Signs of infertility

Signs of infertility are often overlooked until it comes to starting a family and difficulties in conception arise. It’s not an uncommon problem as around 1 in 7 couples experience difficulty in conceiving. Although for some it can happen quickly, for others it can take longer.

To minimise risk it’s a good idea to be aware of the following signs of infertility.

Irregular Menstrual Cycle

Our bodies give us signals that we might not be thriving, and one of the early signs of this is an irregular period. Your period is an excellent indicator of your fertility status and if you are having irregular periods, no periods or abnormal bleeding this could mean that you aren’t ovulating. In order to get pregnant, having sex during your ovulation phase will give you the best chance of getting pregnant.

Tip: One thing you can easily do is to take control and learn how to track your own menstrual cycle. Gain an understanding of its four phases: menstruation, follicular, ovulation and luteal phases and what these mean for you in relation to getting pregnant.

Changes in Vaginal Discharge

In addition to tracking your cycle, it is also important to take note of your vaginal discharge. Throughout the month its colour and consistency will change depending on which menstrual phase you are in.

Spotting brown blood is common and can occur for a number of reasons including ovulation, implantation and hormonal fluctuations with most of the causes being benign.

However, if you notice brown spotting for 2 or more days during the build-up to your period it could indicate that you are suffering from low progesterone levels. This can be a contributing risk factor for infertility and miscarriages.

Undiagnosed Infections

If you are planning to start trying to conceive it is a good idea to get a full sexual health check-up to ensure that you do not have any undiagnosed infections present.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are common and often come with no symptoms meaning the infection can be present for some time before an infection is detected. If left undiagnosed these infections can cause low-level inflammation and create an unfriendly environment within the reproductive system which is unlikely to support pregnancy.

But it’s not just STIs that could be causing infertility issues. Urinary tract infections, yeast infections and bacterial overgrowth could also be playing a part.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormone imbalances happen when there is an incorrect quality of one or more hormones within the bloodstream. These hormones play an important part in reproduction as they help to regulate the development and release of the female reproductive cells and eggs.

Common symptoms of a hormonal imbalance include absent or irregular periods, spotting in between periods, painful periods, increased hair growth on the face/neck/chest and back and unexplained weight gain.

Fertility Health Check

If you are planning a family and have any concerns, or have noticed any symptoms mentioned above, don’t hesitate to book a consultation with one of our fertility specialists. We offer a full fertility MOT, and can quickly assess you, and give you guidance and support.

Genes and early menopause

Most women expect to go through menopause around the age of 50. But, as we revealed in a recent blog, some women are experiencing symptoms earlier than this, and with no known cause.

A new study has revealed that genetic variants in DNA can influence the age that menopause is experienced. So, what does this mean? And does this offer some hope to women that choose to start a family later in life?

What is menopause?

Menopause is a natural process of ageing and is when a woman stops having menstrual cycles. It indicates a loss of ovarian function and therefore results in no longer being able to get pregnant naturally.

Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 47 – 52 years. However, around 4% of women undergo menopause before the age of 45 which is known as early menopause. It generally happens over a length of time, with periods becoming irregular. But it can also stop suddenly too.

Common symptoms of menopause include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, fluctuations in mood and a reduced sex drive.

Predicting your menopause

Contributing factors to menopause include lifestyle factors such as smoking and drinking alcohol. However, genes also play a big part. But new research undertaken by a large consortium of international researchers, has looked more closely at the genetic variants that influence the age of menopause.

The study that involved 200,000 women’s records, discovered a particular gene that, when blocked, could delay the onset of menopause.

The hope is that these findings can allow the development of a blood test that women could take to confirm if they are at high risk of early menopause and loss of fertility. Further research could even lead to treatments that extend women’s chances of reproduction later in life.

Being able to predict at what age menopause will occur would help guide women and their partners and give more flexibility in choosing when to have a child.

Fertility and menopause

Around 1 in 100 women experience menopause before they are the age of 40. This is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency as fertility levels cease.

