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.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

You are what you eat: My healthy skin diet

For those of you that follow my Instagram (and for those that don't, you should!), you know I started following a healthy skin diet many months ago. I figured it was about time I posted an update, and what exactly this diet entails.

First of all, I have struggled for a LONG time with hormonal acne. Painful cysts, unslightly scars, and uneven skin tone made me an expert in make-up application, but at my age I reached my breaking point. I was done. I have tried LITERALLY (and I really mean literally) every single prescriptive skin medication. I have done two rounds of Accutane, antibiotics, lasers, retinoids, you name it. I have tried it. And nothing really worked. Not for long at least. So I decided I needed to tackle things in a whole different way. 

One night, after a particular awful breakout, I started researching anti-acne diets.  There are several diets and guidelines out there, but I decided to put them all together in what I felt was feasible and backed by science. Here is what I have been doing:

  • Low glycemic.  Spikes in sugar  increseases insulin levels which then throws the whole body into a tizzy - triggering various other hormones, an inflammatory response, and increasing oil production, which all leads to clogged pores and acne. Basically, eating sugar feeds the oil in your face. I have cut all refined sugar out of my diet. Yup, no sugar for me. So I skip on dessert, the sugar in my coffee, and also do not eat white carbs of any kind. Whole grains are great, but it is important to check the labels on any processed food - they sneak sugar into everything these days! 
  • No dairy. Not everyone has this problem, but I am sensitive to dairy in general, and my skin apparently doesn't like it either. I tried to incorporate back in to see if it would make a difference and I immediately broke out. Yogurt and kefir are apparently helpful in terms of probiotics, so I just take a probiotic supplement instead. Many dairy products are also loaded with sugar, so it is just easier to avoid in general. 
  • Foods high in Omega 3 -Dr. Perricone is a big proponent of this, and I decided to take his lead. Foods like salmon (and other cold-water fish like trout and herring), avocado, nuts, flaxseed, and dark leafy greens are all sources of omega-3 which is a known anti-inflammatory, And if you think about it, much of acne is an inflammatory response, so this just makes sense. 
  • High anti-oxidant foods.  Anti-oxidants battle skin damage on a cellular level, increasing cell turn over, and protecting skin from things like sun damage and pollution. So I pack my diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, particularly berries, I have also started drinking green tea instead of coffee (ok, I still have a little coffee in the morning. Otherwise I am not a functional human) since green tea is high in anti-oxidants AND helps with the caffeine situation. 
  • Water.  Lots of it. Keeps the skin glowing and hydrated.
  • Lean meats. Now I love burgers. I mean, I really really love burgers. And I won't give them up completely. But I have been decreasing my burger and read meat load in general, and well, I just feel better. Backed by science to help with acne? Not at all, but you just feel healthier when you aren't including burgers and fries as a major food group.

There you have it folks. It is a lot of clean eating. And yes I miss dessert. But this diet, more than anything else I have ever tried, has cleared up my skin. I have tried getting off of it and I break out immediately. So for me, whatever yummy treat I am eating will not counter balance the set of pimples and subsequent scars that it brings. It takes willpower, but it is worth it!! 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fertility basics: Your ovulation cycle

Now that we covered how aging effects your eggs, lets talk about how this whole egg meets sperm thing works. Before the egg and sperm can have a romantic interlude, the egg needs to make its way down from the ovary, where it is stored. Ovulation is that process of getting the egg from the ovary, through the fallopian tube, and down into the uterus where it can meet the sperm. Here is a diagram of the inner workings of your lady parts in case you need a refresher.

This process happens once a month and is regulated by different hormones. Some birth control pills work by changing up those hormones so that you don't ovulate. But for those trying to get pregnant, here are some hormones that you should get to know: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and lutenizing hormone (LH). The first hormone, FSH, is in charge of getting the egg nice and ready to be released, just like you may get primped up before a big date. The second hormone, LH, is what signals to the ovary that is is go time, and that the egg should be released. 

Why is it important to know this? Because when you are trying to get pregnant it good to monitor your ovulation cycle. There are plenty of over the counter fertility tests ( these do the trick) that test for your LH level to surge and that the egg is about to be released (and that it is a good time to plan a date night). It is also a good idea to have your lady parts doctor test these hormones before you try to get pregnant, since if they are not at the right levels you may have some trouble. 

While many have been led to believe that we ovulate smack dab in the middle of our cycle (so around day 15), every body is different and you can ovulate much earlier or much later. Some women get a sharp pain when they ovulate (known as mittleschmerz), or a strong sense of smell, or can just sense it. My mittleschmerz is so strong that it makes me double over in pain. It lasts all of 30 seconds, but man does it hurt! Your cervical mucus (or vaginal discharge), also changes (read all about it  here), and is a great indication when your body is ready to get pregnant. 

So if you are trying to get pregnant, start to get to know your own ovulation cycle. And don't forget that every body is different, and sometimes, every month is different (this may or may not be how I got pregnant by accident with my second child, but that is a story for another day). Start paying attention to the signals your body gives you to let you know that it is ready for some baby making. And then let the fun begin!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Fertility: the basics

This will be the first post in a series on fertility, a series that is very much needed. So many of us have struggled with issues in fertility, and similar to miscarriage, it is something that no one addresses. Trying to have children when it doesn't just "happen" is so emotional, so isolating, and so misunderstood. I am hoping that by providing some basic information, clearing up some myths, and shedding some light on the process, you lovely readers will feel more empowered, informed, and confident.

First lets start with eggs. Women are born with all the egg cells (or oocytes) they will ever have - they do not produce any after (unlike men, who produce sperm throughout their life). While women are born with 1 million egg cells, less than 500 of these will become actual full-fledged eggs over their lifetime. Even of the eggs that do survive, about half of all eggs have genetic problems, and the number only increases as we age. So it's not just a quantity issue, but one of QUALITY too. 

While you can get pregnant from the time of your first period (menstrual cycle), you are most fertile in your late teens through late 20s. By the time you are 27, your fertility starts to decline. Yes, you read that right, 27.  Around 31, fertility really takes a hit and starts to decrease faster, until the age of 35 where it starts to take a nose dive. About 1 of every 4 women older than 35 have trouble getting pregnant.

The average woman can get pregnant until the age of 41, but that isn't the case for many. You are able to conceive (get pregnant) about 10 years before menopause, but everyone goes through menopause at a different time (some as early as 45). 

That's not to say its all about the eggs. Next post will cover what other issues come into play when determining fertility. Stay tuned. 

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