causes of infertility

Infertility is one of the leading causes of stress for couples who are wanting to start a family. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK struggle with infertility.

Understanding the cause of your fertility issues is paramount before seeking treatment. To help raise awareness during Infertility Month, here we will look at the most common causes of infertility.

Causes of infertility in women

Women can experience numerous issues with infertility. The most common causes include:

  • Ovulation disorders
  • Gynaecological conditions
  • Blocked uterine tubes

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Endometriosis are two of the most common ovulation disorders that can lead to issues with fertility. Or the issues may be caused by genealogical conditions such as intrauterine adhesions, polyps, and chronic inflammation.

In some cases, fertility issues in women may be caused by blocked uterine tubes. Endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease can both cause the tubes to become blocked.
These are just some of the potential causes of infertility in women. But it is important to note that in some cases the exact cause may not be clear.

Causes of infertility in men

Just like women, men can also experience a range of infertility issues. Some of the most common causes of male infertility include:

  • Low count or poor-quality sperm
  • Poor sperm mobility
  • Abnormal sperm

If a man’s sperm count is less than 15 million sperm cells per millilitre, there might not be enough of it to conceive. If the sperm is too slow to reach the egg, this also poses an issue. In some cases, the sperm cells may also have defects, making them unable to fertilise the egg.

Combined causes of infertility

It isn’t just individual influences that can cause infertility issues for couples. There are also combined factors that may come into play. These include:

  • Age
  • STI’s
  • Smoking and drinking excessive alcohol
  • Chemotherapy
  • Diet
  • Stress

Some of these factors aren’t things that you can change, such as your age. However, there are things couples can do to improve their chances of conceiving. The exact cause needs to be identified to ensure that the right treatment can be undertaken.

Going through fertility issues can put a real strain on couples. It can be a tough journey when one or both partners have issues that need to be addressed. While not all fertility troubles can be fixed, most can be managed and overcome with the right treatment.

If you and your partner have been trying to fall pregnant for more than a year with no success, book a fertility health check with SureScan today. Our friendly and compassionate experts are on hand to help you get to the root of the problem, and advise you of the best treatment option moving forward.

menstrual cycle education

A new UK-wide study has revealed that education in schools about the menstrual cycle still needs improvement. Teachers lack the time, education, and confidence in the subject. Consequently, students are provided with very limited information.

Many girls can find the information they need through social media and other online sites. However, not all information found online is fully accurate. Here, we will look at what the study found, and why menstrual cycle education is so important in schools.

What did the study find?

The study, carried out by multiple universities across the UK, was published in the Frontiers in Global Women’s Health. Researchers from the Swansea university, Nottingham Trent university, University College of London, and University of the West of Scotland, discovered that menstrual cycle education can be, and needs to be, improved.

A total of 789 primary school teachers across the UK were surveyed online. Approximately 91% of them were female. Their study revealed that around 63% of teachers say menstrual cycle lessons are provided. In terms of what education is being offered, 56% of lessons focused on biology, while 40% focused on providing menstrual products. But there is currently a scientific focus, and a gap in providing living experiences.

Despite the lack of information provided, teachers believed the menstrual cycle affects aspects of personal performance and attendance in school. In particular, it is known to affect attendance in PE lessons, pupil confidence, and even overall attitude and behaviour.

Interestingly, 1 in 4 teachers who responded to the survey, revealed they felt uncomfortable teaching students about the menstrual cycle. A staggering 80% of teachers also felt being provided with training would improve their knowledge of the menstrual cycle.

Why is menstrual cycle education important?

The latest study shows there are current failings in menstrual cycle education. So, why does this matter?

Providing menstrual cycle education helps pupils to understand the changes happening in their body. By understanding what is to come, young girls will be more adequately prepared, and more confident when they experience their first period.

Menstrual cycle issues can greatly impact attendance, potentially damaging a student’s education. By providing menstrual products, and educating girls about the symptoms as well as the help available, it can really help to reduce absences.

The right education can empower girls to better manage their symptoms during their menstrual cycle.

Seeking advice from the experts

The latest study shows how current education is lacking for young girls when it comes to their menstrual cycle. If your school doesn’t provide adequate lessons and advice, help is available from gynaecologists and women’s health specialists.

