Fertility Awareness Method

Fertility Awareness Method

Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is an evidence based approach for women to connect in with their own cycle and understand the signs her body is telling her during her menstrual cycle. It is also known as The Billings Method, Natural Family Planning or the Ovulation Method. Having an understanding of male and female fertility is important for us all, whether it is to connect deeper with the rhythm of our bodies, plan a pregnancy or to prevent getting pregnant.

Having this connection to our cycle and understanding it is an empowering means of taking control of your reproductive health and allows women to make decisions on their own reproductive health and sexual activity. Educating yourself on FAM can help to optimise chances of pregnancy and when using a combination of fertility indicators, offer a highly effective means to avoid pregnancy and upto 98% effective (Freundl 1999) and (frank-Hermann 2007).  The NHS (UK) states that with perfect use the contraceptive pill is 99% effective and with typical use is 91% effective.

Not all menstrual cycles are 28 days, knowing and understanding your cycle is a great way to start on your journey to knowing your body and witnessing the rhythm it holds.

When charting your cycle and using FAM, I recommend using a pen and paper, you can create your own chart which has body temperature, days of the cycle and cervical fluid and other notes or you can use a simple template that I have created here cycle tracking – fertility  In my own opinion and experience using an app can sometimes lead to the app providing averages and giving information that may or may not be relevant to you and potentially setting seeds of doubt.

When using FAM you will be taking note on a daily basis of your cervical fluid and your basal body temperature. Other’s may recommend checking your cervix as another indicator as our cervix also changes throughout our cycles. This can take some time to get use to and for more infomation on this I would recommend checking out FertilityUK as they have some downloadable charts and information that cover this.

Before I continue, Did I mention how amazing our bodies truly are. Let’s take a moment to appreciate our body. With the right education and support, we don’t need ovulation prediction kits or birth control pills or indeed pregnancy tests. There are many industries thriving on us women not being connected to our bodies.

Just to note; FAM does not protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections or Disease. If you are interested in using FAM then you need to take responsibility and ensure an open conversation is had with your partner and appropriate screening is carried out. Your GP can give you more information on this.

For the purpose of this post, the focus is on identifying the fertile time in a cycle for pregnancy to happen, so lets dive in…..

Day 1 of your cycle is the first day of a fresh red bleed (not spotting). The last day of your cycle is the day before you start to bleed. This can vary in length for us all, very few of us have an exact 28 day cycle and that is normal. Even if your cycle is irregular, charting and connecting in with your body can give you some great insight.

The first fertile indicator is; Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is resting body temperature. This is taken first thing in the morning or after 3 hours of consecutive sleep.  Once you wake and before you do anything, check your temperature, that is before you check your phone, drink water, speak etc. check your temperature and note it down. Tracking your temperature for a few cycles will give a good indication if ovulation has occurred and the length of the luteal phase of the cycle (phase after ovulation).

During our cycle, our temperature changes slightly and can be an indication to when ovulation has happened. You will need to track it for a few months to understand your cycle. It can be easy to get caught up on daily readings, but you ultimately want to identify a pattern of low and high temperatures, rather than focusing on individual ones.

The start of our cycle is known as the follicular phase, our body temperature is slightly lower in this phase of the cycle in comparison to post ovulation and our bleed time. Just before ovulation our body temperature will dip. At ovulation our BBT dips and rises by 0.3 degrees Celsius due to the hormone progesterone, it will remain elevated for at least 3 days, after ovulation we enter into the luteal phase which is typically 10-16 days long post ovulation – Our luteal phase needs to be at least 10 days for implantation to occur. You can identify when the luteal phase has ended if your BBT drops, indicating that the next cycle is about to begin, if it remains high beyond the expected time of your bleed it can be an indicator to pregnancy.

Monitoring your temperature can help identify issues such as, lack of ovulation,  progesterone deficiency or luteal phase defect. If you have any concerns over your findings do seek guidance from your GP or someone trained in Fertility awareness.

The second fertile indicator is; Cervical Fluid. Cervical fluid is something not really spoken about and sometimes misunderstood. For the most part of our cycle cervical fluid is usually thick, sticky, cloudy or not visible (dry) this is known as the non fertile times. Interestingly, during the non fertile times the vagina is acidic and actually destroys the sperm. The hormone Oestrogen rises in the later part of the follicular phase changes the cervical fluid to a wetter, slippery, stretchy fluid, consistency is similar to egg whites. It is an encouraging sign that reflects the growing follicles and higher levels of oestrogen. This change in cervical fluid makes it the ideal environment for sperm to survive, and help them pass through the cervix, the uterus and into the fallopian tubes.

