What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Some of the more commonly known symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) include:

  • Irregular periods or no periods
  • Excess hair growth on the face, stomach and back
  • Loss or thinning of hair on the scalp
  • Acne and pimples
  • Difficulty falling pregnant naturally
  • Easy to gain weight or trouble releasing the weight
  • and being a light sleeper or inability to get a good night’s sleep

But did you know that having PCOS also means you are also at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes? I’ll explain a little further why.

So firstly, what is PCOS?

There is a misconception that women with PCOS means they have lots of cysts on their ovaries but that is not necessarily the case.

Often women with PCOS have underdeveloped eggs within their ovaries, so when they ovulate, the egg they release might not be mature and result in irregular cycles making it challenging for women to fall pregnant.

PCOS is a hormonal condition that is caused by a higher production of insulin and androgens (a male type hormone) in the body that impacts the way the ovaries function.

Is there a cure for PCOS?

From what we understand about PCOS, the short answer is no.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t women who are thriving with PCOS and who have gotten pregnant naturally.

Here is one of my clients, Liza sharing her experience with overcoming PCOS and adulthood acne:

Merly changed my life. How? Well, let’s go back to 2012. Life wasn’t exactly as I imagined my life would be. At 31 I was newly married with multiple health issues including adult acne, polycystic ovaries, stress and dare I say extremely unhappy. You see my husband and I had been struggling for a year to get pregnant without success. Another pregnancy test with only one line… Then there was Merly. (more…)

Liza, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

So what’s with these hormones?

Earlier I shared how women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of insulin and androgens in their bodies. The androgens are responsible for things such as the acne and excess hair.

Many women with PCOS, about 75-95% are insulin resistant which means the cells won’t let the insulin to do its job, so you end up with too much insulin and glucose in the bloodstream.

Insulin’s job is to to help the cells use glucose as an energy source.

The problem with this, is higher levels of insulin in the body results in an increase of male type hormones being produced and it becomes a bit of vicious cycle with the immature eggs within the ovaries.

Not only does that impact fertility but it also becomes a contributing factor for women with PCOS to be a higher risk of developing pre-diabetics and type 2 diabetes.

Tell me some good news Merly!

It’s not all doom and gloom. The wonderful thing is PCOS symptoms can be managed through diet and lifestyle such as:

  • Exercising to feel good but also to help balance hormones by reducing the levels of insulin in the body and managing weight
  • Eating a balanced and nutritious foods aswell as developing a positive relationship to food
  • Maintaining a healthy weight range, simply by reducing your weight by 5-10% can help with regulating your cycle and increasing your chances of falling pregnant

To support you on your journey to balance your hormones naturally, you can download my free 7 day hormone cleanse click here.

Thriving with endometriosis

Living with endometriosis is a silent condition because it’s not visible to the outside world. A woman could look happy and healthy but inside she’s in immense pain. Having witnessed one of my best friends struggle with it, I know how debilitating daily life can be even for her who has a high pain threshold. The first time I saw her in agonising pain and curled up in a ball on the floor, I panicked and wanted to call the ambulance because it looked that bad.

Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the uterus also grow in other areas of the body and responds to the hormonal changes causing not only severe pain but for some women they can experience fertility problems aswell.

How can endometriosis affect fertility?

  • Scaring of the ovaries which may interfere with ovulation
  • Scarring can damage or block the fallopian tubes
  • Scarring can prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus
  • The hormonal imbalance that could interfere with conception or development of the embryo

For my best friend, her symptoms were consistent with what many women suffer from endometriosis such as painful, irregular and heavy periods where the duration of her periods was up to 7 days. She was always tired and suffered from chronic fatigue. It didn’t help that she had a stressful job. She was willing to do anything to feel normal.

Her doctor advised her that the next step was to have a laparoscopy. Before she had the chance to have the surgery, we started working together to make changes to her diet and lifestyle to help manage her symptoms. Fast forward now, Laura is the mum of two gorgeous boys. You can read her story here.

So when I met Merly I had been on the pill since I was 17 for bad periods! I had to take an anti-inflammatory prescription for a week out of the month as they were so bad! After 12 years on them, I developed a very bad stomach ulcer and was told I could never take another one again. I was frequently bedridden and it was very heavy lasting 7 days! (more…)

Laura – Thriving with Endometriosis

Although endometriosis is a condition that has no cure, I believe you can thrive whilst living with endometriosis by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

If you suspect you have endometriosis, see your health care practitioner who can refer to a specialist gynaecologist. As a Health Coach, my role is not to diagnose or treat but to work as part of your multi-disciplinary team to support you with making those diet and lifestyle changes.