Here at SureScan, we offer a friendly, expert well woman clinic. Adolescents can undergo a simple check up to ensure everything is working as it should. We also provide advice and answer questions to help improve confidence, and offer reassurance for young women about the changes that are occurring.

Pregnant with endometriosis

Endometriosis is a painful and complex condition causing tissue to grow outside of the uterus. While it can lead to issues with fertility, it is possible for sufferers to undergo a healthy pregnancy. However, this will largely depend upon the severity of the condition, alongside the symptoms it presents.

Here, you will discover everything you need to know about getting pregnant with endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a painful and debilitating condition that can affect women of all ages. It causes tissue that is similar to the womb lining to grow throughout different areas of the body. This causes the nearby organs to stick together, leading to often severe pain in the affected area.

It is a long-term condition that has a high recurrence rate. Common symptoms include:

Pelvic pain that worsens during the menstrual cycle
Pain after sex
Severe menstrual pain that prevents daily activities
Nausea and vomiting
Difficulty getting pregnant

These are the most common symptoms associated with endometriosis. The trouble is, that the condition often goes undiagnosed, even when women do visit the doctor. This is because the symptoms can often point to other, less severe issues. Therefore, if you do have symptoms, it is always a good idea to have a gynaecology scan to aid a diagnosis.

How easy is it to get pregnant with endometriosis?

While it is possible to undergo a healthy pregnancy, many women suffering from endometriosis find it difficult to conceive. So, how does the condition impact fertility?

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, around 24-50% of women who struggle with infertility have endometriosis. It isn’t known why the condition causes potential issues with fertility, but there are theories.

It could be down to scar tissue and adhesions that make it difficult for the ovaries to release eggs. There is also some evidence to suggest that endometriosis can lead to fewer mature eggs being fertilised. Or it could potentially be down to the inflammation caused by the condition. It can lead to an inhospitable environment, reducing the likelihood of implantation and fertilisation.

Whatever the cause, the good news is there are treatments that can help. So, what treatment options are available to help women with endometriosis to conceive?

Treatment options available

Like many conditions, endometriosis is easier to treat the earlier it is diagnosed. Women with mild to moderate forms of the condition are likely to experience a normal, healthy pregnancy without any treatment. However, those experiencing severe symptoms have a choice of hormonal and non-hormonal treatments alongside surgery. Many women also choose to freeze their eggs to use at a later date. Endometriosis worsens over time, potentially reducing the number of eggs available. So, freezing eggs is a good option for younger endometriosis patients.

If you are worried your endometriosis might be preventing you from getting pregnant, book a fertility health check with SureScan today. This service is recommended for women or couples that are struggling to conceive after a year of trying.

During menopause

Are you struggling with loneliness brought on by menopause? Despite the fact that it happens to all women, many are left feeling isolated and lonely throughout their menopause journey. This, in turn, can cause mental health to suffer, leading to issues with anxiety and depression.

As May 9th-15th marks Mental Health Awareness Week, we felt it was a good time to talk about feeling lonely during the menopause. Why does it lead to a feeling of isolation, and what can be done about it? Discover everything you need to know in this useful blog.

How common is loneliness during menopause?

Loneliness and isolation are surprisingly common for women. It can cause feelings of loneliness as well as contribute to them. There are a lot of theories as to why this is, but whatever the cause, the loneliness experienced can be really difficult to deal with.

Unfortunately, many women don’t feel able to talk about their experiences as they go through the menopause. While there has been some progress made in recent years to raise awareness of the effects the milestone has on women’s mental health, it is still very much a taboo topic for many. Not feeling comfortable discussing their experiences can further exacerbate the feelings of loneliness.

Why do many women feel lonely?

There are a lot of theories as to why women feel lonely during menopause. Just some of the reasons may include:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Embarrassment
  • Stigma

During menopause, a woman’s hormone levels fluctuate, leading to side effects such as irritability and mood swings. As oestrogen levels fall, the need to nurture others also reduces. This all contributes to feelings of loneliness as it can make them more difficult to be around.

Symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and fatigue can also play a large role. Many women end up feeling utterly exhausted during menopause, giving them less energy for social get togethers. Anxiety and depression make it easier to isolate, as does the embarrassment that often accompanies menopause.

