8 questions about hormones, fertility & mental health answered by counseling psychologist Dr Ohemaa

Our medical advisor Dr Ohemaa Nkansa-Dwamena is a registered and accredited Counselling Psychologist and a lecturer on the Professional Doctorate (DPsych) in Counselling Psychology at City, University of London. She has been in clinical practice for over 13 years and works primarily in private practice with former clinical positions in NHS, higher education and third sector settings.

She has a BA (Hons) degree in Applied Psychology from University of Sussex, completed her DPsych in Counselling Psychology at City, University of London, and has advanced certification in schema therapy. To get to know Dr Ohemaa a bit better, we asked her 8 questions.

1. What does a normal day look like for you?

I feel lucky that as a Counselling Psychologist, I have an opportunity to work in different contexts and with different individuals. On one day, you'll find me engaging with clients in clinical practice, and providing supervision to other mental health practitioners. On another day, you might find me involved in research and teaching, or editing and composing. I also provide consultation to organisations on various issues related to mental health, and my interests include identity negotiation, race in mental health, intersectional experiences and women's mental health

2. In your experience, how do people with ovaries think about hormonal health and fertility? Does it cause stress?

This can evolve and differ depending of the stage of life experience individuals are in. And it's important to highlight here that hormonal health relates to our whole health and wellbeing, and is not only thought about or experienced in relation to fertility. Our bodies have a unique way of housing and communicating to us when things are changing or need attention. People may consider hormonal health when something shifts or doesn’t seem quite right for them, and certainly when there are imbalances, or worries about how our bodies might help us meet certain desires or choices-all of these may trigger stress, anxiety and low mood.

In relation to fertility, people may think about their future or present choices in relation to starting a family or not wanting to start a family, but may also think about other aspects in relation to their fertility including societal or familial expectations, the influence of culture or background, and what information or input might be available to them.

3. There is not a lot of emphasis on the emotional journey one goes through when dealing with issues related to hormonal and fertility health in the UK and in Europe - how do you think that can be improved?

I think there has certainly been more awareness and support offered in this area, but we can always be doing more. When people have consultations in relation to their hormonal and fertility health, psychological support and or assessment can form a part of that exploration- it can offer an individual the opportunity to process their thoughts and considerations, but hopefully also feel held within that journey.

I also think that when we are talking about hormonal and fertility health, we should further normalise raising the emotional and psychological impact or implications of these experiences, thereby encouraging the space to both name and speak to these.

4. Why are you excited to work on Grip?

Grip’s Ethos. I am excited to work within a company which is about empowering individuals to take control and ownership of their health, and make informed decisions for themselves and their bodies. In my experience thus far, Grip is very much about a holistic approach in supporting individuals, and I am excited to be a tiny part of this process, where we can consider the layered aspects of a person’s experience in regards to learning more about their hormonal and fertility health.

5. What are the most common things you see people with ovaries worry about in your experience?

  • Hormonal imbalances and disorders

  • Bodily changes and experiences

  • Responses to life adjustments and transitions

  • Fertility and decisions, options in relation to this

Not an exhaustive list of course, as these can also intertwine with other life stressors and contextual plus societal issues and pressures

6. Do you think doing a Grip test would delay women from having kids?

I think this very much depends on the person’s circumstances and the stage of life they are existing in at the time. The great thing about the Grip test is the information it does provide for individuals, giving them the chance to consider how they would like to move forward (or not) dependent on where they are in their life and their idiosyncratic circumstances. And it isn’t just about the test- the opportunity to consult with doctors allows for further exploration, the opportunity to delve deeper and consider wheat feels right for them.

7. What kinds of people shouldn’t do the Grip test?

I think it is important for individuals to be clear about what the test cannot tell them, and to note that there is not a single predictor for fertility. In this regard, I think it is more helpful to consider if the test will be helpful to individuals in terms of what they are trying to find out. If there are questions or areas that may not be captured by taking the test, then one could consider additional consultation or an alternative investigation. I think it is also important to consider where someone might be emotionally in regards to taking the test, and seeking information beforehand so that they have the appropriate support and guidance where needed. Grip is one of the good sources in this regard, through the information they provide on their website and social media pages, and access to doctors, the team and other women who have been through or are going through the process.

8. Hormonal and fertility health remain taboo subjects in today’s world. What can we do to change that?

Normalise talking about hormonal and fertility health. We have so many more platforms and opportunities to hold discussions and disseminate information in this area, in a way that was perhaps more limiting previously.

Raise awareness and offer various modes of support. Ease of accessibility to support, and the importance of people being seen and heard is imperative. Individuals are certainly more forthcoming about sharing their experiences in relation to hormonal health, and it seems important to create safe spaces where these areas can continue to be explored.