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Sep 15

My Vision for the Future of Women’s Health

Featured at Health 2.0 - LargeI can't even describe how excited I am to be heading down to Silicon Valley next week to take part in the Health 2.0 Conference.  And not as a mere bystander but rather, as a speaker and innovator!   I've talked about the company I founded, Open Source Health, on the blog before and this is the first time we are going to be giving a sneak peek at the technology my team is developing so I wanted to share the news with you. 

Even though it's me as CEO of Open Source Health speaking at the conference - I feel compelled to share that part of my life with you - because this entire journey began when I started blogging here at Hormone Soup.  It's the women from over 100 countries who have reached out to me through Hormone Soup and felt a connection to my stories that have inspired me.  

From tears to action - bringing ideas to life! 

I've shared many tears with some of you over the state of women's health.  My passion for women's health runs deep and despite the challenges we face with our healthcare system the way it is I have such hope for the future of healthcare in this new digital age!  

There's no point building something that's already being done so what I am doing is disruptive, it's innovative, it's integrative, and best of all it's women-centric!  I can't wait to share it with you on September 24th!!  

 

 

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/my-vision-for-the-future-of-womens-health/

Sep 12

September is PCOS Awareness Month

By MesserWoland  via Wikimedia Commons

Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a prevalent and complex health issue among women but has really been a mystery disease.  Affecting between 6 - 10% of women, it is considered one of the most common endocrine disorders among women - yet about half are undiagnosed.  It affects so many areas of a woman's life, including being the leading cause of infertility.   Clearly PCOS needs all the attention it can get!    

Here are some of my favorite PCOS websites:

PCOS Challenge - Sasha is one amazing woman - she's creating so much awareness for PCOS by starting a 501c3 non-profit organization and has created a PCOS Symposium,  Blog, Radio show, PCOS television series, forum and e-zine!

PCOS Diva - Amy is truly an inspiration and helps tons of women with her PCOS programs! 

Soul Cysters - great place to connect with other women who have PCOS

PCOS Foundation - comprehensive site with lots of great information and PCOS Symposium held in Texas

PCOS Nutrition - great site with lots of nutritional information and access to nutrition counselling which you can book online

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association - lots of information on PCOS to be found here

PCOS Awareness Association - Another amazing initiative to raise awareness and provide tons of great information to women with polycystic ovarian syndrome

Dr. Fiona, ND - A naturopathic doctor and woman with PCOS, Dr. Fiona takes an integrative approach to PCOS - her site has some great articles. 

Androgen Excess and PCOS Society - an international organization that promotes research and knowledge of androgen excess disorders - you can become a member of the society. 

 

Let me know if you have other sites that you could recommend - I'd love to share and help spread awareness. 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/september-pcos-awareness-month/

Aug 05

Is Your Hormone Health Being Addressed?

Doctor Prescribing Oral Contraceptives

Doctor Prescribing Oral Contraceptives

 

My hormone health has been an issue that I have struggled to get adequately addressed since my teens.  I was perplexed by this in my 20's and into my 30's.  Getting to the reasons why was an evolution of sorts for me as I imagine it is for many women.  Since there was no such thing as the internet when I was in my teens I lacked the resources available today.  I remember going to the bookstore and searching for books on hormone health but in the late 80's and early 90's there was little available.  My mom was, and still is, an "old school" patient who doesn't question the advice of her doctor.   That left only one person I could really ask - my doctor.  Sadly my doctor back then, and the many to follow, didn't have the answers I was hoping for - 5 pregnancies, 2 miscarriages, 3 children and 3 provinces later.

