fresh glass of milk

How to Cope with Heartburn During Pregnancy

Oh the wonderful joys of heartburn during pregnancy. Heartburn is something I have experienced before until my second trimester of pregnancy. It started with a burning sensation in my throat followed by acid that travels from your stomach to the oesophagus. So, I am having random bursts of this, sometimes when eating and other times I could just be doing my usual daily activities. Luckily, I haven’t had it too severely but there are a few things I can suggest due to the difference I have seen when doing the below.

Do not drink caffeine or fizzy drinks

This is a given as you are advised to avoid caffeine during pregnancy, thank you for decaf tea! But one thing I noticed going a few weeks back, is that I wanted to drink Pepsi Max whenever Danny had it during meals or throughout the day. That goes with the list of many things I want when Danny has them! But unfortunately it doesn’t help and only makes heartburn during pregnancy worse. Try having a glass of milk. This has worked wonders with me most nights. It’s said to neutralise the acids in your stomach. 

Avoid spicy foods

Wait, what? Don’t eat spicy foods? I know, it’s a challenge for me too. I love so many spicy foods. But if you want heartburn during pregnancy to ease or go away, you have got to do what you can. There are so many little things like peri peri pasta salads, curry, fajita chicken wraps etc. You name it. If it’s spicy, I want some (all) of it. I have treated myself to the odd spicy treat here and there. Reducing the amount I usually eat and certainly helped. The same goes with greasy foods too. 

Drink lots of water

Again, something you hear often during life inside and outside of pregnancy. Staying hydrated is important and it’s another natural way to help reduce heartburn. One thing I like is a nice smoothie during the day. But I have to keep an eye on eating or drinking too many citrus fruits as this doesn’t contribute well to easing heartburn during pregnancy. 

Try not to eat too much chocolate 

Erm… I am a chocoholic during pregnancy so that’s just mean! Needs must though and I do steer away from it if I know heartburn is coming back with a vengeance. I am writing this post, it is Easter Sunday so there’s no doubt about me indulging in chocolate later. It’s a worth a try if it’s an option you haven’t given a go during your pregnancy yet. 

Do medicines like Gaviscon help?

It is safe to take Gaviscon when you are pregnant and there are a few flavours available. However, there are some guidelines which outline when you shouldn’t take it e.g. if you have kidney or heart disease (see https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/gaviscon/).

I was given a large bottle of Gaviscon from my GP the other month which was good as outside of pregnancy I think you usually have to buy it over the counter. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to feel the true effects from Gaviscon because my midwife and MAViS advise me to take 2 aspirin each night along with my prescribed blood pressure tablets due to chronic hypertension (developed years before pregnancy). It can be a pain because with me, heartburn tends to appear more at night time. And taking these along with Gaviscon within 2 hours of each other only makes heartburn symptoms worse. So, I only take Gaviscon if none of the above have helped or if it’s kicking in worse than ever.

I also have some medicine to take as I have slow transit and chronic constipation. I think this is why I was sick on one occasion. Try to find the best time to take it and make it a routine if you are taking other medication. Always consult your GP first to make sure it’s safe. 

More information on heartburn during pregnancy 

There are a few other remedies which your GP may advise. Visit NHS online to find out more: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/indigestion-and-heartburn/ 

holding hands for comfort

Speak Up About Your Health – Thyroid Awareness Week

It’s Thyroid Awareness Week. For something that’s a small butterfly shaped gland, the thyroid is so powerful, and can attack many different parts of the body if there’s an imbalance of hormone levels. Although I haven’t had an official diagnosis, I want to share my story as my symptoms and test results are leaning towards and under active thyroid (hypothyroidism). I also know a few people that have a thyroid condition, some under active and others over active (hyperthyroidism). I need to have one more test in a couple of months to be able to get a clear answer of what’s going on, whether it’s thyroid or something else.

Since 2011, my thyroid levels (mainly TSH) have up and down like a yo-yo. In the last 6 months, they have been higher than usual. Every time something has lowered or increased, I have been advised, “It’s okay, it’s borderline.” But how does that interpret what’s low/high for every individual? We are all different and have different medical history, some heavier for some than others.

Since 2009, I have experienced a number of medical issues, some in more recent months, including:

  • Migraines (I was subscribed to Propranolol 80mg for 8-9 years by the hospital)
  • High blood pressure (controlled by medication)
  • Slow transit constipation/IBS – and now rectal bleeding – I am currently waiting for a sigmoidoscopy appointment
  • Tingling like pins and needles all over my body, on a daily basis
  • Longer, heavier, and more painful periods (to the point where sometimes, I only have a week window until my next one in-between the period itself and extra bleeding in-between)
  • Low iron levels
  • Raised cholesterol – this could be caused by a gene my mum has called ‘Familial hypercholesterolaemia‘ (I’ll just stuck to calling it FH!)
  • Low vitamin D – no chance of a beach holiday just yet though eh!

