Practicing Self Care

With feeling like life is not all together, I am glad I took some time last month to get back into some self care. I needed to do something for myself. I took a long break from working out and doing any extra stuff that cost money. I am always trying to save as much as possible without losing my mind.

Some self care is easily done on a budget. For instance, I really do not mind giving myself a manicure and pedicure because its very cost effective and I have all the supplies. Last month, however, I spent some money:

  • I got my brows tinted.
  • I got my first underarm and Brazilian wax treatment.
  • I got a real haircut from a salon where the stylist actually knows how to cut curly hair.

These were not cheap, but since I liked the results from the wax treatment, I got a wax pass through the European Wax Center. I also tried to extend the brow treatment as long as possible by picking up better products for filling in my brows and growing them. I am actually going my 2nd time today, so that is about 6 weeks between visits. I had not worn any makeup for 6 months, so it took some getting back into the groove of things.

Then the haircut, which was the most expensive per visit… I am hoping I can get away with maintaining it every 4-6 months, rather than the every 3 my stylist recommended. Also, that was the longest I ever spent in a salon and I feel like I just do not have time for that. The haircut was really the best cut I have ever had though.

I know I do not need to do these things, but it felt good to do something for myself for a change. I do not know if I will keep them up forever, but they are helping me deal with life for now.

This Mother’s Day Goes Out To All Women

By the end of this year I will have 1 niece and 5 nephews and no children of my own. I am not about to ask people to pity me, this is more about empowerment through sharing your story. As I have stated, I have infertility. I first started feeling like I really want children at the age of about 28, maybe 29. So 5 years ago. I knew it would not be easy and after a procedure, getting off the pill and doing everything I was told to do to regulate my cycle, I still have infertility.

I feel done with crying. I know there is a chance I may never be a mother. However, I still have hope. I just scheduled a midwife visit, since I now have insurance. I know I am not a good candidate for IVF and I have heard stories from many women lately about their struggles to get pregnant or even adopt. I feel like there is still more I can do and I know my life can provide something.

It has been a joy to welcome my niece and nephews into my life. I do not care that some folks tell me that the children of my cousin who I grew up with like a sister and my best friend of over 20 years, are not my niece and nephews. I am close to them and I love them. Even if I am not able to have children, I have these wonderful kiddos in my life. I send them books and see them grow and have all sort of hopes and dreams for them. Dreams of them being completely happy.

This Mother’s Day, I am thinking about all women. Those I know who are mothers, those I know who have lost their child(ren) due to miscarriage or tragedy, and those of us who want to become mothers, but it is not as easy as we once thought it would be. Happy Mother’s Day and may the beautiful children we are blessed to be apart of their lives grow up to be incredibly happy.

Short Luteal Phase

I have been tracking my circle for a year now since I got it back December 2017 as a blessed holiday present. I use ovagraph to track my fertility and read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which completely changed my understanding of how my body works. I feel like every woman should be provided this knowledge. But I digress.

My periods have been irregular and I did miss one month (April 2018). However, my luteal phase has been short. Now you might be asking yourself, “what the devil is a luteal phase???” Well, a luteal phase is the time period between ovulation and your period. This is when the female body produces more progesterone than estrogen to prepare the body for pregnancy if the egg has been fertilized and is trying to embed itself in the lining of the uterus.

My body has either not quite healed enough for it to produce progesterone as it should or I am like some percentage of women who suffer from short luteal phases, which there may or may not be a good reason for. I am trying to see what I can do about it though. My research has shown that increasing your consumption of micronutrients such as vitamin C and B6 can help. Also, avoiding foods containing plant-estrogen’s, though overall research is inconclusive of plant estrogen’s impact on our hormones.

Note: All of the studies claiming foods like soy are bad for our hormones are funded by the meat and dairy industry and the interpretations are questionable when actually read the studies in my opinion. Again, I digress. There are many foods that contain plant estrogens or phytoestrogens, however, so how do I avoid them all?

I am not stressing about it though. I trust my body will heal as long as I participate in supportive activities just as eating whole foods as much as reasonably possible and practicing yoga and meditative exercises. I will keep you posted on how it goes.

