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Women’s Health

Watch out, it only takes one sperm!

I can remember my teachers laughing as they read my homework.

I didn’t get what was so funny. There I was, at 15 years old, sensibly describing how, once sexually active (insert groan here), I would be taking the birth control pill and using condoms. Because that’s what good girls do, right?

They laughed and asked if I’d be keeping my tights on as well.

Having recently visited a family friend who was dying from AIDS, I was all too aware of what not using condoms could result in, and I believed that the pill was necessary, because it only takes one sperm to get you pregnant.

spermQuestionable choices.

I may have been drinking Jack Daniels during my lunch break, and making questionable choices in terms of clothing (and men), but in terms of sexual health, I was a very sensible young woman. I was on the pill, using condoms, volunteering in an HIV day centre and sat on a committee which looked at the sexual health of young people. I mean, I could’ve been the flippin’ poster girl for any “how-to-remain-disease-free-and-not-get-knocked-up” campaign.

My first pregnancy test.

But there I was, hiding in the bathroom, waiting to find out if I was pregnant. Praying that I wasn’t, and that nobody would ask me why I’d been in the toilet for so long.

I had believed the it only takes one sperm line so much, that despite using two birth control methods at once, I was still convinced that I might be pregnant.

300 million sperm.

That’s roughly how many swimmers are released each time your guy has an orgasm, and it is true that only one is needed, so it seems as if our chances of getting pregnant are really high. Because that’s a hell of a lot of sperm.

Turns out, it’s not always that easy.

I see a common theme amongst my fertility clients: They, like me, were told in their sex education, whether it came from their school, their older sister or 17, that it’s easy to conceive. But fast forward a couple of decades, and they find themselves in my treatment room, thoroughly pissed off that it’s a lot harder than they thought it would be.

You were a good girl and did your best to avoid parenthood till you were ready for it.

Now you’re ready, so ready that it’s all you can think of, and it’s not happening. 

I want to share with you some of the things I suggest to my fertility clients:

But before I do, if you’ve just started to try, and you or your partner don’t have any known reproductive issues, I largely just suggest you both take a good multi-vitamin (see link below) and have fun trying!

However, if you’ve been trying for six months or so, then this is what I suggest:

  • Manage your stress levels and get a good night’s sleep. How can you have regular sex, as required for conceiving, if you’re tired from not sleeping well and only interested in getting some shut-eye? Or, if you’re so stressed that you can’t shut off and actually enjoy sex, so it becomes something you do just to get his sperm inside you (ooooohh fun!). There are various therapies which can help with this, hypnotherapy being one of them. Chloe Brotheridge has some great free videos to help manage stress and anxiety which I highly recommend.
  • Start charting your cycle so that you can figure out when you’re fertile. This involves taking your temperature first thing in the morning and monitoring how your cervical fluid changes throughout the month. It’s particularly helpful if you have irregular cycles or, for various reasons, regular sex is hard to achieve so the timing is important.
  • In addition to tracking your physiological changes, also note how you feel emotionally. The richness of this information can help you to reframe how you view your body when you’re in the phases you’re not so keen on (because it can be hard to appreciate your period when you’re not trying to conceive, let alone when you are). You may also notice certain thoughts and emotions in the lead up to ovulation, which you can add to the when am I fertile? calculation.
  • If you’re not taking them already, get yourself a good multi-vitamin and fish oil. Your man too.
  • If you’re over 35 and have been trying to conceive for over six-months, speak to your GP and ask for blood tests to measure your hormone levels. Your partner needs to get his swimmers checked too.

And finally:

Maisie Hill AcupunctureWhether you’ve just started to try for a baby, or you’ve been trying for four years, here’s how I can help:

  • Arvigo therapy (Mayan abdominal massage) helps by improving blood blow to the reproductive and digestive organs. It focuses on the abdomen and lower back, encouraging optimal position and function, and as it’s largely a self-care practice, helps you to get to know your body and gives you a way to be proactive with your reproductive health.
  • Many women find that acupuncture helps to relieve menstrual-symptoms that can cause fertility issues. It also sits nicely along IVF cycles. You can read about how acupuncture can help here.

If you’d like support in the way of treatments, get in touch as I’d love to help.

Smart girls guide to oral

photo 2Some women aren’t into oral. 

It’s a bit tricky for me to put myself in their position because I love it. Some would say I’m a natural. When I do it, I feel powerful and enjoy knowing that what I’m doing is affecting someone in a profound way.

The women I’ve spoken to who aren’t into it, have told me that:

  • They feel awkward and stiff.
  • They get very little or no enjoyment out of it.
  • They fumble and things just don’t flow.
  • There’s other stuff they’re skilled at which they’d rather do.
  • They feel a degree of performance anxiety.
  • They don’t have a clue what they’re doing (or so they tell themselves).

