Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fertility and PCOS: When PCOS can be a POS

PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a total bitch. Ok, I'm tired and lashing out but really PCOS can be a POS (or piece of sh!t) when it comes to fertility. What exactly is PCOS? It is a relatively common hormonal imbalance that brews trouble with the ovaries (don't remember the ovaries do? Here is a refresher), where eggs may not develop or release as they should. The wonky ovaries then cause you to miss or have irregular periods. And contrary to the name, you may not actually have cysts on your ovaries and still have PCOS. Often women will have too much androgen, which is a male hormone that women normally only produce a small amount.

About 5 to 10% of women of reproductive age have PCOS, and it is the most common cause of infertility in women. A lot of women don't even know they have PCOS until they are trying to get pregnant! The symptoms of PCOS can include:

  • whacky periods - either missing them or getting them too often
  • being especially hairy on your face and chin
  • acne
  • thinning hair - think male pattern baldness
  • weight gain or trouble losing weight
  • darker skin along the neck , groin, and under your breasts
  • fatigue and trouble sleeping
  • skin tags the armpit or neck area. 
Having one of these symptoms alone isn't going to mean that you have PCOS - I have acne and plenty of skin tags. And god knows I'm tired (I think I already mentioned that).  But if you have several of these symptoms, particularly those that are associated with male hormones (acne, hairiness, thinning hair) it might be a good idea to check in with your lady parts doctor. 

PCOS can be treated, but much of it depends on your symptoms. Some will be encouraged to lose weight to increase ovulation function, while others will be put on medication to stimulate ovulation. If PCOS is treated correctly, you can get pregnant once you start ovulating. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

What's the thyroid got to do with it? The connection between thyroids and fertility

If you are trying for a baby and haven't been having luck, you should get your thyroid checked out. In fact, I suggest that BEFORE you try to get pregnant you ask your lady parts doc to run a thyroid panel. Why you ask? Well, there is sometimes a link between a hypothyroidism (when your thyroid isn't working up to speed) and infertility. The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck that makes a bunch of hormones that regulate everything from how quickly you burn calories to your heartbeat. It also produces the hormones needed for menstruation (your period) and sexual function.  A normally working thyroid is super important for getting pregnant and staying pregnant.

A study in 2015 found that almost 25% of infertile women had a low functioning thyroid, or hypothyroidism. With hypothyroidism, your thyroid doesn't produce enough of certain hormones, which can screw up with the release of an egg from your ovary (ovulation). Also, some of the underlying causes of hypothyroidism may also make it hard to get pregnant. The good news is that after treating for hypothyroidism (usually taking hormone therapy to correct thyroid levels), over 75% of women were able to get pregnant.

Since you can be having thyroid problems and not even know it (many women have no symptoms), asking for a simple blood test can save you a lot of aggravation later on.  Treatment for a wacky thyroid is pretty safe and easy, and can fix the problem within weeks. One thing to note, that while thyroid function may come back within normal range, in order to get pregnant and maintain a pregnancy, your thyroid levels need to be within a smaller range. Make an appointment with your lady parts doctor to get yourself checked out, and if need be, an endocrinologist can also be a great resource. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Stop putting random things in your lady parts!

I'm just going to put this out there - unless there is a medical reason, you shouldn't put random things in your vagina. Like ever. Jade eggs for example. Definitely do not do this. It is a terrible idea to put rocks in your vagina. Penises, tampons, menstrual cups, fingers - sure. Rocks - definitely no. Wasps nests - my god, the horror. Putting random items in your lady parts can cause a host of problems. From infections, to vaginal wall scratching, to just plain getting stuck (um, super awkward). Also, by forcing your vag muscles to constantly contract, you end up screwing them up and will have problems releasing them properly.

