Hi, I’m Lauren


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Getting Your Hormones Tested

Getting Your Hormones Tested


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I am not a doctor. As always, consult with your physician.

When I stopped taking birth control in January of 2019, I researched it and took proper precautions. I began seed cycling, popped a prenatal, and took my temperature every morning just to get into habit. I had heard of post-birth control syndrome and wacky hormones and wanted to do my best to help my body balance. Fast forward to almost 2 years later and I am still battling post birth control issues like acne and hormone imbalances.

To set the stage before going any further in this topic today, I just want to say that I’m not anti-birth control. I am pro-knowledge. If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have ever started “the pill”. To be fair, hormonal birth control (HBC) is still a relatively new drug and we are constantly finding out new things. Additionally, I’m not sure I would have known how to find the root of my issue back then versus just taking the pill so I could lead a semi-normal life. For example, at my college freshmen orientation, I passed out and had to be carted back to my dorm room. The culprit? I happened to start my period that day.

Cardigan | Paperclip Necklace (c/o) | Daily Ritual Tee | Mott and Bow Jeans | Black Uggs (but I meat to wear these shoes - LOL)

 

I started this Women’s Wellness series to share information that you may not have heard and to encourage you to research things, find the best doctors for you, and empower you with knowledge that quite frankly should be discussed more and even taught in schools. Without further ado, let’s talk about HORMONE TESTING.

The headline for today’s topic is that I think all women should get their hormones tested just to see where they are at. I am not a doctor!! Just a patient ;) I was aware of the hormone panel, but thought I could heal myself and didn’t think I had any major issues. While I’m still pro getting ahead the issues and helping yourself as naturally as possible, if I quit HBC again, I would seek help and get my hormones tested a lot sooner… BEFORE symptoms started to rear their ugly head. Note that there are still a lot of natural ways to balance and a doctor can help you sort through supplements and all that jazz. It’s not weak to go to a doctor for help.

So this hormone test… details? Before I get into that, I want to encourage you to find a hormone specialist. I got really lucky and was able to find one that was also an OBGYN. This means that she not only specializes in what I’m needing help with, but that she also takes insurance as an OBGYN, whereas more natural doctors often do not. Since moving to LA I hadn’t found a new gyno yet, so I killed two birds with one stone -score! I am also lucky in the sense that my doctor does believe in some Eastern medicine in addition to Western medicine. She was the one who suggested I edit my diet a bit, see an acupuncturist, and add in some other supplements. I’m truly thankful for both Eastern AND Western medicine and wish they were used hand in hand more often.

If you can’t find a hormone specialist near you, I would recommend reading up on all of Dr. Jolene Brighten’s work, because it is so helpful. She has a website, but a really helpful book too - it is called Beyond The Pill. Basically you should get a full hormone panel + AMH on day 2 or 3 of your period. The panel looks at things like DHEA, testosterone, etc. AMH tells the doctor how many follicles you have on your ovaries / your egg count which is good information for diagnosing certain things in addition to family planning discussions. If you are on HBC or have some form of IUD, wait around 3 months after you have stopped use before getting your hormones tested, as it needs to try and regulate / normalize for an accurate read. For more information on this topic, you can read her post here about hormone testing. It has a lot of details!! As always consult with your doctor too. Just know that some doctors who don’t specialize in this may not be as well versed, so know what you want ahead of time. I have friends who weren’t able to find a specialized provider, but did find one where they could say the tests they wanted and when they wanted to do it.

Okay so how did I know I should get tested and what prompted me? I have been tracking my cycles for 2 years. I’ve noticed throughout that process that my cycles were short, as they last around 24 days versus 28-32. This typically means that the luteal phase is short, meaning there’s some sort of imbalance. I mentioned it in passing to my doctor in Dallas and she shrugged me off. To be honest, I felt really dumb and just didn’t really think about it again. This doctor also told me that it was not a good idea to go off birth control, as other methods weren’t as efficient. The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is what I have been using and not only is it effective, but is also an amazing way to truly tune in with your body.

In January of this year (2020), I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I’ve mentioned it before, but what really prompted me to go see a GI doctor was that I was breaking out all over my face, all the time. This is often a sign of gut imbalance, plussss I had other symptoms that pointed to a gut issue. My skin / face was actually what was the final push of what got me to see a doctor. Vain, but true! While my skin has cleared up significantly since getting my UC under control, it still has not been great. Granted it has been a crazy / stressful year and masks add more issues in the acne department. This time, my skin didn’t actually prompt me to go to the doctor. In August I had a cycle that was only 14 days. In the back of my mind, I thought about getting tested and such previously, but I kept putting it off. I guess because partially I didn’t want to know if something was wrong and partially because of the pandemic. After that short cycle I was like “OKAY BODY I’M GOING TO THE DOCTOR. I GET IT.” Our bodies give us all kinds of signs. Are you listening to yours?

