*Please note: This is one woman’s personal experience and is featured for informational purposes only. Please consult your own doctor if you experience similar symptoms for an expert medical diagnosis.

“I share this recent experience as a cautionary tale because with the overwhelming array of symptoms women can face during perimenopause, it’s hard to know what to attribute to that transition, or if it’s something more serious that needs medical treatment.

I’ve had perimenopausal migraines for the past 2-3 years. This particular migraine began one Friday morning and lasted throughout the entire weekend. Mostly my meds work, but this time, not so much. On day four though, I was hugely relieved to waken migraine-free, so I got up to go about my daily routine.

I cancelled a coffee date as I didn’t want to poke the beast (my migraine) by too much talking, but soon I felt a headache coming on – on the opposite side to my prior migraine. That was weird. It’s normal for migraines to pound my brain on one side, but not to switch sides and even downgrade to just a headache. I was confused but glad when OTC medication eliminated the pain.

The next day was pain-free and meds-free (yay!) and I thought I out was out of the woods. Until I woke the following day with a headache, this time with accompanying burning lower neck pain that spanned my shoulders. Now I was worried as I don’t have neck pain often. But I had things to do and luckily OTC pain meds eased the pain so I pushed on. I must have slept funny – I’m getting old! I told myself.

The next day, the pain had moved to my lower back. What was going on? I wondered if it was a virus but I’ve gotten so used to blaming pain on getting older, and approaching menopause makes every pain and discomfort so confusing. Again, OTC meds did help but I was mystified as to why the pain was moving around my body.

After two more nights of lower back pain that by now was causing tingling and numbness down the back of my legs and in my feet, but always eased by OTC meds, I finally went to Urgent Care.

‘Let’s get you in, so we can get you out!’ said the UC nurse, cheerily. Despite her positive attitude I felt terrible. I told the doctor my symptoms and did a rapid Covid test and a urine sample. When the nurse was preparing me for discharge, she smiled and said, ‘It may just be menopause.’ It better not be, I thought. I can’t live with pain like this potentially for years. I could barely unravel my legs from my chest as I sat up huddled on the bed while she tapped in my info.

‘I’ve gotten so used to blaming pain on getting older, and approaching menopause makes every pain and discomfort so confusing.’

Back home while I waited for my test results, I Googled my symptoms and surmised I must have a UTI. I also read that if left too long untreated with antibiotics it can lead to a kidney infection, which is potentially dangerous. I’d waited almost a week since the various pains had started and wasted days attributing the pain to menopause issues. Now it was Sunday evening and the next day was a holiday. When was I ever going to get my test results and a prescription to stop my apparent UTI possibly reaching my kidneys?

At 8.45pm I still hadn’t received my results, and in a panic, I yelled ‘I’m going to Urgent Care’ to my husband and jumped in my car. I literally ran into the hospital as the clock struck 8.59pm and Urgent Care was closing for the night. As luck would have it, my cheery nurse from earlier suddenly walked through on her way out so there was little explanation needed. I told her I hadn’t got my results back but I was convinced I had a UTI.

To my surprise, she took my word for it, disappeared to tell the doctor on call, and returned to say he’d asked the pharmacy to stay open till I got there for my antibiotic prescription. I was in fight or flight mode as I raced my aching body to the pharmacy. I was shocked that he’d given me a prescription without seeing me again but had I not diagnosed myself, I don’t how long I’d have waited for a result.

I finally heard back that it was a UTI two days after I’d taken my test. Had I properly listened to my body during those weird pain periods, I would have got to my own doctor before the weekend Urgent Care rush and probably been diagnosed and cured much quicker.

We rightly rely on doctors to diagnose and treat us but mistakes and delays happen. Sometimes we have to fit the puzzle pieces together ourselves but it’s hard when we’re attributing this, that, and the other to menopause. I could have ended up with a kidney infection by doing it. You’re your best health advocate so don’t let yourself down. Listen to your body. And my advice is, don’t ever just think it’s down to menopause. It’s just not worth it.”

Ashley K, San Diego.