If you are planning to start a family, or are concerned that you haven’t been able to conceive for a year, SureScan offers a Fertility Health Check service. A consultant gynaecologist will carry out a thorough assessment, so you can move forward with confidence.

Menopause Health Check

Here at Surescan, we offer a menopause health check once a year for all peri- and postmenopausal women. The check includes a thorough consultation with a gynaecologist, to discuss any concerns you may have, as well as a full health check.

If you are concerned that you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, or if you want to organise a fertility health check then get in touch to book a consultation today.

Fertility And The COVID Vaccine

Concerns have been raised in young people over the possible negative effects related to fertility and the COVID vaccine. They are worried about the impact on their menstrual cycles, reproductive health and ability to conceive.

But are these concerns well-founded? Especially when they could be putting themselves at greater risk of becoming seriously unwell from the COVID virus?

COVID Vaccine Uptake

The COVID vaccine has been rolled out in the UK since the beginning of 2021. The vaccine was offered to individuals in relation to their risk category with healthcare workers and the elderly being offered the vaccine first before working it’s way down the age categories.

Data shows that there has been an increased level of reluctance from those aged under 30 to get their first jab compared to that of the older population. Figures show that in some large cities within the UK uptake of the vaccine is at just 50% for those aged 18 – 24.

Mixed Messaging

Many young people have voiced that as they are young, fit and healthy they trust their immune system to beat the virus and would rather remain unvaccinated.

Health professionals believe that this misinformation needs to be addressed as there is no evidence to support the above claims.

Dispelling misinformation and informing the population about the risks and benefits of the COVID vaccination may be helpful in preventing unnecessary vaccine concerns. Moreover, this will help to aid successful vaccination efforts, especially for those who are most at risk of becoming seriously unwell if they contract the virus.

Fertility and the vaccine

Current advice states that people of reproductive age are advised to have their vaccine when they receive their invitation for uptake. This includes those who are actively trying to get pregnant.

For individuals who are undergoing infertility treatment, the advice is to delay the vaccine until a few days after receiving the jab. This is because many people experience mild side effects post-vaccine. For example, there may be tenderness at the injection site, fever, headache, muscle ache or feeling tired. Having both doses before fertility treatment begins also means being fully protected before becoming pregnant.

Pregnant women in the UK are also advised to have the COVID vaccine, preferably the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines. There is no evidence to suggest that these vaccines would be harmful during pregnancy. Also, neither of the vaccines contain live virus meaning there is no risk of contracting the virus from the vaccine.

There are currently no concerns relating to the COVID vaccine and infertility/pregnancy risk. What’s more, there are ongoing developments and studies to further improve knowledge in these areas.

If you still have concerns about the COVID vaccination and your fertility, our consultants at SureScan are here to help. We offer a comprehensive fertility health check and can offer reassurance scans during pregnancy. Get in touch to make an appointment and find out more.

Heavy Periods

Periods. Every woman has them, but everyone’s experience is slightly different. Some of us get a bit of light spotting every three weeks, whilst some of us experience very heavy periods.

Sometimes women are in so much pain that they can’t even get out of bed. Others have no pain but are angry at the world for a full week in the run up to their period.

Heavy Periods

Today we want to talk about heavy periods. Lots of women get heavy periods, and it’s often nothing to worry about. But because it’s perceived as ‘normal’, you might not mention it when talking to your GP or gynaecologist.

While most of the time heavy periods are a totally normal part of a woman’s cycle, sometimes they can be indicative of an underlying problem. Particularly if they become heavier suddenly, rather than having been heavy throughout your menstruating life.

No one should feel unduly panicked if they do experience a heavier period than usual once in a while. But it is worth bringing this to the attention of a doctor.

Here are just a few things a heavy period can be a symptom of:

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where womb-like tissue starts to form outside of the uterus, often around the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This can cause painful and sometimes very heavy periods, as well as other problems such as pain during intercourse, diarrhoea or constipation.

Endometriosis isn’t life threatening, but the symptoms can be painful and debilitating, and it can affect your ability to conceive.