Resources:

https://natural-fertility-info.com/luteal-phase-defect.html

https://www.ovusense.com/us/blog/2015/11/03/how-to-increase-your-luteal-phase-naturally

My Hormonal Acne is Clearing Up!

Since early Spring 2017 I have been dealing with hormonal acne around my mouth and jaw line. The specialist I saw said it will not clear up until my hormones return to healthy levels. I thought she meant when my cycle returned it would clear up, but it did not until after we moved to New York. I know if I had not been focusing on hormonal health that it could have been longer.

Sure there are products out there that help you get rid of pimples quickly, but if your acne is not going away since the cause is not being tended to then is anything really getting better? I was fortunate in that I know the cause of my acne. So while doing what I could to take care of my skin, keeping it clean and moisturized, I focused most of my efforts in following doctor’s orders to balance my hormones.

Acne is just one of many symptoms I experienced from hormonal imbalance. Which makes me ask about something I feel is a deeper issue. Why are we not taught, whether in school or at home, about our hormones? I know many people’s knowledge about hormones is limited to they can make us ‘crazy.’ However, if we know they impact our behavior and emotions, it should be a priority to better understand them.

I can not say I know everything, but I am learning now after experiencing problems that could have been avoided with better understanding of the subject. I will definitely be sharing more about what I have learned and the resources I am getting this knowledge from.

First Period With Only A Menstrual Cup

Warning (if the title was not enough of a warning): I will be talking about my cycle. This post will even include talk about period fluid, blood. You have been warned.

A couple weeks ago I had my cycle (YAY!) and I was finally out of all the disposable feminine products I purchased from before I lost my cycle for 2 years. During those 2 years, I learned a lot about the waste problems we have here in the states and how the feminine products I had been using can effect my health. As much as I want to rant about how companies and corrupt people want to make money regardless of what is best for the environment and people, I will not because this post is not about that. My point is that I decided to change up my period game.

I quickly learned about menstrual cups and knew I wanted to give them a try. There are SO many options for menstrual cups. From researching Amazon reviews, YouTube videos and the product websites, I had a good idea that I wanted to try LENA Sensitive Cup:

  • Reusable for up to 10 years. Considering I used 20 tampons, 7 overnight pads and also 30 panty liners (thanks to lousy Playtex tampons) on average during my last few cycles, that is a lot less waste. Oh and do not forget these products come with wrappers and/or applicators.
  • Affordable, only $24.90 for a product that could last up to 10 years if I care for it properly. I have spent thousands of dollars on disposable feminine products since I got my first period around 12 years old.
  • Made in the USA. Supporting my economy and jobs for my fellow citizens.
  • Designed for sensitive anatomies. TMI ALERT! My vagina is VERY sensitive. I could feel my IUD strings moving in my vagina for over a year after getting it. Tampon removal when not complete soaked felt like I was ripping out my insides. There are few laundry detergents I can use on my panties without my vagina becoming irritated. Seeing reviews where women described similar issues with sensitivity and that they loved this product had me sold.

I used it from day one without panty liners, pads or period panties. I had mixed feelings the first day, but then day 2 changed it things to a very positive experience. Let me break down the experience by day:

