male fertility check

A new study has revealed that male fertility drastically drops once you’re in your 50s. Researchers in the UK discovered that men’s chances of having a baby via IVF when they are in their 50s drops by a third compared to men in their mid-thirties.

The study also revealed that not only does fertility drop for men once they get older, but their sperm also contained more mutations, increasing the risk of having a child with a development disorder.

Here, we’ll look at what the research revealed and what men can do to determine their fertility.

What did the recent male fertility study find?

The new study carried out by the University College of London and the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health revealed a few interesting facts surrounding men’s fertility in their 50s.

They looked at records taken from almost 5000 IVF cycles which took part over the past nine years. It was discovered that half of the men who were under 35 years of age, were able to get their partners pregnant. For those aged 41-45, the male fertility rate fell to 35.1%, and by 51 years of age, it fell further to 30.5%.

There have been previous studies carried out which have looked into declining male fertility which occurs naturally through age. However, this is the first to really look into how it affects those going down the IVF route.

The study also revealed men in their 50s had the same kind of high-risk pregnancy rates as women. The sperm’s quality diminishes over time, with more abnormalities present for men in their 50s. This means the risk of having a child with a developmental disorder such as autism also increases with a man’s age.

Older celebrity father’s fuelling myth men can have babies at any age

It is a common belief that men can father children well into their sixties and seventies. This is largely fuelled by older celebrity fathers such as Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger. However, while it is certainly possible for older men to father a child, the chances do diminish quite rapidly after the age of 45.

Experts are now calling for more education to be given to younger men. They need to know about the risks of having a child later in life, as well as the difficulties it can present.

The tests men can have to determine their fertility

For men who are worried about their fertility chances, there are a number of male fertility tests which can be carried out, as well as measures that can be taken to improve their chances of becoming a father later in life.

Semen analysis is the most popular fertility test available. This looks into sperm count, as well as sperm quality and motility. It’s a very quick, painless test which can prove crucial at determining your fertility.

In terms of planning ahead, men can also have their sperm frozen for up to 15 years. That way, when they are in their 50s, they can use sperm from their 30s to fertilise their partner’s eggs.

Overall, this new study proves vital at highlighting the problems men face with fertility as they get older. More awareness needs to be provided so that men can start to make preparations if needed if they do want to wait to start a family. Those who are worried about their fertility can book a consultation with a fertility specialist and undergo tests to help diagnose any potential issues.

4D ultrasound scan shows effects of smoking on unborn babies

Researchers have recently released graphic ultrasound images of babies in the womb who are exposed to cigarette smoke. Taken as part of a small study into the effects smoking has on babies in the womb, the images have already caused a media stir.

The Daily Telegraph ran a story in response to the images, entitled ‘Unborn Baby Shown Grimacing in Womb as Mother Smokes’. This clever but misleading headline has understandably caused outrage, so what’s the real story behind the images?

Here, we’ll look at what the ultrasound scans revealed and the discoveries made by researchers when carrying out the small study.

Understanding the ultrasound scan study

The study was carried out by the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, along with the universities of Lancaster and Durham. It was a very small study, involving just four smokers. They also looked at images from 16 non-smokers to compare them and results were published within the Acta Paediatrica medical journal.

The research was carried out to observe whether subtle foetal movements could be detected via ultrasound scans. It also aimed to see whether there were any clear differences in movements in unborn babies of smokers. The recordings were assessed to specifically see how many times the baby’s touched their faces and moved their mouths.

The results showed that unborn babies of smokers who average 14 cigarettes a day, moved their mouths more than babies of non-smokers.

Smoking may cause delay in development of central nervous system

This pilot study, although small, does suggest that unborn babies of smokers could have a delay in their central nervous system development. They were found to not only move their mouths and touch their face more but to also do it for longer in the womb too.

Typically, babies start to touch their face and move their mouths less often as the pregnancy progresses. However, the babies of smokers continued to do so for much longer than babies of non-smokers.

A larger study now needs to be carried out to look into other specific factors which may contribute to the central nervous system development delay. As it was such a small-scale study, further, more intensive research needs to be done to discover the true link between smoking and foetal development.

