Navigating Women’s Health Issues in Benzo Withdrawal/BIND

Women’s health is a multifaceted and complex topic, encompassing many symptoms and conditions that can impact our daily lives. This blog post delves into women’s health issues related to benzodiazepine withdrawal/BIND (benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction) that I experienced or encountered with my coaching clients. I will also provide tips to help women cope with these challenges.

 Menstruation Changes

Benzodiazepine withdrawal/BIND can significantly impact a woman’s menstrual cycle due to the complex interaction between the nervous system, hormones, and stress response. As benzodiazepines primarily affect the central nervous system, the neuroadaptation they cause (downregulated GABA receptors) can increase stress and anxiety levels. This heightened stress response can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance that regulates the menstrual cycle, potentially leading to changes in cycle length, irregular periods, or even amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). Additionally, benzodiazepine withdrawal/BIND may exacerbate pre-existing menstrual symptoms such as cramps, mood swings, and fatigue, further affecting a woman’s overall well-being. My female clients of childbearing age often share with me that their cycle length changed since being in benzo withdrawal/BIND. (My uterus was removed when I was thirty-eight due to my benzo use, so I did not experience firsthand menstrual issues.) Some feel they are going into early menopause based on their menstrual changes; however, that may not be the case. Changes in menstruation usually go away, and a regular cycle settles in once BIND is over.

Hormone Fluctuations

Women’s hormone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, affecting their physical and emotional well-being. Estrogen and progesterone are two primary hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. Their levels rise and fall throughout the month, leading to mood swings, breast tenderness, and acne symptoms. In benzo withdrawal/BIND, these symptoms can become more intense, and the hormonal fluctuations can cause an increase in benzo withdrawal/BIND symptoms or usher in new ones. My clients report that ovulation and the days leading to menstruating can be challenging as benzo withdrawal/BIND symptoms intensify. Relief is usually felt after their period starts.

For peri-menopausal and menopausal women, it is essential to be aware that healthcare providers may suggest HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for low hormone levels. HRT has been shown to increase benzo withdrawal/BIND symptoms in many of my clients. Moreover, estrogen and progesterone impact GABA and can be challenging to stop taking. Do your research and decide for yourself if you want to take HRT.

Some doctors suggest taking birth control pills for hormone issues in benzo withdrawal/BINd. Do your research about the pills suggested. Some birth control pills can have a withdrawal syndrome, while others can worsen benzo withdrawal/BIND symptoms.

Sexual Difficulties

My clients often report sexual dysfunction. Vaginal dryness and atrophy, which can significantly impact a woman’s sexual health and quality of life, can occur in BWD/BIND. Vaginal dryness occurs due to reduced natural lubrication, while vaginal atrophy refers to the thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls. Pain during intercourse is also reported, as is loss of libido.

The use of Hyaluronic Acid (HA) can be beneficial. HA is a naturally occurring substance in the body that helps to maintain moisture and elasticity in tissues. Applying a topical HA-based lubricant can immediately relieve vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse. In contrast, regular use of HA-based vaginal moisturizers can aid in the long-term improvement of vaginal health. I have used a brand in the past with some success. (I ordered this brand from Amazon (I do not get paid if you order it) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002AV7BOK/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&th=1) Additionally, gentle pelvic floor exercises and relaxation techniques can help promote blood flow and enhance overall sexual well-being during benzo withdrawal/BIND.

Vaginal dilators can also be helpful for vaginal atrophy. There are many brands to choose from, so shop around. Make sure you use a good lubricant with one.