  • Day 1.
    • I noticed my Basil Body Temperature decreased that morning and when I went to the bathroom, sure enough I had some spotting on the toilet paper I wiped with. So I inserted the cup for the first time and it was easier than I thought.
    • Peeing was interesting, it was like my urinary tract was pinched. I could still pee, but it was slow. There was a similar issue with pooping. Sounded like some, but not all experienced this according to menstrual cup reviews.
    • I had to do a lot of testing. Since I have an IUD, I want to make sure I am properly breaking the suction. In order for me to break the suction I have slide my finger up farther than the directions state. I read a lot of comments from women who dislodge their IUDs because of not releasing the suction. When I told my doctor I wanted to use a menstrual cup, they said, “GREAT! But a word of caution, make sure to have released the suction. It is not proven, but there appears to be a link to IUD issues and menstrual cup suction. For instance, the FemmyCycle cup should not be used while you have an IUD since it uses suction to draw in your blood.”
    • I irritated my vagina because I emptied the cup too often. So I gave myself a short break before wearing it to bed.
  • Day 2.
    • I could not believe how comfortable it was to sleep with. It did not leak and I did not feel it at all. I inserted it right before bed and then emptied it as soon as I woke up.
    • There was no smell. I always had some sort of abandoned meat market smell with my feminine products since I first got my period. It was part of what make me feel gross. When YouTube videos mentioned the lack of smell since the blood is not able to oxidize without the exposure to air. I was like, “REALLY?! Well scientifically, that makes sense.” Really, no smell.
    • No nasty, brown, clotty blood either, without exposure to air the blood will not oxidize and turn brown.
    • It was the heaviest day of my flow and I had to work standing for 5.5 hours straight. I did not leak, though my menstrual cup was more than half way full. You just need to empty it more often when you have a heavier day of your cycle. Thankfully, I made it through the full work day because this part time job has a disgusting bathroom.
    • I had some minor cramping just before bed and I am not sure if the cup contributed to me.
  • Day 3.
    • Slept with it in again. No leaking and comfortable.
    • As I stated on Day 1, I seem to have the issue of the cup straining/pinching my going to the bathroom. I was able to poop with it in, but it was slow and a bit uncomfortable. I experienced the same issues when I used tampons.
    • Made it through another work day without any leaking. At least it was a medium flow day.
    • Showered with it in, no issues there. It is not like it absorbs liquid so I just washed as usual.
    • I just really love that I do not stink. Usually, I feel like I need to bath my privates a lot or wet wipe every trip to the bathroom. It in like I am not on my period in this sense.
  • Day 4.
    • Another comfortable night sleeping without leaks.
    • 3rd work day standing for 5.5 hours without leaks or issues.
    • This was a light day so it was easier to take breaks from wearing the cup. When I took breaks I just used toilet paper in my panties, FYI or in case you were wondering.
    • This seemed to be the last day of my cycle. I only had a little spotting the following day.

Overall, I love it. I recommend it if you too are tired of spending so much money on feminine products or worrying if you have enough or generating so much waste. Though, I plan to get period panties or reusable pads as well because I think my vagina is just sensitive and needs to be able to take a break. Otherwise, that was the best period I have had in my life!

How I Got My Cycle Back, After 2 Years

This is a part 2 from my post 2 weeks ago, How I Lost My Cycle. I had a few folks who asked me to share my story, so here we go!

Once I had the my IUD inserted, I stopped taking my hormonal birth control. I had really hoped it would be that simple to get my cycle back, but when it did not return after a few months of being free from taking the pill every day I began to research the situation. I found a lot of other women with the same story as me:

  • 10+ years of being on hormonal birth control
  • vitamin deficiencies
  • amenorrhea continuing past a year after discontinuing hormonal birth control

 

The following year, my doctor refereed me to a gynecologist who studies hormonal imbalances, where finally the answers came. She noticed my estrogen and progesterone were at their lows simultaneously. Since my insurance was running out and I had just moved, she told me to keep in touch with her and gave me the follow recommendations:

Actually, after a year of amenorrhea I had found a YouTuber/Instagramer, this girl audra, who had the same suggestions. She is a life coach who specializes in helping women get their periods back and keeping it. I recommend checking her out if you are experiencing amenorrhea and do not have access to a good doctor. Amenorrhea is a serious cause for concern. The longer a woman (who is not on hormonal birth control) experiences the absence of her cycle the higher her risk of things like endometrial cancer or bone loss!

I began following Audra’s positive messages to help remind me of the recommendations my doctor gave me. I think the most amazing part was how I felt from the manifesting thoughts about knowing I will get my period back. I did this by meditating in bed with my hands resting on my lower abdomen saying mantras like, “My body is beautiful, I am capable of taking good care of it and my cycle will return when I get to the right place.”