There is still a stigma attached to menopause, making it difficult for women to speak out about how they feel. All these factors together can understandably lead to loneliness and isolation.

What can be done about it?

Although loneliness is a common feeling, there are things that can help. First, understanding the cause of loneliness is important. It can be really useful to connect with other women who are experiencing the same thing. Social media and local community groups are great for meeting others going through the same experiences.

Managing the effects of the menopause is also crucial. At SureScan, we provide an annual menopause health check which can help identify and treat any issues women are experiencing. To book a menopause health check, contact our friendly team today.

after a miscarriage

Suffering a miscarriage can be devastating, particularly if you have been trying to get pregnant for a long time. According to the Miscarriage Association, one in five pregnancies in the UK end in a miscarriage, resulting in a total of around 250,000 each year. Furthermore, 1 in 100 women goes on to suffer recurring miscarriages of three or more.

While it may be more common than you might realise, that doesn’t make going through a miscarriage any easier to deal with. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go on to have a healthy pregnancy.

If you are thinking of trying again after a miscarriage, help and support are available. Here, we reveal the main things to consider and the support available should you need it.

Speaking to your doctor

When you suffer a miscarriage, it is important to speak to your doctor. While in most cases, women do go on to have a healthy pregnancy after experiencing a miscarriage, there could be an underlying cause that needs to be addressed. This is especially true if you have experienced recurring miscarriages.

Your doctor will also be able to advise you on when you can start trying again and refer you to a specialist if needed.

How long should I leave it before trying again?

There really is no set answer here. However, you should always wait until you are both emotionally and physically ready to try again.

Physically speaking, you should wait until the symptoms of the miscarriage have passed. This includes any bleeding or pain you might experience. If you don’t wait until these symptoms have cleared up, you do risk developing an infection.

Emotionally, you will know when you are ready to start trying again. Keep in mind that it is possible to ovulate before you have your next period. During this time, you may still be fertile, which means you could get pregnant again. If you aren’t quite ready for that yet, make sure you use contraception until you are.

Your menstrual cycle will likely be shorter or longer during the first month after the miscarriage. For this reason, it is often recommended you begin trying again after your next period.

Seeking help and support after a miscarriage

Going through a miscarriage can be a traumatic time, especially if it isn’t your first one. If you need to, don’t be afraid to reach out for support.

There are a lot of wonderful support groups out there, as well as professional emotional support available. You can also get help to determine why you are experiencing multiple miscarriages.

At SureScan, we provide a recurrent miscarriage service that will help to identify any underlying issues you might be experiencing. You can sit down for a comprehensive appointment with one of our friendly and understanding consultants. Book an initial consultation with our expert team today.

PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects 4-20% of women of reproductive age worldwide. While it is normal for women to experience some changes in their menstrual cycle from time to time, consistent changes could be a sign of this common condition.

A new Apple Women’s Health study has now revealed preliminary insights into PCOS, including its potential causes and association with heart health. Here, we will look at what the study found, and how to determine if you might be suffering from the condition.

Study shows 23% of women have a family history of PCOS

According to a recent study, 23% of patients have a family history of PCOS. If your mother or sister have experienced the condition, there is an increased risk that you could too. Only around 5% of participants in the study who didn’t have the condition, had a family history of PCOS.

The Apple Women’s Health study began in November 2019. Data for the preliminary findings were taken from over 37,000 participants up until December 2021.

Interestingly, the findings revealed that those with PCOS are at risk of developing heart-related issues. These include Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

The research remains ongoing, with participants able to join and contribute at any time.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a common hormonal condition that affects women of reproductive age. It can cause irregular periods, as well as excess production of the male androgen hormone. Collections of fluid can develop within the ovaries, and they may fail to regularly release any eggs.

It isn’t known what causes PCOS, but with early treatment and lifestyle changes such as losing weight, you can avoid developing long-term complications.

Diagnosing PCOS

It can be difficult to initially determine if you are suffering from PCOS as changes within the menstrual cycle are common. However, there are symptoms you can watch out for to determine if the condition could be causing your abnormal periods. They include:

  • Your period is abnormally heavy and impacts your daily routine
  • The last period you had lasted for more than 10 days
  • You experience your periods more than 38 days, or less than 24 days apart
  • Bleeding or spotting between periods
  • Your periods have stopped completely

These symptoms can be a sign of PCOS, but they could also point to other potential issues too. Therefore, if you do experience any of the above, it is important to seek a professional diagnosis.