    Thyroid UK have reported on their Instagram account this week that, a lack of Vitamin D can be associated with thyroid disease.

Overall, I feel completely drained, and tend to have a lot of foggy moments. It’s been incredibly challenging in the more recent months, leading to low thoughts and feeling like giving up on finding answers. The weight gain on top of bloating due to bowel issues, not that many people notice, has still took quite a toll on me. However, with an extra influence from my boyfriend, I decided it was time to make a change. I have joined a new GP practice and it’s been one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I am heading in the right direction now.

During the last 6 or so months, I have been experiencing more cervical bleeding in between periods and after sex. So, with that on top of the rectal bleeding, you can understand why I’m on iron medication. 

Although having the copper coil was good choice for me health wise (or so it seemed at the time as I can’t take other contraceptives), having it removed could be the next step. It wouldn’t scare me if anything happens as a result of this. I dream of having children, so I hope I get to experience this coming true in the near future once everything’s sorted. 

I am sharing this personal story in the hope that, if you ever develop symptoms, always push for answers. Your health is more important than anything – mentally and physically. Remember to look after yourself. I never used to speak up in the past but now I am glad to finally be getting somewhere. The answers might not be what you want to hear but it means you can get the help you need. 

woman's hands typing on laptop in hospital environment

My Experience of Having a Colposcopy Procedure

When I mentioned to the odd person that I was referred to gynaecology for a colposcopy, they replied, “Oh you are going for a colonoscopy?” Nope – a colPOSCOPY. 

Initially, I was told it was a 35 week wait for a referral. Then, I told my GP that I was willing to go to any hospital. Shortly afterwards, I had a telephone consultation and was sent a letter in the post for a colposcopy appointment – all within 4 weeks. Getting the appointment for the right date was important because well, the main reason for my appointment was due to so much more bleeding than usual. At first, I attended but they couldn’t carry out the procedure due to heavy bleeding so I had to re-book. Then, I needed a COVID-19 test because I had coronavirus symptoms. Finally, I was able to go for my appointment at the hospital a few days after the test as the result was negative. Third time lucky kinda thing! 

Why was I sent for a colposcopy?

For around 6 months now, I’ve had irregular bleeding and dark discharge throughout my menstrual cycle. My periods have been longer and much heavier, causing me to have accidents, which I didn’t even experience at 12 years old when I had my first period! Although, I’m coming up to 3 years since I had the copper coil fitted, it is expected that periods can be heavier when you have this type of IUD. However, other signs indicated that further investigation was needed. I continue to experience a sharp pain in my left side during and after sex, a much heavier cramping sensation during my periods, and overall fatigue and weakness. Whenever I get a pain in my side, I have to wonder if it’s cervix or bowel related. Having the two combined is… very uncomfortable. The pelvic pain though is more of a constant stab feeling.

I had a scan a few years ago to see if I had polycystic ovaries – but I didn’t. More recently I had an ultrasound and they said everything was fine and nothing sinister was apparent. However, before that, I had a cervical examination and cells were found on the outside of my cervix and the area was also inflamed. During that moment, I realised that when I had my first smear, the nurse did comment that it was “slightly red” and now, “it looks quite red”. The nurse said it looks as though as I have some ectropion bleeding, also known as cervical erosion which sounds scarier than it is. As soon as she touched my cervix with a cotton swab, it bled.

Unfortunately, I am also seeing blood when I go to the toilet (when I’m lucky enough to be able to go that is) and again, I get an excruciating pain on the left of my abdomen but that’s another story to tell you once I’ve had a sigmoidoscopy.

A couple of months ago, I was prescribed iron tablets because my iron levels were very low. It’s no surprise really when I’ve lost so much blood. They don’t help the bowel issues though because they can make you more bunged up. At least they help my iron levels though. There’s always a positive eh!

How did it feel to have a colposcopy for the first time?

Having a smear, cervical examination, or getting a coil fitted, doesn’t bother me. This procedure was also fine. I lay down and was told to relax and let the padded supports take the weight of my legs and push myself forward a little further. Just a warning if you are squeamish, everything can be seen on the screen beside you. I was completely fine with it other than seeing where I was bleeding around my cervix. It got me feeling a little sad because I just wanted it to go away. But apparently, it can be such a common thing for women. 