Building myself up like this helped me get into the right mindset and BAM, my period was back! I continue to do most of the recommendations to this day. Working out can be a part of a healthy lifestyle and as long as my period is still coming, I will proceed with doing the activities I enjoy that make me feel good.

A year ago, I thought giving up working out entirely for months at a time was impossible for me because I love being active. It was important to give me body a break and allow for calories to be focused toward healing my hormonal imbalance. It is amazing what we can do when we put our minds and whole hearts into it.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about this! I linked above some of the blog posts that refer to my following doctor’s orders.

How I Lost My Cycle

I received a request to write a post detailing how I lost my period and how I was able to get it back. I am happy to do so and will plan to make this into 2 different post within the next month or so. I appreciate the support from my 2 years with a Copper-IUD, My Experience post and it seems like there is a lot of interest in women’s health. As an adult going through hormonal issues, I have realized women’s health issues were not as well known to me as I thought they were and I am happy to share what I have learned.

First off, a woman who has had a regular period before and goes through 3+ months without one is said to have amenorrhea. Second, the main reason I lost my cycle was from being on birth control pills for a long time (over a decade). If you look through the information packet that comes with the prescription, you will read that it is possible to have loss of cycle due to taking birth control pills.

Back in graduate school, I saw all those mighty appealing commercials about seasonal birth control. With the knowledge I had about periods why would I not want to only have to deal with it 4 times per year. And at first that was how it worked. I only had 4 cycles each year. Additionally, the length of my period decreased by a day and they became very light. At 24 years old, I could not be more thrilled.

Unfortunately, other things started happening that I assumed were linked to relationship issues and diet. My vagina became very dry and my libido disappeared. I also started to wonder at times if I could be pregnant and just not know because the pill would hide that fact. You know sometimes you do not take the pill on time or forget so what if you got pregnant.

As the years went on and I continued to be naive, I did not think that there were any symptoms related to taking the pill. That is until I had a conversation with my cousin regarding the effects hormonal birth control had on her and other family members, which revealed the possibility to me that my vaginal dryness and loss of libido could be connected to the pill. I got me thinking that maybe I should look into other methods of birth control.

Only months later, I had a one day cycle and developed a deficiency in B12 (during a time period I was eating meat regularly throughout the week). The cycle after that never came, which made me scared. My mother had mentioned so many women on her side who experience amenorrhea and found out it was due to cancer. So I made a doctor’s appointment.

Around the same time I had lost a good amount of weight and was feeling proud of that until a doctor my physician was consulting with about my concerns said I hit the lower threshold weight limit for the seasonal birth control and that was what was likely causing me all these issues. While my doctor argued that there is research showing vitamin deficiency linked with hormonal birth control use for longer than 10 years.

I also questioned whether my workouts could be causing this issue and maybe I was at one point doing too much cardio while restricting my calories, but it had been a year since that maybe 1-2 month long endeavor. I had been eating a lot more food since then. Plus, I gained a bit of weight and cut down a lot on cardio. My doctor looked at my routine and felt like what I was doing could not be the reason.

Either way, I was sick of all the testing and wanted off of the hormonal birth control ASAP. So I got an Paragard IUD inserted and I continued experiencing amenorrhea for another year and a half. This begins the second part of the story, how I got my period back. I will write about this in a couple weeks. If you have any questions, please let me know 🙂

2 years with a Copper-IUD, My Experience

Disclosure, I have some TMI (Too Much Information) level stuff in this blog post. Nonetheless, I feel it is very important to share this information for women’s health reasons.

Before the IUD

Two years ago, I decided to change my method of birth control. I have been on 3 different brands of birth control pills since I was about 18.5 years old. Back then, I was a dysfunctional human being one day a month because my cramps made it impossible to stand unless I overdosed on analgesic and strapped a heating pan to my lower abdomen. Also, I had my first irregular cycle ever (likely due to the stress of my first semester in college) and  I was thinking about becoming sexually active.

