Filmmaker Captures her Journey of Birth Control

 Photo Credit: Sindha Agha

Photo Credit: Sindha Agha

 

Meet Pakistan filmmaker Sindha Agha in a powerful short film describing her personal adventure with birth control. Being given the diagnosis of Endometriosis at age 11, Sindha thus began a merry-go-round journey in which she was put on and taken off 4 of the most popular hormonal contraceptives as treatment over the span of 10 years. 

Eventually, physicians explain to Sindha that her new symptoms of depression and extreme anxiety, diagnosed as PMDD, was a direct result of being on the hormonal IUD. Giving the option of "no prescription birth control" a chance to clear the depression, she describes the multiple days straight of debilitating pain with menstruation that literally prevents her from moving--thanks, Endometriosis. This is a reality check that too few options exist for Endometriosis, and none of them are good-yet.

This short film is a stunningly modern abstract re-telling of the life of a woman with Endometriosis and PMDD in the USA and you won't be able to look away. Sindha invites you to keep watching by throwing in funny jabs here and there even through the lows. 

By the end, if you aren't stirred to believe the medical field can do better for women...then try re-watching it. You'll be left asking something like:  Why the fuck aren't there better options or easier options or safer options to treat female health issues like Endometriosis and PMDD?

Sandra empowers viewers by saying, "I deserve to make decisions about my body, and I deserve a health care system that doesn’t consider what’s unacceptable for men to be the gold standard for me."

What's your own adventure with birth control?

Birth Control Your Own Adventure by Sindha Agha

Sindha Agha is a filmmaker and photographer based in Los Angeles and a 2018 Sundance Ignite fellow.

PMDD: What you Absolutely Need to Know

 Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

The past two months, I have been learning in depth about an important condition that occurs in females: PMDD which stands for Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder.  PMDD is commonly mistaken for PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome) and therefore overlooked as the severe condition that it can be which means females are going without effective management of their symptoms.

My goal in interviewing the Co-Founder and CEO, Brett Buchert, of her brand spanking new app called Me v PMDD (which, by the way, is the *only* app to track symptoms of PMDD not to mention it's very, very cool looking) is to bring awareness to you about how PMDD is definitely not PMS and, therefore, fundamentally essential for all females to understand in observing their own emotional variances and that of their loved ones so that anyone who appears to be presenting with diagnosable symptoms can get the help they need to support a healthy and happy life. 

PMDD Awareness is key because what seems to be "normal PMS" inside of one person's brain could actually be abnormal to what is mentally healthy including but not limited to the PMDD symptom of suicidal ideation. An example of this would be having one or more days in the Luteal Phase (post ovulation) when you thinking (either nonchalantly or with anxiety), "Hey, the thought of me driving my car into that tree over there to end my existence wouldn't be so bad today" as a reoccurring thought that evaporates with the onset of menstruation or within a couple of days of starting to bleed before returning again post ovulation. There are obviously more symptoms to PMDD than suicidal ideation and more factors necessary to consider in screening and diagnosis, so let's get to discussing all the factors involved, shall we? 

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Justina: So what exactly is PMDD and how is it different than PMS? How many women in the United States are estimated to be dealing with PMDD?

Brett: Virtually, PMDD is like having two weeks of your normal, happy life followed by two weeks from hell, month after month after month. 

PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is the ‘evil sister’ of PMS. While many of us women are no stranger to the symptoms of PMS, like bloating and mild mood swings, PMDD is when the symptoms we experience in the premenstrual time (luteal phase) become so severe that they interfere with our relationships, work/school, and overall quality of life. The most common symptoms of PMDD are sadness or depression, anxiety, extreme mood swings, irritability or rage, and even suicidal thoughts. The thing about PMDD is that these symptoms only appear in the premenstrual time, subside within a few days of starting one’s period, and aren’t present in the week or so after one’s period (1). PMS shares similar timing of symptoms, but it is much less severe and only brings mild mood symptoms whereas the mood symptoms of PMDD are many and can be extremely debilitating. 

Recent research shows that PMDD is a chronic genetic condition and may be caused by the body’s abnormal response to normal hormonal changes over one’s menstrual cycle, but more research is needed (2). According to the DSM-5 (the latest diagnostic manual of mental disorders), PMDD affects between 1.8% and 5.8% of menstruators, which could mean that there are approximately 6 million women in the U.S. who suffer from PMDD (1). 

If this resonates with you, you are not alone, and there is help!

 

Justina: Brett, you were given a diagnosis of PMDD as a college student, correct? What was the moment or series of moments when you suspected something was off enough to talk to a doctor? 

Brett: Wow… for me, it was ten years of moments that led me to the right diagnosis from a compassionate and up-to-date physician. 