Here are some tips to support you:

  • Aim to do about 30 minutes of physical exercise every day. If you haven’t been doing any lately, choose something that you enjoy such as dance class, yoga or walking. Start slowly and build up. You might only do a 10-minute walk around the block every second day for example.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep. That could mean giving up coffee (or other caffeinated drinks), creating a bedtime ritual like a hot shower and body massage or setting a rule of no technology after 7pm.
  • Finding creative ways to help manage you stress. Sometimes having a notepad next to your pad to write down to do lists or random thoughts, starting a gratitude journal, stretching, scheduling me-time, seeking help from a psychologist, counsellor or health coach or just incorporating some deep breathing exercises a sprinkled throughout the day.

For more tips to help balance your hormones, you can download my free 7 day hormone cleanse click here.

The daily meditation practice for women with no time

You’re probably reading this now because you already know the benefits of having a daily meditation practice or have heard that meditation could help you manage your stress levels but feel like it’s an unattainable goal. Even the phrase “daily meditation practice” already seems time consuming and daunting to say the least, right?

But what if I said to you that implementing this special daily mediation practice is going to give you more time?

Yes, you read that right.

Often when we are time poor, we’re usually overwhelmed, over-stressed and over-worked. Our focus and productivity wanes. our modern busyness of life leads us to be completely unaware how much we are wasting because we’re committed to keep on moving, even if we’re dragging our feet by lunchtime.

Why meditation?

It’s free but also meditation can give you more time.

How? Meditation allows you to focus your attention inwards, cutting out the unnecessary clutter that could be causing confusion and indecision. When you have clarity and dominion over your thoughts, confusion dissipates and a call to action is visible.

If you have only a certain amount of time in the day and during these times you are more productive, you then create more time and have breathing space for the more important things in life like being present with family.

An effective way to incorporate meditation is to adopt what I like to call is the heart-full minute.

  • Put your hand on your heart and take 5 deep breathes. The goal is to focus on feeling the heart beat on the palm of your hands whilst noting your breath going in and out. Feeling your heart pulsate in itself bring your back to life force that is you.
  • You don’t need to think nothing, it’s perfectly normal to have thoughts especially judgmental thoughts about if you’re doing the heart-full minute correctly or what you need to be doing straight after the meditation.
  • To bring your focus back, start noting your breathe. So as you breathe in, say in your head you’re breathing in and so forth as you breathe out. Noting is a great tool to bring your attention back to stillness when you catch yourself carried away with your thoughts.

You might think a minute isn’t that long but you’d be surprised. The heart-full minute can be done anywhere and anytime, so many opportunities such as while you’re on the toilet, waiting at the grocery line, breastfeeding or having a shower.

Do this enough times and you get the compounding effect that meditation will get easier and easier the more you do it.

Finding practical ways to reduce stress in your life is a great foundation to help you balance your hormones and boost your fertility. For more tips to detox your mind and body, you can download my free 7 Day Hormone Cleanse here.

The one thing to give up to reduce your risk of a miscarriage

When I was at university, I worked part-time at an Italian restaurant and drank a lot of coffee. I drank so much that I pretty much became immune to this delicious drug. I could drink easily 4 cups before bed and still go to sleep. Now I don’t know what the quality of my sleep was like but let’s just say, coffee didn’t keep me awake.

Since then, my love affair with coffee has made me become a bit of coffee snob and café maven. Before kids, when I drove past a new café, it was a must that the car was to be stopped to try out what was on the drip.

Now with kids pretty much attached to me 24/7 it’s sub-standard coffee on the go, although I’m hanging out for the launch a new collagen coffee (watch this space).

If someone said to me that coffee was bad for my health, well then we would have to come to some sort of compromise because hey, we need balance in our lives right?

Fortunately, the jury is out on that, as there are some pros for good coffee.

But if someone said to me that coffee increases my risk of a miscarriage, well that was an obvious coffee ban on the spot.

woman holding gray ceramic mug
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

I know what it’s like to have a miscarriage. Both of my boys were conceived after a miscarriage, so I get the heartache and the disappointment to learn that pregnancy didn’t progress.

Although I cannot fully comprehend how hard it would be to have a miscarriage one after another, I have worked with clients who have and helped them with their pregnancy to full term.

What’s interesting is many of my clients happen to also be coffee addicts too so as painful as this might sound for those who love coffee and are trying to get pregnant, I’ll share some information to soften the blow.

I think firstly it’s important to know that miscarriages are more common than we know.

We just don’t talk about it.

Around 60-80% of miscarriages happen due to genetic abnormalities because it’s the body’s design to ensure we are destined to have healthy babies. Especially in our modern-day culture, we don’t really share our pregnancy news until the 12-week mark.  

Having a miscarriage even in the first few months can be heartbreaking. I believe it’s important that women can feel safe to share within the inner circle of their pregnancy news so if it things don’t go to plan; they have a support network to comfort them during this venerable time.