For some, orgasm revs up BWD/BIND symptoms. The use of a vibrator may cause intense sensations that do not resolve for a few hours or days. Another phenomenon some women experience is persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD), a rare condition of unwanted sensations of arousal in your genitals that don’t resolve with one or more orgasms. Genital itching and burning have also been reported in the benzo community. Women with past sexual abuse trauma may experience flashbacks or intrusive thoughts or memories during sexual activity, as well as old guilt or shame.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction refers to the inability to control the muscles in the pelvic floor, which support the bladder, uterus, and rectum. Symptoms of this condition include pain during intercourse, difficulty or pain during bowel movements, and urinary incontinence. Various factors, including childbirth, aging, obesity, or surgery, can cause it. Benzo withdrawal/BIND can also cause PFD. Pelvic floor dysfunction can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life. Caution must be used when seeking treatment. Some healthcare providers prescribe vaginal suppositories of Valium/Diazepam, which can increase BWD/BIND symptoms (or cause benzodiazepine dependency for someone not taking or recovering from a benzo. I have new clients because of their PFD treatment with Diazepam.) Some specific exercises and physical therapy can help with pelvic floor dysfunction. Always work with a qualified healthcare provider.

Some tools can be inserted that help with PFD, but some clients report that they are too painful or uncomfortable to use. Again, work with a qualified healthcare professional before buying any tool for at-home use.

Urinary Symptoms and BIND (Benzodiazepine-Induced Neurological Dysfunction)

Some women may experience urinary symptoms during benzodiazepine withdrawal/BIND, such as increased urinary frequency, urgency, incontinence, or pain. It is common for women to suspect they have a UTI (urinary tract infection) when they don’t. Many have had painful scopes of their bladder with no pathogens found. That is my story, too. My bladder looked inflamed, but there were never any pathogens to be found. It is important to avoid taking an antibiotic if one doesn’t have an infection. Fluoroquinolones must be avoided for infections as they can put someone in a cold turkey state.

Urinating in a bathtub with enough water to submerge your vagina can reduce or stop painful urination. Avoid scented bath additives and Epsom Salts as it contains magnesium which can rev up withdrawal/BIND symptoms. The old wives’ tale about drinking cranberry juice to avoid a UTI has merit. Look for pure unsweetened juice, not a juice blend or cocktail.

Incontinence can be an embarrassing problem for some women in BIND. Sneezing, coughing, or laughing can trigger leaking. Or, the urge to urinate can come on suddenly without enough time to make it to a bathroom, and an accident happens. (I suffered from this.) Wetting the bed at night or during a nap can also occur. Incontinence usually goes away as we recover.

Tips for Coping with Women’s Symptoms

  • Track your menstrual cycle: Keeping track of your cycle can help you identify patterns and anticipate when symptoms may occur. You can use a calendar, journal, or mobile app to note changes in your mood, energy levels, and physical symptoms.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating a WFPB diet and gentle exercising can help alleviate some symptoms associated with hormonal fluctuations. Incorporating stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing, can be beneficial.
  • Seek medical advice: If you notice any significant changes in your menstrual cycle or experience severe symptoms, consult a healthcare professional.
  • Strengthen your pelvic floor: If you suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, consider working with a pelvic floor physiotherapist to learn exercises that can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Regular practice of these exercises can improve symptoms and prevent further issues.
  • Wear a pad designed for incontinence if you need to.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water is essential for maintaining overall health and can help alleviate some urinary symptoms. Aim to drink enough water so that your urine is clear or pale in color. Avoid caffeine or alcohol consumption.
  • Create a supportive environment: Surround yourself with understanding friends, family, or support groups who can empathize with your experiences and provide emotional support. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others can help alleviate some of the emotional burdens associated with these symptoms.
  • Prioritize self-care: It’s crucial to prioritize self-care when dealing with women’s health symptoms. Take time for yourself to relax, engage in hobbies or activities you enjoy (or used to enjoy!), and practice mindfulness techniques to help alleviate stress and promote mental well-being.
  • Stay informed: Educate yourself about your symptoms and how best to cope or treat them. The more you understand your body and your health, the better equipped you will be to manage your symptoms and make informed decisions about your care.

Conclusion

By understanding the various aspects of women’s health related to benzodiazepine withdrawal/BIND, you can better manage your symptoms. Education is key. Put aside any embarrassment and ask for help or to discuss your symptoms.

Add Your Voice to the Conversation

What women’s health issues have you experienced in benzo withdrawal/BIND? What has helped? What has not helped? We appreciate your input. Leave a comment.