We’ve Come a Long Way Baby – History of Birth Control

You won’t believe some of these methods – mostly women of course – have used for birth control since ancient times!  Paste made from crocodile dung?  Inserting partially squeezed lemons into your vagina?  Douching with Lysol? Wow…




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My Genes Just Told My Hormone Story

It took 48 years but I finally got some answers.

As a teen who was sure I had something wrong with my hormones but couldn’t get an answer and as a young woman who was still certain that there was something wrong with my hormones I couldn’t get an answer.  I couldn’t even get a blood test to find out what my hormones were doing.  Not when I complained of acne that lingered as an adult.  Not when I asked about my lack of periods. Not when I asked about my libido.  Not when I miscarried 2 babies. The years went by and I was given all sorts of reasons by all sorts of doctors. One great doctor did test me but if you aren’t specifically trained in knowing about hormones you don’t get any answers – at least she tried.  So over the years as I moved around the country I was referred to a dermatologist for acne, I was offered birth control pills, I was offered anti-depressants, I was referred to an ob/gyn for infertility, I was told to wait until I lost 3 babies before we would test my hormones, I suffered severe bouts of PMS and so did my family along with me, I suffered Postpartum Mood Disorder which got increasingly worse with each of my 3 successful pregnancies until it became severe and debilitating.

Fast forward to September 2016…I am in charge of my health – YAY me!  Times have changed and we know a LOT more about hormones.  Patients are empowered.  And of course the internet has patient groups and medical sites and so much information it’s hard to sift through it all and know what to believe.  And most of all we are embarking on a new age of medicine – the molecular age.  Science and technology are converging to provide us huge insights into our health and here’s what’s happened in my life…

A few weeks ago, along with the women on the myAva Patient Advisory Board – the first women to experience myAva’s Precision Medicine PCOS Program, I got my DNA tested.  The kind of genetic analysis I’m referring to is called Whole Exome Sequencing which is the most efficient way while still being comprehensive enough to identify the genetic variants in all of a person’s genes.  My report was delivered by two brilliant genetists from GeneYouIn who went through my mutations with me and two of my phenomenal physicians one by one answering our questions as we went.  At the end of it I was provided with my full report, including links to relevant research as well as follow-up recommendations.

“My DNA held the secrets to my hormone and reproductive health problems”

So what did I find out?  Ok so I’m a mutant – we all are – but wow it’s amazing what a ton`s of information can be extracted from those few cells they gathered.  While I found out lots of interesting information what I found to be the most amazing stuff is the information that validated my entire medical history.  It was the most profound “I told you so!” moment I’ve ever had.

All of this time, my DNA held the secrets to my hormone and reproductive health problems. 

I have 5 genetic variances that speak directly to my ovarian development and function, infertility, menstrual disorder, oligomenorrhea and anovulation, general hormone imbalance, risk of endometriosis and premature ovarian failure..  I have more that speak to my risk of thyroid disease, adrenal problems, metabolic disorder, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disease.  And those recurrent miscarriages I had which elevate my risk for heart disease – it’s all there in my DNA too.

“I feel more empowered with the information than I ever have about my health”

I don’t mean to oversimplify this stuff – it’s all pretty complicated and it’s not all black and white.  There are lots of factors that get taken into consideration, such as do you have a family history, do you carry one copy or two, is your particular variation ‘novel” (as in do other people have it too or are you a one in a million?), is it clinically characterized, etc.  And then there are the concepts such as penetrance and gene expression to bear in mind with lots of environmental and lifestyle factors that complicate matters. 

At the end of the day, I feel more empowered with the information than I ever have about my health. I have an action plan to screen for some of these items and now my children are already part way there now that I have some answers.  I am optimistic that their healthcare will be delivered so much differently then mine! 

