Category Archives: Health

Postnatal depression or normalities of motherhood?

There have recently been some new babies born to friends and extended family of mine. It’s led us to chat about the early days and months of motherhood and I’ve offered my support and shared some of my own experiences. I can’t help but constantly be on the lookout for their mental health. I don’t want another woman to have to be trapped inside her own mind wondering is it, isn’t it and struggling more than she needs to.

It’s only when doing this that I realise that I’m not as truthful as I’d like to think I am on this blog.

My experiences may have been tainted by the now obvious and apparent fact that I had some form of postpartum depression. This lasted well into George’s second year, if not beyond. I continued to believe I could fix it myself but it always crept back in. One good day would be marred by two bad days.

I have worked in and around the mental health sector for the entirety of my Pharmacy career the 11 years prior to George’s birth and solely being employed by a mental health trust the 8 years previous to leaving my job to become a stay at home Mum.

I knew the mental health system relatively well. I had been in close contact with many types of mental health conditions when people were at their absolute lowest. Yet when I myself felt that I needed help, I was so scared of seeking it for fear that I would lose George. It was never going to be the case.

If you are considered to be a threat to yourself or others you may be sectioned under the mental health act. Despite having very desperately low thoughts, I was avidly aware of them and it upset me that I didn’t want to feel like this but I couldn’t stop it. I wanted to just run away. I told my husband countless times I wanted to leave him when all I really wanted was to vanish. He was the only person I could fully confide in despite his own issues.

Not more than a month after George’s birth, hubs own father died suddenly of a heart attack. He was in his fifties, the same age at which hubs grandad also died of a heart attack. We now look back and realise that hubs always suffered with mild anxiety. Who doesn’t. But losing his father and witnessing me have a severely traumatic birth was the trigger to make him have what in the olden days would be referred to as a nervous breakdown.

He couldn’t even bear to be in the same room as his own mother due to the intenseness of his anxiety. Running upstairs in tears during a visit, leaving me to see them out. Quickly realising he couldn’t bear to be in a room by himself without feeling desperately scared and anxious of having an heart attack. Thankfully this intense week was exacerbated by the GP starting him on Beta Blockers which had the opposite effect to what they should have. (This can happen and is known as a paradoxical side effect). After stopping the tablets he slowly improved but it was a long road.

Having had an emergency Caesarean section and needing to stay in hospital with George with us both suffering with suspected infections for 6 days I was weak and in pain at the start. By the time of hubs breakdown I was healed and able to be strong for all of us. It was hard and we had some great support from family.

Hubs wasn’t able to work and I had given up my job due to struggles with health and being able to juggle what was expected of me in my work role and as new mother. This all added to his anxiety over needing to support his family and being unable to. Although self employed, the guys he was contracted to were very supportive and understanding.

As hubs grew stronger, my own mind must’ve relaxed and with it came flooding through all the negative thoughts. My mum said with what we had both been through it was a wonder we hadn’t experienced this sooner. George was now almost one years old. I could still cry several times a week. I remember if I couldn’t console him, feeling so helpless I would just cry. Then I’d feel better and he would soon settle.

I’d tell people and no one made it seem unusual. A few suggested I go to the doctors but I was so scared of explaining it wrong to the doctor and being sectioned or George being taken away. I was absolutely no danger to George and I knew it and deep down I knew this wouldn’t happen but the depression made me irrational.

In the end anyone who made me feel even slightly unhappy I shut out and pushed away. Even now I still don’t know if I lost friends because of my behaviour or theirs. I don’t know if I took my frustration at myself out on them or if they genuinely were not compatible with me now I was a Mama. I changed. I’m still me but I have changed.

The mask became a powerful thing. Sometimes I couldn’t hold it together and I found myself quickly rushing George to the car so I could hide the tears that I couldn’t hold back. I cried over the stupidest of things. But overall when I saw people the mask came up and I smiled and it was a brief relief from the negativity I dwelled in behind closed doors.

 

mental health

I no longer enjoyed things I previously enjoyed doing. I went along but just willed it to be over. I wasn’t interested. I was flat. I didn’t care. Eventually when George was around 16 months old I visited the GP and was put on Fluoxetine. It made me feel so, so nauseous. You’d think it’s a small price to pay but food was the only thing I found enjoyment in and to lose the willing and desire to eat made me feel even worse. What’s more they didn’t make me feel any better.

Antidepressants can take 4-6 weeks to have an notable effect. My GP agreed they wasn’t doing me any good after 3. Ultimately this was because they made me feel so nauseous, I lost my passion for food and eating. Food was all I had left that I enjoyed. The thought of losing that was just too much. I know it sounds ridiculous, especially since I need to lose weight. It was how I felt though. I had to stop the fluoxetine. From there the GP follow up was non existent. Presuming I would return if I felt low again, there was no further contact to see how I was doing.

mental health
Cake is the answer to everything.

