Jan 16

Is it Really 2015? The State of Women’s Sexual, Reproductive & Hormone Health

From where I sit sometimes I feel like I get glimpses into the next millennium - hearing about and having access to some of the most incredible high-tech ideas, companies and science around the world - yet when it comes to women's health sometimes you'd hardly know its 2015.  While there are some exciting things going on in terms of tech so little of it boils down to the day-to-day life of women with these kinds of health concerns and it's not just a few of us.  Here's the nitty-gritty on just a few of the super important women's health issues that need so much more awareness & research:

Thyroid Disorder:

  • approximately 300 million people in the world have thyroid disorder & women are affected 8 times more than menHalf are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.  Patients, globally, are begging and sometimes "marching" for improvements to testing and treatment but it seems to fall on deaf ears and the standards aren't changing.   Untreated thyroid disorder causes issues such as: infertility, miscarriage, low IQ in infants and there is a form of postpartum mood disorder that is related to the thyroid which often goes undetected (see below).


  • Endometriosis effects 8.5 million North American women yet they suffer for 10 years (on average) before getting diagnosed! 

Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 7 million North American women and is recognized as one of the most common endocrine/metabolic disorders of women, yet many women haven’t heard of it and aren’t being screened for it even though they have the symptoms.  Part of the issue is the confusion - guidelines and diagnostic criteria are frequently changing.


  • Infertility – getting and staying pregnant - affects 6 million American couples.   There's so much misinformation on this topic and it is a daily roller coaster ride for anyone who experiences it.  It's like grieving for someone every month and hard to really explain to someone who hasn't gone through it. Sadly, some women I know have been encouraged to go for costly and invasive IVF before being adquately screened for other possible issues.  Thankfully new treatments, genetic testing and technology is creating rapid change.

Ovarian Cancer:

  • Ovarian cancer is the second most common and deadliest form of gynecologic cancer. It is referred to as the “silent killer” of women because it is usually only discovered when it is stage 3 or 4. Early detection would save lives - 94% of stage one ovarian cancer is considered curable (www.cancer.org), yet screening for the early signs of ovarian cancer doesn't happen because most of the signs overlap other disorders or seem vague. Many women and doctors don’t recognize the early signs - so know the symptoms and don't delay in seeing your doctor.  Find the symptom checklist here:  National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

Dense Breast Tissue:

  • at least 40% of women have dense breast tissue, the percentage is higher for post-menopausal women.   For these women mammograms, alone, are an inadequate screening tool for this huge number of women.  What's worse is that we often aren't told that whether or not we have dense breast tissue - the way to know is through a mammogram.  Women with dense breasts can request additional screening such as Automated 3D whole breast ultrasounds. 
  • Check out: Are You Dense? and Each One Tell One

Perinatal Mood Disorders:

  • 10 - 15% of women suffer from what is commonly referred to as Postpartum Depression (PPD) but is really better described as Perinatal Mood Disorders.  Women aren't being routinely screened, women feel shame and stigma and often don't seek help, a lack of understanding about these disorders, women are forced to advocate for themselves and be informed about the possibility of physiological causes such as postpartum thyroiditis and hormone imbalances.  Women need to know PPD is treatable. 

Hormone Imbalances:

  • This is such a broad topic and although it affects millions of us, it is still met with confusion, misunderstanding, lack of awareness and often just downright ignorance!  I constantly hear stories from women who have had their concerns minimized or even completely disregarded.  Even young women are experiencing hormone imbalances today that are being addressed by the typical standard of care:  birth control pills (oral contraceptives) and anti-depressants (SSRIs).
  • Women in perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause often experience fear and confusion, still not knowing whether to take hormones or not because there is so much controversy and self-interested parties it's hard to know what the right decision is.  The WHI (Women's Health Initiative) study was launched in 1991 and from a patient's perspective after 24 years the results still bring about confusion. 


  • 90% of hysterectomies are medically unneccesary.  Enough said?


It might seem like I'm in a gloomy mood about the state of women's health but I just think that to effect change we need to know that starting point.  As women, we need to know we aren't alone and to see these kinds of stats helps us realize that we can and should advocate for ourselves.  And although it's a bit dismal from where I sit sometimes - it's not ALL gloom and doom. There are incredible things happening thanks to entrepreneurs, doctors, e-patients, advocates and scientists in areas like home testing and monitoring, genetics, participatory and integrative medicine.  I promise I'll share some of the wonderful things happening soon too.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/the-state-of-womens-sexual-reproductive-hormone-health/

Nov 18

Uterus for Sale on Ebay: Is this What Women’s Health Has Come To?

Ann Truscott, wants more time to live and her brilliant friend, April Creed, is helping her get it in a most unusual way - by offering her uterus up for sale on ebay.  Yes, you read that right, her uterus.   


