Three years ago, I gave birth to a healthy little boy. I was lucky to have a relatively easy pregnancy (just some minor gallbladder issues) and a textbook delivery. But since then, I’ve battled several health issues that have felt debilitating at times. And nearly every doctor's visit I brought them up, they were written off as being “that’s just motherhood,” often leaving me feeling hopeless. Not to mention, having these uses described to me as “typical” made the mom guilt set in big time as I thought I wasn’t as good as other mothers who were clearly handling this better than me and doing their makeup each day. A few months ago, I had had enough.
The chronic left hip pain, intense mood swings, anxiety and lack of energy needed to go. I decided to take control of my own health. Here’s how.
Worked With a Personal Trainer for Moms
Pre-pandemic, I went to a doctor for the pain in my left hip that would occur if I did anything from wearing heels to running. Sometimes the pain would be so bad I couldn’t move. It was explained that SI joint dysfunction was likely a result of my body releasing a lot of the hormone relaxin at the end of the pregnancy. I got an MRI, tried physical therapy, etc. Nothing helped. So I switched from my male sports medicine doctor to a female personal trainer—Kirsty Sandberg of Got Vitality—who focuses specifically on moms. She explained that I needed to strengthen my pelvic floor and gave me exercises to increase my strength overall without compromising the stability of my hips. I’m not back to 100% yet, but I can run on flat terrain for several miles and get through a strength-training workout without pain now.
Took a Look at My Hormones
Sandberg also happens to be a hormone health specialist and explained that it sounded like I had estrogen dominance. I looked up symptoms and it seemed like a match. Mood swings? Irritability? Worsening PMS symptoms? Anxiety? Fatigue? Trouble sleeping? Night sweats? Yup, I had them all. To confirm the suspicion, I used the at-home testing service Everlywell’s Women’s Health Test. I simply followed the instructions for blood and saliva collection (all of which I could do at home), sent the samples in, and a few days later, had my results. The verdict? I had estrogen dominance. Now I was armed with information and clarity that would help set the stage for other ways to control my health.
Hired a Holistic Nutritionist
In my research on estrogen dominance (and my conversations with Sandberg), I learned that food can majorly affect hormonal balance. But I wanted to go beyond a traditional nutritionist and hire a nutritional therapy practitioner trained to examine the root cause of my symptoms. And I wanted someone who focused on helping women feel their best after pregnancy. That’s how I found Taylor Cole. When working together, I filled out a 320-question assessment about my health (what doctor has ever asked you that many questions?!). In turn, she created a plan and goals for me to get my hormones back in balance. She explained things like blood sugar regulation are essential for our hormonal health. I used a Nutrisense monitor for four weeks to track my glucose levels and learned which foods worked and didn’t work for me. The data was eye-opening. A salad I thought was healthy actually caused some serious blood sugar spikes thanks to the sugar snuck into the dressing. I started making the suggested changes, and in eight weeks, I have already experienced more sustained energy, better sleep, less bloat and fewer mood swings.
Tried Acupuncture (and Other Alternative Practices)
Cole also explained how high cortisol levels (aka the stress hormone) could have detrimental effects on our hormones. (Side note: the EverlyWell test also showed I had elevated cortisol. She suggested I needed to find ways to de-stress to get these levels down. I was already exercising, which helps, but I turned to alternative practices as well. First up was acupuncture. I headed to ORA Acupuncture in New York City as they are known for their thorough evaluation and spa-like setting. Their practitioner also noted the imbalance in my body and proceeded to provide a session to restore harmony. After 30 minutes there, I felt like I was floating on a cloud. I’ve since made acupuncture a regular part of my routine, timing sessions around key points in my cycle. It’s not only forced self-care, but I also noticed after a few sessions my PMS symptoms diminished and my period was more “normal.” I also tried Reiki as a relaxation tool and a way to remove blockages. It was only two sessions, but after both, my anxiety was significantly reduced.
Got a New OBGYN
This whole process made me realize these health issues were not in my head or just part of being a mom, and I needed a doctor who would listen to me. While my top-rated OBGYN kept my baby and me healthy during pregnancy and delivery, he wasn’t so helpful when I was battling overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks when I started to wean from breastfeeding. And he told me that I needed to tell him what birth control method I wanted to use instead of suggesting what might be best for me. Enter a new doctor. I started seeing the team over at Tia, a comprehensive women’s health practice that focuses on all gynecological health and mental health. My yearly check-up didn’t feel rushed and there was a long discussion about my emotional well-being and birth control options. Plus, they act as my primary care doctors so all my medical information is in one place. Just to be listened to was a relief; I encourage all women to find a doctor they’re happy with.
If you’re reading this and nodding your head, know you’re not alone, and you have options to get your health under control. Speak to a doctor you trust and don’t be afraid to get advice from various sources. This self-imposed quest finally has me feeling close to back to normal over three years later. Now, if only someone could get my toddler to sleep past 5:30 a.m.!