How can Pregnancy impact Meniere’s disease?
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After over 12 years of supporting Meniere’s sufferers and receiving over 7,000 emails related to Meniere’s it has dawned on me in hindsight the amount of mails we have received from women whose symptoms started during pregnancy or just after giving birth.
It would seem, pregnancy and female hormonal changes can have a very real impact on Meniere’s disease.
Living with Meniere’s is hard enough for anyone but to a pregnant woman or a new mother having to give up sleep and take care of her new born it must be horrendous. If you are one of those unfortunate people, God only knows how you manage, especially if you are a single mom with no help.
I decided to do a search on the subject to find out more and see if we can shed light on this subject and help you more.
As far as clinical studies go they are few and far between but the initial results on google show a lot of messages on blogs and forums from expectant and new mothers. There is obviously a significant link here being missed.
Pregnancy and Meniere’s disease – Studies:
A 1997 study published in Journal for Otorhinolaryngoly and its Related Specialities stated the following:
“Vertigo attacks increased up to 10 times per month during early pregnancy. As pregnancy proceeded, the serum osmolality normalized and the vertigo attacks decreased in frequency. The vertigo attacks were treated by oral isosorbide and intramuscular injection of low-dose diazepam. The coincidence of the decline in osmolality with the increase in vertigo attacks points to serum osmolality as a possible factor in the effect of pregnancy on Ménière’s disease”
In this study carried out in Japan [The possible effect of pregnancy on Ménière’s disease.] it was aimed at women already suffering from Meniere’s before pregnancy but clearly shows pregnancy has an effect.
In a Polish study published on PubMed.Com [Sudden sensorineural hearing loss during pregnancy] it focused on one case of an otherwise healthy expectant mother who suddenly suffered sensorineural hearing loss, one symptom of Meniere’s.
The study stated:
“It has been hypothesized that hearing loss may be associated with increased activation of both blood coagulation and fibrinolysis (‘hypercoagulable state’) which occurs during normal pregnancy.
This state may lead to vascular occlusion in the microcirculation of the inner ear by microemboli. It’s necessary to take certain predisposing factors into consideration as fluid and sodium retention, emotional instability, situation anxiety, viral and allergic changes. It’s essential to conduct a more detailed diagnosis to exclude some organic disorders as otosclerosis, Meniere’s disease with non-typical course, especially those which are dangerous for pregnant women’s life–preeclampsia-eclampsia and hypertension.”
Blood flow, stress, viral and allergic factors are all connected to Meniere’s. But why would pregnancy bring such symptoms. Perhaps as the Japanese study suggests, blood or is it hormonal as another study on pubmed shows sensorineaural improvements during pregnancy. Hormonal irregularities can cause blood issues.
At the other end of the hormonal scale, a quick search for Meniere’s in Menopausal women threw up a lot more results. The instances of menopausal women suffering from Meniere’s and other conditions with vertigo symptoms were legion. What I was looking for was connections to the endocrine system and estrogen as this is a factor I have written about before.
The link I was looking at was how hormonal changes affecting the immune system can bring on Meniere’s.
A 2006 study shows that estrogen possibly plays a role in ear health. In the study in Acta Oto-Laryngologica it states:
“Hearing loss is more profound in elderly males than females (females have more estrogen). There are also well-known sex differences in the auditory brainstem responses in males and females.
Menopausal women who are administered hormone replacement therapy have slightly better hearing than those who are not, and women with Turner’s syndrome, who are biologically estrogen-deficient.
In animal experiment they showed: When boosted with estrogen or testosterone the non-reproductive female midshipman fish alters its inner ear auditory mechanism so that it can hear the male’s hum-like call.
If an estrogen receptor is knocked out in mice, severe progressive hearing loss occurs, leading to early deafness.
In apparent contradiction to these findings, there have been case reports suggesting that hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptive use can lead to hearing loss, but of another type, namely acute sudden deafness. Such contradictory aspects of the action of estrogen are commonly found and may spring from the fact that there are two estrogen receptors, ? and ?, both of which are present in the inner ear of mice, rats and humans. Knowing how sex steroids can alter hearing ability may give important clues as to how estrogen can preserve hearing in humans”
The details of this study may not seem immediately clear to the Meniere’s sufferer. But for woman in pregnancy it may show there is a direct link to hormonal changes ear health and ultimately Meniere’s.
Meniere’s can lead to a very lonely existence where people around you have no idea what you are going through. For expectant or new mothers this must be very hard to deal with indeed.
Messages from Pregnant Meniere’s sufferers
“I have Meniere’s and this is my 3rd pregnancy. Have not had attacks during the previous two, and so far, none during this one. However, I have definitely had more spells of lightedness/dizziness but not full on vertigo attacks, thank goodness. I am 36 now, so I’m not sure if age has something to do with the increase in dizziness spells or not. Had no issues whatsover with previous two pregnancies. I’m 13 weeks now.”
“I have Meniere’s and am only 7 weeks with my second. I was getting much better before I got pregnant, and I think it was because I was off the pill. I’ve done a lot of research on hormones and Meniere’s. Apparantly, being pregnant/nursing can really affect your symptoms. Mine are twice as bad as they were just a few months ago. I’m terrified that my pregnancy is going to be miserable again.
