health · medication · pituitary

Medical Mystery: An Update

So alas, I am once again in the position of being a medical mystery… Now, I love a murder mystery, preferably an Agatha Christie. But the only medical mystery show I’ve ever watched was House M.D., in which the patients invariably had to almost die before their doctors worked out that they did not, in fact, have lupus. I’m not so keen on the near-death approach to diagnosis, if I’m honest.

So back in early April, I re-started my medication (cabergoline). I had stopped it in late pregnancy in the hope of breastfeeding, but the symptoms of my TSHoma tumour returned after a few months, so I had to start taking it again.

As per usual, the doctors wanted to monitor my thyroid levels. My tumour produces Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH – hence why it’s called a TSHoma), which causes my thyroid gland to over-produce thyroid hormones. So as the medication works, you would expect my TSH levels to reduce, and my thyroid hormone levels to reduce too.

Because my health issues relate to the endocrine system, all the twists and turns of this mystery thriller basically just involve different blood test results. For some reason no major TV networks have shown interest in picking up a pilot based on this concept.

So: my TSH levels have indeed been reducing since re-starting my medication. But my thyroid hormone levels have actually been increasing. Quite a lot. I now have thyroid levels way above the normal range. This makes no sense if the high thyroid levels are caused by the pituitary tumour.

Cue dramatic music. Dr House gives the camera a quizzical look.

Interchangeable Hot Younger Doctor 1: “Could it be lupus?”

The other interchangeable hot young doctors smile and roll their eyes. They don’t know much, but they know that, for some reason, it’s never lupus.

Instead, it looks as though something else is causing the raised thyroid levels. This could potentially be a thyroid condition like Graves Disease, which is an autoimmune illness that causes the body to over produce thyroid hormone, or potentially a growth on my thyroid gland itself. We don’t know. At first, I think the doctors hoped it was just a weird blip on my blood test results, but repeat testing has shown the same pattern.

So my doctors have put me on a higher dose of cabergoline, to make sure that the TSHoma tumour on my pituitary gland is definitely being treated, and ordered some more blood tests to see if it could be Graves Disease. I’m hoping to hear from them this week to find out what we know and what other testing needs to be done. I’m guessing they’ll want to rule out lupus.

A quick search online shows there are only four known cases ever of someone with my condition (TSHoma) also having Graves Disease. One of the trickiest things when you have such a rare condition is that when something out of the ordinary like this happens, you’re just flying blind. No-one really knows what’s going on. Sadly, it seems unlikely that a grizzled, curmudgeonly doctor will reveal he’s known what’s going on the whole time and has just been holding the information back for 50 minutes in order to build dramatic tension.

So please keep your fingers crossed for me, and I’ll update you as soon as we start to unravel this medical mystery…

baby · Just for fun · parenting

Surprising Jobs That Being A Parent Qualifies You For

It often occurs to me, when undertaking some random baby-related task, that being a parent comes with transferable skills that often go unrecognised. I’ve written before about the events I think that my baby could medal in at the Baby Olympics… But us parents have skills too. So my husband and I came up with this list of jobs that we think being a parent qualifies you for… Some of them may surprise you!

Jobs That Being A Parent Qualifies You For

Bomb Disposal Expert

Any parent who has tried to transfer a sleeping baby (a.k.a. potential explosive device) from their lap into a cot has developed an incredibly light touch, along with the ability to make difficult decisions under extreme pressure.

Cat Burglar

The number one skill required of a cat burglar? Sneaking around darkened rooms. This is also a key skill for parents, once they have transferred the aforementioned sleeping baby into its cot.

As being a parent is also very expensive, you can offset the ruinous cost of nursery fees, milk, nappies, and endless new sizes of clothes through your new career as an international jewel thief.

Snake Oil Salesman

Baby’s got teething trouble? Sing him the magic nursery rhyme, you know, the one that always cheers him up! Toddler fell over? Give that bruised knee a magic kiss to stop it hurting! Little one has a sad tummy? Quick, wave Mr Giraffe at him, that’ll cheer him up!

As parents we are constantly trying to trick our children into accepting deeply unscientific cures for what ails them. The logical next step is peddling Dr William’s Pink Pills For Pale People.

Waste Management

I mean, this one is obvious. Once you’re handed that beautiful little baby in hospital, it’s immediately time to become an expert in the clean-up and disposal of hazardous waste.

Octopus

“That’s not a job!”, I hear you cry. Well, maybe not. But if Paul the Octopus managed to make a career out of it, then so can you. Ever found yourself holding the baby, and a cup of tea, and your phone, and mixing up a bottle of formula, and changing a nappy, all at the same time? Me neither. But I’ve had a bloody good try.