 

Typical solutions every time I asked about my hormones were:

  • birth control pills - to "regulate" my menstrual cycle - in fact oral contraceptives don't "regulate" anything - they stop you from ovulating which isn't your body's natural state.
  • antibiotics for acne - which often cause a yeast infection so was given more medication to prevent yeast infections.
  • fertility medication - for infertility which was actually just me being anovulatory (meaning I didn't ovulate and had irregular menstrual cycles for reasons which were not investigated).
  • SSRI's (anti-depressants) for PMS and postpartum mood disorder which was due to my severe hormone deficiencies.
  • or even worse no solution at all - miscarriages that were due to progesterone deficiency and my OB/GYN, following standard protocol, told me to try a third pregnancy without blood tests, ultrasounds, checking my history or intervention of any sort.

Every single time I felt that it was my hormone health in question and that it wasn't being addressed.  

Some of these "solutions" I accepted and moved on and some I refused.  The common feeling I had, whether I "adhered" to the doctor's recommendations or not was that I NEVER once felt like we were getting to the root cause!

 

And apparently I'm not alone.

 

I wanted to know what other women thought about how their hormone health was being addressed and here's some of what I discovered in our recent survey of Canadian women*:

 

 

 50% of women do NOT think their hormone health is being properly addressed by their doctor. 

and a further 

19% of women did NOT KNOW if their hormone health was being properly addressed by their doctor. 

 

If you are one of the almost 70% of women who doesn't think her hormone health is being properly addressed - you're probably right.  It's been a long road of ups and downs and I started this blog because I kept meeting women, maybe a women like you, who doesn't feel that her hormone issues are being adequately addressed.   And maybe you too, will start trusting your intuition.

 

 

  

*About the Survey

We completed a national online study based on a survey with a random sample of the female population in Canada completed in both English and French using a Vision Critical consumer panel (n=2,500).

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/hormone-health-addressed/

Jul 30

My Interview about Perinatal Mood Disorder on Rogers TV

I'm always grateful for a chance to speak about one of the topics I am most passionate about - Maternal Mental Health.  In this interview, Derek Fage and Julie Beun talk with me about Perinatal Mood Disorder, more commonly refered to as Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Mood Disorder - and the need for greater awareness.  
  Check out my Rogers Ottawa Daytime interview:  
   

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/tv-interview-perinatal-mood-disorder/

Jul 22

40% of Women Cannot Identify the Full Spectrum of Perinatal Mood Disorders

Perinatal Mood Disorder

Perinatal Mood Disorder

We've all heard of Postpartum Depression by now but I really wondered, do we know what it really entails?  I am one of those women who fell through the cracks because I didn't know about Perinatal OCD or Anxiety.   It is one of the reasons I started Hormone Soup - to create awareness and so other women could know that they aren't alone! We conducted a survey of 1300 randomly selected Canadian woman and set to find out how much women really know about Perinatal Mood Disorder which is the Number One complication of Pregnancy.  When we asked women to identify the full spectrum of mood disorders surrounding pregnancy and the postpartum here's some of what we found out:

Depression - 93%   

The good news is almost everyone recognizes Depression!  Thanks to so many awareness campaigns by organizations and bloggers and the medical community!   The job's not done though - we still have 7% of people who didn't get it.

Anxiety - 83%

This number was pretty high as well - higher than I had thought it would be actually - 83% of women know that anxiety can be associated with pregnancy and the postpartum period.  But it still leaves room for improvement - almost 20% of women didn't know.  I was one of those women who had no clue.   Panic Disorder also falls under Anxiety - some women develop debilitating panic. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - 25%

The crack widens with OCD and I am not one bit surprised.  I think when we think of OCD we tend to think of the Howard Hughes germaphobe.  That's not the type of OCD we're talking about here - women can experience many different types of intrusive thoughts and/or visions and they usually involve harm coming to the baby in some way.  The thoughts can involve everything from someone else harming the baby, the mother harming her own baby, disturbing sexual thoughts about the baby, accidents happening to the baby.  As you can see, it's no wonder women aren't talking about it - it's terrifying when it happens.  And, furthermore, it's scary to admit this kind of stuff.    But we absolutely need more awareness here.  New research is showing Postpartum OCD affects 1 in 10 new moms!  Let's get this number up and start talking about it.