My first preg. was bad, lots of attacks. I nursed for a year and struggled through it. I’m now gluten free (it helps!) and doing physical therapy to retrain my vestibular system. “
“i have a 4 month old (typing with one-hand) and am now starting to have symptoms again after a problem-free pregnancy (no vertigo and little tinnitus). i suspect, for me, my lack of menieres symptoms was related to increased pregnancy hormones. thus, i am researching trying to mimic that pregnancy-hormone-cocktail through birth control or hormone therapy. i am in the process of looking for an otolarynologist in san francisco who is open to trying out this idea. i have seen posts where women with menieres have controlled their symptoms by staying on birth control and minimizing any large fluctuations in hormones.”
“For my first pregnancy, I didn’t experience any symptoms (other than I noticed I was suffering from hearing loss). Not even during nursing, did I experience any. My second, I experienced symptoms AFTER my daughter was born…during the nursing phase. Now, with my third, I have had the most gruelling pregnancy ever in terms of MD. Everyday its a struggle for me. I am constantly “checking” my awareness, my “fogginess”. I get waves of “I think I am about to have an attack” throughout the day. I worry not to turn my head to quickly. It’s gotten pretty bad, so much so that my doctor wrote a note for my husband’s work to let him work from home so I wont be alone. So for me, with each pregnancy it gets worse. I am still on low sodium, but no dyazide. I started taking zofran on the onset of an attack, and I’ve noticed it helps reduce the nausea, but of course not the vertigo. So I’ve noticed a quicker recovery time as a result (from a 4-6 hour attack to about 2 hours). I wonder if the influx of more estrogen could be a factor, seeing as though I had a girl last time, and now this time in which I experienced MD? “
“I follow an extremely strict low sodium diet (<1500 mg/day). I use only organic produce, no canned/boxed/jarred or processed food of any kind. I eat very little meat (2-3 times a week) and I only eat local organic grassfed beef–no hormones or antibiotics. I eat a lot of beans (dry not canned) as well as fresh or roasted vegetables. I also only drink water–no soda, coffee, tea of any kind even if it is decaf or diet. All the chemicals exacerbate my symptoms. I make my own bread and most things from scratch omitting salt in recipes or subbing for a low sodium option. I’ve followed this diet for about a year. It was working pretty well (better than most meds ever did at least) until I got pregnant. I’ve been super sick again and I lost about 15 pounds the first part of my pregnancy. I’m just now breaking even at 19 weeks :-/ I can’t drive or ride in a car without vomiting. I feel like a hermit 🙁 Diet is likely the only thing that has kept me from being confined strictly to bed verses the fact that I can sit for a large part of the day without problems. Feel free to PAN me anytime :)”
“I have Meniere’s and have 6 weeks left till our due date. It has been a challenging process as I was just diagnosed with Meniere’s a month before expecting so there has been a lot of new and adjusting.
My first trimester was really tough and I had frequent vertigo episodes— daily— then in the 2nd trimester I went a few weeks a time without any, and now I back to daily vertigo episodes. It is tough but survivable. The hardest things is the unpredictability and being scared.
Just decided to stay home a lot, getting behind the wheel is a definite no right now. It is challenging and scary at times. Hoping it decreases after birth so I can be present for the little one.
I have used acupuncture, hypnosis, chiropractor, yoga, meditation and tried a bit of everything to lessen the severity. Not much you can do while pregnant. Some doctor’s say medicine is ok, it is up to you. We all have different beliefs, I chose to stop medication while pregnant.
Being relaxed and safe is the best way to get through it. Good luck. Oh and all I know from the research is everyone is different so be positive and maybe pregnancy will correct yours.”
Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy
The hormonal and physiologic changes during pregnancy are unique in the life of women. Pregnant women experience sudden and dramatic increases in estrogen and progesterone, as well as changes in the amount and function of a number of other hormones.
Given that imbalances, disorders and dysfunctions in the metabolism, endocrine system and thyroid (which are all connected) have been linked to the onset of Meniere’s symptoms, is it not possible that the hormonal changes that a pregnant woman goes through may result in the same thing. Given the multitude of other contributing factors in each individual that can compound, speed up or even help avoid the onset of Meniere’s, looking at hormone balance would be a very good place to start.
At Meniere’s Help we try to offer natural solutions as much as possible, through nutrition in foods and safe, clean supplementation.
Re-balancing your hormones may help a great deal in your body correcting its endocrine and immune system and rid you of the source of your Meniere’s symptoms.
The 10 best herbs for female hormone balance according to Dr Group of the Global Healing Center:
- avena sativa
- catuaba bark
- Maca root
- muira puama
- tongkat ali
- tribulus terrestris
**NOTE** If you are pregnant or breast feeding please consult your physician before using herbs that influence your hormones.
If you are a a woman suffering in this position, I hope this article helps you.
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By Mike Spencer
Founder of Menieres-Help.Com – Supporting sufferers since 2004
Researcher & Author of Managing Meniere’s Diseaseand The Need for Balance – Dealing with the Causes of Meniere’s
Help other women either pregnant or newly given birth who have Meniere’s Disease. What are your experiences? Tell us all about it in the comments box below or email Mike at email@example.com