What other jobs do you think being a parent qualifies you for? Let me know in the comments!

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baking · food · gluten free · recipes

The BEST Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe

Today, I’m going to share my gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies recipe. I love baking, and as my husband is gluten intolerant, it’s hard to find fresh baked goods for him in the shops. So, whenever the opportunity arises (i.e. Little Man is in a good mood and happy enough on his play mat), I get baking.

Back at the start of lockdown, I was planning on baking some chocolate chip cookies one day, but asked my husband if he had any special requests. He asked for oatmeal raisin cookies. I’d never baked them before so I researched a bit online and made my own substitutions to make them gluten free. They’re actually an ideal cookie to make GF, because the oats help to bind them and reduce the floury/crumbly texture that you often get with gluten free baking. For the busy mum (or dad) on the go, the finished cookies can also be frozen and reheated later – see instructions further down this post.

Now, onto the important bit…

Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe

the best gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies recipe the sickly mama blog easy bake

The Recipe

Assemble the following ingredients:

  • 200g sugar (ideally a golden caster, or a mix of brown and white sugar also works well)
  • 150ml sunflower oil (or other veggie oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 100g raisins or sultanas
  • 120g gluten free flour
  • 300g oats (make sure they’re specifically gluten free oats if you’re baking for a coeliac)
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum (not essential if you don’t have it, but helps with binding gluten free bakes)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – The Method

These cookies are super quick and easy to assemble, because the oil base makes mixing them very simple.

1. Pour 50ml of boiling water over your raisins/sultanas and leave to soak.

2. Preheat your oven to 180 C.

3. Line two baking trays with parchment.

4. Mix the sugar, oil and egg in a bowl until well combined.

5. Add the water from the raisins/sultanas, the cinammon and the vanilla extract, and mix.

6. Add the flour, xantham gum and bicarbonate of soda and mix. Then, add the oats and mix.

7. Add the raisins and mix. Your cookie batter is now complete!

8. Dollop the batter into the baking sheets. Gluten free cookies never spread quite as much as regular cookies, so get them into roughly the thickness and shape you want, but still aim to leave a couple of centimetres gap between cookies.

9. Bake for 12 – 15 mins until golden brown, and cool on the trays. Voila! Your cookies are ready.

Freezing and Reheating Your Cookies

These gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies freeze really well! It’s perfect so that next time you can have that fresh baked cookie taste with even less effort. Ideally freeze them on a tray, before transferring into a bag or container for storage.

You can keep the cookies in the freezer for up to two months. To reheat, simply pop them on a baking tray (from frozen) in an oven pre-heated to 140 C, for 10 – 15 minutes. Everyone will think you just baked them!

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More Gluten Free Recipes

Looking for more yummy gluten free recipes? Why not try this recipe for (highly addictive) gluten free rocky roads? They’re perfect to make with kids as they don’t even require baking!

baby · child development · parenting · sleeping

Why Do Babies Love White Noise?

Before Little Man was born, my lovely sister gave us a gift of an Ollie the Owl. If you’re not familiar with the strigiforme in question, it’s marketed as a ‘light and sound sleep aid’ for babies. It plays lullabies, white noise, or the sound of a heartbeat or running water, to help babies get to sleep, and it has a ‘cry sensor’ that puts the noise back on if they wake up or stir.

When we first tried Ollie (now known in our household as Mr Owl… What can I say, we’re very formal people), we were amazed at how well Little Man went to sleep with the sound on, in particular the white noise sound. Now, he’s a bedtime and naptime regular! But why do babies love white noise? And does it really help them sleep? I love finding out about child and baby development, so I had to get on Google.

Why Do Babies Love White Noise?

White Noise = Womb Noise

The general consensus seems to be that white noise mimics the kind of noise that babies hear in the womb. The uterus is actually a surprisingly noisy place for baby. A study found noise levels of 72 – 88 decibels in the womb, which is classed as “loud” by the American Academy of Audiology, and equivalent to the noise produced by alarm clocks, traffic or vacuum cleaners.

A lot of noise is produced by the mother’s heart, intestines and circulatory system, and the foetus can also hear external sounds as well. One study has even suggested that our early exposure to our mother’s bodily noises may be the root cause of our attraction to the sound of waves at the beach, as well as our innate sense of rhythm.