There are three ways that you can monitor cervical fluid, one is from just observing what is on the underwear, second is to wipe with a clean white tissue before passing urine and observe and the third is to insert a finger into the vagina and observe. Observe throughout the day and record at the end of the day.

Other signs of ovulation maybe increase in libido, mid-cycle abdominal cramp/pain, breast tenderness or spotting. You can also note these on your chart to create a fuller picture of what is going on.

I hope you have found this information useful and insightful. It is also important to further educate yourself on female and male fertility, which I will write about shortly.

Fertility Awareness Method is something I encourage all my fertility clients to do, If you are interested in having regular reflexology to support you on your fertility journey, do get in touch, I would be delighted to work with you and your partner.

If you would like to read more indept on this topic, I would recommend the book ” Taking charge of your Fertility” by Toni Weschler and her website also has downloadable charts.

Yours in Health

Anita

Frank-Herrmann, P., Heil, J., Gnoth, C., Toledo, E., Baur, S., Pyper, C., Jenetzky, E., Strowitzki, T., and Freundl, G., The effectiveness of a fertility awareness based method to avoid pregnancy in relation to a couple’s sexual behaviour during the fertile time: A prospective longitudinal study; Human Reproduction, 22(5):1310–1319, May 2007.

Freundl, G.,. European multi-centre study of natural family
planning (1989-1995). Advances in contraception. 1999; 15: 69-83

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/how-effective-contraception/

 

Thyroid Function Test and understanding the hormones involved

Thyroid Function Test and understanding the hormones involved

If you have missed the previous 2 blog posts on What is your Thyroid and why is it so important? and understanding Hashimoto’s  a little bit better click on the links and have a read of them first.

If, from reading the previous blog posts and watching my videos on Instagram @somawellnessdoula you have had a light bulb moment of thinking “hhmm this is sounding all too familiar” I would strongly suggest asking your GP to test the function of your thyroid.

Getting your thyroid checked is a simple blood test that your GP can take and they might palpate around your neck to check for a goiter, I would also suggest write down your list of symptoms regardless of how crazy they may seem or unrelated, jot them down and your GP is getting a bigger overview of what is going on along with how you are feeling physically, mentally and emotionally.

The standard thyroid function test in Ireland checks your TSH and T4 hormone levels. TSH is your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone which is produced by the pituitary gland and basically tells the thyroid gland how much or little hormones to make. T4 is the Thyroxine hormone and is one of the hormones produced by the thyroid gland. The other hormones produced by the thyroid gland is T3 which is known as Triiodothyronine. (and not forgetting the hormone Calcitonin which is thought to play a role in regulating calcium levels in the body).

thyroidbloods

It is really important that we dig a little deeper and understand the workings of the hormones a little better. You might have a lot of the symptoms of thyroid problems but yet your TSH and T4 levels are coming back within range so your doctor might say something along the lines of “all is fine with your thyroid, no need to worry!!” But if you haven’t noticed T3 is not routinely tested for in the thyroid function test. Which is disappointing and frustrating as T3 is the active hormone that our body uses.

T3 and T4 are collectively known as the thyroid hormones. T4 is a relatively inactive hormone and T3 is the active hormone, in other words it is the T3 hormone that our body uses as it is biologically active and influences the activity of all the cells and tissues of your body. Approximately 20% of T3 is produced by the thyroid gland and the remaining T3 comes from T4 being converted to T3 by the cells and tissues of the body.

So if you have had “normal” blood results come back and your still experiencing symptoms and nothing else is showing up in your blood work I would suggest requesting to test for T3 levels along with your thyroid antibody test. It is important to note that some people can have normal thyroid levels but their body can still be producing antibodies.

FYI from speaking with my Endocrinologist she advised me that in relation to TSH there is a normal reference range, from 0.2 to 5, however, the optimal range is 0.2 – 2.5 and for anyone trying to conceive or having fertility issues and you have been told that you are borderline underactive or that your are underactive you need to be making sure that your TSH level is at the optimal level and not just the normal level. This is a conversation I would strongly encourage you to have with your GP if it relates to you. If your not happy with their answer always ask for a second opinion and do your research.

My final piece of advice and this goes for all blood tests that you get done, is to always ask for a print out of your blood results and the ranges. It is so important to become an active participant in your own health and wellness and ask your care provider questions and get clarification if you need to.