Because the symptoms of endometriosis can be similar to many other gynaecological conditions, there is often a lengthy delay in diagnosis. Therefore if you suspect you might have it, you should mention it to your GP.

Fibroids

These are non-cancerous growths that form in or around the uterus. Symptoms include heavy periods, abdominal pain, discomfort during sexual intercourse and constipation. However, many women with fibroids don’t have any symptoms at all.

Fibroids are actually very common – affecting one in three women between the ages of 30 and 50. If they aren’t causing a problem they don’t need to be treated. However, if you are experiencing very heavy or painful periods as a result of fibroids, you can be prescribed medication to alleviate the symptoms.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

This is an infection in either the womb, fallopian tube or ovaries. The main symptoms include heavy periods, bleeding between periods or after intercourse and vaginal discharge.

Some women become very unwell and have a high temperature, which prompts them to seek treatment. For others the symptoms can be the only sign that something is wrong.

Pelvic inflammatory disease is usually caused by a bacterial infection, and if caught early it can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics. If left too long, however, it can cause long term complications.

These are just three of the most common causes of unusually heavy periods. If you are concerned, our experienced consultants at SureScan can organise a gynaecology scan. We can quickly diagnose any problems relating to heavy or irregular bleeding, and we can discuss the different treatment options.

We have same day and evening appointments available, so please contact us to make an appointment.

sexual health screening

Since lockdown restrictions have eased, dating apps like Tinder are experiencing a sudden boom in popularity. Experts are even dubbing this summer the new ‘summer of love’!

We’ve all felt the lack of physical contact over the past eighteen months. And whilst it’s fantastic that singles are able to get out and start dating again, it is important to be cautious. Especially if you are planning to have sexual relations with people you may not know very well.

Sexual Health Screening

Here at Surescan, we offer sexual health screening for all women who want to keep an eye on their sexual health. And if you do have new sexual partners, then a regular sexual health check will afford you (and them) peace of mind.

What’s Involved

The first step in the process is a full and thorough consultation with a consultant gynaecologist. This might seem daunting, but rest assured they’ve heard it all before.

You will then undergo an abdominal and pelvic examination, followed by swab tests to check for:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Bacterial infections
  • Herpes simplex

And, if you go for the Advanced Sexual Health Check, blood tests to check for:

  • Hepatitis B and V
  • HIV
  • Syphilis

It’s Not Just About You

Some women are frightened to undergo sexual health screening, in case they discover something they’d rather not know about, and that’s entirely understandable. However, unfortunately, when it comes to sexual health, it is never just one person who is affected by a diagnosis.

Any sexually transmitted infection may have been transmitted to any sexual partners since becoming infected. And this extends to any partners they may have had. Furthermore, some infections, like HIV and herpes can affect any children you may have in future. Some can even affect your ability to have children, if left untreated.

Sexual Health Screening For Peace Of Mind

The good news is that most sexual health checks we carry out come out negative. But even when an infection is found, it can usually be treated quickly.

Regular sexual health screening means that any sexually transmitted infections can be caught early. Furthermore, screenings can prevent an infection becoming a long-term problem.

Even if you are undergoing regular sexual health screenings, it is also important to take precautions. By using condoms, you can reduce your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection by up to 98%. However, they won’t protect against contact-based infections such as herpes. So a two-pronged attack is your best bet to achieve full confidence in your sexual health.

For more information about sexual health screening or to book an appointment, please contact us.

symptoms of menopause

A recent survey conducted amongst women aged between 40 and 65 in the US revealed that a majority of them were relatively uninformed about the menopause. In addition, even amongst those experiencing menopause symptoms, most had not considered seeking treatment.

Forty-five per cent of the women surveyed didn’t know the difference between perimenopause and menopause. Twenty per cent had been experiencing symptoms for more than a year before consulting a medical professional, and thirty-four per cent had never received a formal diagnosis of menopause or perimenopause.