So when baby comes into the world, things suddenly get a lot quieter. White noise machines help to mimic that background noise of the womb, and help them to feel soothed.

asthma · birth · health · pituitary · pregnancy

My Experience of Asthma in Pregnancy and Birth

Well, I’ve written about my experiences with hypermobility in pregnancy and birth, and again about how my pituitary tumour impacted my pregnancy and birth. So it seems logical to write about how my asthma impacted me as well, and complete the trilogy… How did pregnancy affect my asthma?

My Experience of Asthma in Pregnancy

But I’ve been in two minds about writing this post, because actually my asthma barely affected me at all! In fact I noticed a massive improvement in my asthma symptoms while I was pregnant. Normally they’re worst around June; my asthma seems to be particularly triggered by hayfever and then made worse by humid weather. Last year when I was pregnant, I spent the end of May in Japan at a family wedding, and when I got back I realised my asthma seemed much better than usual. Seems strange, huh?

Does pregnancy make asthma better or worse?

I spoke to my asthma nurse about this recently when I went for a review (she’s the best! Shout out to all the awesome asthma nurses out there). She said that roughly a third of people with asthma notice an improvement of their symptoms in pregnancy, a third notice a deterioration, and for the rest there’s no change. So I guess I was one of the lucky 33%. I felt so crap being pregnant anyway, I’m so glad I didn’t have to deal with my asthma playing up too.

Why does pregnancy affect my asthma?

Looking online, there are plenty of asthma sites which also advise that asthma may improve or worsen in pregnancy. But none of them seem to explain why. I assume it’s the usual “pregnancy hormones” explanation, which is so vague as to be no explanation at all. So I’m awarding a gold star to any health professional who can let me know in the comments below why specifically it is that asthma is so variable in pregnancy!

Does asthma affect you when giving birth?

I also didn’t find that my asthma affected the birthing process, fortunately. As I have exercise-induced asthma, I did wonder whether labour could trigger my asthma at all. I took my inhalers to the hospital with me (make sure you have spares in your hospital bag just in case!). But luckily, I didn’t need them during the birth.

In fact, apparently asthma attacks during labour are very rare, which is believed to be because of the natural steroids that your body produces during labour. The Asthma UK website has more information about asthma and birth, which may also reassure you.

What were your experiences of asthma during pregnancy and birth? Let me know in the comments!

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baby · lifestyle · parenting · pop culture · sport

Surviving Lockdown With A Baby Through SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS

When I found out I was pregnant and worked out when my maternity leave would be, I was super excited. And not just about the baby. While on maternity leave there would be an Olympics and the Euros, two major sporting events that I normally only get to watch bits of, and I would get to watch it all – or, you know, have it on in the background while wrangling a small baby.

And then – coronavirus! Which has conspired to ruin literally every plan I had for my maternity leave, including the more minor plans regarding televisual entertainment (although in fairness, BT also had a good stab at ruining those plans before coronavirus even really arrived on these shores).

Coupled with this, over the last six to eight weeks or so, Little Man has gone from a baby who often fusses with a bad tummy, to a Mega Fuss Machine 3.0, who is just so grumpy and fussy that it’s basically impossible to follow anything happening on TV when he’s in the room. Even when he’s in a good mood he now just shrieks. Apparently, he enjoys shrieking. So, given that he’s also not sleeping well, we are really struggling to watch anything other than nature documentaries. And, honestly, if you can’t actually hear the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough, is it even worth it?

So – how to survive lockdown with a baby?

Well, recently the Bundesliga returned! Actual real-life football, the perfect entertainment for looking after a grumpy baby, where you don’t need to hear the commentary to follow the plot. Except, obviously, we couldn’t watch it because the days of football betting available on terrestrial TV are long since gone.

So, we’ve cracked and got a subscription to BT Sport, and I’m now rapidly becoming aquatinted with the various teams and players of the Bundesliga. Thank God we have something we can watch (but not hear) while endlessly bouncing the wee man on one knee. It’s the perfect solution for lockdown with a baby.

You can read more about my experiences in lockdown with a baby here!

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food · recipes · tea

How To Make Fresh Mint Tea Recipe

Peppermint tea is one of my favourite herbal teas (and I love tea!). It’s great if you’re feeling a bit bloated after a big meal, or have a bit of a sad tummy. Mint tea is also caffeine free, and it smells amazing as the process of brewing the tea releases essential oils. But did you know it’s super easy to make fresh mint tea at home?