Around the time I started my period at 11, I first came to meet anxiety and depression. It was so scary to be barely older than a child with dark, obsessive thoughts of hurting myself that haunted me and dread that I’d start crying non-stop anywhere, like in the lunch line at school (which happened, more than once). Although my parents didn’t know much about anxiety or depression, they would go to the end of the earth to help me feel better, and found me an angel of a counselor who I’d see throughout my teens. She recommended I go on a birth control very young, because my moods seemed hormonal, and although I didn’t know it then, that birth control kept me afloat until college. 

College got so much worse. My sadness and anxiety were out of control, even though I did experience some intermittent, even happy times. I began seeing a psychiatrist and taking antidepressants and antianxiety medications, but nothing was helping. It got so bad that I decided to take a semester off from college to go home and be with my parents. While home, my mom got me an appointment with a functional medicine doctor to revisit the possibility that my symptoms were hormonal. He listened carefully to my history and believed that I might have PMDD, something I hadn’t even heard of before. But, I tracked my symptoms over two menstrual cycles (the only way to diagnose PMDD (1) – the Me v PMDD app can help!) and saw that they only occurred from ovulation until a day or so into my period. I had PMDD. That diagnosis was my new beginning…

***I saw a counselor and doctors early on in my struggle with the symptoms of PMDD, and I have my life because of that. So, if you experience symptoms like anxiety, depression, or intense mood swings and feel that you are not able to fully live your normal life because of them, it is time to reach out to your doctor, or see a counselor. We all want to be strong, but sometimes the strongest action is admitting you are in pain, physical, mental, or emotional, and seeking help. There is no shame in asking for help. It can be the help that changes your life for the better.

 

Justina: According to Gia Allemand Foundation, what are the symptoms associated with PMDD?

Brett: The Gia Allemand Foundation is an incredible nonprofit organization advocating for the prevention, treatment, and research of PMDD. I am honored to know the brave women leading this organization and be working with them to develop the Me v PMDD app. 

The Gia Allemand Foundation has many resources for PMDD including this list of symptoms, based on the DSM-5 criteria for diagnosis (1,3).

Symptoms of PMDD

  • Feelings of sadness or despair or even thoughts of suicide
  • Feelings of tension or anxiety
  • Panic attacks, mood swings, or frequent crying
  • Lasting irritability or anger that affects other people
  • Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
  • Trouble thinking or focusing
  • Tiredness or low-energy
  • Food cravings or binge eating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling out of control
  • Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain

***These symptoms occur during the week or two before menstruation and go away within a few days after bleeding begins. A diagnosis of PMDD requires the presence of at least five of these symptoms.

Justina: Having lived with PMDD for years before knowing it, how common do you personally think it can be for a woman to mis-associate the symptoms above with things like "this is just who I am," "this just must be what being an adult must feel like," "maybe I'm not trying hard enough," "it's just PMS-which makes me crazy, no big" ? 

Brett: I think it is very common for women with PMDD (before diagnosis) to think that their symptoms and experience must just be PMS, or because they are somehow weak, or because they need to eat cleaner, exercise more, cut back on caffeine, etc. Many of us put a whole lot of pressure on ourselves to be picture-perfect and go after our goals without making a fuss. I know I did. When I first began feeling debilitating anxiety and depression I felt so ashamed, because to an outsider my life would have seemed perfect. I had so much going for me, so much to be happy about, and yet I was anything but. Sadly, for years, I resigned to the fact that I was just a broken, weak, messed up person. It’s heartbreaking to look back on that, on the years I wasted blaming myself and keeping quiet in shame.

Today, I am on a path of healing in the total opposite direction of blame and shame. I can see my strength now, strength I had all along, and now I focus on sharing my vulnerabilities to encourage acceptance from myself and others. After getting diagnosed with PMDD, I realized that I was fighting a sickness all along, not a weakness. And what do we do when we are sick? We take care of ourselves, we take our medicine, we try to get better. I’ve spent the past year navigating different treatments for PMDD, and at this point I am overjoyed that I have found the right balance of medications, supplements, counseling, and self-care to make my PMDD manageable. 

So, my advice to you if you are struggling with symptoms like these I’ve described, do not resign, do not settle, do not blame yourself, but do fight this fight and know that you are strong. 

 

Justina: If while reading this information, a reader is curious about their own hormonal mood swings what tips do you recommend for how someone can go about asking a doctor for PMDD screening and where do you recommend they find a doctor experienced with treating PMDD?

Brett: If you think you may have PMDD:

  • Track your symptoms! – Please download the free Me v PMDD app to track your symptoms. The app can’t diagnose PMDD definitively, but it makes tracking every symptom of PMDD as simple as it could be, in the palm of your hand, and is easy to share with your doctor. Track what you experience every day. Be curious about your own experience, knowing that you could find that your experience is not PMDD, and that PMDD is different from person to person. Knowing yourself is powerful!
  • Talk to your doctor – not all doctors know about PMDD (something we’re working to change), but please do share your experience with them and the resources and information about PMDD on the Gia Allemand Foundation website including this Clinical Care Help Sheet. To find a doctor that is more experienced with diagnosing and treating PMDD check out the GAF Provider Directory that has doctors around the world recommended by other women with PMDD.