I’m about to make life easier for you.

Whether you’re a woman who feels at home delivering oral *presentations*, or you’re totally freaked out at the thought of meeting a new client for the first time, let alone speaking in public, this nugget of info will help you to perform at your best.

photo 1Day 12 is where it’s at.

Hormonally, a woman’s oral performance is likely to peak on day twelve of her menstrual cycle. Now, obviously this depends on the length of each woman’s cycle, and where in her cycle she feels most at home. Some women will feel more at home during menstruation, but me, I’m an Ovulation Queen. I experience a natural expansive high around days 9 – 14: I’m social, and interested in connecting emotionally – intellectually – physically, so it’s easy for me to take advantage of the peak of Oestrogen on day 12, and use it to nail a workshop or client meeting.

Our hormones are trying to get us laid.

Why does this happen around day 12? Well, it’s often also the peak of a woman’s sexual desire, so given that ovulation occurs around day 14, it makes sense for us to be chatty and horny around day 12, as it takes sperm a few days to travel and find the egg. So very cleverly, mother nature has us out there feeling confident, horny and talkative, all so we have sex at the right time to stand a chance of conceiving.

Track your cycle.

I’m all about tracking menstrual cycles. If, every day, you jot down what day you’re on and a bit about how you’re feeling, you can start to track your own patterns. Women are actually far more predictable than the media would have us believe, and once you start harnessing the power of each phase of the menstrual cycle, you can get the most out life (more about this next week).

Plan your diary accordingly.

If you feel amazing around ovulation, try to schedule meetings where you need to perform in some way around this time; basically, anything that involves speaking. My guess is that if you feel good around this time (again, not all women do), then you’re more likely to do well. That might look like being more confident at a public speaking event, convincingly asking for a raise, or eloquently debating your point (whether you’re at work or home).

Work with me.

I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to explore the power of your own menstrual cycle. Maybe you find it a battle or go a bit nuts every month, or perhaps you want to raise your game at work and are realising this menstrual awareness stuff isn’t just a load of woo-woo.

I’m getting ready to launch a three-month coaching package at an introductory rate. I’m limiting it to six spots as I want to focus my energy on a small number of clients, so keep your beautiful eyes peeled for the details.

What the hell does “bleed well” mean?

Going shopping for food when you’re pre-menstrual or bleeding is never a good idea.

You know what I’m on about.

You felt so flipping amazing around ovulation that you said “hell yeah” to too many things. All the things you possibly now regret saying “yes” to are taking place when you’re in the “about-to-bleed-any-day-now” zone. That means you’re running around getting them all done, which means you have bugger all food left at home.

Sound familiar?

Now you’re negotiating the aisles of Tesco, annoyed with all the other people who are there (do they really need food right now, can’t they give you some space or at least be quiet?). You feel lost because you don’t know what you want (seriously, last month I spent five mins staring at different pasta shapes). You’re cranky because this is the one week of the month where they’ve decided Gü puddings won’t be on sale … it’s as if they know you’re gonna be jonesing for them. Sneaky bastards. Somehow, you make it out of there, but your bus is on diversion and it takes ages for you to get home. Some bastard (sensing a theme?) is eating chicken and chips which makes you want to vomit at the best of times, but now when your sense of smell is hyped up, you angrily wonder if you should just walk home. You sit it out but you’re filled with rage … which quickly turns to despair and tears when you get home, empty your shopping bags and realise nothing you bought constitutes a meal.

Ugh.

Back when I used to be paralysed by severe period pain, walking would really aggravate matters, so popping down to the shop was actually a nightmare, not ideal when you’re chucking painkillers down your gob which should really be taken with food.

One of the women at my recent workshop asked me what I meant when I said, “do what you need to do in order to bleed well”. For me, that means avoiding the above scenario.

My non-negotiables:

  • I don’t treat people the day before I bleed or on my first two days (unless the timing is crucial because of IVF etc).
  • I prioritise the 3 R’s: Resting, reading and writing.
  • I spend a lovely amount of time lying down and doing castor oil packs (to help the blood to move smoothly and painlessly).
  • I ‘bleed on it’. Anything I’m stuck with – ideas, relationships, projects – I hold in the energy of menstruation, and use the depths of this time to find guidance.
  • I set my intention for the new cycle; what do I want to focus my energy on?
  • Once in a while, I go technology free for the first two days (no laptop, no tv, no social media).

You’re probably thinking …

It’s alright for Maisie, she’s self-employed, she can do these things. I have a *very* busy life and there’s no way I can do anything like that.

You can.

Do something different. By 5%.