Lots of us have mint plants in our gardens… They tend to go rogue and take over half your shrubbery. But if you don’t have a garden, or somehow have the only garden in England not infested with mint, you can of course buy it at the supermarket too (or alternatively, it will grow very happily in a pot, so you’ll have it handy whenever). Here’s the recipe:

Fresh Mint Tea Recipe

Grab a generous handful of fresh mint leaves for each person you want to make tea for, and gently crush the leaves a little in your hands to help release the oils.

Put the mint in a teapot or straight into a cup, and pour boiling water over the leaves. Leave it for 3 – 5 minutes until the water changes colour to a pale yellowy green. You can add a little sugar or honey to taste if you prefer a sweeter flavour, or even some lemon peel for a hint of citrus.

And that’s it! It’s super easy and very delicious, and it helps tackle the mint problem in your garden (without taking a toll on your liver like a mojito does…). It’s really easy to make this tea your own, by playing with the ingredients and adding your own spin on it. If you fancy a caffeine hit, you can even mix your mint tea with green tea, for a beverage with a little bit more of a kick to it!

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birth · health · medication · pituitary · pregnancy

My Experience of Pituitary Tumour and Pregnancy

I’ve already written about my experience of hypermobility and pregnancy (and birth!), so it feels like time to write about my experience with my pituitary tumour (pituitary adenoma).

My Experience of Pituitary Tumour And Pregnancy

Before trying for a baby

My husband and I went to talk to my endocrinologists about the possibility of trying for a baby over a year before we actually wanted to start trying (we had a wedding in between!). And it was just as well we did, because there was a lot of planning involved…

At the time, I was taking a medication called Somatuline Autogel (lanreotide) for my pituitary adenoma. There’s no data on its safeness (or otherwise) in pregnancy, and in fact it isn’t even technically licensed for my condition. I have a pituitary tumour which produces thyroid stimulating hormone (TSHoma), and they’re so rare that there actually isn’t any medication licensed for the condition. However, I’ve taken lanreotide on-and-off for nearly ten years, and fortunately it always worked well to control my symptoms.

But because it’s not known how safe lanreotide is in pregnancy, my doctors were keen to see whether I could manage without the medication during a pregnancy – or whether my thyroid levels would start going up again. So I agreed to do a trial period off the medication. All went well for a couple of months, and then I could feel my symptoms coming back, and blood tests confirmed that my thyroid levels had risen again. So, a new plan was needed.

My doctors then suggested trying cabergoline, a drug that’s used for a different kind of pituitary adenoma called a prolactinoma. They estimated to me that, based on their previous experience, there was about a one in five chance of it working for my tumour as well. And although cabergoline is not licensed for use in pregnancy, there have been more case studies etc. of women using it in pregnancy, so my endocrinologists thought it would be a better bet than lanreotide… If it worked for me.

So I have it a go… And it worked! To my surprise, it was just as good as lanreotide, if not better because it’s much more convenient. With cabergoline, I take two tablets per week (weird schedule, I know), whereas with the Somatuline Autogel it was an injection once a month which my husband had to do, and we had to keep the injections refrigerated beforehand. Plus, with Somatuline, because it messes with the function of your gallbladder, I had to eat an extremely low fat diet for 5 days out of each month, which could be a real pain when we were out and about. So not having to do that was a real bonus!

During Pregnancy

During the course of my pregnancy, I had to have blood tests once a month to check on my thyroid levels. Fortunately, they were well controlled throughout the whole time. I also had some bonus hospital visits so my endocrinologists could check up on other symptoms. Because the pituitary naturally enlarges during pregnancy, they like to check up on your visual fields to ensure that between that and the tumour, it’s not putting pressure on your optic nerve.

Planning for Breastfeeding

I really wanted to try breastfeeding, but being on cabergoline meant that could be tricky. Cabergoline inhibits the production of prolactin – the hormone that stimulates the production of breastmilk. My doctors recommended that I stop taking cabergoline six weeks before my due date, to give myself the best chance of breastfeeding, as the drug takes about four weeks to leave your system. Hopefully I would then be able to breastfeed for a couple of months before my symptoms returned and I had to go back on the medication.

So, I duly stopped taking cabergoline at 34 weeks… And then Little Man showed up at 37 weeks, rather earlier than expected! Breastfeeding didn’t work out for us. Although I made colostrum, my milk never came in, and it’s not clear whether it’s because the cabergoline wasn’t out of my system yet, or the stress and separation when Little Man ended up in intensive care for several days.

Planning for the Birth with a Pituitary Tumour

With regards to the birth, my endocrinologists were confident I could have a normal birth. Because the pituitary is involved in producing the hormones that kickstart childbirth, I did ask whether there was any reason to think that I might be less likely to go into labour naturally. But the doctors said that there was no evidence that women with pituitary tumours are more likely to need inductions.