***For help at any step of the way reach out to GAF’s Peer Supporters who are there to answer any question and provide compassionate one-on-one support via chat, email, text, or call for anyone, anywhere, at any time.

***There are also many amazing PMDD support groups on Facebook! Simply type “PMDD” into the search bar and find a group you like or one in your area.

 

Justina: Tell us about the new app you've been developing and how it helps people who have been given the diagnosis of PMDD? When will it be available to the public?

Brett: Me v PMDD is my light in the darkness that is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. After months of tediously tracking my symptoms on paper to reach diagnosis and later evaluate treatments with my doctor, I realized there had to be an easier way, there had to be an app for that. So, we made one. We teamed up with the Gia Allemand Foundation and got to work to build the Me v PMDD Symptom and Treatment Tracker.

With Me v PMDD, menstruators can track all symptoms of PMDD over their menstrual cycle to see if symptoms are in fact cycle-related and to see how different treatments they try affect their symptoms. Users, we call ourselves PMDD Warriors, can use our tracking data to validate our experience, find what works, plan around the tough days of PMDD, and know when extra self-care and support from loved one’s are needed. It’s our mission that Me v PMDD can help Warriors take back control over their cycles and their PMDD.

The app also includes a Self-Love Journal for keeping notes throughout the month on all things PMDD, to vent thoughts and feelings and empower ourselves to stay hopeful and fight as hard as we can. Me v PMDD also links directly to a variety of helpful resources for PMDD as well as to the Gia Allemand Foundation’s Peer Support. 

Me v PMDD is now available for free, worldwide for iOS and Android.

Feel free to reach out and email me anytime at brett.mevpmdd@gmail.com 

Justina: Thank you so much Brett for taking the time to answer these questions! I already downloaded the app to my phone last night and love how COOL and EASY you have make tracking these symptoms. You are doing amazing work for supporting PMDD sufferers and those who need help getting a correct diagnosis!

Sources

  1. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
  2. Schmidt PJ, Martinez PE, Nieman LK, et al. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder symptoms following ovarian suppression: Triggered by change in ovarian steroid levels but not continuous stable levels. Am J Psychiatry. [published online April 21, 2017]. doi: 10.1176/appi. ajp.2017.16101113.
  3. https://giaallemandfoundation.org/about-pmdd/

Additional Resources:

https://medium.com/@borderlinefemme/what-to-do-when-your-pmdd-wont-let-you-do-anything-9d87e0558063

https://medium.com/@brett.mevpmdd/pmdd-what-the-right-diagnosis-did-for-me-541ee13d4938

https://chloebytheway.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/pms-sidenotes/


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Brett Buchert

Co-founder & CEO, Me v PMDD, Inc.

Brett is the mind and heart behind Me v PMDD, a symptom tracking app for anyone fighting through Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) that arose from her own decade long struggle with the condition. Passionate about mental health, she received her degree in Psychology from the University of Florida and plans to pursue graduate school in Clinical Psychology to continue to advocate for the importance of mental health and fight for better treatments for PMDD Warriors. Brett is also a Peer Support Provider with the Gia Allemand Foundation for PMDD, a former college rower, active rock climber, and cat lover.

Find Me V PMDD Online at: https://mevpmdd.com

Follow On Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/mevpmdd/

Follow On Twitter:https://twitter.com/MEvPMDD

PCOS Goals & Tips from The Preggers Kitchen

  PHOTO: UNSPLASH

PHOTO: UNSPLASH

In a year when PCOS health projects have soared in my private practice, I have had the honor of meeting an amazing woman who has dedicated a website to her 12 month PCOS challenge.  

On her website and Instagram account, Amber, from The Preggers Kitchen, shares lifestyle and nutritional tips and recipes  that she has been using to regulate her cycles! A lovely bonus is that Amber also shares her Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) charts (from her Kindara app) to record her progress. All of which can be found at her beautiful website, The Preggers Kitchen

Amber is inspiring many of us around the world as she shares in her pursuit of goals to reclaim her health and take back control of her cycles. So when Amber graciously agreed to let me ask questions about her quest, I was thrilled! 

This article is one I highly recommend for all menstruators. Amber's experiences are encouraging to those with PCOS, but also quite helpful for anyone who is looking for motivation to balance their cycles. 

For this article, you'll see many of my questions for Amber function to learn about her specific approach to setting goals and what her journey has been like with specific lifestyle changes. I highlight Amber's goal setting process because research shows setting S.M.A.R.T Goals (along with making Vision Boards, for example) exponentially increase one's success.