Can’t take a day off work? Plan ahead and don’t cram your day with presentations if you’re not going to be feeling up to them during this time. Take half an hour that is solely for you.

Need to be at your computer for work? How about you give yourself a break from Facebook?

Got kids to take care of? Once they’re in bed, sod the housework and have a bath (wine optional) and really get into that bath. Make it count.

Figure out what will help you.

Ask yourself: “What can I do to create some softness around this time? Where can I find some space? What can I do that will nourish me?”

And if you find yourself looking in your kitchen cupboards and on the verge of tears, you can always make this.

Now go forth and bleed well.

Shameless plug:

If you have menstrual symptoms which prevent you from bleeding well (been there, got the t-shirt), please please please get in touch. I’d love to help.

My big news

No, there’s no bun in my oven (sorry, doula sisters, you’re gonna have to keep waiting).

But, I do have some exciting news (don’t worry, not enough to challenge your pelvic floor): I’ve got a women’s health workshop coming up in May.

Read on, if:

  • You think that your period is the same as your cycle (it’s not, but don’t worry, it’s a very common mistake to make and everything will become clear on day one).
  • You’d like practical tools which allow you to create a life which is in tune with your body’s rhythms.
  • You want to know how to adjust your yoga practice according to your menstrual cycle (or moon cycle for the post-menopausal ladies).
  • You want to feel connected to your heart and womb so that you can hear and develop your own wisdom.
  • You want to reframe how you view your reproductive system (maybe you have menstrual symptoms / fertility issues / have experienced trauma, and have trouble loving this part of you).

“Why-didn’t-anyone-tell-me-this-when-I-was-fourteen?!”

I’m going to be busting out the need-to-know, can’t-be-skipped women’s health essentials. I’ll be giving you the low-down on some basic biology (there’s no test at the end, though if there was, I’m confident you’d nail it after this), and getting into the juicy business of how women change as we move through the different phases of our monthly cycle.

Life-changing, like my first time with Mimi.

There’ll be a super-insightful guided visualisation, complete with journalling / drawing (whichever floats your boat), so that you can journey into yourself and discover what messages are waiting to be heard, and that, ladies, is where the work gets BIG … I don’t want to spoil it, but you’re going to be learning how you can use your cycle to get the most out of your life. This work is often deeply emotional and spiritual, but with a very practical basis for living in the modern world.

After you’ve had a delicious lunch in our café – hello, millet burgers and raw chocolate cake – (other eateries are available), we’re going to be getting into a nourishing and insightful yoga practice, which will allow you to explore how you can adapt your practice to suit your needs as you flow through each phase of your cycle. Our afternoon practice, led by Mollie Morris and myself, will build on the wisdom of our morning session.

Broga.

Many traditional yoga forms were designed for men, with linear, movements and a focus on repetition and regularity and sometimes a military discipline. In some yoga traditions, we are taught to make our body fit the practice, or to skip the practice altogether. As women, our bodies have different rhythms and needs at different moments in our cycles.

Using seasonal traits to effectively manage our energy levels, we can also practice and embody different qualities based on our cyclic rhythms. This supports our bodies’ transitions through our cycles and stages of life. Expect to move and feel, but also to leave with inspirations for aligning your practice to your body (and not the other way around).

Sound good? Here are the details:

Saturday 10th May

10am-1pm & 2pm-5pm (each session is £30)

Sadhaka Yoga Centre, Camden, London, NW1

Ready to book?

Then head over here to book your spot for the morning, and here for the afternoon practice.

See you ladies there! 

Big love, Maisie.

P.S.

If you sign up for the whole weekend (Sunday features a Sister Yoga Circle and Belly Dancing), it’s only £100. Bargain.

I feel the need, the need to … breed.

It took a while for me to come around to the idea of having little people in my life.

In fact, for years, I was resolutely “no-way, José” (just kidding, his name wasn’t really José) but then something changed. I can’t put my finger on what, exactly, but something did. I’ll come back to this in a moment but first of all, as I’m talking about women’s “need” to reproduce, I want to be super clear about something:

I’m not saying all women feel the need to have children … and there’s no judgement here if you don’t feel the urge to have kids. That being said, my standpoint is that we don’t just create human babies. Working on a project is akin to growing a baby; sending it out into the world is like giving birth. We all nourish “babies”, my business is a baby … my plants are my (withering) babies. So if you’re reading this and not into the idea of breeding, you may want to read it from the perspective of the creative process, because that is a need as well.

Back to me.

When I started working as a birth doula, I was 25, managed a  late-night rock bar in Soho, and was uninterested in having kids. Now, I’m 33, in bed nice and early, and game on the kids front (those sentences aren’t as linked as they seem). Did supporting families during the childbirth year influence things? I’m sure it did.