At SureScan, our specialist gynaecology services can help to detect a range of menstrual disorders. Book a consultation with our friendly and professional team to identify the cause of your abnormal periods today.

Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing

Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) sometimes known as non-invasive prenatal screening (NIPS) is a blood test taken from a mother in pregnancy. It is a way of examining fetal DNA to determine the risk that the foetus is likely to be born with chromosomal conditions. This additional testing is not compulsory and you can choose to opt-out. It’s important that you feel supported and well informed in relation to this decision.

What Does Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing Involve?

NIPT is a simple blood test that is more accurate than the first pregnancy screening test. It is only routinely offered to women who are considered to be at higher risk.

During pregnancy, the placenta releases some of its DNA into the mother’s bloodstream which can then be measured through a simple blood test. The blood test identifies extra DNA for chromosomes 21, 18 or 13.  This could mean that the child will be born with Down’s syndrome, Edward’s syndrome or Patau’s syndrome.

When to get Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing?

NIPT can be performed from 10 weeks of pregnancy as prior to this it is difficult to collect enough cell-free DNA (cfDNA) from the blood sample. Even after 10 weeks, there is a chance that they will not be able to collect enough cfDNA to provide a result. This happens in about 3% of cases.

The test is considered to be completely safe and will not harm either the mother or the baby. The results typically take around 10 days and do not provide a definitive yes/no answer but instead offer a probability. It is important to remember however that no screening test is 100% accurate. There are three possible outcomes from the test. These are: low chance result, high chance result or no result if there has been a technical issue with testing.

The test result may indicate that there is a high chance of chromosomal anomalies. If this is the case, then it is likely an amniocentesis will be offered to provide a definite diagnosis.

Early Pregnancy Screening

At SureScan we offer a wide range of comprehensive services that can help to support you during early pregnancy. This would include an abdominal or transvaginal scan to determine if there is a viable pregnancy. We can also organise blood tests to measure HCG levels if needed. NIPT testing is also available which can be carried out as early as 9 weeks.

We support you throughout the whole process in order to understand what the test involves, the delivery of the results and future planning and implications for pregnancy. Get in touch with us if you would like to find out more.

Fertility and Diet

A Harvard review of fertility and diet has revealed that eating a nutrient-dense diet can have a positive effect on both fertility and pregnancy health.

It is vitally important that mothers-to-be have a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. This will help to ensure that both mother and baby have sufficient nutrients for optimum development.

It is also important to remember that the nutritional status of both mother and father come together and are reflected in the health of the embryo. Studies have shown that semen quality improves along with a healthy diet. But a diet high in saturated and trans fats could be detrimental to sperm health.

Fertility and Diet – Why change?

Essential vitamins and minerals are dietary components that support every stage of maternal, placental and foetal interaction to enable a healthy gestation. However, setting appropriate recommendations for vitamin and mineral intakes during pregnancy can be challenging. There are a number of factors to consider, including foetal nutrient needs and additional maternal demands. But also changes in nutrient absorption that may occur during pregnancy.

In the UK, diets are typically diverse and less likely to cause micronutrient deficiencies during pregnancy. However, diets of higher fat and sugar and lower nutrient density are increasingly consumed. Many pregnant women are not having their recommended daily intake of some key vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins and Minerals

Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 can both have a positive effect on fertility both before and after conception. These vitamins are vital in maintaining a healthy nervous system. Folic acid in its most natural form is called folate. This is found naturally within green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, green beans, peas, oranges and brown rice. Vitamin B12 can be found in meat, fish and dairy foods and can be easily obtained through diet alone.

Other beneficial foods include getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil and fatty fish. Choose fish such as salmon, trout and tuna that are rich in Omega-3. Fatty acids can also be obtained from plant-based sources like seaweed, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts and kidney beans.

Foods to Avoid

If you are planning to get pregnant then it is advisable to avoid high sugar, carbonated drinks. Especially avoid those foods with synthetic energy-boosting properties. Evidence also suggests that women who consume a calorie-rich, processed diet are less likely to become pregnant when compared with those with healthier diets.