My hope for you is that you will also be inspired by Amber's PCOS challenge and take up your own set of goals and creative ways to pursue holding to them.  As always, for individualized information please see your Health Practitioner.

Enjoy! 

 •    What is the personal goal you set for beating PCOS and infertility?

At the beginning of 2016 I set myself a 12 month challenge to regulate my cycles.  My challenge was inspired by the book ‘Mum’s Not Having Chemo’ by Laura Bond.  The author’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and declined chemotherapy in favour of healing her cancer naturally, without any harsh or toxic medications.  Within 2 years she had completely reversed her cancer and was given the all clear.  When reading this book was a light bulb moment for me.  If it is possible to beat advanced cancer by taking control of your own health then surely I could beat infertility.  So I designed and set myself the 12 month challenge with the goal that by December 2016 I would have cycles which are:

1.       Are less than 35 days long

2.       Vary in length by no more than 2 days from the previous cycle

3.       Ovulation occurs before day 20

4.       Have a normal luteal phase of 12-14 days

For some women these 4 aims may not look challenging, but for me they are my personal Mount Everest. For context, in 2015 I didn’t have a single cycle that met all 4 of these conditions and half my cycles met none of them.  This was despite consciously focusing on my health in preparation for becoming pregnant and trying to lengthen my luteal phase.  This was going to be quite a challenge, and I feared that I'd set the bar so high that there would be no chance of me clearing it. 

 

·         How did you decide to set a goal and what can you say to encourage others about the power of setting goals?

My main goal is to get pregnant, but anyone who has struggled with fertility will know how overwhelming that goal can seem and how powerless you feel about making it a reality.  What has really helped me is to focus on the aspects that are within my control.  I may not be able to control pregnancy, but I can control my cycles – and I have to trust that one will lead to the other.

Setting goals can be really powerful and the lesson I have learnt are:

 

1.       Have A, B, C goals – I first heard about this in relation to marathon running and I have since applied it to fertility.  You’re A goal is the biggie, your main aim, the one that seems completely out of your reach and brings you out in cold sweats.  Your B goal also seems laughably hard, your C goal is an achievable challenge and any D goal is totally doable.  

 

For example, my fertility A, B, C goals are: 

    •   A – to get pregnant, 

   •    B – to have totally regular and fertile cycles,

  •    C – to have all blood test results for fertility within the normal ranges, 

  •    D – to be healthier and to fix my digestive problems.  

You may miss one or two of your goals, but chances are you won’t miss them all.  I’m not going to reach my A goal by the end of 2016, and my B goal is touch and go too.  But that's OK because I met goal C and smashed goal D.

 

2.       Be bold – I am a sucker for picking the low hanging fruit and setting tasks that are too easy to achieve.  The first item on my to-do list is always ‘to write a to-do list’ so that when I get to the bottom I can immediate tick off the first task.  Pointless!  I've learnt to dream big with my goals.  The temptation is always to make the goal more realistic so that you don’t fail, but if you have A, B, C goals you don’t need them to all be realistic.  There is no point in putting effort into a goal only to achieve it and think‘so what’.  

If someone waved a magic wand and you could wake up tomorrow in your new reality, what would that be? Those should be your A and B goals.  When setting my 12 month challenge I looked at online medical research as to the characteristics of the most fertile cycles.  This formed my B goal.  Was it realistic?  Nope.  Was there a strong chance that I would fail?  Yep.  But I didn’t care.  The only person I would be cheating by tinkering with the goal is the same person I would disappoint by not meeting it - me.  And I’m OK with that.

 

3.       Break it down – Breaking my goal down into small and manageable targets was essential for me not to feel overwhelmed.  I researched and set out the steps I could take to meet my goal, which are the ten food and lifestyle steps set out on my website.  Focusing on just one step at a time was really important for me in the beginning, as lifestyle changes can feel all too much if you try to tackle too many at once.  In January 2016 I tried to go gluten free, sugar free and change my exercise routine.  I crashed and burned.  I needed to just focus on one small change at a time and once that change had become routine, then add another small positive step.

 

4.       Go public with your goals – I publish my cycle results on my website each month and I can’t tell you the number of times that my hand has been kept out of the biscuit tin by the thought of having to post a bad cycle, caused by my inability to stop stuffing my face with sugar.  We are all different, but for me having public accountability keeps me on track and reminds me why I am doing this during those moments of weakness.  I know that fertility struggles and charting are very personal issues and many women would't want work colleagues, friends and family to know their goals.  But if someone is looking for public accountability without revealing their identify they could join a local meet-up or support network, post cycles to the Kindara community, post progress on Instagram or Twitter, or start a blog.  It has definitely helped to keep me on track.