The pill was what my doctor recommended and I figured it was the obvious choice because it seemed like the most reliable option. After I started taking the seasonal birth control pill though, I noticed a lot of negative changes. My sex drive was non-existent, I became anemic and my cycle slowly disappeared completely. I went from having a 5 day cycle to a 4 day to a 3 day pretty quickly. Slowly it dropped down to a 2 day cycle. Then as I was losing weight in 2015, I had a one day cycle and then no cycle for 2 whole years.

I was scared, especially after Googling all sort of things in regards to losing your period. On top of that, a conversation with my cousin about birth control pills made me connect the lack of sex drive, anemia and lack of cycle to the pill I was on. After doing more thorough research, I learned being on the pill for more than a decade is not well research and most of the experience others documented were similar to mine. So it was not just was type of pill I was on…

Making the Decision

Next step was to begin researching a new method of birth control, since now I am sexually active and hoped my sex drive would return as soon as I discontinued the use of the pill. I wanted something non-hormonal, which did not leave me many options that were easy to obtain and something that worked for my partner and I. I decided upon the Paragard copper intrauterine device (IUD) for the following reasons:

  • affordability (It did not cost me anything, but a doctor’s copay.)
  • non-hormonal
  • easy of use (in that once your doctor implants it you are good to go)
  • few and manageable side-effects
  • length of effectiveness (it protects you for 12 years).

Also, I had a friend who loved hers and it is the only copper IUD available in the US. However, with ALL forms of birth control there are risks. The risks associated with an IUD are serious and should not be taken lightly. The biggest risks in my opinion was the possibility of the IUD perforating your uterus and the rare chance of experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.

The first few months to year should be thought of as a trial period. Many woman get an IUD each year, but have them removed within a few months due to many reasons that I sum up to being just not the right birth control for them. It is common for women to experience discomfort with the device, birthing of the device (meaning your body expels it on its own), severe cramps for weeks, and more. That was not my experience, however.

My Experience

The insertion was not very comfortable, but neither is having my cervix scraped once a year for my pap smear. I mild cramping, in my opinion because the cramping during my teenage years was many times for painful, for less than 24 hours. I spotted a little, but it was not your normal cycle like spotting. I was discharging rubbery like tissue that was not as dark as blood and was tan in color at times.

The real test to me was how well it would work for my partner and I during sex, especially since my issue with my previous birth control was resolved with the fact that Paragard in non-hormonal. Here is where my over self-awareness came into play. Our first moment of intercourse with the IUD was very distracting. I was thinking about every sensation and suddenly wondered if I would know or more like feel if the IUD perforated my uterus. Needless to say, I did not get off. My partner said he could feel the strings (the strings that are attached to your IUD and allow your IUD to be removed eventually), but now does not feel them.

I could even feel the strings rubbing against the walls of my vagina for the first year. After half a year past I stopped over thinking everything completely. Sex is more enjoyable than it has ever been for me and my sex drive is more reminiscent to my teenage years. Additionally, it feels so good not to have to worry about taking a pill every day around the same time and about whether what I am consuming might effect my birth control.

Overall, I am happy with my choice. I do not regret it. I am going to end this post answering the 3 most common questions I had received from talking to friends about this. Please leave ANY questions you have below in the comments and I will respond as soon as possible.

Does it hurt?

Insertion was painful, but only for the brief moment they opened my cervix. I might have a highly tolerance for pain though due to having extremely painful cramps as a teenager. For the rest of the day after insertion (I had a late afternoon appointment), I experienced mild lower abdominal cramping. Since then I have not experienced any unusual pain. I am slowly getting more painful cramps with each cycle, but it is still a vast improvement over the cramps of my teenage years.

Are your periods painful and heavy?

Oh, yes they are heavy. The pain as I explained in the last answer is manageable compared to my teenage years. I have been going through 8 regular tampons plus 2 overnight pads in the first day of my cycle. Day 2 is more like 5-6 regular tampons and 1 overnight pad. Things greatly decrease from there. This is heavy for me and my previous cycle experiences. After I use up my current supply of feminine products I will be using a mental cup and period panties so reduce waste and save money.

When are you going to get it removed?

When my partner and I are ready to start trying to have children. Simple as that. Just have to make a doctor’s appointment to have it removed and can start trying immediately.