Missed opportunities.

Regardless of whether you’re trying to conceive or not, each period can bring with it a sense of loss or grief. Sound bonkers? I assure you, it’s not. I’m not trying to get knocked up, but once my bleed (my personal choice of terminology for menstruation) arrives, my spirit recognises that there’s been a missed opportunity. There’s one less egg in the box, and although I know there’s way more than a dozen tucked away in there, it’s a *little* unnerving to see them disappear down the toilet month after month, literally and figuratively.

For many women, the desire to breed is a biological need.

And that’s what people forget. It’s *not* a cerebral decision, it’s *not* about playing house, it’s *not* a desire that you can magic away. You are not a cliché with a ticking clock.

Men, and their balls.

Ladies, I’m sure you’re aware of this already (and if not, get ready for the newsflash), but men need to – ahem – release the pressure on a regular basis. Yes, they *need* to ejaculate. It’s mother nature’s clever way of ensuring the best guys are in the pipes, ready for action.

It’s the same for us.

Ok, so for the purpose of this post, I’m separating out sexual appetite and yearning for a family. I am *not* saying that the female equivalent of a man shooting his load is a woman having a baby. Hell no.

Evolutionary biology means that procreation has been hardwired into our physiology, so let’s not minimise or judge how craving a child can dominate a woman’s life. Because it can, in every possible way. Whether she’s fourteen or forty, once a woman decides she wants a family, the way she views and makes decisions about her life changes. Her relationship with herself shifts, as well as those with others.

Baby handsWanting a family.

It’s primal: There’s no getting away from it. By its definition, it is “of first importance”.

It’s painful: Longing for a family can physically ache, and it can be a factor in some women’s period pain.

It’s unreasonable: Inappropriate partner / no partner / broke / just got your dream job. Guess what? Your body doesn’t care. It just demands to know, “where’s the goddamn baby?!”

Got baby fever?

I’d love to give you five tips to help matters, but I don’t have five. I can tell you that before a baby is potty-trained, you will have to change roughly 7,000 nappies (diapers for the Americans), does that put you off? No, me neither. In fact, I’m guessing that some of you would probably jump at the chance to deal with the “richness” of a toddler’s poo-pancakes.

Something useful for you.

This is a juicy topic, and it’s not always an easy one to chat about with partners / friends / family, but talking can help to lighten the load, or at least get started on that path. I’ve had so many of my clients unload when they step into my treatment room; the “empty womb” bag is a heavy one to carry.

If you’d like to speak to me about your menstrual health and fertility, I’m offering free 20 minute consultations over the phone or Skype, and I would love to chat with you if this article resonated with you. There won’t be any hard-selling from me. What I will do (with your permission) is put you to the front of the queue for a new programme which I’m opening up next month, so you’ll get first dibs if it feels like a good fit for you. It’s also a great way to suss me out if you’re thinking of coming for some treatments.

Interested? Then head here and holla.

Dates for your diary: 

I’m away on residential courses April 28th – May 3rd & May 6th – 8th, so if you want an appt with me, you can come and see me at Sadhaka on the 5th (morning only) and 9th (all day). Back to normal week commencing May 12th.

May 10th & 11th: I’ll be co-facillitating a women’s health weekend at Sadhaka Yoga Centre. Keep your eyes peeled for the details.

Struggling to lose weight? Do this.

Everyone’s got an opinion on what we should and shouldn’t eat; paleo, macrobiotic, gluten-free, veggie, high-protein, raw, 80:20, low-fat, juices and smoothies, vegan … the list goes on.

Health websites are filled with articles telling us, “why-you-should-eat-this-hard-to-pronounce-new-superfood”, and whilst I love a bit of quinoa (keen-wah), I’m fed up with being told what to eat. How about you?

Being lectured at sucks.

A client (let’s call her Alison) came to see me recently, as she has been trying to conceive for two years. Her biggest hope is that she and her husband conceive naturally, but she’s concerned that it hasn’t happened yet, so they’re exploring IVF as well. The thing is, her doctor won’t put her on the local trusts list till she reduces her BMI. So part of the treatment plan we developed together is to help her reduce her weight.

Alison has been to see other practitioners; she’s been given numerous lists of what to include and exclude from her diet, and as we started discussing her meals and energy levels, I sensed she was dreading that I would come down hard on her for – heaven forbid – eating an occasional burger, with bacon (clearly she hadn’t seen my instagram feed). She was therefore a bit shocked when I started asking her about how she eats.

Does your lunch break look like this?