 

5.       It won't go smoothly all of the time - Be prepared for that and don’t panic.  In January 2016 I was so excited and dedicated about starting my challenge that enthusiasm was oozing from my pores. And the result? My first cycle was an absolute shocker.  I had a luteal phase of 6 days, my worst on record by a country mile.  But I recognised that every challenge has its ups and downs, set backs and successes.  I just had to trust in the process and have faith that all the research and advice on how to regulate cycles was right and would get me there.

 

 

    •    What are the top 5 changes overall that you have made in your diet or lifestyle that are impacting your cycle health?

 

1)      Dietary changes: Fixing my gut issues and eating a home cooked, wholefood, organic diet with limited sugar and plenty of protein to balance the impact of carbohydrates on my blood sugar levels.

 

2)      Reducing stress: I have calmed my mind and body through mediation (I love the Headspace app and Circle & Bloom meditation), yoga and breathing exercises.  This helped me to reduce my abnormally high levels of prolactin (a hormone that can be elevated due to stress and can cause infertility) back to within normal range within 6 months.

 

3)      Vitamins: High quality vitamin C, B12 and B6 (folinic acid not folic acid) has helped to increase my stubbornly short luteal phase when nothing else I tried seemed to make a difference.

 

4)      Developing a sleep regime and getting plenty of kip has made me healthier and better able to cope with the stress of infertility, as well as giving me the energy to stay enthusiastic about my other lifestyle changes.

 

5)      Increasing good fertility exercise (e.g. yoga, walking and gentle running) which raise my pulse and get me sweaty whilst reducing fertility unfriendly exercise (marathon running and endurance training) which overly stress my body and could mess with my hormonal balance.

 

 

  •    What types of cycle changes have you begun to see already in your fertility charting? 

I started my challenge in January 2016 and in September 2016 I had my first cycle that met all of my conditions, which was extraordinary exciting for me.   I now consistently ovulate in less than 20 days and my cycles are pretty regular, but where I am still working hard is to increase the length of my pesky luteal phase, which is stubborn.

If I compare my latest cycle (November 2016) with my November cycle the year before, which was just before beginning my 12 month challenge, the differences are incredible.  In my last cycle I ovulated 12 days earlier (on cycle day 18), my luteal phase was 1 days longer (11 days in length), my cycle was 1 week shorter (30 days long) and varied by only 1 day from the previous cycle (in November 2015 it varied by 7 days from he previous cycle).

 

 

•    Were you surprised to see changes so quickly? 

The speed of change was both shockingly fast and frustrating slow in equal measure.  I have been having long and irregular periods for 22 years and, apart from 4-5 years of fake periods when on birth control.  So to be able to dramatically alter the cycle that I have had for all of my life in in less than a year is shocking.  

But on the other hand, at times the changes seem to pass at a snail’s pace.  All that hard work and dedication and my ovulation only moves forward by a day each cycle and the luteal phase, when it budges at all, is increasing only by around half a day per cycle.  It has been important for me to look back at how far I had come from 2015.  All the small accumulative changes each month, which don’t look much when compared to the last cycle, suddenly add up to dramatic progress.  

 

 •    What are tips have you found to help with reducing your sugar intake?

1)      Sarah Wilson, beautiful Australian cook-book author and my sugar-free guru, says to check the food labels in supermarkets and only buy foods that contain less than 6g per 100g's of sugar.  This has been a real eye-opener and I was surprised by how many savoury foods that I would have happily munched on previously without a second thought fail this test.  Condiments, pickles and cereals are real offenders, so be wary of those!

 

2)      Going gluten free has helped with reducing my sugar in-take at work.  In our office we have a ‘treats area’ in which co-workers deposit all sorts for delicious biscuits and cakes for anyone to help themselves.  I no longer struggle to resist because you can guarantee that there will be nothing gluten free in the treat area and I repeat to myself “I do not eat gluten.  I do not eat gluten” as I walk by on my way to making a cup of tea.

 

3)      Not keeping sweet treats in the house has spared me many a weak moment of overindulging.  By the time I have debated with myself whether to change out of my PJs (which I nearly always wear when I’m at home) and walk to the shops, my sugar craving has passed.

 

4)      Drinking chai tea, which is sweet but not sugary, and having a tea break ritual of creating a nice cuppa can really help.  Sometimes it isn’t so much that I want something sweet but that I want a break from my desk, or something to eat or drink whilst watching TV.  Tea fills this gap for me.

 

5)      Switching my chocolate bars and treats for 80%+ dark chocolate.  It is so rich and bitter that after a couple of squares I have had enough.  I am trying to train my taste buds to delight in 100% chocolate, but I have so far faced resistance.  It is just so bitter!

 

 

 •    Did you struggle with implementing any of these self-care actions to restore fertility? Which one(s) took the most effort to change?