In a study done by the Researchers from the US healthcare firm Kaiser Permante in Oakland, California, they found in their study that caffeine intake increases the risk of miscarriages. Now the study wasn’t talking about coffee specifically but coffee would be the biggest dietary source of caffeine. So if you’re not a coffee drinker, then consider other sources where you might be consuming too much caffeine, such as tea and energy drinks. Just drinking more than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily, increases the risk of a miscarriage twofold.

What we found was that if women have heavy caffeine intake — greater than 200 milligrams a day — they have double the risk of miscarriage than women that don’t have any caffeine.

Dr. Li a Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiologist

But why?

Although it’s not clear how caffeine affects conception, what we do know is that caffeine crosses the placental barrier and can reach the developing foetus according to the study.

Some medical professionals speculate that caffeine can have an impact on the developing embryo in the uterus or even the maturation of the egg before conception even occurs.

The good news!

It’s not forever. Bottom line, it’s probably a good rule of thumb to completely give up caffeine when you’re trying to conceive and at least for the first trimester of your pregnancy to reduce any risk of a miscarriage. Hey, there is always decaffeinated coffee!

For more tips to get you pregnancy ready, you can download my free 7 Day Hormone Cleanse here.

What to do when you feel overwhelmed and stressed

In the past week, I have been feeling so overwhelmed with what is going in my life right now that I haven’t been present when I’m with my children. As I was breastfeeding my son to sleep at 7pm at night, my mind was racing when I should have been just enjoying the quiet peaceful moment of the two of us as he drifted off to sleep.

When I was pregnant with my second son approaching his due date, I was still working on the phone and attending the meeting with clients whilst wrangling a 2-year-old toddler. People would question when I was going on maternity leave and I would say I was going to work right until I popped. I had always been a good multi-tasker. I thrive best working under pressure. With my firstborn I figured since I was able to study, work, start a new business and raise a breastfeeding baby without the need to pump, I could do pretty much anything. There lies my biggest problem. The illusion that just because I could do everything, doesn’t mean I should do everything.

So leading up to the birth of my second son, I was doing just that, everything. Little did I know I had internalised a lot of my frustrations and anger, it would then erupt out of nowhere mostly directed at my husband, who was apparently supposed to be able to read my mind all the time! It was then my midwife gently said that sometimes the baby doesn’t come until the mother is ready. Here I was just doing my thang until the baby came. At no point did I consider maybe the baby is waiting for me. I know of other mums who took at least a week off, even up to a month to get into the nesting spirit and although that sounded wonderful, in reality, I think I’d rearranged the furniture a trillion times before the day was up.

Often when we are excellent masters of time, we often assume that we have everything handled even when we don’t. I had been terribly moody, getting very cranky at hubby for not seeing the obvious such as washing the dirty dishes. At the time, I had the hugest belly, so I was finding extremely difficult to lean over and wash the dishes but again, I never explicitly told him to help me even though he does our laundry and everything else, I just assumed he’d know about the dishes.

So what did I do?

I set my last day of work that Friday and took a big breath and wrote down a list of all the things that were floating in my head. Now you’re probably thinking, oh Merly a “To Do” list? Well not exactly. What you want to do is take away the mental load that is taking too much space and causing stress and anxiety because it’s just getting too heavy.

The thing with each item you write down, some might be something as simple as setting up your out of office email response, bulk cooking for the week or buying more bin bags to bigger stuff like paying the overdue mortgage repayments, getting the carpets cleaned before baby arriving or booking flights for Christmas. Regardless, how trivial or major the items are, they all weigh the same when their floating in your mind, hence the mental load can be overwhelming and stressful.

Writing a list is a great way to just dump the junk on paper so that you don’t have the pressure of having to remember. Even remembering the points is a mental load in itself! For me having a hubby who can’t read my mind, during our in-home date night over a cup of tea while our son was asleep, I’d run through the mental load list and delegate tasks that he was happy to do. It was wonderful because he had no idea that I had a trillion things on my mind and as a soon to be dad-of-2, he felt useful that he could do something to ease the pressure.

The following Wednesday, I gave birth to baby Axel.

Coming back to now, I realised as my baby boy started to snore, I did a commando crawl off the bed and went downstairs to write down my list.

When we feel overwhelmed and stress, this has a direct impact not only on hormones but also our immune system. With what is currently happening around the world, with many of us couped up at home, we need to do as much as we can to keep our immune system strong and healthy.

For more tips to start balancing your hormones, you can download my free 7 Day Hormone Cleanse here.

Is motherhood brain-numbing and lonely?

Recently I saw a post from a stay home mum who was saying that she wasn’t afraid to admit that although she absolutely loves and adores her kids, being at home all day everyday can be seriously brain-numbing and lonely. She added that of course, she could be in an uninspiring job working the 9-5 wishing that she was home with the kids, so either way she was doomed!

What I took from her dilemma was regardless of what circumstances you find yourself in, do something you love and gives you joy.