In my own personal story I was nervous, doubting myself and unsure of “questioning” a medical professional to do extra thyroid tests, it took alot of courage to ask for the tests but I am so glad that I did. My GP was the one who initially referred me to the website www.thyroiduk.org and from there I learnt so much, it is a great place to start with and build your knowledge. There is also an Irish Facebook group called Thyroid Ireland.   and also some really good information on Dr. Neville Wilson website

I hope you found the information helpful and above all it sparked something in you to begin your path to optimal health and wellness.

 

Sources for this blog post came from:

https://www.btf-thyroid.org/

http://www.thyroiduk.org/

Disclaimer: I am not medically trained so please take the information provided here as educational purpose. I strongly recommend to go and talk to your GP, Doctor, Endocrinologist or medical profession. Start the conversation and get involved in your health and wellness.

 

Hashimoto’s

Hashimoto’s

Have you heard of Hashimoto’s? It is an autoimmune condition that is linked to your thyroid health but also to your immune system and is a lot more common that we might think. In the USA Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, and affects about 5 people out of 100.1  (I don’t have figures for Ireland, if anyone does I would love to see them).

hashimotos-pic.png

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that affects your thyroid functioning and sadly the stats show that women are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s than men, and while it is usually women between the ages of 40 and 60 that get diagnosed, it can occur in teens and young adults2 . Hashimoto’s is where the immune system create antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, over time as the thyroid gland gets damaged symptoms of an underactive thyroid appear.

Initially the symptoms of having Hashimoto’s maybe mild and go unnoticed, however as it progresses so too do the symptoms, which are very similar to an underactive thyroid;

  • Goiter
  • Tiredness / fatigue
  • Weight gain or unable to loose weight
  • Feeling the cold alot more
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Dry, thinning hair and dry skin
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods and problems becoming pregnant
  • Low mood or depression
  • Brain fog or memory problems

If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease there is a higher risk of you developing  another autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, ceoliac disease, pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency anemia), or lupus and visa versa, if you have another autoimmune disease you could be at risk of developing Hashimoto’s.

From a women’s health point of view, Hashimoto’s can cause fertility issues if untreated or not treated correctly and also during pregnancy it is important to keep a regular check up in your blood tests and adjust your medication accordingly. This is a conversation you need to have with your GP and Endocrinologist and they will advise on what your blood results should be for fertility and during the different trimesters of pregnancy.

To get diagnosed with having Hashimoto’s you need your GP to take a blood test from you. The pharmaceutical management of Hashimoto’s is the same as treating someone with an underactive thyroid and that is to go on medication, synthetic form of the thyroxine hormone, thyroxine is referred to as T4 in your blood work and  is the main hormone secreted into the bloodstream by the thyroid gland.

There are many lifestyle changes that you can start implementing into your daily routine that can help to support your thyroid, from the foods that you eat, managing stress, supplements, exercise, sleep and listening to your body and what it is telling you.

[1] Garber JR, Cobin RH, Garib H, et al. Clinical practice guidelines for hypothyroidism in adults: cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. Endocrine Practice. 2012;18(6):988–1028

[2] Caturegli P, DeRemigis A, Rose NR. Hashimoto thyroiditis: clinical and diagnostic criteria. Autoimmunity Reviews. 2014;13(4-5):391–397.

Disclaimer: I am not medically trained so please take the information provided here as educational purpose. I strongly recommend to go and talk to your GP, Doctor, Endocrinologist or medical profession. Start the conversation and get involved in your health and wellness.
What is your Thyroid and why is it so important?

What is your Thyroid and why is it so important?

This week I aim to open up the conversation and awareness around thyroid health. This is a health issue that I have personal experience of both in myself and many of my clients at Soma Wellness. I have noticed a trend of people being unaware of the importance of their thyroid, what it is and most importantly the lack of information provided by GP’s and Endocrinologist on how we can support our own thyroid health.

Many people who have thyroid health problems, take their recommended medication but yet see their blood results not improving or gradually getting worse and sadly this can be the same for the symptoms of thyroid issues, no ease up on the symptoms and over time getting progressively worse and not better.

Thankfully there are many simple lifestyle changes that we can decide to implement on a consistent daily basis that will help support our thyroid and hopefully start reducing the sometimes debilitating symptoms that comes with this hormonal imbalance.

Through a week long focus of Thyroid Health, I hope to inspire, empower and inform you so, that you will start to dig deeper, ask more questions, start to do your own reading and research on the topic and become an active participant in your life, living it the optimal potential that you have.