Thankfully after that period of time, something changed. I don’t know if maybe even the short amount of time I took the Fluoxetine was enough to reset the chemicals in my brain. It also coincided with my neurologist introducing some new medication for my migraines. They happened to fix my long term vertigo and I was able to drive again. I had my independence back and I think this contributed massively to my self worth and happiness.

What I do know is that I feel better than I have for a long time. Stronger, fearless, happy. Once you’ve considered your life worthless you tend to lose your fear of things. You realise nothing is as scary as the thought of escaping your life.

So what’s the point of sharing this with you? I suppose I want mums out there to distinguish between what is normal and what really isn’t when you have a baby. If something doesn’t feel right then please speak to someone. Your partner, parent, friend, health visitor or GP. Okay,  my experience with the GP wasn’t wholly positive but I wasn’t completely honest with them and I should have been more persistent.

mental health

I got so good at the mask, my GP visits saw me sitting with a smile on my face. I felt stupid. No way someone sits there trying to explain how low they feel whilst smiling. People break down and burst into tears. But I’m too polite I just smiled. If you’re the same, maybe take someone along to the appointment with you who has seen you at your worst. Don’t suffer in silence.

Can you relate to any of this? I find it so hard to know if I can say I had/have postnatal depression. Does it ever go away? My moods are certainly more changeable but is that how parenthood feels? I genuinely still have no idea.

Preparing to conceive with the AVA bracelet

Are you trying to conceive? Have you heard of the Ava bracelet?  Ava is focused on women’s health.

The Ava bracelet isn’t just for women trying to conceive. It can also be used to help track your cycle as well as being worn during pregnancy for regular monitoring of your body.

The Ava bracelet has got me so excited. You may have recently seen my social media update declaring I am full of positivity and optimism. Ava is one of the reasons why. Conceive

Ava cannot necessarily assist everyone. For example, for women with PCOS, irregular or non-existent cycles Ava cannot fix this. The Ava bracelet assists women with a regular cycle but highlighting their most fertile period. Whilst many products on the market pinpoint the approximate 48 hours within ovulation, Ava does more than this.

Other tests (which I have already tried unsuccessfully this time around) indicate the last 2 days of the fertile window. The Ava bracelet collects physiological data whilst you sleep. Ava then pinpoints a 5 day window, detecting the very beginning of your fertile window.

Ava claim to advise you of “more fertile days than any other method”.  Despite all those years growing up thinking I could fall pregnant easily at any time, it turns out there’s actually only a small window that this can happen.

Who are avawomen.com and what do they stand for?

Ava Women are ridiculously passionate about bringing the Ava brand to the world. The team are spread between a base in San Francisco and their Global headquarters in Switzerland.  They are a group of doctors and scientific researchers, committed to making scientific advancements to better understand the menstrual cycle. In a world where technology plays a huge role in almost every part of our lives, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been many advancements in women’s health tracking. Ava Women hope to change this.

“We don’t just make products, we conduct clinical studies and publish peer-reviewed papers.”  taken from avawomen.com

How does the Ava bracelet work?

While you’re sleeping, Ava’s sensors collect data on nine different physiological parameters. Ava’s algorithm then detects your fertile window, physiological stress level, sleep quality, and more. –  taken from avawomen.com

The data collected each night is synced to your phone and automatically entered into a chart. Gradually you will begin to build a picture of how many hours you sleep (this is useful ammo against hubs if you already have a child),It also monitors your resting pulse rate, skin temperature, breathing rate, and HRV which is short for heart rate variability (basically stress levels).

In order for an adequate amount of data to be collected, you have to wear the bracelet for at least 4 hours each night. The information that Ava measures doesn’t confirm if you are fertile but rather when. It uses the data collected to create an algorithm which recognises when your body is signalling that it is entering the fertile window, and hence at the prime time to conceive.

Set up and using the Ava bracelet.

The Ava bracelet is easy to use and stress free. On receiving the bracelet, it needed to be charged for a minimum of 2 hours. After downloading the Ava app on app store (or Google Play store) I set up my account. It helps if you already know a few details about your cycle such as dates of last period and average cycle length. This is something I already tracked on an app. I then synced the bracelet with my phone. The bracelet is found automatically once bluetooth is enabled.

Each evening before I go to sleep, I put the bracelet on my non dominant arm, just above the wrist bone. It’s a simple buckle strap, not too tight. I’m not aware of it during the night when I’m sleeping. In the morning I remove the bracelet, plug it into a power source and sync it to the app to download the data collected that night.

