skin and their digestive issues. None of these were leading questions with detailed descriptions of possible symptoms. These were open questions asking the person to describe the before and after of each category. Before I had my tubal, I was never depressed or anxious. Never. After my tubal, I have both and it continues to get worse as time goes on. My life has never been the same. My marriage is struggling because of this. (This is not an exaggeration. It’s part of an actual email. I’m not being dramatic and neither is she.)
I have an email file full of hundreds of emails that I continue to receive on a daily basis because of that blog post. Comments continue to come in, and there are more hits from google to that post than to any other post on my five-year-old blog. Women are experiencing these difficulties after tubal ligations, they have a hunch that their symptoms are related to having had the procedure done, and they google…
depression after tubal ligation?
why is my period so heavy after tubal ligation?
is my anxiety because of tubal ligation?
if I got my tubes tied is that why I want to sleep all the time and I’m so moody?
It goes on and on. Each of those are real searches from google to my blog.
I talk about this online because sometimes the only way that women can make educated decisions about their bodies is word of mouth. The Internet is such a miraculous gift in that particular way. Doctors may say “don’t google it!” worrying that patients will fill themselves full of erroneous information and sure, that’s possible. BUT, there are a lot of wise women sharing their stories online as well. I want my difficult, painful story to be a cautionary tale for another woman. I’m not a medical professional and my research is not in the books. I’m speaking from experience and I’m not in a position to tell any other woman what to do with her body. I simply tell my birth control story so other women can more carefully research before making this decision.
To my own body be true
Medical professionals do explain that in many cases tubal ligations cut off the blood supply to the ovaries. In short, this causes early menopause in many women. I am one of those women. I have three small children and I’m 37 years old. Every day, I’m fighting to rise above severe lethargy, depression and anxiety, digestive issues and horribly itchy skin. I know myself. I know my body. I know why this is happening. It is happening because I had my tubes tied after my third baby and I can’t describe how much I want to take that back. Friends, I really wish I would have googled this beforehand, because there’s a nugget of truth in everything, and I would have taken the many online stories as they are – a lot of red flags, even if some of the information is inaccurate.
Many women ask me what can be done, and I’m sorry, I don’t know. Reversals are expensive and not covered by insurance. There are few doctors who will do them and having a reversal done does not always alleviate the symptoms. Some women have contacted me to say that having a reversal helped immensely, others say they feel only slightly better and some say it did not help at all. This is all related to each individual woman’s anatomy and there’s no way to know ahead of time how it will go for you.
I hope studies are done one day so rather than “it’s all in her head” or “oh she googled it and now she thinks it’s because of her tubal.” I suppose that’s the only way to get the medical community to start informing their patients of the possible debilitating symptoms that can occur because of having a tubal ligation. Friends, until then, we need to do something to help each other… let’s keep listening to that inner voice, and let’s keep talking.