Are you ready………

To start with, we need to understand the thyroid, where it is and what it does. The Thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland located in our necks. It is part of the endocrine system. In simple terms the endocrine system regulates the hormones in our body, but it is a complex and intertwined network.

thyroidpic

The Thyroid gland produces different types of hormones (more on this during the week) For now we need to know the thyroid is pretty much involved in every cell function and helps to regulate vital body functions such as;

  • Heart rate
  • Breathing
  • Metabolism
  • Blood Pressure
  • Menstrual Cycle
  • Body Temperature

Naturally if the Thyroid Hormones are off balance, your going to feel off balance.  When our Thyroid starts to produce too little of the hormones it is know as Hypothyroidism or more commonly known as an underactive thyroid. If our thyroid produces too much it is known as Hyperthyrodism or overactive.

The classical signs of having an underactive thyroid are (but not limited to);

  • Slow metabolism, which can result in weight gain or unable to loose weight
  • Feeling cold alot more
  • Slow sluggish digestive system, constipation
  • Low mood, feeling of depression, unmotivated
  • Fatigue / Tiredness
  • Brain fog, poor memory

The classical signs of an over active thyroid can be but not limited to;

  • Weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Increase in appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irritability

Remember that the thyroid is involved in regulating vital body functions, knowing this the list of possible signs and symptoms can be anything.

If any of the above symptoms are resonating with you, I would encourage to make an appointment with your GP and have your blood work done and chat to them regarding your symptoms. Don’t push how you are feeling because you might be a new mom or your going through a stressful time or your caring for a family member or your working long hours, whatever way you may justify how your feeling. You are here to thrive in life, not just survive, dig deep and take ownership of your health and wellness.

Disclaimer: I am not medically trained so please take the information provided here as educational purpose. I strongly recommend to go and talk to your GP, Doctor, Endocrinologist or medical profession. Start the conversation and get involved in your health and wellness.

 

 

 

 

Can Reflexology Induce Labour?

Can Reflexology Induce Labour?

As a reflexologist I get asked this alot!!! The following scenario or something similar is not uncommon for me to experience. I receive a phone call from a stressed out and anxious mom to be who is in the final weeks of pregnancy 39/40 weeks, she has just had a hospital appointment and pressure is put on to book in for induction or to get a sweep by the medical staff to see if “we can move things along”.

expectant lady holding pen marking calendar
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Stressed and unsure mom turns to me to see if I can help bring labour on, she heard her friend went into labour the day/night after a reflexology session, She will do anything to avoid medical induction, she heard it’s awful!!! Straight away with this scenario you can sense anxiety, fear, uncertainty, doubt. All the things that can increase mom’s fight or flight response in the body, creating high levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which we know inhibits the feel good, oxytocin hormones (these are the hormones needed for labour to start).

So, to answer the question “Can Reflexology induce labour?”. Believe it or not Reflexology CANNOT BRING LABOUR ON!!! Sorry moma, BUT what I can offer mom at this stage is a beautifully relaxing and balancing reflexology treatment in a warm, softly lit treatment room that can encourage mom’s own body and mind to relax, let go of the stress put upon her and give her that all important time and space to just be and breath. I would encourage mom to use her GentleBirth app during a treatment and to listen to tracks like ‘fear release’ ‘birth rehearsal’ ‘confident pregnancy’ or some breathing exercises or positive affirmations, what ever feels good for her.

If the body has high levels of stress hormones, your body is essentially in fight or flight mode and saying don’t go into labour but run somewhere that is safeReflexology can be that bridging gap to help you find that calm, nurturing space to encourage the feel good oxytocin hormones to increase and quieten the stress hormones.

As your guess date approaches you may find it more beneficial to have more frequent sessions. Reflexology cannot induce labour, however, the general view is that it will help support the body to prepare for labour and birth and promote relaxation at a time when anxiety levels are often high.

field grass mom mother

What else can you do to help your body maintain a relaxed, balanced, happy state? The simplest answer is do what feels good for you, what makes you smile? laugh?

Having a baby, whether it is your first or not, will bring lots of wonderful experiences and challenges. Using reflexology  as part of your health and self care may just be what you need on this journey towards motherhood. If you are feeling in need of a boost or just some me time, contact me on 087-1917907 to book your appointment.

Anita

 

Anita is a registered reflexologist with the NRRI. You may be able to claim part of your treatment costs from your health insurance. Please check with them for further details.