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One Small Step for PCOS – One Giant Leap for Patient Empowerment!

myAva Patient Advisory Board

The Trailblazing Women of the myAva Patient Advisory Board

I’m super excited to introduce you to this incredible group of women!  This is an epic moment in my life and I hope someday yours too!  This photo was taken at our first ever Patient Advisory Meeting held in Atlanta, Georgia and these ladies are true pioneers in healthcare.  Like many of you, these women are survivors and they are brave enough to join me with passion to change the standard of care for women’s health, starting with PCOS.  They have already started rolling up their sleeves to help me create the delivery system for Precision Medicine which will bring women’s health to the forefront of innovation in medicine.

We started the process by sending out a single email to 1000 Atlanta area women diagnosed with PCOS and received such an overwhelming response.  Choosing just 10 women was the hardest thing I’ve had to do so far but here we are with an incredible group of women who have made a commitment to change.  Our motto is No Cysters Left Behind, because not one of us wants to see another woman suffer at the hands of PCOS.

Women have been underserved for far too long in healthcare and as I’ve worked on this project I have discovered exactly why women’s health is in the state it is in!  It has become crystal clear to me why we need more women involved in science, labs, medicine, all the way up to the decision makers.  I am optimistic that we finally have the opportunity to do something!  These incredible women will be advising me every step of the way as I work with the myAva team to build the delivery system that brings Precision Medicine to Women’s Health, starting with PCOS.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, with all the talk you hear in the news about Precision Medicine these days you’d think it was already accessible, but the fact of the matter is that no one knows how to deliver Precision Medicine.  Clinics are not set up for it. The learning curve is steep at every step of the way for every group trying to tackle the issues with disrupting an entire heatlhcare system. People are as afraid of it as they are excited by the prospect of it.  That’s what makes this an optimal time for patients to get involved at the grassroots level – while protocols and systems are being designed. Precision medicine has the potential to level the playing field and women, as a patient group of their own, are done taking a back seat.  One thing I am certain of, 5 years from now a trip to the doctor is not going to look like it does today.

Stay tuned as these women begin their journey and help design a new style of healthcare they will be sharing stories with you along the way. Like with everything new, it might be a bumpy ride but we all think it’ll be worth it in the end!

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PCOS Sucks! Take the Lemon Face Challenge!

When women team up in support of one another they can sure get things done!!  And when it’s Ashley Levinson who is @PCOSGurl on Twitter teaming up with an entire PCOS community there is no telling what can be accomplished! Wow!




I nominate YOU to Take the Lemon Face Challenge!  

Join the Facebook Group – Lemon Face Challenge

Upload your picture or video and challenge someone else spread awareness and/or donate to PCOSChallenge.org


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Precision Medicine & PCOS Q&A on PCOS Nutrition Center Blog!

Angela GrassiI’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself”

. I waited a long time for someone to create the kind of healthcare I would like to have access too but it just wasn’t happening and so I became a true believer in that saying.  When I first decided to tackle women’s health from a patient perspective I couldn’t figure out why no one was doing this already but it quickly became pretty obvious to me – it is damn hard!

There’s another saying that I believe in with all my heart: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much!

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much!” Helen Keller

Helen Keller apparently said it and wow, if anyone knows what it took to achieve something phenomenal she did!

Of course no one can do it alone so I appreciate all the support of the people who have helped me get this far and especially the PCOS Community.   One such amazing person is the award winning Angela Grassi from PCOS Nutrition Center.  Angela is so passionate and was excited to learn about the Precision Medicine PCOS Program I’ve put together that she featured a Q&A about it on her super-informative and beautifully redesigned blog – PCOS Nutrition Center.

Check out my Q&A with Angela: Sonya’s Q&A on Angela Grassi’s PCOS Nutrition Blog

I love having Angela’s support – she’s a trailblazer herself!  As a Registered Dietician and a woman who has PCOS, she has done some pretty amazing things to help the most underserved medical community – which I believe is PCOS. She has published 3 pretty incredible books specifically to provide women and dieticians the resources they need to help navigate their journey with PCOS.  Check them out here:


Angela Grassi - Book_PCOSdieticiansGuide_1000pxAngela Grassi 2Books_WorkBk_CookBk_1000px












I look forward to keeping you informed but even better, if you want to help create the future of Precision Medicine for women’s health, starting with PCOS, drop me a line using the contact form below or subscribe to updates at myAva.com.  I think you’d be amazed at what you can achieve.