Researchers hope images will help women struggling to quit

While the initial headline that babies are shown grimacing may have been exaggerated, researchers are hoping the images will help women who are struggling to quit smoking.

It can be difficult to quit smoking but seeing its effects on unborn babies could give women the additional motivation they need. While the actual effects smoking has on babies in the womb isn’t yet fully understood, it is known that it has a lot of potentially serious complications for baby’s health.

It is estimated that 12% of pregnant women within the UK currently smoke. Researchers are hoping the results of this study will also help to highlight the need to provide pregnant women with additional support to help them quit.

Private Women's Health Clinic

Scientists working towards a better understanding of endometriosis have recently reported progress into the potential causes of the condition.

As of yet, there is no cure for this painful, chronic condition. It is also unknown why it occurs in some women and not others. Those who do suffer with it, report excruciating pain, often requiring surgical intervention. It can also negatively impact almost every aspect of a patient’s life, particularly their relationships as it can lead to painful sexual intercourse.

The new findings present hope that the cause of endometriosis could be discovered in the not too distant future.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is diagnosed when the endometrial tissue which is usually present inside a woman’s uterus, also begins to grow on the outside. It can potentially fuse organs together, and most commonly affects the fallopian tubes, ovaries and bladder. It is thought to affect approximately 10% to 15% of all women of reproductive age, though exact figures aren’t known.

Pain is the most common symptom associated with the condition. This can occur mostly around the time during a woman’s period, or it could be present on a daily basis. Some women find it is painful when they use the toilet, while others experience pain during or after sex.

Other potential symptoms include difficulty conceiving, depression and potentially heavier periods.

Understanding the new findings

The new study, published within the Biology of Reproduction journal, was carried out to aid with fertility treatments. Those suffering from endometriosis can experience significant difficulties in getting pregnant. A major challenge presented, is that women need to inform the physician about the day of their menstrual cycle prior to undergoing treatment. The study showed that the dates given and the actual dates are often totally different.

They took endometrium samples from approximately 80 different women. It was discovered that the day the women reported, and the day revealed by the molecular profile of the samples was frequently incompatible. The study therefore allows researchers to assign an exact date of the tissue samples taken to aid in future research.

A beREADY tool was used in the study, which is an advanced molecular tool which helps to provide clinics with relevant information to choose the best day for embryo implantation.

Could a breakthrough into the causes of endometriosis come soon?

Researchers are hopeful that a breakthrough will be made into identifying the causes of endometriosis soon. Technology is continually advancing, allowing scientists to be much more precise in their research. They will be able to eliminate potential side factors, making it simpler to identify any casual changes which occur within the condition.

Overall, endometriosis can have a devastating impact on a woman’s life. Not only does it cause chronic pain, but it can also lead to issues with fertility. However, it is worth noting that having endometriosis does not automatically mean you’ll have trouble conceiving. The condition does affect each woman differently, with some experiencing very few, minor symptoms.

Contact the SureScan Private Women’s Health Clinic on 0121 308 7774 or email info@​surescan-womenshealth.co.uk for more advice.

menopause health check

A new initiative from the Scottish National Parliament (SNP), could soon see employees being provided with menopause training. Plans to introduce the initiative come after a recent survey from the SNP discovered almost a third of respondents felt the menopause was treated negatively, or as a joke within the workplace.

While some women don’t experience any real negative effects of the menopause, for others it can be debilitating. The initiative hopes to raise awareness of the condition and how it can impact women in the workplace, along with educating employers about how they can help during this transitional phase.

Debate likely to prove promising for working women

The new initiative is currently only in the debate stage. So, there is a possibility it may not be implemented. However, initial interest and support for the topic do prove promising.

With statistics revealing that three out of four women going through the menopause experience symptoms, it shows just how prevalent the issue is. There are currently 3.5 million women aged 50 and over in the workplace due to our ageing population. Women have been calling for changes for years, so would certainly welcome the new initiative.

CIPD also offering free guide to menopause at work

It’s not just the SNP who are campaigning for more awareness of the menopause at work. The CIPD is now offering free guidance on how to manage the menopause in the workplace. They too carried out research into how the condition affects women at work. Around 59% of respondents claimed it had a negative impact on their work.