The doctors did specifically write in my notes that I was allowed to have an epidural, as they said sometimes people can mistakenly think it’s not allowed after having transsphenoidal pituitary surgery. They also advised that there should be steroids on hand, to be administered if I experienced any unexplained low blood pressure, in which case an adrenal crisis should be suspected. Fortunately it wasn’t needed.

What advice do I have for other women with a pituitary tumour who are trying for children?

After two transsphenoidal pituitary surgeries, there was always a risk that the function of my pituitary gland had been damaged by the surgery and I might find it difficult to conceive. Fortunately we were very lucky and I was able to get pregnant. Because we knew it might take a while, we planned a long time ahead, and I’d definitely recommend talking to your endocrine team to work out a plan of action well in advance of when you want to start trying to conceive.

Trying me on/ off various treatments took over a year from when we first discussed it, due to delays from the hospital’s administration and us deciding to go back on my regular medication for the three month period of our wedding and honeymoon, to make sure I felt well for it. If we had been actively wanting to start trying for a baby, that would have felt incredibly frustrating and slow. It was frustrating enough even when we knew we didn’t want to start trying until after the wedding!

Do you have any experience of pregnancy and birth with a pituitary tumour which you can share? Let me know in the comments!

my experience of pituitary tumour in pregnancy and birth the sickly mama blog adenoma
baby · parenting

The Unbelievable Adventures of Little Man

One of my favourite things at the moment is Little Man’s conversations with my husband. Little Man is a mega chatty four month old, who loves making as much noise as possible. He loves “talking” with you, and often when he’s having a long chat/noisemaking session with his dad, my husband will “translate” his half of the conversation… And make it sound like he’s been up to the craziest adventures (fun adventures, not the rubbish keeping-you-up-all-night kind). Something like this:

Little Man: *gurgles*

Martin: You robbed a supermarket? What did you steal?

Little Man: *squeals*

Martin: You stole all the formula milk? Why did you do that?

Little Man: *makes a loud shrieking noise, farts*

Martin: Well, I know you love milk, but where are we going to store it all?

…And so on. According to my husband, the little chap has been on some very outlandish adventures, including a trip on rockets into space, a run-in with a pigeon which he threw his dirty nappy at, and a ride on a donkey made of springs. I honestly don’t know where he gets it all from, but baby loves it! Especially because listening to it makes me laugh, so we’re all just sat together giggling away and Little Man gets more and more excited (and consequently louder and louder) as the story gets more ridiculous.

It’s great fun and highly recommended. There’s plenty of advice out there for parents that emphasizes how important it is to talk to your baby, as an essential part of their language learning and development, but it can get a little boring when you’ve narrated your entire morning or told them for the five hundredth time that they’re the cutest little bubba in the world. This is much more entertaining, and it will let them enjoy being the centre of attention as well.

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baby · child development · colic · food · parenting

Why We’re Trying Lactose Free Formula

So as regular readers will know, Little Man has been having a lot of tummy trouble recently, and it’s just been getting worse. He’s really windy but struggles to get the wind out, and it’s been keeping him up at night and waking him up regularly when he does manage to sleep. He’s also had a bit of constipation, despite our efforts to keep him well hydrated. We’ve tried everything we can think of – changing his formula, using infant colic drops, making sure to burp him and wind him regularly, etc etc. But nothing seems to make much of a difference.

As a result, it’s been a tough few weeks, especially combined with his teething issues. Little Man has gone from sleeping through til about 3/4am and then having a slightly fitful sleep after that, to more or less having a fitful sleep through the whole night. Some nights I’ve been up with him much more often than every hour. So he’s been super grumpy, and to be honest, so have I!

So we went to the doctor’s and they recommended changing formula. As we’d already changed formula once, they suggested trying a lactose-free formula. Apparently if it does work, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Little Man is lactose intolerant, but the change might be helpful for him. I guess a lactose free formula is about as big a change as you can have!

So we’re crossing our fingers a) that it works, and b) that he’s not actually got a lactose intolerance! Apparently some babies develop temporary lactose intolerance after tummy upsets or if they were born prematurely, and it can be something they grow out of. Little Man did have some issues with some kind of tummy bug which really upset his stomach a while ago, so it’s not impossible that this could have caused a temporary intolerance which just hasn’t settled yet. I’ll keep you updated on our progress and how he gets on with his lactose free formula!

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