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World Thyroid Day

Hypo Butterfly from World Thyroid Federation

Hypo Butterfly from World Thyroid Federation

There are so many thyroid patients around the world that the tiny little butterfly shaped gland has it’s own special day of significance around the world!  Actually it has it’s own week – this whole week is dedicated to Thyroid Awareness which is near and dear to my heart because I have subclinical hypothyroidism which is controversial among doctors as to whether to treat it or not.  Sometimes I feel like a ping pong ball with the different advice I get.

Thyroid Federation International (TFI) was founded in 1995 in Toronto and is now a worldwide organization that includes a network of patient organizations from a variety of countries around the world.  TFI established Thyroid Awareness Week & Day – May 25th.

As common as it is, thyroid dysfunction seems to cause a lot of confusion and awareness is critical.  One of the important aspects to understand is that thyroid disease can run in families and children often go undiagnosed.

This year the World Thyroid Federation’s theme is

“Catching the butterflies: Spotting the symptoms of thyroid disorders in children.”

To help children and their families learn about Thyroid Dysfunction TFI created these little animated cartoons depicting the symptoms of Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism.

Hypo is a blue butterfly, showing the symptoms of hypothyroidism, that moves slowly compared to his friends and not growing as fast. The hypo butterfly is often tired and sometimes sluggish.


Hyper Butterfly from World Thyroid Federation

Hyper is a thin, overly active, fidgety pink butterfly reflecting the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. The hyper butterfly is irritable and easily upset.

Know the signs of thyroid disorder and if you have questions or want to learn more Thyroid Week or TFI are two great places to start.









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Mother’s Day After a Miscarriage

Do you know what is considered the shortest story ever written?  It’s a tragedy in six words and it goes like this:

For Sale.  Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

Sadly, that tiny story is the reality for more women than you may realize.  Mother’s Day brings up intense and mixed emotions for a lot of women.  You feel like you are a mother or wait you were a mother or wait, was I? Nobody else is treating me like I am a mother.   At least that’s what I went through – or something like it.  And then…one day you meet the person who knows you are, indeed, a mother.   I recall the validation I felt at being told that it was ok to consider myself a mom even if no one else did. It was such a relief.

Only those who are part of this group understand what it’s like to get through a Mother’s Day after miscarriage or stillbirth.  Sadly the cost to enter this group is high.  Having gone through pregnancy loss is the only way to become a part of this group – something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

A lot of women face miscarriage alone.  And then they face Mother’s Day alone.  Mother’s Day is a time for celebration.  But for those who have experienced pregnancy loss, it can be really tough.  You may still spend the day celebrating with your own mother or other women in your life but no one acknowledges your motherhood experience. Lots of reasons why, such as: it was too brief, you didn’t hold your baby, your babe didn’t have a name, you didn’t even hear his heartbeat or just simply people don’t know what to say or are afraid to bring it up.

If you know someone who has gone through pregnancy loss it only takes a small acknowledgement to ease the pain of the day – just a little bit for mom’s who never got the chance to meet their babies.

This Mother’s Day I’ll be thinking of all the mom’s whose pregnancies were too brief, who didn’t get to hold their babies, who weren’t told they could name their baby, who didn’t get to experience the joy of hearing that first heartbeat, who still have baby sleepers that have never been worn. Even if you have baby shoes that were never worn, you’ll always be a mom.

Heartfelt Hugs.