In its free guidance, the CIPD reveals how having the option to work flexible hours can help, along with fans to help ease hot flushes; a common symptom associated with the menopause.

How can the menopause impact women in the workplace?

Studies have revealed that the menopause largely causes three main issues for women going through the menopause at work.

An inability to concentrate is one of the leading symptoms, impacting performance. Over half of women also experience increased levels of stress, as well as being more impatient with both colleagues and clients.

Almost a third of the women who responded in the CIPD research, claimed they have had to take sick days due to menopausal symptoms. However, only a quarter of them felt able to disclose the real reason behind their absence to their employer. Most simply don’t feel comfortable talking about the menopause at work, either due to embarrassment or because of how the condition is widely viewed.

This is where the new SNP initiative could prove useful for Scottish employees. Spreading awareness of the impact the menopause can have on women at work is crucial to ensuring employees get the support they need. The more support they are given by their employers, the less of an impact it’s going to have on their work.

Although it will only benefit those in Scotland initially, the initiative would likely be adopted by other parts of the UK is it proved to be a success. The menopause may be a natural condition, but it can have devastating consequences on a woman’s life.

If you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms, a consultation with our consultation gynaecologist can be invaluable. We provide a comprehensive medical examination and provide tests of hormone and nutrition levels as well as any necessary scans and also can give you advice on lifestyle changes and HRT. Call 0121 308 7774 to book a Menopause Health Check today.

testing for Down's Syndrome

Advancements in technology over the years has made it easier for practitioners to test for chromosomal abnormalities. Conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, Patau’s Syndrome and Edwards’ Syndrome can be picked up on pretty early thanks to advanced screening techniques.

The question is, are these tests in pregnancy safe for you and baby? Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about testing for Down’s Syndrome.

What is Down’s Syndrome?

Down’s Syndrome is caused by a chromosomal abnormality. Those with the condition have an additional chromosome which develops due to a genetic change within the egg or sperm. It causes learning difficulties to some degree, although sufferers of the condition today do tend to lead a fulfilling and healthy life. It all depends upon the severity of the condition.

While the condition can occur in any pregnancy, there is more of a risk for older mothers; particularly those aged 45 and over.

Will prenatal screening confirm if baby has Down’s Syndrome?

Prenatal screening will not confirm if your baby does have Down’s Syndrome. However, it does give some indication of the likelihood of baby being born with the condition. If it is discovered there is a chance baby could have some form of chromosomal abnormality, a diagnostic test will be required for confirmation.

Is it safe?

The prenatal screening tests for Down’s Syndrome are considered just as safe as a 2D ultrasound scan. They don’t pose any risk of miscarriage or any risks to your baby. However, if you are concerned you don’t have to undergo the screening. It’s only recommended, rather than required. That being said, there are a lot of benefits of having the screening.

The benefits of testing for Down’s Syndrome in pregnancy

Although it might be scary to undergo additional scans, particularly if you’ve been told you have a high-risk pregnancy, they do present numerous benefits.

Firstly, if baby does turn out to have the condition, knowing about it as early as possible gives you plenty of time to prepare. You can find out as much about the condition as possible before baby is born. It also gives you the opportunity to ensure you’re giving birth in a hospital which has good facilities for babies with special needs.

Of course, there is also chance your baby might not have the condition. So, the screening test could simply put your mind at ease.

How is the screening carried out?

The screening process for Down’s Syndrome will depend upon how far along you are with the pregnancy. If you’re between 10 to 14 weeks pregnant, you will be offered a combined test. This includes both a blood test and an ultrasound scan. The blood test looks for hCG hormones, along with plasma proteins developed specifically during pregnancy. The ultrasound scan checks the level of fluid surrounding baby’s neck.

If you’re 14 to 20 weeks pregnant, a combined test won’t be available. In this case, you’ll need to undergo what is known as a quadruple test. This is basically a blood test which looks at four different proteins.