To be honest, I have struggled with all of my self-care actions at some point over the last year, but the most troublesome step for me was probably reducing my toxic load.  This was a whole new world of which I previously knew very little and so I didn’t have a natural instinct for what was good or bad for me.  I was beginning from a standing start.  It was the most costly and time consuming action, cycling out the toxic personal care and household products (chemical cleaning products, hormone disrupting lotions, plastic food containers, to name just a few) and replacing them gradually over time with natural, non-toxic, non-plastic equivalents.  

 

It has also been the most difficult action to ‘sell’ to my husband, despite him being 100% behind all my other health and lifestyle changes.   The benefits of organic food, additional sleep, more exercise etc are much more commonly understood, but being particular about no longer using what are thought to be harmless everyday products is considered to be ‘taking it all a bit too far’.  This seems to be based on the logical, yet unfortunately completely false, assumption that these products would not be allowed for sale if they harmed our health.  There are thousands of chemicals for which the health impacts have never been tested and even for chemicals that are proven to impact on human health and fertility (e.g. BPA) they are still allowed in consumer products.  And they are just everywhere! 

 

It took time, effort, trial and error to find non-toxic personal care products that were effective and which smelt pleasant to me.  Often they smell a little too ‘hippie’ for me and fail what is known in our house as the ‘Aunt Sheila sniff test’*.  It takes considerable effort to keep these chemicals out of my body and my home, and this is something that I will be gradually improving for many years to come. 

 

*Aunt Sheila is my husband’s Aunt who is wonderfully bohemian, sings to the sea, believes that mountains are sleeping dragons waiting to take back the earth and generally smells of lavender and calendula.  Smelling like Aunt Sheila is an anti-aphrodisiac for my husband and does nothing to encourage baby making.

 

 

·         What hope have you learned about reversing PCOS that you could share with someone who has PCOS?

In some ways I think I am lucky to have PCOS.  Not as lucky as someone who has no fertility issues, obviously, but out of all the myriad of fertility problems that I could have, PCOS is one that I can entirely control, treat and manage myself.  In my mind this makes it the best outcome in a bad situation, a bit like being run over by an ambulance.  

 

22 years of periods has taught me that my long, irregular and infertile cycles, if left to their own devices, would happily rule the rest of my life.  The passage of time would do nothing to fix them.  But the past year has shown me just how achievable it is to get my cycles under control.  Changes may appear slow at the time, but I kept at it and its making a dramatic difference.  It may have taken me 9-12 months, and I still have some work left to do, but now for the first time in my life I can genuinely say "Regular cycles?  Yep, I have those".

 

 


About the Author:

Amber is the founder of The Preggers Kitchen, a website dedicated to her 12 month personal challenge to regulate her menstrual cycles, beat PCOS and infertility through healthy eating and natural lifestyle changes.  In addition to information, research, tips and recipes, The Preggers Kitchen also contains monthly fertility charts showing the impact of healthy lifestyle changes over the course of the year.

You can find Amber online at www.thepreggerskitchen.com

And also Follow her on InstagramFacebookTwitter and Pinterest  !!


 
 

Fertility Matters (Even When You Don’t Want Kids)

Around age 18, I had a realization that unlike many of my girlfriends at the time, I was not convinced that I wanted to be a mom someday. It was a time in my life that I strongly associated with Athena, who is a goddess archetype for being independent, focusing on achievement, acquiring knowledge and being concerned with social issues. This in comparison to the archetypes of Aphrodite who is focused on love, Hera who is focused on marriage, or Demeter who was focused on bearing and raising children.  Of course we can carry all or several of these desires at once and shift through them as we enter new phases, but looking back, I was all about independence! 

  Photo: Unsplash/ Bảo-Quân Nguyễn

Photo: Unsplash/Bảo-Quân Nguyễn

So while my girlfriends were thinking they didn’t have to worry about their fertility until it was time to have a baby, I was thinking I didn’t ever have to worry about my fertility.

Because of that realization it was as if I had subconsciously written myself a permission slip to not care about my health. My thinking was if I was going to forego motherhood altogether or just skip over the pregnancy/delivery part and instead happily adopt a child, then I didn’t need to aim for healthy cycles. Right?

Wrong.

 

Fertility as a marker of health

Ignoring our cycle health means being blind to significant details that may be the key to explaining a variety of symptoms that impact daily life from weight issues to mood swings to acne to sex drive and fatigue (just to name a few). And, often enough, the underlying causes of these types of symptoms go back to an imbalance of hormones.

 

In our culture, not only do we not talk about fertility until it’s time to have babies, but we also don’t talk about hormonal imbalance until peri-menopause happens. This is changing as more and more women are jumping at the chance to learn more about their bodies and are becoming empowered to take charge of their cycle health! 