Fertility and Diet Advice

At SureScan we understand that fertility and pregnancy can feel daunting with the wealth of information that is available. That is why we offer our support and guidance to all women during this stage. Get in touch today and speak to our friendly team to arrange a consultation with one of our professionals.

Menopause Health

A recent study found that women experiencing symptoms of menopause feel that there are minimal or non-existent support structures put in place by their employer, to help them cope.

More than 1 million women in the UK are considering quitting their jobs due to a lack of support in the workplace. Furthermore, women have been left feeling deeply unhappy in their jobs due to a lack of menopause health support.

Employers Responsibility

Nearly three-quarters of women who took part in the research that involved 2,000 women, said their workplace did not have a space where they could talk openly about the menopause with their colleagues or employers. This lack of support even exacerbated their feelings of isolation and distress.

In order for employees to feel heard and valued, it is essential that support is offered through every stage of menopause. For example, considering how the person’s job role and responsibilities could make their menopause symptoms harder to cope with.

It is also important for companies to ensure that those in managerial roles have the confidence and skills to support their team. That includes an awareness of what the organisation can offer, whilst also having sensitive communication skills to listen to and acknowledge their employees’ concerns.

Menopause Health Legislation

By law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of their staff through the use of risk assessments. In relation to menopause, this can include a number of considerations. For example, by addressing conditions such as the temperature of the workplace, employee uniforms and the availability of drinking water. This would help to accommodate for hot flushes – a common symptom of menopause. Additionally, by providing training to managers so that they feel confident in how to support staff with their menopause health.

There are currently ongoing discussions within the House of Commons on the laws that protect women in the workplace who are experiencing menopause symptoms.

Menopause Health Check

Here at SureScan, we want women to feel supported through menopause which is why we offer a comprehensive menopause health check. We recommend that women attend these checks at least once a year.

Our menopause health check involves a consultation with one of our Consultant Gynaecologists. They can perform a wide range of health checks including blood pressure, abdominal and pelvic examination, advice on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), blood tests, ovarian and cervical screening plus lots more. Get in touch today to find out more and book an appointment.

Fibroids Treatment

Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas are benign tumours that develop in or around the uterus and are thought to impact up to 80% of women before the age of 50.

A new study in the Netherlands is comparing the results of different types of fibroids treatment with the results expected to be published in 2026. The trial was driven by current treatment options failing women and a need for more minimally invasive treatments.

What are Fibroids?

Many women are unaware that they have fibroids as they often don’t display any symptoms. However, around 1 in 3 women who do experience symptoms may experience many different symptoms. These symptoms include constipation, pelvic pressure, heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent urination and discomfort during sexual intercourse.

Fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in or around the womb, also known as the uterus. The growths are typically made up of muscle and fibrous tissue and can vary in size.

Uterine fibroids develop from a smooth muscle stem cell in the uterus which then repeatedly divides until a mass, also known as a fibroid develops. The exact cause is unknown. But there are some common risk factors that could contribute to the development of uterine fibroids which include race, family history, diet, age and weight.

Fibroids Treatment

It is common that fibroids will often shrink after the menopause and symptoms will usually either ease or disappear completely. However, if treatment is necessary then there are several different options.

Initially, a number of medications may be recommended to help manage symptoms and to shrink the fibroids in size. If symptoms cannot be managed with medication or the fibroids are too large, then a non-invasive procedure may be recommended. Treatments may include uterine artery embolisation, endometrial ablation, MRI guided procedures and ultrasound-guided procedures. Another fibroids treatment option is surgery that may involve hysteroscopic intervention, myomectomy or hysterectomy.

Gynaecological Scan

If you are concerned about fibroids, or if you are experiencing symptoms, get in touch today to speak to our dedicated team. We offer comprehensive gynaecological scans and we ensure suitable management plans are put in place.

In our world-class facility, we offer flexible appointments and you can expect a warm greeting from our friendly reception team. Our dedicated consultant gynaecologists will carry out both transabdominal and transvaginal scans in order to identify any abnormalities. They can discuss the results of scans with you there and then, you can ask questions and leave with a clear diagnosis and a treatment plan.