Overall, testing for Down’s Syndrome in pregnancy is generally considered safe. The screening doesn’t pose any risks to you or baby. If you’d like to undergo optional Down’s Syndrome screening, call 0121 308 7774 or email info@​surescan-womenshealth.co.uk to book a consultation with SureScan today.

private pregnancy scan

Ultrasounds have been used to monitor pregnancies for decades. However, are they really safe for you and baby? At SureScan, we are a leading private pregnancy scan clinic and here’s our advice on whether ultrasound is safe during early pregnancy.

A lot of research and studies have been carried out over the years to determine the safety and effectiveness of ultrasound scans. The results have revealed no evidence to suggest they could be harmful to mother or baby. Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the safety of ultrasound scans.

Does an ultrasound have any impact on baby’s health?

Although ultrasound scans work by sending sound waves which bounce off your baby’s body, they do not harm the baby. Echoes produced by these sound waves produce an image which allows the sonographer to see the baby in the womb.

This isn’t to say that ultrasound scans can’t be harmful. They do need to be carried out by qualified sonographers. In order to carry out the scans safely, the right frequency and duration needs to be used. Care also needs to be taken to ensure the ultrasound doesn’t produce too much heat internally.

The average antenatal scan increases the internal temperature by no more than one degree celsius. In order for the scan to pose a risk to baby, it needs to produce around four degrees Celsius temperatures. So, the traditional 2D scans which are carried out between 8 to 14 weeks and 18 to 21 weeks are considered completely safe.

What about 3D and 4D scans?

Advancements in technology have made it possible to undergo both 3D and 4D pregnancy scans. These are much more detailed than 2D scans and are provided by private clinics across the UK.

The 3D scans convert a 2D image into a 3D image. The 4D scans on the other hand, produce moving videos of baby and they produce much more heat than 2D scans. This means, during the early stages of the pregnancy, 3D and 4D scans are best avoided. As baby is smaller, the heat cannot be distributed evenly from the more advanced ultrasound scans. Therefore, it’s best to wait until the later stages of the pregnancy to have these carried out. When done during the later stages, 3D and 4D scans pose no higher a risk to baby than the 2D scans.

What if I need additional scans?

There is the possibility that you may be recommended to undergo additional scans throughout the pregnancy. This is usually to monitor high-risk pregnancies to check baby is developing how they should.

Extra scans are also used to detect potential chromosomal abnormalities. However, the screening tests alone cannot determine whether or not baby definitely has a condition such as Down’s Syndrome. For that, diagnostic testing will be required.

These extra scans shouldn’t pose any risk to you or baby. However, it is still worth avoiding undergoing too many scans, especially during the first trimester.

Overall, ultrasound scans are considered safe for mother and baby. Patients just need to ensure they undergo the tests at a reliable clinic or hospital. The skills and experience of the sonographer will largely determine how safe the scan will be. For more advice on pregnancy scans, contact the SureScan private pregnancy scan clinic on 0121 308 7774 or email info@​surescan-womenshealth.co.uk.

Dfree ultrasound device

A new mobile ultrasound device known as Dfree, has been launched to help those suffering from incontinence. Designed to detect when the bladder is 70% full, it sends an alert to the patient’s phone to remind them to go to the toilet.

While it’s currently only available in the US, it is thought the device could hit the UK market within two years. Here, we’ll look into this new device and how it could help thousands of patients to live a better-quality life.

What is the Dfree device?

The Dfree device is a small gadget, approximately the size of a matchbox. It’s set to cost £400, and it’s designed to stick to the tummy, sending ultrasound waves directly into the abdomen. It then detects whether the bladder is expanding, sending a message to the patient’s phone when it detects the bladder is 70% full. There is also an option for the patient to program the device to detect when the bladder is 50% full.

It’s mainly created to help those living with urinary retention incontinence. This occurs when the bladder has stretched due to being full the majority of the time. However, it is thought it could potentially help all patients suffering from incontinence to help them better detect when they need to go to the toilet.

Once the bladder is around half full, the muscles within its walls signal to the brain to let it know you need to urinate. At the same time, it also signals to the bladder to hold on. The trouble is, if a patient holds on for too long, it can actually stretch the bladder, at the same time as interrupting its natural signals. It also prevents the bladder from emptying fully, which often leads to little accidents that the patient doesn’t feel coming.