The nurse applied a couple of different liquids to highlight if there were any abnormal areas (biopsies are also taken if they think anything might be there). Overall, the cervix looked okay other than some inflammation again, but nothing to worry about. Medicine was applied to the cells that shouldn’t have been on the outside of my cervix, so hopefully this will reduce the bleeding in-between periods. But unfortunately, they don’t think it’ll answer the longer and heavier periods. The colposcopist is sure it’s hormone related which isn’t a shock as I am currently having my thyroid investigated. All I can do is persevere for a little while longer and see what happens after further tests. 

Swabs were also taken and I was given a sanitary pad for any bleeding and discharge. During these type of procedures, I prefer to let the nurses do what they need to do and get it over and done with. Maybe I’m luckier in the sense I could be one of those people who can persevere through the twinges and slightly uncomfortable feelings inside.

I did feel some discomfort afterwards, which was mostly period-like. Once I got home, I put my pyjamas on and had a cup of tea which of course was much cosier!

They said bleeding or brown discharge can occur 3-5 days after the procedure. Update: it’s a week afterwards now and I’m still getting this, which means I’ve bled for 3 weeks. Hopefully it’ll wear off soon.

The gynaecology department at Rochdale hospital and Royal Oldham Hospital have been so lovely and have made me feel comfortable throughout the whole process. If you are referred for a colposcopy, don’t ignore it or put it off, please attend. The nurses will make you feel as comfortable as they possibly can. 

I think what scares me, is knowing what my mum went through with two of her pregnancies (one being me). But hopefully there won’t be any reason why I can’t have a healthy pregnancy in the future. It’s one of my biggest dreams to have children. Many times, I have pictured so much in my head like, looking out of the kitchen window to see them playing in the garden or all of the first-time experiences that will be like no other. It’s important to keep a positive mindset and look forward to the future though. 

More information on how to prepare for a colposcopy and what happens can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/colposcopy/

COVID-19 virus

What to Expect When Having a COVID-19 Test

This is my experience of attending a walk-in centre by appointment. Near you, there might also be a drive-in centre, or the option to book a test online when/if they become available again.

Booking a COVID-19 Test

I was lucky when it came to booking a test. There were not any home tests available but over 100 slots had opened up at the University of Salford. I visited GOV.UK and followed the steps to proceed with booking an appointment.

If you are thinking of booking a COVID-19 test, expect to enter the date that the first symptom started to happen along with some personal details (name, date of birth, postcode etc.) The website will then bring up the closest testing centres. If you don’t have a car or live with someone who has a car, you are advised to walk or cycle to your appointment to reduce the risk of infecting others (if you have the virus) rather than taking public transport. 

When you arrive at your selected testing centre, a member of security or staff will ask you for your pass or email/text with confirmation of your appointment. You are likely to have received a QR code which they will scan and allow you into the building. This was the case for me as the test was taking place indoors. You must sanitise your hands upon entry then someone will direct you to a cubicle. 

Having the Coronavirus Test

A member of staff shown me where to go and I was provided with an information leaflet and testing pack. There was also further instructions on how to take the test with step by step illustrations on the wall in front of me. Staff members were around for further assistance if needed.

To start the test, you must blow your nose and dispose of the tissue in the bin. If you too attend a testing centre where you carry the test out yourself, you’ll find a swab in the pack on a table. You are asked to put the swab at the back of your throat for 10-15 seconds then using the same side, repeat up one of your nostrils approximately 2.5 centimetres. The only downside for me was that, my eyes were ridiculously watery on this day due to feeling unwell so, my eyes began to stream and I couldn’t stop sneezing because the swab tickled my nose! I think the staff looked at me as if to say “Well, that’s a different one!” haha. 

Once you have done the above, you place the swab into a container, snapping the other half off so it fits. Then, seal the bag you are given with the test inside. A member of staff will guide you to the next area where you sanitise your hands again, your QR code will be scanned for a second time, place your bag into a tray and you are all done. I was advised that my result would arrive through a text and email within 48 hours.

Getting Your Result

Less than 24 hours later, I received my result in a text then shortly afterwards by email. The sender will appear as NHS by text and NHS COVID-19 Notification on email. Thankfully, the result was negative. It felt good not only to discover I didn’t have the virus but to have received answers so soon. 

If you want, you can enter your code on the NHS Test and Trace app under the ‘Enter test result’ tab which will again notify you of your result. Further advice was given about isolation, if it’s necessary, and how to keep others safe.

I know it’s quite frustrating for people in some areas of the UK at the minute trying to get hold of a test or an appointment for one. But remember, your health comes first. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, book a test if you can. The first day I checked, there were no appointments available but the next day, luckily there was.

More information on testing and coronavirus can be found online at: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test