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What I Want My Family & Friends to Know About Perinatal Mood Disorder

I sent a message to my family and friends today because I want to spread awareness among people who don’t need to know they need awareness!  Most people who read my blog or who have connected with me on social media are already a step ahead – they are seeking information about hormone topics for some reason or another.   I thought I’d share it with you too.  I appreciate all of your support as I try to create awareness around women’s hormone health.  Thanks!  
Today is the First World Maternal Mental Health Day! This is REALLY Important to me on a personal level.
I am spending my day spreading awareness because I suffered from Perinatal Mood Disorder, probably with each pregnancy but definitely after my baby boy. I usually reserve my oversharing 🙂 for my Hormone Soup page but this is really important to me and it is so important to end the stigma around this debilitating illness.
My kids are learning about Mental Health this week at school and my guys are already well informed about Maternal Mental Health Awareness because we talk openly about it at my house. I never want my kids to feel like their mental health is less important than their physical health. My 9 year old son asked me if I could print off the Hormone Soup Perinatal Mood Disorder jpgs that I am sharing on Facebook and Twitter so he could take them to school!  Love that kid!
Here’s what I want all my friends and family to know: (That includes the men too! Maternal Mental Health is EVERYBODY’s business.)
  • Perinatal Mood Disorders are the #1 Complication of Pregnancy!
  • Perinatal Mood Disorders are an Invisible illness!
  • Postpartum Depression is NOT JUST depression – it can manifest as Anxiety (pick me!), OCD (me again), Bipolar, Psychosis, PTSD and can involve mood swings. And in fact Anxiety is more common than depression. Perinatal Mood Disorder is a much better term.
  • Postpartum Depression is NOT JUST postpartum – it can happen during pregnancy too.
  • Up to 20% of women will deal with some form of Perinatal Mood Disorders. That is 1 in 5! You are not alone!
  • Perinatal Mood Disorder is not the same as Baby Blues. It can be a serious and sometimes life threatening emergency.
  • If you have Perinatal Mood Disorder or ANY mood disorder you MUST get your thyroid checked! And by that I mean PROPERLY checked not just a simple TSH Test. There is a specific disorder called Postpartum Thyroiditis and is treatable.
  • Perinatal Mood Disorders are treatable!
  • Perinatal Mood Disorders are considered a hormonally triggered mood disorder.
  • Perinatal Mood Disorder can happen to New Moms and Veteran Moms! Don’t assume because someone is having a second or third or fourth child that she isn’t suffering. Every pregnancy is different. Every mom is at risk.
  • Sometimes the person experiencing the PND is the last person to recognize it! Do not be afraid to reach out.
  • Many women are afraid to get help because they think they will be given a pill and have to stop breastfeeding. There is help available that does not always have to include pharmaceuticals.
  • Do not assume you or your friend will be screened by your doctor. You probably won’t be – just because it is recommended that your doctor screens does not mean it happens, it hardly ever does.
  • If you know someone is experiencing Postpartum Psychosis call 9-1-1 it is considered a medical emergency!
  • Do not share your “scary/tragic baby or mother” story with other women – it can act as a trigger and who needs to hear such devastating stories anyway.
  • There is a movement called #askher happening.  When you know someone who has recently given birth, miscarried or had a stillborn child #Askher how she’s sleeping or how she’s feeling. Do Not be afraid.
  • Sleep is one of the most important factors and one of the easiest things to do – help a new mom get the sleep she needs. 
There are lots of resources out there and I know almost all of them through my blogging and social media connections. Please feel free to reach out or send anyone you know to my Hormone Soup blog or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest page.
#maternalMHmatters #askher

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Perinatal Mood Disorder & Other Hormonally Triggered Mood Disorders

I’m going to bet that you’ve never heard the term “Hormonally Triggered Mood Disorder” mentioned by your doctor.  But yes it is really a thing, the problem is that it’s not an actual “diagnosis”.  You may know that I believe that too many women’s health issues are being painted with a mental health brush.  The problem with this is that we aren’t getting to the root cause.

There is good news. Dr. Jennifer Payne, M.D.  and Psychiatrist Karen Swartz, M.D. created the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at John Hopkins Hospital to study hormonally triggered mood disorders and provide expert evaluation of women who suffer with such symptoms.  Though they are located in Baltimore, Maryland they will see Patients across the USA as well as International Patients!  Great News!

What is a Hormonally Triggered Mood Disorder?  