Ultrasound gel is included with the device, and patients will need to wear Dfree all day, just above the pelvic bone. It is connected to a battery powered monitor on the patient’s wristband where the information is presented.

Will it really help to reduce incontinence?

While this new device could potentially help a lot of patients, experts claim it won’t help the majority of those suffering from incontinence. This is because they tend to go to the toilet too often, rather than too little. So, it’s not just a case of simply needing to be reminded to go for most patients.

What other options do patients have?

As the Dfree device isn’t set to hit the UK market for another couple of years, what can those suffering from incontinence do right now? One of the best methods for reducing the condition is yoga.

Studies have shown that a few months of doing yoga twice a week, can significantly reduce incontinence. This is because some yoga poses are great for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, which are responsible for holding urine in when you need to go to the toilet.

Incontinence can be an embarrassing and frustrating problem to live with

So, the fact there is a device coming onto the market which could help many patients is definitely exciting news. However, in the meantime, there are other options and yoga is an especially great practice to help patients gain better control over their bladder.

NIPT

If you have been diagnosed as having a high-risk pregnancy, you may have been recommended to undergo the standard amniocentesis test. One of the most widely used tests to detect chromosomal abnormalities, amniocentesis involves taking samples from the amniotic fluid which surrounds baby in the womb. However, as it poses a small risk of a miscarriage, patients are understandably concerned about having the test done.

One alternative to amniocentesis which could prove safer for baby is non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). So, is this type of testing really a good alternative and is it as effective as the standard testing?

What is Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing?

NIPT is a blood test which is used to assess baby’s DNA using only the mother’s blood. It is capable of testing for the most common chromosomal abnormalities, including Down’s Syndrome, Patau Syndrome and Edwards Syndrome. It can also help to detect baby’s sex, earlier than an ultrasound.

The test was introduced in 2003 and it has gone on to become a popular alternative to amniocentesis testing.

How does it detect chromosomal abnormalities?

NIPT detects chromosomal abnormalities by analysing the chromosomes within the DNA. The average person has 23 different chromosomes in every cell. However, in those with Down’s Syndrome, for example, they have an additional chromosome which is what leads to mental and physical differences.

Within the mother’s blood, there is approximately 10% to 20% of cell-free fetal DNA. It is this which is tested for chromosomal abnormalities and it comes directly from the placenta. The test can be done from 10 weeks into the pregnancy.

Is it as effective as amniocentesis?

As NIPT isn’t as invasive as amniocentesis, many patients are concerned whether or not it is as effective. The good news is, NIPT has proven to be 99% effective at detecting Down’s Syndrome and over 98% effective at detecting other common chromosomal abnormalities.

NIPT also doesn’t pose any risk of miscarriage. So, when comparing the two, NIPT does tend to outshine amniocentesis.

Can you only have NIPT if you’re classed as having a high-risk pregnancy?

You can undergo NIPT in any pregnancy, not just if you’re considered to be at high risk. However, you will only be offered the test free of charge on the NHS if you do have a high-risk pregnancy. If you still want to have the test done even though you’re considered low risk, you will need to pay for the test privately.

As NIPT is non-invasive and poses no risk to the baby, there is no harm in paying to have one privately. In fact, it could provide you with peace of mind as it can help to ensure nothing has been missed in your standard prenatal screening.

If you’d like to have NIPT to put your mind at ease, call 07835 736627 and contact SureScan today. During a consultation, you will find out everything you need to know about the test and whether or not it’s the right option for you.

smear tests

As the number of women attending smear testing has fallen to its lowest on record, experts are looking into potential solutions. Smear tests are crucial at helping to detect HPV and early signs of cervical cancer. However, a staggering number of women are still avoiding the tests due to embarrassment and the discomfort sometimes felt during the quick procedure.

One solution currently being developed is a urine test which could be just as effective as smear tests at detecting HPV. Here, we’ll look at what patients could expect from the new test.

What did the study find?

The study, led by leading gynaecological oncologist Dr Emma Crosbie from the University of Manchester, showed urine tests are just as effective as smear tests when it comes to detecting HPV.