It’s so simple and easy. You can also join a closed Facebook group (so it’s not visible on your profile) to help you with support and analysing your charts.

Trying to conceive George.

conceive

I’ve always been pretty good at getting my own way. So it kind of pisses me off  utterly frustrates me that when I want a baby, I can’t just have one! I’m so grateful for George and whilst my eight month conception journey to have him is miniscule compared to the struggle of others, I did let it consume me.

I don’t feel the same this time around. I would love so much to have another baby. A baby that I can enjoy minus the post natal depression (or at least with treatment this time). Another chance to use and learn from the mistakes I made the first time around. Maybe the chance to be Mama to a daughter. But mostly because I am SO sure that George will make the most kind, helpful and amazing big brother.

Those who know me know I research the back-end out of everything I do. Queen of Googling. I thought I knew all the tricks. I tried my hardest to not actually “try” to conceive. Knowing that the more you stress over it the less likely it is to happen (or so they say). We both took all the conception vitamins. I stopped drinking alcohol to try to get my body in tip-top condition. I even stopped making social plans. Firstly because I didn’t think I could enjoy myself without a drink (isn’t that sad!), secondly because I was always thinking “I can’t agree to that sponsored walk because what if I’m pregnant by then”.

Legs up the wall, optimal positions, you name it, we did it.  After 7 months, my sister lent me her ovulation monitor. You pee on a stick when it tells you to and when you get the smiley face you go hell for leather and ta da, a baby. And after the first month using this machine, I discovered that in fact I ovulate way after my period tracking app suggested I did.

At the same month we started using the monitor I found out I was 2 to 3 weeks pregnant. I’ve always attributed our success in conception to the ovulation monitor. However it is also the time I took advice from a friend and just stopped caring and started to say yes again. Yes to that holiday, yes to that night out. In the end I was so busy during my pregnancy it was unreal. George was born 9 months later and the rest is history. But this time is a WHOLE different story.

conceive

Trying for a second.

Last year we decided it would be a good time to start trying for a sibling. Since George’s birth, we haven’t used any contraception. so you could say we have always been trying to conceive. Although as most first time parents will know, having a child to care for is contraception in itself. You are way to tired and touched out for that shizzle come the end of the day.

For the first year I was breastfeeding and didn’t have ANY periods. Although it’s not supposed to be a trusted method of contraception, I believe breastfeeding stopped me getting pregnant in the first year. When my periods returned we sometimes used the pulling out method as I was never sure it was right for us to be having another yet. Again, kids this isn’t a safe way to avoid getting pregnant.

So last year I knew I wanted George to be a sibling. I didn’t want a baby too badly just yet, and I wanted to try to fall before I became over the top broody to eliminate the pressure and stress. It wasn’t happening. “Simple” I thought and out came my sister’s ovulation monitor.

3 months down and no smiley face. I went to see the doctor who booked me in for an internal ultrasound to check the health of my ovaries. After suspecting I may be starting early menopause (as the women do in my family), I was relieved to find out I wasn’t. Everything was the level it should be.

Hubs was going to get checked out but then my body started to really play up. I gained three stone taking medication for my migraines. I also have a problem with my hip which is affecting my quality of life.

Long story short, we had to make the sensible choice to halt trying for a baby. I’m under a consultant and physio for my hip and slowly losing weight. We suspect my health will have improved enough by the end of 2018, start of 2019 that we can start trying to conceive again.

Conceive

Now seems the perfect time to start using the Ava bracelet and build up my data within the app. I’m hopeful that when the time comes we will be better informed about the prime time to play the baby making game conceive.

My verdict

Obviously I would love to say that we have successfully conceived using the Ava bracelet…but I haven’t put the data to good use yet. What I will say is if you are looking for an aid to help you better plan your conception journey, then I feel Ava takes the stress out of it. At a RRP of £249 it’s not cheap.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that you can continue to wear it during pregnancy. The app also gives you a pregnancy tracker, giving you weekly insights on what to expect. I’m really excited about the potential this bracelet has for us (in case you hadn’t gathered). I can’t wait to share it with you all!

There may be some of you that thinks this all seems very involved. That you should just let nature take its course. But as someone who doesn’t appear to fall pregnant easily, it’s invaluable to me, as I’m sure it will be to many couples.

If you would like to purchase an Ava bracelet for yourself, you can get £20 off by using this link and the code;

GORGEOUSGSMAMA20

**Disclosure – I received an Ava bracelet in return for this review. Opinions are my own and this does not affect the integrity of this post**

My Vagina’s not pretty enough for cervical screening – #SmearforSmear

My vagina is getting a treat next month , and not because it’s pretty but because I believe prevention is better than cure. I have just booked my smear test following an invitation from my GP surgery. I’m jumping on board with cervical cancer prevention week to give you this lecture low down on why I believe all women eligible for the smear test should be getting one.  If you read the news, you will know that the number of women taking up their invitation for a smear test is at a 10 year low! The reason, embarrassment over the look and smell of their pubic areas! Yes apparently so!