Perinatal Mood Disorders are one of many hormonally triggered mood disorders that are treated at the Women’s Mood Disorders Center, others are premenstrual dysphoria disorder (PMDD), perimenopause & menopause-related depression, and major depression or bipolar disorder — which are both marked by gender differences.

Dr. Jennifer Payne is the first doctor I’ve heard quoted as saying this which is something I have believed for years:

“I believe there’s a distinct group of women with unusual sensitivity to normal hormone fluctuations,” Dr. Payne says.  “And their problems aren’t tied to actual hormone levels so much as to changes in those hormone levels.”

Source: John Hopkins

That statement certainly fits me.  And I am not alone. I often hear from women who say they are told their labs are in the “normal range” but they don’t feel right.  Could it be that maybe it’s being looked at all wrong? 

After 15 years of research, I absolutely believe too many women are being denied the proper help because our medical system relies on “normal ranges”~Sonya

Thank you Dr. Jennifer Payne!  Now can we get you to shout it from the rooftops?!

“Mood disorders in women are understudied, to put it mildly,” says Dr. Payne and she cites the desperate need for more research.  

One of the problems is that it takes  17 years on average for research findings to “find” their way into clinical practice.  Yup…by then your reproductive years are long gone.  Which is why I say do your research and advocate for yourself.  But research is necessary and I’m excited about the future of research in this area. 


Participate in Dr. Payne’s Pregnancy & Postpartum Research:

Perinatal Mood Disorders need more of the type of research Dr. Payne is involved in. I wish I had been able to participate in a study and if you feel the same here’s information on the research she is doing – check it out:


Symptoms of Hormonally Triggers Mood Disorders

  • Irritability or tension
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sexual interest
  • Food cravings or overeating
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Decreased concentration
  • Increased productivity or interest in new projects
  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in energy level
  • Mood changes (sadness or elevated mood)
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Racing thoughts/rapid speech

The John Hopkins Women’s Mood Disorders Center evaluates and treats women with mood disorders, with a special emphasis on the treatment of hormonally-triggered mood disorders such as premenstrual, postpartum, and perimenopausal mood disorders.  The center offers:

  • Pre-pregnancy Consultation

  • Pregnancy Consultation

  • Postpartum Consultation

  • Menstrual Cycle Symptom Consultation

  • Peri-menopause Consultation


For the full arcticle & information on the clinic:




The information provided on this site is not intended as medical advice  – seek medical advice from a doctor.  If you take medication never stop taking them without the supervision of your doctor.  Postpartum Psychosis is a medical emergency if you or someone you know is suffering seek medical attention immediately – call 9-1-1. 

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Postpartum Depression is NOT just Depression

I do a lot of research about Postpartum Mood Disorder and talk to a lot of women and, of course, any “expert” that will talk with me about it.  As a result of my experience, I have a lot of my own theories, thoughts, and opinions about Postpartum Depression.

Someone recently asked me what kind of “Awareness” I would hope to see spread to the point that everyone you could meet would know.   That’s a tough question because there’s so much to talk about but I think because there’s lots of other things happening in terms of awareness one of the biggest for me is to let women know this:

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is Not One Disorder

For a long time, I’d noticed that Postpartum Depression is talked about as if it’s “one disorder”.  In fact, Postpartum Depression is the common term used as if it’s expected that women will recognize that symptoms such as OCD, Anxiety, Panic, BiPolar, Psychosis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are a part of it.  I had trouble finding any information about postpartum anxiety and it’s still often buried at the bottom of long lists of symptoms of PPD.  Women are falling through the cracks because of it. People need to know – Postpartum (and in fact, Perinatal Mood Disorders) are actually a group of disorders: 




Perinatal Mood Disorders are

under-diagnosed and under-treated

yet remain

the most common complication of pregnancy.



Postpartum Psychosis is a medical emergency – if you or someone you know is suffering call 9-1-1

If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 If you are looking for local pregnancy or postpartum support and resources in your area, please call or email:

Postpartum Support International

1-800-944-4PPD (4773)

Warmline (English & Spanish)


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