That’s not to say divorce your family or quit your job, instead look for joy in what you do and perhaps incorporate more things in your life so that you do feel fulfilled.

Right now my son JohnnyMax in playing independent with is toy trains, something I’ve been encouraging before Axel was born so he didn’t need mummy so much. Axel is strapped on me in a carrier as I type this. Prior to this he was asleep on the bed and woke up crying as if he had a bad dream. At this moment, instead of being frustrated that I had a moment of “me-time” completely stolen from me, I felt this overwhelming appreciation that I was his safe place. Being able to hold him and settle him immediately, welled my eyes with tears knowing that he 100% relies on me to keep him feeling safe, secure and loved. These are the pockets of joy I’m talking about.

Throughout the day, in-between naps and play, I also get to work on my side hustle which gives me tremendous joy. It gives me the fulfillment of mental stimulation (building a business to fund our family travels and saving for house goals), connection with other adults (my amazing team) and feeling of contribution (financial rewards) whenever it suits me.

In the last 6 months, I was pretty much MIA, busy with the finishing touches of growing a 4kg baby, preparing my home for a homebirth and getting as much family time with our only child before we become a family of 4. It’s these moments when I can step back and still see that my business continues to support our family.

Remember what your focus on grows, so what are you focusing on? If you want more joy, focus on the joy already in your life and you will attract more of it.

Putting yourself first

Today I took myself out to a cafe to sit alone and read. Having this quiet time filled me up with joy. 

I’ve been guilty since becoming a parent not making “me time” a priority. Having children had shifted my perception on what was important and ultimately I had created a habit of putting myself last.

But as I sat here in my lonesome bliss. I found my cup overflowing with gratitude and missing my boys. It’s taken me a long time to get here. Whenever there was an opportunity for me to have “me time” I would quickly dismiss it as there was always something more important to do. Taking time for me had always felt somewhat selfish.

It’s only with the perseverance of my husband literally shoving me out the door for 3 years, that I realised it’s okay to take time to fill my cup. 

Our kids need us to be healthy, calm and present. Being a conscious parent is the ability to hold space for our children especially when things get tough and the days are full of tantrums and big emotions with these little people. It’s hard to feel in control when we’re running on empty. I didn’t want to be that mama that spent her days screaming and crying in the bathroom. 

After speaking to so many mamas about how-to’s raising multiple kids, I’ve come to my own conclusion I can do anything if my heart is full. Waking up being grateful, getting to live another day and seeing motherhood as a privilege, I now know that filling my cup and making me a priority is how I can be the best mother for my children.

What fills your cup?

Is vaginal discharge normal?

For some reason I dislike the term vaginal discharge. Discharge to me carries some negative connotation that implies the body is rejecting or expelling fluids because it’s bad or somehow unhealthy. However vaginal discharge is in fact a very normal function of the vagina to ensure the area of the vagina and vulva is kept clean by removing bacteria and maintaining moisture.

So now that we now know that vaginal discharge or secretions are normal, let’s talk about the secretions and why it’s such an interesting topic and why every woman needs to know.

Throughout our monthly cycle, our secretions change in colour, viscosity, smell and even taste as a result of the hormonal changes happening in our bodies!

The skin of the vulva is very sensitive and delicate, so it’s important to recognise any changes that may indicate an infection or irritation. Some things that aren’t normal include redness, swelling, burning or itchy sensations, the skin is splitting or cracking, the skin feels too dry or that the odour is unpleasant.

Some immediate things you can do is avoid wearing tight underwear such as G-strings and clothing. Switch to breathable underwear that’s made of cotton.

Avoid using products that can further irritate the skin and may contain harmful chemicals that affect the balance of the bacteria. Consider switching your laundry detergent / powder to clean label products, avoid feminine hygiene products that often have synthetic perfumes and toxic chemicals, use organic cotton sanitary pads / tampons, avoid any perfumes to make the area smell fresh, switch to plain unscented or natural toilet paper, avoid “fancy” condoms and when looking at lubrication used for intercourse perhaps opt for natural oils like almond oil.

It’s important to seek the advice of your healthcare provider and in the meantime, since the weather is warming up in Sydney, make a trip to the beach, it’s amazing how healing a swim in salt water can do!

What fruits and vegetables to avoid

The Environmental Working Group EWG released the 2019 Dirty Dozen where they have listed my son’s favourite fruit, strawberries at the top of the list.

Although sometimes it can be expensive to buy organic (certified or uncertified), you can skip organic produce listed under the Clean 15 and try to aim for organic produce listed under the Dirty Dozen below:

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes

However it’s still better and healthier to eat fresh locally grown produce, even if it’s not organic than nothing at all.

There is nothing more satisfying and beautiful than seeing a plate full of colourful fruits and vegetables being enjoyed by the whole family.

What’s your favourite fruit or vegetable?