Of those who were experiencing symptoms, seventy-three per cent said they had never sought treatment. In addition, the number of menopausal women is on the increase – estimated to reach 1.1 billion worldwide by 2025. So we have decided to address some of the issues raised by the survey.

What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?

Menopause itself is the biological process that happens when a woman’s menstrual cycle ends.

The term perimenopause refers to the months or years leading up to that point, when the body is in transition. This is when you may begin to experience symptoms.

What are the symptoms of perimenopause?

If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing perimenopause, here are some of the key symptoms to look out for:

  • Hot flushes – at this time of year, we all overheat from time to time, but if your body temperature seems to increase disproportionately to the weather conditions, it could be due to the menopause
  • Mood swings – as with everything hormone related, changes of mood can be a sure sign that something’s up. If you find you are more irritable or quick to tears than usual, ask yourself if you could be perimenopausal
  • Difficulty sleeping – night sweats, insomnia and waking in the night for no apparent reason could all be signs that you are going through the change
  • Weight gain – we’ve all heard the phrase ‘middle-age spread’. Unfortunately another side effect of the menopause can be weight gain, particularly around the abdomen and hips

What to do if you are experiencing perimenopause

If the symptoms above sound familiar and you think you might be perimenopausal, you don’t have to just put up with all the problems that go with it.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) fell out of favour a few years ago, but it can be a very safe and effective way to treat the symptoms associated with perimenopause. And if you don’t think HRT is for you, there are plenty of other options available.

Here at Surescan, we offer a Menopause Health Check for any woman who thinks they are going through the menopause. We recommend you attend the clinic at least once a year to undergo the health check, so that we can monitor your symptoms and adjust any treatment accordingly.

The Menopause Health Check includes:

  • Abdominal and pelvic examination
  • Consultation on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
  • Advice on lifestyle
  • Blood Tests
  • Hormone profile (FSH, S Estradiol) if indicated
  • Vitamin D levels
  • Thyroid Function Tests
  • Pelvic Ultrasound Scan
  • Ca125 levels
  • Cervical smear

For more information, or to book a Menopause Health Check, please contact us.

cause of recurrent miscarriage

Anyone who has experienced recurrent miscarriage knows it is an emotional rollercoaster like no other. The surge of hope when you see that positive pregnancy test, followed by the agonising weeks waiting to see if this one will defy the odds and carry through to term. And the devastation when it doesn’t.

To go through this again and again without understanding the reason why, might seem more than anyone could bear. It is testament to these couples’ desire to have a baby that they go on to try again.

Cause of recurrent miscarriage

Recurrent miscarriage affects around two to five per cent of couples, but the causes are varied and, in many cases, never identified.

Now a new study from a team of researchers in the States claims to have found a possible way to identify the cause of some recurrent miscarriages.

Next-generation gene sequencing

The Child Health and Human Development team was headed up by scientist Dr Rima Slim, at the McGill University Health Centre. They used next generation sequencing to identify the cause of miscarriage in a patient who had suffered sixteen miscarriages in fifteen years.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of Medical Genetics, they showed that the cause of each of her failed pregnancies was a mutation in a gene that plays a crucial role in egg formation.

How can this knowledge help?

Once the cause of recurrent miscarriage is known, then there is potential to find a solution. In this patient’s case, doctors discovered that the issue was with the formation of the egg itself. They were able to suggest that the couple use an egg donor and undergo IVF. This would give them the best chance of carrying a pregnancy to term.

How many people will this help?

The cause of miscarriage is not always genetic. When it is, the mutation may lie with the mother, the father or with the foetus itself. So gene sequencing could be time consuming and won’t help everyone.

However, it certainly represents some light at the end of a very long dark tunnel for couples experiencing recurrent miscarriage.

What to do if you’ve suffered repeated miscarriages

Here at Surescan, we specialise in women’s health and we have a dedicated recurrent miscarriage clinic.

Here, we can offer a full and thorough consultation and perform scans and blood tests to try and identify the cause of the miscarriages. We can also provide counselling and support and offer advice on how to improve your chances of carrying a baby to term.