 

Just like fertility isn’t only for having babies, hormonal balance isn’t only for menopause! Fertility and hormonal balance are actually amazing indicators of health no matter your age or phase of life. It is important to our individual health and wellness that we concern ourselves with these markers early on if for no other reason than to feel better-than-our-best every day, even phenomenal! 

 

Am I thriving or just surviving?

  Photo Credit: Pexels

Photo Credit: Pexels

Think back for a moment. Do you remember a time when you were younger and you could wake up feeling fully rested and eager to start the day? Or a time when you didn’t regularly feel like crap? Contrary to common belief, low energy, aches and pain do not have to be the accepted norm that happen just because you're getting older.

 

Or maybe you remember a time in your youth when your periods came without migraines and cramping? Regardless of the messages our culture sends us, PMS such as severe cramping, headaches, and severe mood swings do not have to be the norm either. 

 

What if you could begin nourishing your fertility in regards to your cycles and your hormones and feel like a brand new person? 

 

The really cool thing about the human body is that you can! And it all starts with tuning into you! My most preferred way to learn about your individual cycle health is charting your signs with the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).

 

Your fertility carries so much information to monitor and tweak your overall health. All we have to do is check in! 

 

So what is fertility charting?

Observing your signs of fertility and the greater hormonal picture they paint throughout reproductive years gives you insider information that you can use to your advantage and begin to feel like you’re T H R I V I N G  again.

 

Cervical fluid, Basal Body Temperature (BBT), and cervical position are the 3 primary signs of fertility that are scientifically proven to pinpoint when a female is in her fertile window and when she is not. I teach women all about how to track these fertility signs in my webinars, and once you learn it can take only as little time as brushing your teeth every day.

 

When you chart those daily pieces of information onto paper, what you get is report card after report card about your specific body! When several “report cards” are assessed together in sequence, then we have an overview of a woman’s ovulatory health, period health, luteal phase health, and follicular phase health all of which represent how part of one’s endocrine system and hormonal feedback loop might be working or, on the other hand, struggling to work.

 

Does charting work while taking The Pill?

  Photo Credit: Pixabay/ jarmoluk

Photo Credit: Pixabay/jarmoluk

This type of individual body data is gold. But major caveat here: you can not get accurate body data while using any type of hormonal birth control from the oral pill to the hormonal IUD. 

 

Hormonal contraceptives are full of synthetic hormones that overtake your natural hormones and alter your natural fertility signs. Furthermore, while on The Pill, women appear to be getting periods every month (or every few months depending on which brand is being used), but these are called withdrawal bleedings and are not true menstruation. A true menstruation is a period of bleeding that follows 10-16 days after ovulation, but because the oral birth control pill overpowers natural hormones and essentially "turns off" ovulation, the last week of the month's oral pill is actually a placebo pill that causes withdrawal bleeding to mimic a period. 

 

Bottom line: the medicated "cycles" we see while on The Pill are not our own and they work to prevent pregnancy every day of the cycle even though science has proven that typical ovulating women are only fertile, meaning capable of conceiving, for 1/3 of the cycle. The idea that we need  take a medication on a daily basis is interesting because being a woman and being fertile for 7-12 days out of every cycle isn't a disease! Instead of letting synthetic hormones take over your body for birth control, you have the option to use your own natural hormones and the body literacy of FAM as a natural, safe, and effective way to avoid pregnancy without resorting to turning your natural cycles off. 

 

Natural birth control that works

Fortunately, FAM is a form of natural birth control that is as effective as the Pill. A study done in 2007 found FAM to be 99.4%-99.6% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly. (You can read all about how I switched to FAM as my birth control over 6 years ago and couldn't be happier here). Like all birth controls, FAM has its pros and cons. For any birth control, including FAM, I highly recommend understanding the Pros and Cons to determine which method is best for the phase of life that you are in. You can find a table of FAM Pros and Cons here and read about FAM effectiveness rates here. 

 

Use fertility to assess your cycle health

After you have at least 3 fertility charts completed and review them with a certified FAM Teacher (like me), we can look for potential red flags. If your charts show any signs of imbalance or any signs to further rule out female health syndromes, then you can take that knowledge to your health practitioner right off the bat and have diagnostic testing done. 

 

Plus, because nourishing fertility involves what you eat, how you exercise, your exposure to chemicals (and so much more) you can learn all about which foods and self care practices will support healthy cycles moving forward. Uncovering health issues and taking charge to address them sooner is always better than later! 

 

 

Check out more details about how you can learn to fertility chart and take back control of your quality of life.

You won't believe what I got to talk about on the radio...

When was the last time you turned on the car radio and heard someone talking about cervical fluid? 


Probably never, right?



This morning I got to accomplish one of my dreams and talk about menstrual flowing, cervical fluid, female empowerment and vaginas ON THE RADIO!


The best part? None of it was censored!