Bipolar Disorder - 22%

I'm sure this one doesn't surprise many of you - it's still confusing in the medical community as well I would say.  Researchers are trying to figure out myriad issues here, such as women who have depression "convert" to bipolar disorder with pregnancy, confusion diagnosing women with either bipolar or depression, the link between bipolar disorder and psychosis.

Psychosis - 30%

This is disturbing to me - even though Postpartum Psychosis is considered "rare" effecting approximately 1 or 2 per 1,000 babies being born, it is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention.  We definitely have work to do here.

Maternal Mental Health involves everyone

I really believe we can help each other as women - because the woman who is in the throes of one of these disorders may not know herself or be able to figure out what's going on - she may need your insight.   Know the symptoms in case it happens to 15 - 20% of the women you know.  
   * The percentage of women who recognized the disorder as part of the spectrum of mood disorders associated with pregnancy/postpartum.  
   
 About Sonya:I am striving to make a change - women's health is my passion and that is why I felt compelled to start blogging at Hormone Soup and more recently start an online healthcare platform that will provide women with the real tools they need to help them take the driver's seat in their own healthcare.   My long time vision for women's health is being realized and we have some amazing things going on over at Open Source Health - I've gathered an amazing team of people that are also passionate about women's health and experts in their field - I think you'll be impressed.  Head on over and see what's going on.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/40-women-identify-full-spectrum-perinatal-mood-disorders/

Jun 25

The Relationship Between Autoimmune Disorders and Hormones

UnknownI'm very lucky to have had a Q&A with Dr. Fiona McCulloch, ND about the relationship between Autoimmune Disorders and Hormones. She specializes in integrative women's health & fertility at the White Lotus Clinic in Toronto.

What are the Overall Characteristics of  an Autoimmune Disorder?

An autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system attacks "self" tissues in the body. Normally, our immune systems are key defenders against pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately when these same mechanisms turn against our own tissues, things can begin to go very wrong with our health.  Autoimmunity can result in a variety of symptoms, depending on which particular tissue is being targeted by the immune system.  For example, in autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto's disease, the immune system targets the person's own thyroid gland. This results in lower thyroid function over time and symptoms of hypothyroidism.

How Are Hormones and Autoimmune Condition Interrelated?

The immune system and the hormonal system are interrelated and actually assist in each other's regulation.  Overall, autoimmune disease is far more common in women, which is believed by some researchers to be influenced by the fluctuations in hormones that women experience.  Alterations in the immune system can profoundly affect a woman's hormone balance.  Autoimmunity is characterized by inflammation, which can disrupt hormonal processes in the body.  Many hormone systems can be affected, including the thyroid and the female sex hormones and including the balance between estrogen and progesterone. There is also some new evidence to suggest that autoimmunity can even disrupt the male hormones in a woman's body, resulting in premature menopause.  In polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the most common hormonal disorder in women, there is a higher than normal rate of autoimmune processes.  With respect to fertility, autoimmunity has been associated with diminished ovarian reserve and premature ovarian aging, recurrent miscarriages, and thyroid disease which has a profound effect on a woman's fertility. It's important that any women who is having difficulty conceiving with any of the above conditions, be screened for autoimmune markers.

What are the Top 3 Things a Woman with an Autoimmune Condition Can do to Improve her Hormone Health?