We have a wealth of experience and expertise when it comes to treating this delicate issue and you can be assured that you will be in good hands.

For more information or to book an appointment, please contact us.

Diet Help With Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a severe and painful condition affecting around one in ten women in the UK. It is sadly hugely underdiagnosed, with sufferers waiting an average of eight years to receive diagnosis and treatment.

Endometriosis symptoms

One reason for this delay is that some symptoms of endometriosis are similar to many other female health conditions. Painful bloating, pain and bleeding during bowel movements, can be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Other symptoms, like heavy, painful periods and pain during or after sex, are often dismissed as normal and not something to bother a doctor about.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where womb-like tissue begins to grow outside of the womb, usually around the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

This can cause pain and inflammation, and can sometimes damage the reproductive organs, forming scar tissue and cysts.

How can a diet help?

Of course, diet can’t solve the underlying problem. However, some experts now believe that changing what you eat can help control some of the more debilitating symptoms of endometriosis. The bloating and abdominal pain that some women suffer on almost a daily basis, known not-so-affectionately as ‘endo belly’.

Although endometriosis is in essence a reproductive health issue, it has links with digestive problems. Medical professionals believe that the two issues may exacerbate each other, creating a vicious cycle.

Eating a diet that eases the digestive symptoms of endometriosis could in turn help to reduce inflammation in the area. This could lead to also reducing other symptoms, or so the theory goes.

The low-FODMAP diet

So what is this diet that promises so much? It’s known as the low-FODMAP diet, and has been doing the rounds in IBS circles for a few years now.

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo Di- Mono-saccahrides and Polyols. It refers to certain types of carbohydrate found in foods like wheat and pulses. These short-chain carbohydrates are hard to digest. Instead of being absorbed into your bloodstream, they make their way to the end of the intestine. They combine with the gut bacteria to form gas.

In healthy guts, this doesn’t cause a problem. But if you have a sensitive digestive system, this gas can cause pain, inflammation and bloating.

Can this really help to treat endometriosis?

A low FODMAP diet cannot be used as a treatment for endometriosis. The evidence is clear that while changing your diet may relieve some of the symptoms, it won’t solve the underlying problem.

So if the symptoms detailed above sound familiar to you, you should seek medical advice and be sure to mention endometriosis as a possible diagnosis.

Here at Surescan, we specialise in women’s health, so our staff are trained to recognise the signs of symptoms of endometriosis early. For more information or to book a consultation, please contact us.

Your Menstrual Cycle

With Adidas announcing the launch of their new ‘period proof’ sportswear, there is a new, heightened awareness of the impact that menstruation has on women in sport.

Statistics show that one in four girls drop out of their chosen sport in their teenage years, with fear of leaking during their period given as a major reason.

The phases of your menstrual cycle

The sports brand has teamed up with sport scientist Dr Georgie Bruinvels to produce a new PE (riod) lesson plan. The aim of the lesson plan is to help show that there is a way to adapt your sport to your menstrual cycle.

The plan explains about the different phases of the menstrual cycle. It looks at what activities and nutrition are best for each phase. It also offers tips on how to alleviate negative symptoms.

And this advice doesn’t have to apply only to teenage girls. It’s just as relevant whether you are fourteen or forty-one. We’ve read the plan and extracted the most useful information for you:

Phase one: menstruation

This covers the first three to eight days of your cycle and is the phase during which you are actually bleeding. You may well be experiencing some pain and tiredness.

Activities for this phase: There’s nothing to stop you doing whatever exercise you choose, at any stage of your cycle, if you feel up to it. However, for many women, moderate intensity exercise like cycling or walking is great for this phase.

Nutrition: You are losing blood during this time and are likely to be tired. Eating food rich in antioxidants, like dark chocolate, and ensuring you get your five a day will help you to feel your best.

Phase two: follicular phase

This is the time between menstruation and ovulation, when your progesterone levels are low, but oestrogen levels begin to rise. It usually lasts for around five days after you stop bleeding, depending on the length of your cycle – everyone is different.

