I went to visit my doctor in October to speak about my concerns about something being off with my hormones. She was very caring, listened to my concerns, but suggested (based on the evidence I provided) that this was all stemming from anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I was, and she referred to mental health services and eventually went private to get the help I needed sooner rather than later. If I hadn’t I would’ve still been on the waiting list now rather than been getting the help I needed straight away.
However, my hormonal concerns seemed to be brushed to the side. Let me preface this by saying that I love doctors. I have friends who are doctors and I am pretty much the biggest cheerleader for the NHS that there is. I have seen the American system and the NHS and I would choose the NHS every. single. time.
Like I’ve mentioned before, one of my intentions for 2018 it to trust myself. I knew that the anxiety was a thing, but I can feel in my bones that there is also something going on in my body. Most likely hormones, but maybe just some deficiency that is creating a cascade of hormonal-like problems?
Taking action — getting to know my body again
I started using menstrual cycle tracking apps to see how long my periods were. They were getting shorter. My 26-28 day cycles have shrunk down to 23 day cycles. My last cycle was 22 days. I have been taking and charting my basal body temperature since that doctor’s visit in October to get more information about what’s been going on in my cycle.
What I had learned was that my ovulation day is now much later than it was pre-pregnancy. I typically day on Cycle Day 17 instead of 14ish. That isn’t such a big deal, but crucially, my luteal phase (the part of your cycle after ovulation), has been crazy short. 6 days.
Why is a short luteal phase a big deal?
In short, it means it’s likely that your progesterone is low. Progesterone is a hormone and is beneficial because it helps create a good old lining of your uterus for any fetuses to implant to, if you’re into that kind of thing. A luteal phase of less than 10 days is considered short, with some recommending 12 days minimum to avoid miscarriage.
Even if you’re not into making babies any time soon or are done making babies, it can cause other nasty things like low libido, fatigue, brain fog, depression/anxiety and vaginal dryness among a host of lots of things (check out the link. There’s a lot!). In other words, totally not things you need in your life if you want to be thriving!
So didn’t you say something about a test?
Ah yes, the test. So I was feeling a bit dismayed that my hormonal issues were dismissed by the doctor I saw and the possibility of going through all the trouble to make a doctor’s appointment and taking time out of my day just to be dismissed again just made me feel frustrated. I decided next time I went to the doctor, I wanted to be armed with information. So I looked up a few, and choose one using the finger prick method rather than having blood taken by a professional (which cost an extra £25), saved up the cash (£59) and ordered it.
What is it like?
It came in a fancy box, with everything you needed (except which days of your cycle you had to take the sample, with was in a separate e-mail that kept hiding in my inbox, annoying!).
I have given blood countless times since I turned 18. I’m an old pro. Finger pricks don’t scare me, I’ve had it done umpteen times and The Brit is Type 1 diabetic. And well, we’ve tested my own blood sugar from time to time using his tester kit for shits and giggles. I’ve always been a good donator and had no reason to believe I would have any issues.
Taking the sample
I treated it a bit like I would before going in to donate blood. I had a big, iron-filled breakfast. I drank a ton of water. I followed the guidance and took a warm shower and did some light exercise to get the blood flowing. I was standing up and massaging my finger from palm to tip. I did all the things.
The time came and I was really excited. I pricked my finger, opened up the little vial that I had to fill. Annnd. Blood was coming out, yay! …Until it stopped. I re-read all of the documentation. Washed my hands with warm water again, did more jumping jacks and push-ups. Then I prepped to use my other finger. Blood was flowing nicely until it wasn’t after about 5 minutes. There was a miniscule amount of blood that I managed to get into the vial. Nowhere near the amount needed to run the tests.
Now, let me just paint a picture of how messy this was. Don’t read this if you’re faint of heart. Just skip over it. I don’t know if it was just me, but blood was kind of leaking/oozing out of the pad of my finger rather than dripping out in nice drops like what normally happened when I was donating blood and they check to see you have enough iron floating around in your veins. I would put my finger up near the vial and it just looked like I had been finger painting in blood, it was smearing EVERYWHERE. I might have got just as much around the little test tube/vial thing than I did in it. It was like I had cut myself shaving or while chopping something. Both times. With both fingers. It wasn’t fun. It was supremely frustrating.
Calling customer service
After this fiasco, I remembered that our local hospital would actually take the blood intravenously for you. For a fee. I had discounted this before because why pay when I’ve never had any issues before? But now? I just wanted to get it done and get results. So I called and spoke to a very nice lady. She told me that many people just simply can’t for one reason or another get enough blood for finger prick tests and some of the people in their office had the same thing going on as me.
Then she dropped the bomb. Unfortunately, since purchasing my blood test kit, our local hospital had stopped being a “partner” with this home blood test kit company. The next local one was 200 miles away. Or I could pay another £39 to have a nurse come out to my home and take blood for me.
After this, I felt dejected and extremely disappointed. I had already sunk £59 into this thing and it hadn’t gone well. Should I sink another £39 and wait another month (I had to wait for a certain point in my cycle) just so I can say that I’ve done this?
In the end…
I chose not to add another £39 to the fire to get some nurse to come out and take my blood at home. I decided to consider it an expensive mistake and discarded the crime scene blood test kit.
Take a hint from fate, the universe, whatever. Do it properly, take the time, and work through the normal channels where I can get more local support before and after the fact. The doctors will probably respect the results that their own phlebotomists take more anyway.
These are the things I have told myself. Hopefully I made the right decision.