There are other ways to strengthen your lady part muscles without walking around with an egg in there. For example:

  • Kegels: You've probably heard of these, but are you doing them right?Here is a quick guide. Don't forget that releasing the pelvic floor muscles are just as important as tightening them. This is an interesting visualization aid using a corkscrew (please don't go put a corkscrew up your lady parts. Watch the video). 
  • Squats - yes, good old fashioned squats. But make sure you are properly aligned and using the right muscles. Shins should be vertical (up and down), and your booty should be out (untucked). 
  • Bridge pose where you lift and lower your hips while engaging your pelvic floor muscles. 

And don't fall for the vaginal weights either. They seem to be the rage (seriously, what is up with everyone sticking heavy things in their lady parts?!) but studies have shown that they didn't really do anything.

As always, if you are having any pain, discomfort, problems with peeing, make an appointment with your lady parts doctor!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Fertility 101: Problems with Ovulation

In a previous post I gave you the 411 on how ovulation SHOULD work. But sometimes it doesn't go as planned, and those little eggies don't get the memo.  There are several reasons why this may happen, some of which can be easily treated.

Anovulation is when the ovary doesn't release an egg for over three months (as opposed to once every 25-28 days). While the time between ovulation can vary quite a bit during puberty and right before menopause, for non-pregnant women ages 16-40, not ovulating is not the norm and can be the cause of infertility. In fact, in 1 out of 3 women having trouble getting pregnant anovulation is the problem.

Irregular/Infrequent Ovulation could also be the problem. This is when you don't ovulate every month.

Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) is when you stop ovulating regularly before you hit the big 4-0. You basically ovulate less often and  your periods are all over the place, and some can get menopause-like symptoms.

How would you know if you are having ovulation issues? Most times your period will be all out of whack, if it comes at all. Your period might be very light or very heavy, or you may not have the usual fun period symptoms like bloating and boob pain. A lady parts doctor will want you to keep track of your periods (there are plenty of apps for that), and may want to do some blood work and ultrasounds to see if you are actually ovulating.

Ovulation problems can happen for a variety of reasons. Hormone imbalances, structural problems (like an ovarian cyst), thyroid issues, being over or underweight, or even just stress can throw ovulation off. It is important to first understand the reason you may not be ovulating before you treat it.

If you are trying to get pregnant, get an period tracking app, start peeing on ovulation sticks, and take it from there. And as always, check in with your lady parts doctor if you suspect anything is off!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ovarian cancer: Signs and symptoms

Ovarian cancer is a bitch. A real motherf@cking bitch. Difficult to detect in its early stages. less than 1 in 5 cases of ovarian cancer is found early. But first things first. where are the ovaries and what do they do??

First, see where the ovaries are in the picture above ↑. Find it? Great. The ovaries are pretty much the most important part of the whole lady part system. Como say wha? Yeah, the most important part. They actually control the hormones that make you a lady (estrogen and progesterone)  and can make you a mama, since they control and house all our potential eggs (or follicles).  After puberty, ovaries are about the size of a large grape, and they are held in place by ligaments that are attached to the uterus.

I went into some detail about the ovualation cycle here - feel free to read that and come back. You done? Ok. Moving on.

Now back to the topic at hand: ovarian cancer. First things first, about 1 in 75 women will develop ovarian cancer. It is not the most common of the lady part cancers, but it is the most deadly. See, the problem is that ovarian cancer systems are VAGUE. And by the time you pick up on the fact that something is really wrong, many times the cancer has already spread beyond the ovaries.
Here is a list of the symptoms:

  • Pain in the pelvis or abdomen (belly)
  • Bloating in the abdomen
  • Urinary urgency (needing to pee right away)
  • Urinary frequency (having to pee often)
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Feeling full quickly while eating
  • Having difficulty eating
  • Vaginal bleeding or other discharge that is different than normal
  • Back pain

I am pretty sure I have one or more of these symptoms at least once a week. I mean, my middle name is Bloated with Back Pain. But here is the IMPORTANT part of these symptoms -if they are PERSISTENT, go to your lady parts doctor. And be pushy! Yes, chances are that it is something that can be solved by exercise, or a change in diet, but if it is not, bring up ovarian cancer.  It is a bitchiest of the cancers, so take it seriously.

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