Alison explained that due to her high-pressured work environment, she doesn’t actually take a lunch break. It’s rare for her to leave the office, and most of the time she eats her food whilst keeping an eye on her emails or reading documents. As she explained this to me, it became evident that this really frustrates her, but because it’s what’s seemingly expected amongst her colleagues, she doesn’t feel she can do anything about it. Instead, she eats her lunch whilst she’s stressed, and this is what I asked her to change.

Let’s shift the focus from what we eat, to how we eat.

Intestines; one of the more stressful meals I've shared.
Intestines; one of the more stressful meals I’ve shared.

When Alison eats whilst she’s working, she feels a pressure on her chest, a knot in her stomach and tension throughout her back and shoulders. If an urgent email comes through she gets palpitations too. Yikes, this isn’t exactly conducive to digestion!

When our bodies respond to stress, our blood gets diverted to our major organs such as the heart and lungs, because as far as our bodies are concerned, we’re preparing to fight an enemy or run away from a scary beast. Blood gets diverted from our gut because digestion isn’t a priority when we’re in flight or flight mode.

This means that when Alison receives an email from her boss (who in our evolutionary tale of stress shall portray the scary beast) asking if she’s done something she hasn’t managed to yet, her digestive tract shuts up shop.

So here’s what you can do to aid digestion:

  • Get away from your desk and emails. Give yourself permission to take a lunch break. Chances are everyone else in your office wants to do the same, be the leader! My guess is that your boss would prefer you to take a proper break as studies show that they increase productivity.
  • Eat at a table. If you sit in a slump, say in front of the tv / computer, for example, your digestive tract gets squished. Sitting upright at a table ensures your gut has room to work.
  • Slow down before you eat. Before you delve into what’s on your plate – no matter how amazing your food looks and smells, or how hungry you are – take some nice big easy breaths. Doing this helps you to come out of the stress response by sending a signal to your brain to move your blood back to your gut. It also helps your diaphragm (the muscle we use to breathe) to relax, which in turn creates space for food to travel down the oesophagus and into the stomach.
  • Eat slowly. Sometimes I catch myself doing this and it doesn’t feel good, so I ask myself, “what’s the hurry?” am I really gaining anything (time, pleasure, nourishment) by rushing my mealtimes? The answer has always been a resounding “no”, so I take a moment, centre myself by breathing and coming into my body, doing my best to package away any stress whilst I’m eating. Much better.

So many of my clients come to me with digestive issues, and there are lots of ways I help them (acupuncture, Arvigo therapy and reflexology), but a lot of the time it’s the work they do on their own that makes the work we do together more effective and long-lasting. Developing good eating habits around the way we eat can go a long way to improving your digestion and overall health, and it costs nothing but a tiny bit of time!

Shameless plug: 

If you would like support with digestive / fertility issues, why not arrange a free 15 min phone call with me to see how I can be of service to you? I’m big on being upfront about if I feel I can help you or not, and it may be that one Arvigo session is all you need to get cracking with some nourishing self-care massage. If not, then I have a few different treatment packages, and between us, we can suss out what’s right for you.

Boobs like boulders?!

photo

I’m thrilled to say that my wonderful and talented homeopath, Claire Zarb, agreed to write a guest blog post for me, and you. So here it is, thanks Claire!

Painful and tender breasts may not be the most challenging of PMS symptoms, but sore and swollen breasts can make you feel uncomfortable all the same. Breasts feel so heavy and sensitive that something brushing up against you makes you wince and you feel grouchy and vulnerable.

Breast tenderness is also known as cyclical mastalgia (breast pain that’s related to your monthly cycle, rather than something more worrying, like breast cancer). It’s a very common condition in women of a child-bearing age and the pain can vary from a dull ache to a burning or stabbing sensation. In most cases it starts one to three days before your period begins, and improves at the end of your period.

It is thought that the changes in hormone levels before periods begin are linked to cyclical breast pain. The menstrual cycle is controlled by your body releasing hormones, such as oestrogen and hormones are powerful chemicals that have a wide range of effects on the body.

What can you I do about it?

Well, unfortunately there is no magic bullet (*cough, cough* acupuncture! -Maisie), but I do recommend my clients the following supplements and protocols to help manage the pain. I will also prescribe the appropriate homeopathic remedies too.

Things to have more of:

It’s important to balance your hormones throughout your cycle. There are number of ways you can do this but mainly it’s important to eat a balanced and varied diet filled with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (preferably organic).

You should take regular exercise; aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. Do a group exercise class, walk instead of taking the bus, take the stairs instead of the lift and stand on public transport instead of sitting. There are lots of ways to be more active that don’t involve long and boring solitary sessions at the gym!

Essential fatty acids like Borage and Evening primrose oil are great for balancing the hormonal system. It’s important you also get a good intake of fibre from sources such as flaxseed and complex carbohydrates (oats, brown rice, beans, vegetables).