Activities for this phase: This tends to be the most energetic phase of the cycle, so high intensity activities like running, aerobics and team sports are all good options.

Nutrition: If you’re doing a lot of exercise you need to be fuelling your body, so don’t skimp on portions, particularly when it comes to carbohydrates like rice, pasta and potatoes.

Phase three: luteal phase

This covers the period between ovulation and the premenstrual phase – ovulation itself straddles the follicular and luteal phases. At this point in your cycle there is a lot of both oestrogen and progesterone in your system. You might feel a bit warmer than usual – maybe a bit hungrier too as your body is working hard to thicken the womb lining.

Activities for this phase: Depending on your preference, endurance sports like swimming and hiking or activities that work on flexibility, such as dance or yoga.

Nutrition: You may well be feeling hungrier than usual. Try to make sure you are getting a decent amount of protein in your diet – meat, fish, nuts, seeds and dairy products are all great.

Phase four: the premenstrual phase

We all know how this one feels. Hormones drop off sharply here, which can lead to that feeling of irritability or low mood. Go easy on yourself and do what you feel like, but remember that staying active can actually lift your spirits.

Activities for this phase: If you can face it, high intensity exercise is great for boosting your mood and reducing other symptoms like cramping. If you don’t feel up to a run, something like yoga that focuses on strengthening the body or walking can also be good.

Nutrition: Try to avoid the junk food you may be craving, as that can actually make symptoms worse. Instead go for foods that are rich in antioxidants, to prepare you for the return to phase one: menstruation.

Unusual period symptoms

If you feel like your periods are unusually heavy, painful or irregular, it is always worth getting it checked out by a medical professional. Whilst heavy periods can just be a normal part of life for some women, it could be a symptom of an underlying condition.

Here at Surescan, we specialise in women’s health, so you can be sure that our specialists will be thorough and cover all possibilities, whilst also putting you at ease.

For more information or to book an appointment, please contact us.

early menopause

Early menopause is becoming a more familiar term, with more women researching the condition online. Around five per cent of women are expected to be affected by early menopause. So it is understandable that women in their 30s and 40s are becoming increasingly concerned.

If your family is complete, or you have no desire to have children, then premature menopause could be seen as just an inconvenience. But for many women it can present a very real threat to their dreams for the future.

So, what are the warning signs of early menopause, and who is most at risk?

Causes of early menopause

Unfortunately, in 90 per cent of women who experience early menopause, no underlying cause is found. Medical professionals suspect that the condition is inherited. If you are worried, then it might be worth finding out when your mother went through it. If she was in her fifties, chances are you will be too.

There are some things, however that have been found to speed up the onset of menopause:

  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • Reproductive surgery, such as hysterectomy
  • Diabetes, thyroid problems or other autoimmune conditions
  • Some infections, such as tuberculosis (TB) or mumps

Symptoms of early menopause

If it is hereditary, there is a chance that you will go through the menopause early. But you might not have experienced any changes to your menstrual cycle yet.

Here are some other warning signs to watch out for:

  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Hot flushes
  • Low libido
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats

What to do if you are concerned

The first thing to do is to keep track of your symptoms. Book an appointment with your GP or gynaecologist, who will perform a blood test to check your hormone levels.

Here at Surescan we offer a menopause health check once a year for all peri- and postmenopausal women. The check includes a thorough consultation with a gynaecologist, to discuss any concerns you may have, as well as a full health check.

If you are concerned about your ability to start a family, we offer a fertility health check. We can check your ovarian stores and discuss the possibility of egg freezing. This will of course depend on how far into the menopause process you are.

As a dedicated women’s health clinic, the team at Surescan is here to offer advice and support on any aspect of female health. From fertility problems to pregnancy to menopause, and everything in between.

If there is anything about your health that is worrying you and you would like to discuss it in confidence with a medical professional, please don’t hesitate to contact us or call 0121 308 7774 to arrange an appointment.