In my opinion, the top 3 things that women with an autoimmune condition can do to improve hormonal health and fertility will include:
1) Healthy diet, high in vegetables and fruits, and low in allergenic foods such as gluten.  Also, all processed foods should be avoided as much as possible.  With regards to autoimmunity specifically, gluten is known to open the tight junctions in the small intestine, allowing the contents of the intestine to be "seen" by the immune system beneath the intestine.  This area, known as the GALT (Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue) is where the majority of our immune cells grow and as such, disruptions to this area can alter the immune cells in their developmental phases.
2)  Stress Reduction. Numerous studies show that stress can increase inflammation related to autoimmune disease.  Yoga, meditation, prayer, and relaxation time are key to healing autoimmunity. Pinpointing stressful areas in life and working to reduce the impact of stress is key to helping to recover normal immune function.
3) Sleep. Getting a good amount of sleep is critical to healing autoimmune disease.  Research suggests that long-term disruption of sleep cycles may even be involved as part of a trigger for autoimmune disease.  Sleep deficits impair normal immune function.  As such, particularly if you are experiencing fatigue, it's important to do your best to implement quality sleep patterns whether that be through lifestyle change, or supplements aimed at improving sleep quality.  
ABOUT DR. FIONA MCCULLOCH,ND Dr. Fiona is a Toronto based, licensed board-certified Naturopathic Doctor with a special interest in naturopathic fertility, women’s health and hormonal health. Her research includes the areas of autoimmune infertility and luteal phase defect.  She works with the White Lotus Clinic and is currently working on her first book that tackles the subject of healing PCOS naturally.  She writes a blog on wellness here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/relationship-autoimmune-disorders-hormones/

Jun 17

BabyBump | The Only Pregnancy App You’ll Need

How times have changed. When I was pregnant, books like the quintessential “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” was my pregnancy go-to bible. I also relied heavily on advice from girlfriends with children. As good as all that was, there wasn’t one place I could go to for advice, information and to chronicle my journey. Today, technology and more specifically, mobile apps have changed the way we gather and seek information. BabyBump is an example of one such app that does what it does very well. photo 2 BabyBump is a fully loaded information and journaling app for expecting or soon-to-be expecting parents. Available in English, French and Spanish, users start by entering the due date and current weight. The free version is generous with features that include a journal to track your weight, mood, appetite and energy, photo journal, community forums, daily and weekly development updates with images, integration with Twitter and Facebook and even for something fun, a pregnancy countdown. Soon-to-be parents receive daily tips about the physical changes, moods and common symptoms that reflect a specific point in time in the pregnancy. For example, it’s reassuring to know that prenatal headaches are common around day 44 of the pregnancy. There are even tips for dads along the way.   Weekly updates focus on baby’s development, including the baby’s size and weight. I love how Babybump compares the baby’s size by making comparisons to common food items like a poppyseed, blueberry and cauliflower, which provide anxious parents with a perspective they can actually relate to. If you like to keep a pregnancy journal, it’s easy to do directly from within the BabyBump app. Track your weight and waist measurements, cravings, appetite, mood and more, including photos of your growing baby bump, which can be viewed as a slideshow. Whether you’re trying to conceive, in your third trimester or undecided on baby names, the pregnancy forum is a place for expecting parents to ask questions, share experiences and even poll baby names. photo 1 Available for iOS and Android devices, the ad-free pro version sells for $3.99 and also includes a kick counter and contraction tracker.
BIO Wendy, aka AppHipMom, loves her 2 kids and her iPhone, not necessarily always in that order. She is an app obsessed mom who loves everything tech and is (unfortunately) old enough to remember the brick Motorola cell phone and the Commodore computer. If you have tweens, be sure to check out Wendy’s other site, Tweenhood.ca, an online magazine for parents with kid’s ages 8-12.
   

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/babybumpthe-pregnancy-app-youll-need/

Jun 02

My Interview with Maureen McGrath on CKNW’s Sunday Night Sex Show

I was thrilled to be interviewed by Maureen McGrath of CKNW [Vancouver] on her Sunday Night Sex Show last night! We talked about Perinatal Mood Disorders and how hormones are at play. Listen to the show here!  