A good supportive bra can do wonders for breast pain. Many of us are wearing the wrong bra size, make sure you get yourself properly measured and ensure you have a supportive bra for sports too.

Things to avoid:

Saturated fat and dairy products

A high consumption of saturated animal fats has been shown to increase oestrogen levels which in turn exacerbates PMS symptoms like breast tenderness.  This is probably due to the hormones used in livestock farming and milk production (basically, farmers give cows oestrogen to make them grow and get fat).

Caffeine

Chemicals called methylxanthines are found in coffee, tea, chocolate and cola-type drinks, and they cause a dilation of blood vessels and cause fluid to accumulate.  This makes the breasts tender and painful, particularly just before your period.

Cut down your table salt intake

Salt (sodium) can aggravate fluid retention and breast pain. Think about the hidden table salt in foods that you eat, such as butter, bread, ready meals, crackers, crisps, canned foods. If you must add some salt to your food, use sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt instead which has a higher mineral content.

Contraceptive pill

One of the side-effects of the contraceptive pill is it makes you more oestrogen-dominant leading to possible breast pain and tenderness.

Homeopathy for breast tenderness:

There are over 50 homeopathic medicines for painful breasts depending on the causation and symptoms. They work best when they fit your individual symptoms so ideally make an appointment to see a qualified homeopath to get the right prescription. Here are just 4 that you might find helpful in the meantime.

Calcarea carbonica – large breasts swollen and tender before periods; the person who needs this remedy has a tendency to be overweight and has heavy periods and uterine fibroids.

Calcarea fluorica – small and hard breast lumps; uterine fibroids; haemorrhoids, varicose veins.

BusinessPicFolliculinum – swollen and painful breasts before periods due to too much oestrogen.

Phytolacca – heavy, hard, swollen and tender breasts; with painful periods and heavy blood flow.

Claire Zarb, LCPH is a qualified homeopathic practitioner based in London and all over the world via Skype. Claire’s company, Happy Homeopathy is aimed at women who wish to gain control of their hormonal health with natural solutions like homeopathy and flower essences. Claire is a regular blogger with a passion for women’s health. Please visit http://www.happyhomeopathy.co.uk for more information and to subscribe.

Ever feel like your body is failing you?

Are you happy with your body? 

Maybe there’s a part you’re not so keen on, a part which causes you grief of some kind, from time to time, or all the time. Do you ever hear yourself thinking, “I wish my ovaries / digestive tract / dodgy knee would work properly, then I’d be able to have a family /  lose weight / not be in pain / get on with my life in the way I want to” ? I’m betting that most of us have something going on which interrupts life in a way which is significant.

I love my body … now.photo

It took me a while to love some parts; I spent my late teens and early twenties wishing for some miracle grow for my breasts, and am now very thankful that they have remained as nature intended. And yeah, I do regret stretching my ears, but I can celebrate my willingness to experiment (cough, cough) and at least I didn’t do this –>

There’s one part which I’ve struggled with more than the rest; my womb.

You may have read my recent post about the pain I’ve experienced and I kept it fairly physical, but as you probably know, there are many other levels to being in pain. I don’t know about you but my mind takes me to some interesting places when I’m in pain.

The mental chatter is *so* much fun:

Why does it hurt so much?
What have I done to deserve this? Is it because of that time when I was nine years old and had new scissors to try out so I cut a hole in Katie Seagraves’ dress? Surely having them confiscated was enough!
Does it have to hurt this much?
Why me?
Surely labour can’t be any worse than this?
Do they give epidurals for period pain? How about morphine?
What have I done to deserve this?
Why aren’t the painkillers working?
I wish I was a man.
What is my body trying to tell me?
My womb is useless.
There must be something wrong with me … there’s no way I could ever get pregnant.
WHY DOES IT HURT?

It’s hard to believe in your body when you’re in pain.

Feeling pain occasionally, let alone all the time, can make you to believe that your body is broken and that certain things won’t be possible. My personal belief, is that this creates more pain. My good friend Hilary explains it like this: When you work with a colleague who isn’t pulling their weight, you don’t get the best out of them by saying, “you’re shit, you show up late, do half-arsed work which someone else has to sort out, you create loads of tension and effect everyone around you”. You’re more likely to get the most out of them by working with their positives.

If you’re hating on part of your body, try showing it some love instead.

Someone once said to me, “it’s as if your uterus is a big fist, saying “f@*k you” to the world”. Rather ironically, my womb is actually slightly heart-shaped. I’ve taken this as a sign from my womb that she needs more love, so that’s what I’m giving her. She gets a massage every day, and no, I don’t mean an internal one (though she’s really into orgasms too); I massage myself every day using Arvigo techniques. I listen to her desires and complaints, and make changes where I can.