Unlike smear tests, urine tests are non-invasive and a lot less embarrassing and painless for patients. They can be carried out at home and dropped off to the GP. It is thought if this type of testing is introduced onto the market, it could help to dramatically increase cervical cancer screening participation in younger patients.

The study involved taking urine samples from 104 women at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester. They had each been referred to the clinic after abnormalities were detected. They were given urine tests and vaginal sample tests to carry out themselves, while a cervical swab was performed by a healthcare professional.

The samples showed that two-thirds of the women had what is referred to as high-risk HPV. That is, they tested positive for HPV-16 or HPV-18, which are thought to be the cause of the majority of cervical cancer cases.

The results of the study showed that all three tests could pick up 15 out of 18 cases. This has proven to be an exciting development that urine testing could prove to be a viable and more comfortable form of testing for cervical cancer cells.

A more sustainable solution is required

In recent years, there have been a lot of smear test campaigns, trying to encourage more women to attend their screenings. However, whilst these campaigns have temporarily helped, the results have been short-lasting.

While the majority of women do know how important these tests are, many are unable to push past the psychological issues they have about undergoing a routine smear. So, experts are now trying to look into more sustainable solutions, with the urine testing kits being just one potential option.

Patients urged to attend smear tests in the meantime

Although the new study has shown promising and exciting results, the test itself is likely to take a few years to be approved for use on the market. This means, in the meantime, patients are urged to continue attending their smear tests.

Smear testing takes just a couple of minutes and patients often find it isn’t as bad as they thought it was going to be. When you consider this simple and quick test could save your life, it really is crucial to push past that initial worry as it may not even be as bad as you think. Call us on 07835 736627 to arrange your consultation.

late stage ultrasound scans

A new study has revealed that thousands of caesarean sections could be prevented if women are given a late stage ultrasound scan.

The University of East Anglia and the Cambridge University carried out a trial, which revealed approximately 4000 C-section procedures could be potentially prevented each year. The research was largely carried out to help diagnose breech presentation, which typically results in an emergency C-section being performed.

So, how could a late stage ultrasound scan prevent unnecessary C-sections? Below, we’ll look at what the research revealed and why a late ultrasound scan could help thousands of women.

What is breech presentation?

Breech presentation is where the baby is facing the wrong way around. This means, rather than coming out head first during the delivery, breech babies will come out feet or buttocks first. This can cause a lot of potential issues for both mother and baby, in severe cases even resulting in death.

At the very least, breech births can lead to birth trauma and injuries. The trouble is, thousands of breech babies are undiagnosed. So, when the birth does arrive, an emergency C-section is required to safely deliver the baby. However, emergency C-sections also pose a lot of risks and the recovery period can be particularly painful and difficult.

The hope is, this new research will encourage more late stage ultrasound scans in order to give women an option to attempt to turn the baby prior to the birth.

Understanding the study into late stage ultrasound scans

The study involved carrying out breech scans on 3,879 women who were 36 weeks along in their pregnancy. It was discovered that 4.6% of those scanned had babies which were in breech position.

These results reveal that as well as potentially avoiding up to 4,000 unnecessary C-sections, late term scanning could also prevent up to 15,000 undiagnosed breech babies. According to experts, the scan would only cost the NHS approximately £12.90 per patient. So, it’s certainly a cost-effective way to avoid unnecessary C-sections and the risks they present.

How could it prevent an emergency C-section?

If late stage ultrasound scans can detect a baby in breech position, it gives the mother the opportunity to attempt to turn the baby before the birth. Hospitals and clinics can carry out a procedure known as ECV (External Cephalic Version).

This procedure involves placing pressure onto the abdomen in an attempt to encourage baby to turn. While it’s a quick and very simple procedure, lasting around two to five minutes, it can be painful. However, when you compare the brief pain of ECV to the potential pain and complications from a C-section, it’s definitely worthwhile! The procedure is said to work in around 50% of cases.

Although breech births are fairly uncommon, they can prove distressing and potentially harmful to both mother and baby. So, this new research showing how effective late stage screening can be is an exciting development. It is worth keeping in mind that screening within a month of the birth, rather than too close to it, will give the best opportunity for turning the baby in time.