I researched to find my doctor current hormone specialist / OBGYN and made an appointment. The first was a consultation where I mentioned what was going on and my history. She told me to come back on the 2nd or 3rd day of my period and ask for full hormone panel + Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) and then come back 2 weeks later for a vaginal ultrasound. Unfortunately, I had to wait about a month, because my period had just finished. She initially thought I had PCOS and recommended I cut gluten and dairy. She also suggested I see an acupuncturist who specializes in women and hormones, so I did ~ and I’m still seeing her. LOVE HER and I hate needles. Hah!

I went in on the 2nd day of my period to get my full hormone panel + AMH. I would have preferred the 3rd day, but that day was a Sunday and they are closed - I went in on a Saturday / my day 2. I almost decided to wait another cycle to get the 3rd day, but I wanted answers ASAP. At my office, bloodwork takes 3-5 days to process, then you have to have an appointment to go over it. I was able to align my ultrasound with the results, which worked out great. Just a side note - you want to do schedule your ultrasound to be 2 weeks after your bloodwork, as that is most likely when you’l be ovulating. The doctor can tell if you’re ovulating when they do the ultrasound, which is great, especially if you are thought to have something like PCOS where ovulating isn’t always occurring. When they do this ultrasound, they are also looking to see how many follicles you have, which should coincide with your AMH level test results.

When In got the test results back, my DHEA (short for Dehydroepiandrosterone) levels were the only ones that were out of wack / something we could try to fix. They were more than double the “normal” rate - Mine was over 600 and “normal” is less than 300. This can often come across as symptoms of high testosterone, which could explain my acne and imbalance. Though I didn’t end up having PCOS, she still recommended that I not eat gluten or dairy, to help combat the above symptoms. She also told me to continue taking DIM, Vitex, and a topical progesterone she had prescribed the appointment before. Unfortunately, the test did show that I had low AMH / egg count. It doesn’t look hopeless / they are good quality, but with my age (29), there isn’t much time left on them. Numbers wise, it was above 1 (1.32) which good, but below average, which is around a minimum of 4.

I wish I had gone to doctor sooner for a lot of reasons. One reason is for knowledge. The other is to know which supplements I should have been taking. I had started taking Vitex earlier this year and had heard of DIM, but didn’t want to take too many things at once / shake things up, especially without a doctor’s help. If I would have started DIM earlier, I think my acne would have cleared up sooner. To be honest, I’m not seed cycling anymore. I stopped the day of my initial doctor’s appointment with her. She didn’t tell me to stop or anything - I did it on my own accord. I did it for almost 2 full years. I was tired and disappointed. While I think it can help you stay balanced, it isn’t going to fix an imbalance that is really out of wack all on its own. I do hope to start back up once I’m more balanced and everything, but for now I’m jut trying to get those nutrients in my everyday diet. I went about 3-4 weeks without any gluten or dairy. I do have it occasionally, but still try to limit it as I do think my digestion is better without it and I’ve noticed that I have less closed head comedones around my chin.

Another hormone test option is the Dutch test. It is typically done with urine or saliva and is complete 5-7 days after ovulation, which is “usually” somewhere around day 19-22. It gives you a full picture of sex and adrenal hormones and their metabolites. I have not done this test, so I cannot speak to it, but it is a great one if you need more information.

Looking for ways to save money and test at home? Modern Fertility is a great option! It was made by doctors, has on-call staff, and allows you to test and understand by yourself! They serve as a great way to stay informed about your body and a good starting point to bring to your doctor’s attention should you need to. The best part is that their tests are easy to understand!

That’s all for today! I plan on touching on acupuncture, FAM, vitex, and more, so stay tuned for more Women’s wellness pieces. Stay well!!

P.S. You might be wondering, what do these pictures in vineyards have to do with this topic it at all?

1) This year I’ve learned a lot about silent diseases and issues you can’t see. People have a lot of things going on that you can’t see and problems like UC and hormone imbalances are just a couple of them. Let’s be kind always, but especially with this in mind.

2) I feel like this year is a “season” in our lives we won’t forget. Just like these vines go through growth and change, so do we. The vines aren’t showing next year’s crop yet, but man are they beautiful. Try and enjoy the season you’re in right now! XOXO

UPDATE 02.02.2021 - I recently tested my progesterone levels. I actually had hunch that they were low before I ever sought help; however, it is a separate test and something we hadn’t done yet. You test progesterone levels around days 19-23 (whichever day works best for you - it should be 5 - 7 days after you ovulate) of your cycle. The “normal” range is between 1 and 23 and mine came back 4. My doctor prefers for it to be above 10, so I will actually begin taking a progesterone supplement as well. I am taking a bioidentical progesterone from a natural pharmacy in town. Hopefully it helps balance me out more!


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