Listen to your body, ask it what it needs.

Pain doesn’t just show up for no good reason, it’s a sign that something needs to change. Tune in and listen. It’s not always easy, but it is important. There are times when I’m a big fan of painkillers, but they can silence the message your body is trying to whisper / scream at you, so you may want to consider ways in which you can lessen your need to take them (and by the way, acupuncture is pretty nifty when it comes to relieving pain).

Maisie Hill AcupunctureIf you’re struggling with pain and are trapped in a negative conversation with your body, try this one simple technique: Talk to it as if it was a child. In other words, with patience, respect and tenderness. Once you enter a positive dialogue with yourself, the rest will get clearer.

Shameless plug:

If you want some help with the pain in your life (I don’t mean your significant other), I have an offer running till the end of March; a full consultation and six acupuncture sessions, plus one Arvigo massage so that you can get some belly love, and learn how to treat yourself on a daily basis in addition to the work we’re doing together. That’s seven appointments in total and I’m offering this package throughout March at the reduced rate of £520 (£65 off my usual price). Holla!

Is being a superwoman screwing with your health?

Hello, lovers. You’re in for a treat this week; a guest blogger! Meet Dr. Rachel Sterry, who very kindly agreed to write this super helpful post. Enjoy …

headshot3I recently picked up a copy of, Crime and Punishment, written in Dostoyevsky’s native tongue and didn’t understand one damn word. In the interest of full disclosure I should probably tell you that I’ve never studied Russian.

Sounds a little ridiculous, I know. But how is it any different from understanding a diagnosis, it’s implications and recommended treatments with the guidance of a doctor who has 5-10 minutes to devote to your entire healthcare experience?

Having been on both sides of this coin I’m going to take a moment and offer an apology on behalf of all of the healthcare professionals out there who have made you feel ignorant and unheard.  Secondly, I would like to offer guidance so that the next time you’re confronted with health challenge you don’t suddenly feel like your body has started speaking a completely foreign language.

Specifically, I’d like to share what I can about the thyroid.

Not only because it’s one of the most under-diagnosed and underestimated parts of the body, but also because it’s an area that I’ve had to come face to face with myself.

In the interest of time and space I have chosen to touch upon the key points in understanding the thyroid gland. Have another area that you are burning to better understand? No worries, I’m only an email away.

Ok, back to the thyroid. This is an area that effects many women and is often skimmed over by the mainstream medical community, being treated with a pill, a recommendation for repeat lab work in 6 months, and a pat on the back. I’m not saying that this isn’t a valid means of dealing with negative symptoms, but I would argue that this is far from treating the root cause of the imbalance.

Here’s the translated version.

Your thyroid gland is a key player in the regulation of mood, temperature, digestion, metabolism…The most common condition effecting the thyroid is due to an autoimmune disorder (Hoshimoto’s hypothyroidism) that causes all of the above system to slow down, leading to symptoms such as depression, constipation, fatigue, and weight gain.

Not only is the incidence of this condition on the rise, but its’ occurrence is 10 times more likely in women than men. Let’s break that down a step further. The gland that ensures you are able to maintain homeostasis is 10 times more likely to be attacked by your own immune cells if you are a woman.

Why?

Well, if you’re like most women who walk through my office door, myself included, you can relate to how much easier it feels to put your head down and push through instead of asking for help. And, if you dig a little deeper you might also be able to admit that this tactic leaves you feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

As women we often pride ourselves on being superhuman…laughing in the face of balance, swallowing any frustrations or requests we might have to maintain the illusion of perfection. So, is it really any surprise that the thyroid, a gland sitting right in the middle of our throat, is so susceptible to self-induced destruction?

Just consider how it would feel to put the full force of your abilities behind yourself.

Think how it might change your daily experience if you made sure to take care of you in the same way you care for everyone else. There is no need to continue to stoically suffer in silence. Using your voice is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of incredible self-assuredness and strength.

For those of you shaking your head in disbelief I would ask you, how many times have you chosen not to say something because you didn’t want to upset another person, or thought it would be easier to allow things to continue rather than make a fuss in advocating for any changes?

If you found yourself nodding your head in agreement at anytime then I’m willing to guess that you need to start a practice in self-advocacy. A practice that will start right now, with your commitment to using the word ‘no’ at least once daily. This is actually harder than it may sound. It requires that you turn off autopilot and sit with the requests of others before contorting yourself to please each and every person that knocks on your door.

Take it from me, if you are unwilling to make yourself a priority no one else will either.

We all deserve to feel supported, loved and healthy and that starts by recognising the connection between each of our actions and the reactions they cause in all of the thousands of cells in our bodies.

My invitation to you, and millions of other women around the world, is to find the strength to stop doing it all alone. Ask for some help to allow for the support needed to do more than mask symptoms, the support needed to begin true healing.

Dr. Rachel Sterry is board certified Naturopath and Primary Care Physician in the State of Oregon. She has worked with hundreds of women who want to feel like themselves again without more medication. For more information visit: http://DrRachelSterry.com

When you’re lost in a world of pain

Pain is a motherfucker. Apologies if that offends you, I know it’s not a polite way to start a blog post, but pain isn’t polite. It can come from nowhere and knock you sideways. It can mess with your head, and make you question your sanity and beliefs. It can drive you to do things you wouldn’t normally do. It can affect your ability to work, damage loving relationships and prevent you from enjoying activities which you usually enjoy.

I’m about to break the rules.

When you train as a therapist, you’re told to keep your own shit to yourself; “make it all about your client, not you”, and I agree with that, most of the time. When you visit me for a session, it is your time, not mine. In this space though, I’m saying “bollocks to it”. So many people ask me about how I came to this work so I’ve decided to be upfront: Here’s my story.

I have spent the best part of twenty years dealing with period pain.

Crazy. I didn’t realise till I started writing this post that it’s been that long. The pain was there right from the start, lessened when I was on the pill (but feeling depressed and having no libido didn’t exactly work out for me) and increased severely in my twenties to the point of being debilitating.

  • burnsOnce, I passed out from the pain … and fell straight into a bathtub full of hot water. Ouch.
  • I have had to lie down in public places because I couldn’t stand up or face getting home. People looked at me like I was a drug addict.
  • I have been unable to lie down, stand or sit. As a consequence I have looked like a woman in labour; on all fours gently rocking my hips from side to side, moaning and groaning.
  • I have regularly woken up in pain and run baths at 2 /3 / 4 am whilst impatiently waiting for painkillers to kick in.
  • I have felt like my coccyx and hips were about to snap open with pressure.
  • I have burned my skin to the point of causing blisters, THREE MONTHS IN A ROW, because the extreme heat of a hot water bottle was all that was helping to mitigate the pain, and the pain was so bad I had no awareness that I was also in pain from the hot water bottle.
  • There have been times when I have been close to calling 999 (911 for you yanks) and begging for morphine. Seriously, it was that severe.

I have spent ten years healing that pain.

Massage, reflexology, homeopathy, CBT, acupuncture, menstrual cycle awareness, osteopathy, yoga, Chinese herbs, Western herbs, flower remedies, psychotherapy, “hands on” healing … I have tried them all. I have begged for drugs, in my head and out loud. I have prayed to any and all of the gods available. I have taken copious amounts of painkillers and smoked small amounts of weed, and let me tell you, all hail the power of painkillers, be they natural or pharmaceutical. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

I’ve got it sussed now.

Amazingly, I’m now down to taking one painkiller per period, yup, you heard me, one, and that’s probably more a psychological crutch than actual physical need. Combining acupuncture, menstrual cycle awareness, Arvigo therapy and Homeopathy has worked wonders for me.

What this means for you.

This is why I’m so passionate about the work I do to help women with menstrual issues. I get what pain can do to you: I know the places it can take you, I know how it can interfere with every aspect of your life. There’s no judgement from me about how you manage, or attempt to manage it. I can handle the gory details, should you want to share them with me, in fact, details are helpful when it comes to treating you.

More than anything, I know that pain can be healed. I have faith, even if you’ve lost yours.

Do you know someone struggling with painful periods or menstrual issues? Send them my way. It’s time for us to stop suffering in silence. From my own experience I know how menstrual stuff can suck the living day lights out of you and it doesn’t have to. Contact me over here and we can get cracking.

What’s the worst pain you’ve experienced? How did it affect your life and what helped you to deal with it? feel free to share your tips and resources below in the comments section.

Shameless plug: I’ve just started treating out of The Shala, a brand spanking new yoga studio in West Norwood. To celebrate, I’ve put together an offer which is ideal for those of you looking for help with menstrual issues. Oh and because I’m lovely, it’s also on offer at Sadhaka in Camden.

A full consultation and six acupuncture sessions, plus one Arvigo massage so that you can get some belly love, and learn how to treat yourself on a daily basis in addition to the work we’re doing together. That’s seven appointments in total and I’m offering this package throughout February and March at the reduced rate of £520 (£65 off my usual price). I’m at The Shala every Tues and Thurs eve from 5pm – 9pm and look forward to seeing you all there, be it in the treatment room or on the mat. Holla!