 
And it's all thanks to my dear friend, Mary Kane, founder of a new radio show called Enchantmentality


You might be wondering why I'm so excited about getting FAM on the radio. After all, the internet is packed full of Fertility Awareness blogs, period product videos,  and women's health podcasts.

 

But, the internet is still not considered to be mainstream media in the way that TV and Radio news and talk shows are. 



There was a time, not that long ago, that radio stations with health talk shows and even indecent talk shows (think Howard Stern) did not do guest interviews on topics surrounding female bodily fluids.


It was as if there was an unwritten rule that fertility awareness topics like periods and cervical fluid would disturb listeners. 

 

Basic body knowledge, fertility education, and awareness about non hormonal types of birth control continue to be left out of the mainstream media.


Fortunately, as society's understanding and awareness of female health progresses, so does the normalization of female health topics. A great example of this is the number of female body positive videos that go viral on the internet. It's a lot! 

Like this: http://cycledork.com/2016/04/26/premier-amy-schumer-defends-her-lady-curse-womens-health-from-a-bunch-of-suits/

This: http://verilymag.com/2016/07/nfp-fabm-charting-your-cycle-menstrual-cycle-natural-family-planning-methods-fertility-awareness

And this: http://cycledork.com/2016/05/31/birth-control-can-not-regulate-your-period-heres-why/

And my favorite: http://cycledork.com/2016/06/18/maya-rudlophs-vajingle-hilariously-calls-out-period-product-toxins/

 

 We still have a long way to go, but I'm happy we are going in the right direction.

You can listen to my full interview on YouTube at --> www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a2K7wK64cE

My Natural Birth Control Still Works for Me, Here’s Why

This summer my hubs and I are celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary! To celebrate, we adventured around the mountains and beaches of Guatemala! We have been using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) for our natural birth control all of these years and couldn’t be happier with that decision. Before finding FAM, I truly thought that the only form of birth control to effectively prevent pregnancy was a hormonal pill or a hormonal device. That belief made me feel sort of trapped and stuck with hormonal options that had already proven to cause one of two personality states in me: flat line or extreme mood swings. 

Learning FAM gave me the opportunity to never go back to hormonal birth control. FAM gave me freedom to be myself again. So today, my hubs and I are completely grateful to have the FAM tool in our health conscious tool belt. If you want to learn more about what FAM is then click here

 

Here are 7 tips that have kept our FAM practice successful all these years:

1. Checking fertility signs, charting them, and applying the rules to prevent pregnancy in each cycle. This practice literally takes so little time out of our day! After the initial process of setting aside time upfront to learn FAM, we became pros and only spend as little time charting and marking the rules as we do brushing our teeth, or less!

2. Knowing that when in doubt,  to either abstain or just throw on a condom, correctly! If I’m fertile, then the only thing preventing pregnancy during intercourse is the correct use of that latex puppy!

3. Getting creative with non-intercourse intimacy during the fertile wave to avoid falling into routines (and I don't mean cuddling).  Besides, routines are lame!

4. Packing  condoms on overnight trips in case there is a questionable day while away from home. Then, barrier method sex is an option and there is not a chance for even the consideration of "risking it." FYI, if condoms aren't around and sex is definitely happening, then pulling out is less of a risk at that point than not pulling out. 

5. Being at peace with the fact that life gets cra-cra sometimes and that’s okay. When there has been a crazy time in life (chronic illness, death in the family, etc.) and we don’t have it in us emotionally or mentally to chart for several weeks…that does not qualify us as losers. Fortunately, you don’t have to go back on The Pill in such a situation. Male condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, when used correctly, and are an easy alternative to FAM in phases where charting would be adding in stress to a time in life that needs less stress. You can always step back into FAM charting in a snap and use the rules to guide you to answer this question: Am I fertile today? Yes or No? 

6. Having fun with anticipation of infertile days and making a big, special, sexy deal out of the fertile wave officially ending! 

7. Being motivated to keep our bodies healthier than the status quo. We are intentional about the foods we eat, where our food comes from, minimizing toxins in our body and in the environment. Of course we are thrilled that our choice in birth control is not only safe by being free from toxins, but also healthy by being free from symptoms and free from increased risk for disease.

I'm a Certified Fertility Awareness Educator and I've been teaching FAM since 2013...because FAM is legit. Register today for my next class! I offer live webinars throughout the year. Click here to register

Searching for Natural Birth Control...that works?

Search no further. The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is 100% natural, 100% free from side effects and over 99% effective when used correctly! 

Women across the globe use FAM successfully and feel sexier and vibrant!

Learning how to use FAM from a certified educator impacts a person's effectiveness. Learn FAM in a class with us online! The online FAM Webinar is a 2 part class and attendance to both classes is required. The class takes place as a live and private video class via Google Hangouts. 

Click here to RSVP and grab the 25% off discount!