Erm hello! Have we all gone fucking mental! 9 times out of the 10, (I’m taking a gamble) the person conducting your smear test is a women too! You can request a women carries out the test when you book the appointment. Said nurse/doctor has a fanny/ foof/ noo noo/ noonie/ flange/ vag/ vagina/ pussy herself! It smells at different times of the day or month. It varies in how hairy or not hairy it is. And do you know what else I’m going to take a gamble on? I bet you that nurse trained in her role so that she could help and save others in matters of their health. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t give a shit what state your fanny is in!

I mean be considerate, don’t turn up there unclean. But a simple wash and fresh underwear will suffice. Vagina’s smell! They’re ugly and unless you are a porn star there’s not much you are likely to do about it.

Are we that shallow now that we are risking our LIVES due to another body confidence issue! Please ladies! TAKE SOME PERSPECTIVE!

If you are a Mama then it’s very likely that you have endured childbirth and up to a dozen or more people have seen down there already so you really have no excuse. Plus you now have kiddies to care for and you are pretty useless to them in a coffin. Hey never mind kiddo. Mummy may  not be here for your biggest moments in life but at least she had a good looking vagina! Sounds absolutely ridiculous and yes I’m being harsh but it’s necessary.

How often are you confronted with a petition on social media for the NHS to test for this, that and the other. There are so many conditions that could be avoided due to routine testing but these tests aren’t available. Smear tests are so use them!

Cervical cancer isn’t pleasant. I haven’t experienced it myself but I know one way or another that the treatment for it can leave you with less than pleasant lifelong side effects. A small price to pay for staying alive… but nonetheless if you can avoid developing it all together then why wouldn’t you?! Although the smear test is actually a test to determine the health of your cervix, it stop around 1 in every 100 women’s from getting cervical cancer (according to the NHS pamphlet.

So where will I be February 15th? I’ll be at my smear as I have been every third year around my birthday since I was 21. (Although the age of testing is now 3 yearly for 25-49 and 5 yearly for 50-64 year olds.)This will be my 5th smear and once you’re on the table with your legs open you just get chatting about Eastenders. Before you know it it’s over. I tend to pop to the loo after to properly wipe away any excess lube if the nurse has been a bit over generous. I also put a panty liner on as I can sometimes get spotting after. I’m then careful not to lift anything to heavy that day as I do when I’m on my period as I often feel tender. Everyone is different though.

After 2 weeks I receive a letter, which for me has always stated my results were normal and no further action is needed. Sometimes they may find “abnormal cells” but again I know many ladies who have been called back for this and have been fine. Sometimes there is a need to remove the abnormal cells. Sometimes a repeat test is needed as it may be that the results were compromised.

Ideally avoid using lubricants, vagina creams or having sexual activity 48 hours prior to your smear. This will better prevent your results being inaccurate.

So you see ladies it’s just another stage of life that us ladies ideally need to go through. Yes it’s a bit of a bitch but isn’t most of the shit our bodies throw at us. It’s what makes us strong and powerful. It’s what makes us women!

My top tips when attending a smear test

  • Wear a skirt/ dress or long top so you don’t feel like you are getting so exposed. Although you will be given paper towel to lay across you once undressed.
  • Don’t feel embarrassed to chat to the nurse just like you would if you was having a blood test or any other test. Remember she’s seen it all before and the more you relax the easier it will be.
  • Take a panty liner just in case of any bleeding/ spotting afterwards.
  • Treat yourself to your favourite chocolate/ coffee/ manicure afterwards. You did good lady. Be proud.
  • Tell your girl friends all about it. Let’s not be shy. The more of us share our experiences we can hopefully encourage one another to do this.
  • Don’t over clean yourself before the test. You will remove some of the natural moisture and in fact dry out your vagina. This may make it harder for the speculum to be inserted ( although again don’t worry about the nurse struggling if you are naturally dry because she will use lubricant anyway).
  • Book your test mid cycle.

Ultimately it is your choice whether to have a smear test or not. But to my mind, if you are too embarrassed to share your vagina for prevention of cancer how would you cope if you ever (heaven forbid) require treatment for cervical cancer?! Book the appointment!

#SmearforSmear 

For more information on Cervical Screening in the U.K. checkout the NHS website here;

Cervical Screening – NHS.UK

Whether you have a vagina or not, here’s of read about  Health Checkups You Shouldn’t Neglect!
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday