Menopause health check

Vitamins are nutrients that the body requires to carry out even the most basic functions, some of which the body is unable to make autonomously. Therefore, these vitamins and minerals must be sourced externally through lifestyle and diet.

In the UK, data suggests that 27% of people have insufficient or deficient levels of Vitamin D. Worryingly, 74% of people have levels that are considerably below the optimum level for wellbeing.

Vitamin D is especially important for women aged over 40, who have risk factors for osteoporosis. Below, we look at why it is so important that women experiencing menopause consider their levels of Vitamin D.

The Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for healthy muscles and bones. It plays an essential role alongside calcium for calcium absorption, bone mineralisation and bone development. Insufficient Vitamin D levels reduce the amount of calcium that can be absorbed, causing bones to become brittle and thin.

Vitamin D and Menopause

Postmenopausal women have been the subject of many studies in relation to Vitamin D deficiency due to the links with musculoskeletal diseases. Also looking at changes in Vitamin D metabolism including reduced skin synthesis and changes in body composition. Postmenopausal women with low levels of Vitamin D are more at risk of low muscle function and increased frailty. This could cause an increased risk of fracture injuries.

Furthermore, Vitamin D has been shown to have a positive effect on mood and cognitive performance. Since depression can be one of the symptoms of menopause, this is another reason why you may want to boost your levels of Vitamin D.

Simple Ways to Increase Vitamin D

Increasing your levels of Vitamin D can be done through a number of simple lifestyle changes. These include diet, exposure to sunlight or dietary supplements. Before considering dietary supplements, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional. They can offer expert advice as there are many different types and levels of supplements to consider.

The amount of Vitamin D you need each day varies depending on your age and can range from 200 – 800 international units (IUs). In food and dietary supplements, Vitamin D has two main forms which are D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). These can be found in fortified milk and cereals, fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, cheese and mushrooms.

Most people are able to make enough Vitamin D from being out in the sun daily for short periods of time. However, it is important to be careful not to burn in the sun as this can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer.

Menopause Health Check

If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause, and are concerned about your Vitamin D levels then get in touch today to book a Menopause Health Check.

One of our expert Consultant Gynaecologists can check your Vitamin D levels and perform a number of other checks. They will also be able to offer guidance on different treatment options should you require them.

Vaginal health

Over the festive period, you may have been lucky enough to have received a cosy new robe, some socks in your stocking or even some new lingerie. But have you ever stopped to think that the type of underwear that you wear may actually be having an effect on your vaginal health?

Natural Fabrics

It’s true that the vulva is a very sensitive and delicate area which is why it’s really important when it comes to the underwear that you choose. One of the simple ways you can do this is by being aware of the material that you are wearing. Experts recommend natural and breathable materials such as cotton that provide natural absorbency.

Synthetic materials such as nylon and spandex don’t allow the area to breathe which in turn can create the perfect environment for yeast infections. In order to tackle this issue, some women report that they use panty liners to absorb excess moisture. However, it’s important to understand that this can in fact leads to increased irritation that can affect your vaginal health.

Go Commando at Night

For women that get regular yeast infections, going without any underwear at night may be the best option. This removes all barriers and will help the area to breathe overnight meaning that moisture is unable to build up. If you don’t want to go completely bare you could opt for loose-fitting pyjama bottoms or a nightgown. But, remember that these will need to be washed frequently.

Are Thongs Bad For My Vaginal Health?

There is no denying that historically some people have blamed thongs as a contributing factor in poor vaginal health. However, recent studies have found that there is no evidence to suggest wearing a thong is linked with urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis (BV). Conversely, research shows that sexual behaviour and hygiene practices are more likely to be the cause.

A study looking at string underwear found that the microenvironment of the vulva did not change according to the style of underwear worn. Additionally, type of underwear had no effect on the PH, skin microclimate or aerobic microflora.

Wash with Care

Underwear sits against one of the most sensitive areas of our bodies for long periods of time. So it comes as no surprise that these delicates should be washed and handled with extra care. It is recommended that underwear should be washed using a gentle, hypo-allergenic soap. This will reduce the risk of developing irritation and allergic reactions.

If you are concerned about symptoms and would like to speak with a professional, then get in touch today. Book a consultation with one of our expert Consultant Gynaecologists who can give you advice on vaginal health and carry out a gynaecological scan.

Sexual health check

STIQ Day is a national awareness day that happens each year on 14 January. It is all about getting the nation thinking about their sexual health and how to protect both themselves and others from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

If sexually transmitted infections are left undiagnosed and untreated there is a risk that they could cause complications and long term health issues for both men and women including pelvic inflammatory diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes including ectopic pregnancy, abortion and premature delivery along with neonatal and infant infections, urology-related issues such as urethral strictures and also genital malignancies.

Below are some common sexually transmitted infections. If you notice any symptoms or are concerned about your own or your partner’s sexual health, we encourage you to get in touch and arrange a sexual health check.

Chlamydia & Gonorrhoea

Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK as most people do not notice any symptoms and therefore are unaware that they have them. Although often described as ‘silent’, it can take several weeks for symptoms to appear. These include unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or rectum, pain when urinating, bleeding during or after sex and abdominal pain in women during sex.

If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause infertility and could lead to the development of inflammatory pelvic disease (PID) which is linked to fertility issues. Both chlamydia and gonorrhoea are treated with a simple course of antibiotics.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is characterised by weeping blisters around the genital area which can cause painful and itchy open sores which could last for several days or weeks. These symptoms generally clear up on their own however there is no treatment for this infection and the virus can lay dormant within the body for a long time.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a highly contagious infection that is passed on through unprotected sex. This infection is characterised by sores on the genitals, rectum or around the mouth which generally develop around 2 or 3 weeks after contracting the bacterial infection. This won’t go away on its own and if left untreated can lead to serious health problems. Fortunately, it can be cured with a short course of antibiotics.

HIV and AIDS

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and is transmitted through sexual contact, through injecting contaminated blood or blood products and from mother to child in the womb. AIDS is at the end of the HIV spectrum when the immune system has become so badly damaged from HIV that the person becomes seriously ill.

Get A Sexual Health Check at SureScan

Here at SureScan for Women, we can put both you and your partner’s minds at rest through our full range of sexual health testing, advice and treatment options. Get in touch today to book a Sexual Health Check with one of our dedicated gynaecologists.

Pregnant women

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have expressed their disappointment that the Government has not prioritised pregnant women for the COVID booster vaccine. This comes after the Government announced that the booster will now be offered to everyone over the age of 18 in England.

The concern stems as studies show that 98% of pregnant women who are admitted to hospital are unvaccinated, along with higher rates of admission to intensive care.

Increased Risk of COVID in Pregnancy

Current evidence from the UK suggests that although pregnant women are no more likely to contract COVID than other healthy adults in the population, there is an increased risk of them becoming severely unwell.

Data shows that although not all pregnant women with COVID develop symptoms, those that do develop severe symptoms are more likely to experience pregnancy-related complications, particularly during the third trimester.

A recent study revealed that pregnant women who tested positive for COVID at the time of birth were more likely to develop pre-eclampsia, require an emergency caesarean, along with the risk of stillbirth increasing by twofold.

Pregnant Women Prioritised for Vaccine

Vaccination against COVID is recommended in pregnancy and is considered to be the safest way to protect women and their babies. The NHS and The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) are campaigning for pregnant women to be prioritised in the vaccination and booster programme.

Key Advice for Pregnant Women

  • Receiving two doses of the vaccine along with a booster is the safest and most effective way of protecting from COVID.
  • Pregnant women may choose to limit close contact with those not in their support bubble in order to reduce the level of virus transmission. This is particularly important during the third trimester.
  • Keeping hydrated, mobile and active with a balanced diet including folic acid and vitamin D supplementation can help to support a healthy pregnancy. It is however vitally important that you discuss supplementation with a health professional before adding to your routine.

Get In Touch

Here at SureScan for Women, we understand that pregnancy can be a time full of apprehension, especially during a global pandemic. We can help to offer reassurance and support with our early pregnancy scans. Get in touch today to book a consultation with one of our dedicated healthcare professionals.

Fibroids and polyps

Uterine fibroids and polyps are extremely common among women and around 80% will experience them at least once during their lifetime.

Both of these conditions cause growths to form within the reproductive system and can cause similar symptoms. However, it is important to know the difference between the two so that you can seek the appropriate treatment.

What are Fibroids?

Fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop around the uterine wall or within the uterine cavity and are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue. They can vary in size, starting from the size of a pea and increasing to the size of a melon.

Fibroids are extremely common and around 1 in 3 women develops them at some stage in their life, but the most common age is between 30 and 50 which is linked to oestrogen levels and reproductive age.

Typically fibroids are found in young women who often have symptoms such as heavy bleeding, pelvic pain or pressure, constipation and frequent urination. They can lead to infertility and pregnancy-related complications. Issues with fertility are caused due to disruptions to implantation and embryo growth.

How Do Fibroids and Polyps Differ?

Uterine polyps are growths that are formed from endometrial tissue and are attached to the inner wall of the uterus which then extend into the uterine cavity.

The exact cause of these is unknown but studies suggest that they may be linked to the changing hormone levels as these fluctuations cause the uterus lining to thicken and shed during different stages of the menstrual cycle.

Polyps can grow from a few millimetres up to a few centimetres. They will only typically cause pain if they protrude from the uterus into the vagina.

Some common symptoms that develop include irregular periods, heavy bleeding, spotting between cycles, vaginal bleeding after menopause and difficulty in conceiving. Polyps can cause issues with fertility as they can stop a fertilised egg from attaching to the uterus or may end up blocking the fallopian tubes or cervix.

Treating Fibroids and Polyps?

Removal of fibroids and polyps is advised if you want to get pregnant, however, if you do have symptoms, it is important to determine whether one of these conditions is the cause.

In order to help identify what is causing symptoms associated with fibroids and uterine polyps, SureScan can offer a gynaecology scan with one of our specialist professionals which can help to identify any abnormal pathology through a simple scan of the uterus and ovaries.

Get in touch today to book a consultation with one of our dedicated health professionals.

Recurrent miscarriages

December marks the start of National Grief Awareness Week when awareness is raised surrounding grief. One area of bereavement that is often overlooked, is that following a miscarriage.

New guidance has been published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) to address miscarriage support. This includes supporting families in their coping with miscarriage loss, as well as future support with early pregnancy scans.

What is a Miscarriage?

A miscarriage is the natural loss of pregnancy within the first 23 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriage is the most common form of pregnancy loss and it affects around 1 in 4 pregnancies. The main indications of a miscarriage are vaginal bleeding or spotting with or without abdominal pain or cramping. However, there are often no obvious signs at all.

Even though a miscarriage is unfortunately common, there are still gaps in knowledge as to the cause. When women do not find out the cause of their loss, it can be an extremely difficult thing to process.

Late and Recurrent Miscarriages

Most miscarriages occur within the first 12-13 weeks of pregnancy. But a late miscarriage refers to a pregnancy loss within the second or mid-trimester between 14 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.

A recurrent miscarriage is defined as having three or miscarriages in a row, even if you have had previous healthy pregnancies.

Changes in Guidance

Currently in the UK women can only access specialist support and additional investigations after they have experienced three miscarriages in a row. However, new guidance issued by the RCOG hopes to move towards a more individualised approach to care and allow women to access specialists earlier.

To begin, the RCOG feel that any woman who suffers even one miscarriage should receive information and help. With this support and guidance, they will be able to come to terms with their loss and plan for future pregnancies.

Furthermore, anyone who has two miscarriages should be automatically offered an appointment for clinical investigations with a specialist health practitioner. After three miscarriages it is proposed that a more in-depth exploration of health should be carried out.

Our Recurrent Miscarriage Service

At SureScan for Women, we offer a comprehensive Recurrent Miscarriage Service. This service is for anyone who has experienced three or more miscarriages in a row. A professional will investigate the cause, offer support and discuss treatment options for a successful future pregnancy.

If you would like to find out more, get in touch to book a consultation with one of our specialist consultant gynaecologists.

Missed periods

When a woman misses a period, it might be something to celebrate when the cause is pregnancy. However, a few missed periods with no natural cause can be concerning and might be a sign of an underlying health issue.

It is possible that too much exercise can cause missed periods. However, it is important to understand why this happens, and not to ignore it, especially when you are planning to get pregnant.

Here we look at one cause of missed periods, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) – and how this can affect a woman’s reproductive health.

What is Amenorrhea?

The absence of a period is referred to as amenorrhea and this is perfectly normal during pregnancy, breastfeeding and throughout menopause however, some women do experience this for pathological reasons.

Amenorrhea can be split into two main categories: primary and secondary amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is when a female fails to start their period by the age of 16. Whereas secondary amenorrhea refers to when a woman has missed at least three periods without a natural cause. It is estimated that secondary amenorrhea affects around 3-5% of women.

Can Periods Stop Because Of Too Much Exercise?

One of the most common forms of secondary amenorrhea is
functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) which is a reversible hormone imbalance where bleeding stops. This can be stress-related, weight loss-related and sometimes it is caused by excessive exercise. This can influence a woman’s reproductive health.

External link: Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea and its influence on women’s health (nih.gov)

It is often thought that in the case of excessive exercise that only elite athletes can have this condition – but home or work-related stress can also contribute.

How Are Missed Periods Linked to Infertility?

When the body is experiencing stress, the hypothalamus in the brain becomes idle which then stops the production of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). It is this hormone that usually signals the ovaries to produce oestrogen. Without these correct signals, the body reproductive system does not prepare for ovulation and therefore is unable to successfully conceive.

These hormone changes mean that a woman with FHA can suffer from other health problems, affecting the skeletal system, cardiovascular system, and mental health. Therefore, it is important that if your periods have stopped, that you seek a diagnosis from a professional so that you can discuss treatment options and prevent long-term health issues.

Speak to a Professional

If you are concerned about missed periods, get in touch to book a consultation with one of our specialist gynaecologists. They will be able to assess you and identify any causes of stopped or delayed bleeding.

After a tailored consultation, a gynaecological scan may be carried out to help determine the cause for concern. Get in touch today to find out more information.

Stress and conception

Attempting to get pregnant comes with many challenges. Around 1 in 7 couples report having difficulty in conceiving and only around 84% of couples actually get pregnant within a year of having regular unprotected sex.

There are a number of different reasons why you might not be able to conceive after actively trying which can range from age, alcohol intake and weight. But did you know that stress and conception are also linked?

Here we look at how your stress levels can affect conception, and look at some ways to overcome stress for a successful pregnancy.

The Role of Stress

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain in which the body responds both emotionally and physically. When the body is exposed to a threat or is exposed to excess pressure the body thinks it is under attack and therefore switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode.

This leads to a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine being released which help to prepare the body for physical action.

How Are Stress and Conception Linked?

The menstrual cycle is controlled by hormone signals in the brain and each month the ovaries release an egg after it has matured – this is known as ovulation. The egg enters into the fallopian tube and down to the uterus where it will be ready for fertilisation.

However, stress can interfere with these monthly hormonal shifts and can cause regular patterns and signalling to go off track. This can lead to abnormal cycles and therefore difficulty in conceiving.

In 2018 a study revealed that women who reported feeling more stressed during their ovulatory window were approximately 40% less likely to conceive compared to other less stressful months.

Natural Ways To Beat Stress

Although reducing stress levels isn’t an overarching cure for infertility, there are a number of things that could help. Meditation is one way to reduce stress levels. But also consider taking more regular exercise, or perhaps try holistic therapies like acupuncture, massage therapy or foot reflexology.

All of these methods aim to counterbalance some of the negative effects of stress on the body, in particular, the reproductive system without depending on pharmaceutical interventions.

Fertility Health Checks

If you are concerned about stress and conception, SureScan offers fertility health checks for individuals or couples struggling to get pregnant. One of our dedicated consultant gynaecologists will give you the opportunity to discuss any questions you or your partner might have in a calm and relaxing environment.

If you would like more information then don’t hesitate to get in touch and book a consultation.

rest during pregnancy

Historically exercising during pregnancy has been frowned upon as childbirth is considered to be a high-risk time in terms of health. For centuries women have been told to rest during pregnancy.

However, experts are now concerned that too much rest during pregnancy may not, in fact, be such a good idea.

Lying In

Historically, you may have heard the term ‘lying in’ used which involves limiting movement by remaining in bed or seated for the majority of the day. For centuries, doctors routinely advised limiting movement in order to reduce the risk of pregnancy or postpartum complications. However, this stationary effect can potentially cause harm.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

During pregnancy, blood plasma can increase by up to 40-50% along with changes to clotting ability. These changes help to provide nutrients for the foetus and also help to safeguard against excessive bleeding during labour. However, prolonged periods of immobility significantly increase the chances of developing clotting issues such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

A DVT is a serious condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein within the body, commonly the leg. The symptoms of a blood clot can include pain, swelling and tenderness in the area along with a heavy ache and warm, inflamed skin.

This condition is very serious and requires emergency treatment.

The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy can bring with it many benefits both physically and for mental well being. There is evidence to suggest that active women are less likely to experience issues in later pregnancy and in labour.

Building a regular exercise habit can help to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression whilst also increasing self-confidence and mood.

If you do choose to exercise during pregnancy then you should aim to still be able to carry out a conversation. If you become breathless, then you are pushing too hard and will need to slow down to a safer level. Exercise does not need to be strenuous to still be beneficial.

Questions About Rest During Pregnancy

If you are unsure how much you should exercise, or rest during pregnancy, or if you have any other concerns, then please get in touch with our friendly team. We can give you advice and organise an appointment with one of our Pregnancy Service consultant gynaecologists.

female discharge

Vaginal discharge is not often a hot topic for discussion. It is completely normal for all women to experience discharge, and most of the time there is nothing to worry about. Female discharge is an important fluid that helps to keep the vagina clean, moist and also to protect it from infections. The mucus membrane of the vagina and glands on the cervix produce the discharge in order to maintain the health of the reproductive system.

What is ‘Normal’ Female Discharge?

Normal vaginal discharge should not have any strong or unpleasant smells. It is usually either clear or white and can be both thick and sticky along with feeling slippery to touch. The amount present will vary from person to person and also changes in line with a woman’s menstrual cycle throughout the month.

Menstrual Cycle and Female Discharge

Egg white discharge is a sign that ovulation is approaching. The egg white consistency of the discharge creates the perfect sticky fluid for sperm to travel through the cervix ready for fertilisation.

Creamy discharge usually occurs before or after the ovulation stage. This is primarily due to the dominant levels of progesterone which turn vaginal discharge from a clear fluid into a thick white mucus.

As long as the vaginal discharge does not have a bad odour these are both completely normal.

Other Causes of Female Discharge

If you notice changes in vaginal discharge for example in smell, colour or texture this could be a sign of infection that should not be ignored. The following conditions may be a cause of discharge, that you should get checked if you have any symptoms:

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common cause of unusual vaginal discharge which often causes a strong fishy smell, particularly after sex. This condition is not serious, however, it is important to be treated with antibiotics to reduce the chances of further complications.

Thrush

Thrush is a common yeast infection that can occur in both men and women. The common symptoms for women include a white vaginal discharge, often described as a cottage cheese consistency that does not usually have an odour. Thrush is usually harmless but can be uncomfortable if left untreated.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)

Sexually transmitted infections can cause vaginal discharge to change as the harmful bacteria replace the healthy bacteria. This change often causes the vaginal discharge to become thin, watery, change in colour (sometimes to yellow and green) and increase in the amount present. If left untreated this can cause severe complications.

Get It Checked

For reassurance or if you are concerned about abnormal vaginal discharge then get in touch today to book a consultation with one of our experienced specialist gynaecologists. They can carry out a gynaecological scan and provide a diagnosis. They can also discuss treatment options with you.