Uterus for Sale - Ebay


When I heard this story, all at once I was deeply saddened for Ann and her family and also overwhelmed with despair that someone would have to resort to becoming the best marketer of their crowdfunding campaign to get access to the treatment they want.  

And great marketing it is - April's eBay ad is witty and would be quite humourous if it wasn't such a grand example of what is wrong with today's healthcare, not just in Australia but globally.  Of course April isn't the only person crowdfunding for health, it's the dismal realization that now there are so many campaigns to get healthcare treatments funded that this is what it takes to stand out - selling a worn out old uterus on ebay!

You can listen to April's interview:



I'm left thinking:  

Good for you, April I love your go-get-em attitude!   You've brought more attention to the struggle many patients face than you probably expected!   Thanks for your advocacy! 

Best wishes to you Ann - I'm glad you have such a wonderful woman to call a friend and a chance at a prolonged life.  

I still pray for the day when women don't have to resort to extreme measures to get the healthcare they deserve.


You can check out and donate to Ann Truscott's GoFundMe campaign here.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/uterus-sale-ebay-womens-health-come/

Nov 03

The Fantastical World of Hormones

Thyroid Surgery 1890s

It's pretty sad of me to admit but it was a bit of a good thing for me to have gotten sick a few days ago.  Nothing major - just a really bad cold/flu that wiped me out for a few days. It's no surprise that I've been burning the candle at both ends, nor is it uncommon - many women I know do the same thing trying to juggle their personal and professional lives.  And we KNOW that the stressful, at times chaotic, lives we lead these days wreak havoc on our hormones!  So shame on me - but here's the thing - knowing is not always the same as doing!  

The good that came out of me laying low for a few days was that I got to read and watch a few things that had been on my "To-Do-When-I-Get-The-Time" list.  I wanted to share this BBC Documentary with you.  I finally took the time to watch it and it is FASCINATING!  I highly recommend watching it.  If you enjoy documentaries or are interested in hormones or the evolution of endocrinology you will find this really worth your time.  

The discussion goes back into the history of male and female hormones and how the medical understanding and treatment of hormone issues has evolved.  Beginning in the 1700s with the practise of pre-pubescent castration of male sopranos, to the belief that ovaries were the "nerve" centre in women leading to the removal of ovaries for the treatment of nymphomania, anxiety and hysteria in the 1890's (not all that long ago!), to injecting sheep’s “thyroid juice” into patients, finally to the more recent discovery of a hormone called leptin released by our fat cells.   

The take-away from this for me was that even though we've come a long way, the endocrine system is highly complex and and any knowledge we have gained has been in VERY recent years.  Couple that with the gender bias in medicine (remember the avoidance of using female lab rats due to their hormones messing up the research!?) which is a modern day disgrace and it is apparent we still have a long way to go. 

So grab a cup of coffee and have a look - I'm sure you'll be as fascinated as I am.



Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/fantastical-world-hormones/

Sep 22

Perfect Reason for Advocacy: Doctors are Still Using Power Morcellation!

Surgical LightsI am at the Health 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara today where there's lots of talk about patients participating in their healthcare, advocacy and patient safety and in fact, I will be on the stage on Wednesday speaking about women advocating for themselves.  When I stepped outside my hotel room this morning and saw on the front page of the Wall Street Journal the headline:  Gynecologists Resist FDA Over Popular Surgical Tool I felt sick.  If you recall my blog post:

A Doctor Told Me To Warn You: What Women Need to Know About Morcellation

The FDA put out a warning that the gynecological tool can spread undetected cancer AND the manufacturers of the device, Johnson & Johnson, removed the device from the market.  YET it has been discovered that doctors across the US (and possibly beyond) are still using the tool because they think that the risk is being overblown.  It's true the FDA didn't ban the use of the tool.  The risk they say is 1 in 350.  Are you comfortable with that risk?  Dr Amy Reed isn't - she was the 1 in 350 and the procedure spread her undetected cancer.  

Read her story here: Deadly Medicine

Are women being told that they are at risk for the spread of undetected cancer if they undergo the procedure?  Are they being told there are other procedures?  Knowing what I know about patients struggling to advocate for themselves coupled with the gender bias in medicine I am cringing right now.  

If anything, this has just strengthened my resolve to help women advocate for themselves. Patient safety is everyone's concern. Be an informed patient. Advocate for yourself and make sure you're comfortable with the risk you are taking.  No one cares about your health as much as you do.  

 In the spirit of Advocacy - Look forward to my upcoming chat with Sasha Ottey on her PCOS Radio Show where we talk about the importance of Advocacy, tips on how to advocate for youself and this is such a huge example of why we need to do just that. 



Permanent link to this article: http://www.hormonesoup.com/perfect-reason-advocacy-doctors-still-using-power-morcellation/

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/

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