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/interview-maureen-mcgrath-cknws-sunday-night-sex-show/

May 30

Blogs About Maternal Mental Health

Mother with babyMay is Maternal Mental Health Month - it is a month dedicated to bringing the awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders to the forefront for discussion. These disorders have an impact on, and alter how, mothers interact with their babies and how they can care for themselves. We've talked quite a bit about Maternal Health, both on this blog and through our social media outlets.  Talking about it is important, and my hope is that it helps other people. There are several blogs dedicated to this subject.  These blogs are a forum to share the stories and experiences of women who have navigated the world of postpartum mood disorders. One of the biggest assets in working to overcome these challenges is knowing that you are not alone. Although we all approach life, and life's challenges differently, I honour these women for sharing their stories. Do you know of other blogs dedicated to this subject? If so, list them below. Sonya

  BLOGS THAT TALK ABOUT POSTPARTUM-MOOD DISORDER

James & Jax

Tranquila Mama

Farewell Stranger

PPD to Joy

With a Little Love and Luck

My Postpartum Voice

Butterfly Confessions

Bipolar Mom Life

To Breathe Again

Ivy's PPD Blog

Multitasking Mumma Kate Kripke

Giggles & Grimaces

Fox in the City

Beyond Postpartum Blog

All Work And No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something

RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

Postpartum Support International

Postpartum Support International is dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth.

Postpartum Progress

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/blogs-surrounding-maternal-mental-health/

May 28

Menstrual Hygiene Day | The Call for Healthy Feminine Hygiene Products

Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day - its a day dedicated to discussing the issuesSanitary Napkins And Tampons surrounding menstruation on both a global level and  an individual level.  The overall goal of the day is to reduce the taboo of discussing our periods openly with each other, which is important  - as women we know that sharing turns into knowledge, and that knowledge is power. Much of the literature that went out about this day discusses the right for women to have access to appropriate hygiene products.  This is important, but I want to take it one step further and state that I believe all women should have access to healthy hygiene products. I want to continue in the spirit of the day, continue to break the taboo of speaking about our periods, and share information that I feel is relevant to all women. Mass produced and highly commercial hygiene products are  filled with chemicals and hormone disruptors.  A quick search online will lead you to a tonne of information relevant to the potential dangers of these products. I've broken down the information here:
  • Chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and can go unfiltered into the blood stream.
  • Skin around your vaginal wall in thin and very permeable, so it matters what you put next to it.
  • Companies are not required to disclose the ingredients in their products because they are considered “medical” devices.
  • Tampons are made with a combination of synthetic rayon and cotton. Cotton ‘sounds’ great, but consider this: cotton is one of the most pesticide sprayed crops in the world. The white and fresh look of cotton is actually quite deceiving!
  • The whitening of pads and tampons is often done by chlorine. The use of chlorine leads to the creation of dioxins “which are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer”. [Source: World Health Organization] Dioxins accumulate in the body and are known hormone disruptors.
  • Rayon, the product used in tampons, is a derivative from wood pulp. Some people believe that this may irritate the sensitive skin in the vaginal area with small abrasions and cause our bodies to be even more vulnerable to the concentration of chemicals.
  • Many pads and tampons are scented. Synthetic fragrances cause hormone disruption which is linked to sperm damage, cancer, thyroid disease, reproductive toxicity and obesity.
So, what does a woman do?  Don't worry, there are alternatives:
  • Use Cloth pads: Companies like Lunapads offer non-toxic and environmentally friendly alternatives.
  • Menstrual Cups, such as the Diva Cup or Lunette are growing traction. I did a quick survey of friends and a surprising number of them use the cups regularly and swear by them!
  • Menstrual Sponges such as the Sea Pearls Sea Sponge
  • Organic cotton disposable tampons and pads such as 7th Generation or Natracare Products
If this makes you angry, that's good! The team over at Women's Voices For the Earth have launched a campaign to start bringing awareness to this issue. They encourage you to take action, talk about it, and get involved. The idea of a Menstrual Hygiene Awareness day may initially sound trite, however, it encouraged me to speak out today. Speaking about these products, raising awareness of their dangers, demanding better options and better care for women and girls begins one step at a time - one voice at a time. Thank you for listening, and thank you for sharing.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/menstrual-hygiene-day-call-healthy-feminine-hygiene-products/

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