Knowledge Centre

How to manage your PCOS with exercise-image

How to manage your PCOS with exercise

PCOS is one of the most common reproductive health conditions. Some of the most common symptoms people struggle with are physical symptoms such as issues with weight; skin and hair related issues such as acne or excessive hair growth and irregular periods. These are mainly driven through disrupted hormones. Androgens are a group of hormones, including testosterone,  that are made in the ovaries and are often found at much higher levels in women with PCOS, called “hyperandrogenism”. Insulin is also found to be at much higher levels, due to insulin resistance. Normally, Insulin helps manage blood sugar levels, helping cells absorb glucose. Insulin resistance is when the body no longer responds to normal levels of insulin. This can result in excess amounts of insulin being produced, misregulated blood sugar levels and metabolism issues like weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Women are also 3 times more likely to experience mental health related symptoms like anxiety, depression or body image issues. Unfortunately there is currently no cure for PCOS, however, there are  treatment options  aimed to manage symptoms.  Think you might have PCOS? Check your hormones Benefits of regular exercise Regular exercise can be an extremely effective way to help manage PCOS symptoms. Some experts suggest exercise as a first port of call for PCOS management but can also work alongside medications like metformin for increased effects, particularly for improving cycle related issues (1). Exercise can have positive effects on physical, hormonal and mental health related issues including: How much exercise is recommended? For a healthy lifestyle, preventing weight gain and maintaining health: Adults should do a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity or a combination of both and include muscle-strengthening activities Young women should do 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity per day including those that strengthen muscle at least three times a week Activity can be done in 10-minute bursts or around 1000 steps, aiming to do at least 30 minutes on most days. For those who have a goal to lose weight, prevent weight regain or achieve greater health benefits more exercise is needed: A minimum of 250 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 150 minutes a week of vigorous activity or a combination of both Muscle-strengthening activity on 2 non-consecutive days of the week. Overall, aim for around 30 minutes per day. Of this, 90 minutes per week should be more active or aerobic activities (running, biking, fast pace walking etc.) at a moderate to high intensity to optimise clinical outcomes (see table below for suggested activities). Remember physical activity includes walking, activity at work, household chores, sports and planned exercise. Choose an exercise you like and if possible exercise with friends or others to increase your motivation. Mixing up exercise will also help with motivation. Benefits for your body What are the benefits of exercise on PCOS? PCOS can affect the body’s metabolism making it harder to lose weight and also affect where fat is stored. Visceral fat (fat in the abdomen and around your organs) tends to be increased in those with PCOS. Alongside this, there is an increased risk of long-term health issues including obesity, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Regular physical activity can help improve body composition and is extremely beneficial for reducing these risks.  In general aerobic exercise (or cardio), like running, swimming or cycling, is great for reducing blood pressure and improving heart health. Increasing your daily energy expenditure (the amount of energy you burn in a day) can help with losing weight by creating a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you consume). Women with PCOS who had greater vigorous activity levels were found to have less visceral fat (2). A 6 month study introducing an exercise regime of 30 mins aerobic exercise 3 times a week saw a reduction in waist circumference (as a measure of visceral fat), and improvements in menstrual cycle patterns (3).  What type of exercise is best? There is a lack of evidence supporting any one type and intensity of exercise being better than another for metabolic, hormonal, reproductive or psychological outcomes. The International guidelines and majority of studies have focused on aerobic exercise routines, however, resistance training (exercise designed to improve muscle strength or endurance) such as weight lifting, has big benefits too. Resistance training has a positive effect on body composition by increasing muscle mass, which can contribute to increasing your energy expenditure. In studies focusing on resistance training for women with PCOS, a reduction in visceral fat and an increase in lean muscle mass was seen (4). It is also important to know that exercise without weight loss or only moderate weight loss can still lead to a reduction in visceral fat and improve insulin sensitivity. Think of being active as often as you can through the day, for example take stairs instead of lifts, park further away from shops etc. Can exercise improve chances of conceiving? Improvements in reproduction have been seen in women with minimal weight loss – so the scales are not the be all and end all! The NHS states as little as 5% reduction bodyweight can help improve symptoms (5). Other important lifestyle factors to consider, particularly for managing weight, are issues with appetite regulation – if this is something you are struggling with you can speak to one of our Fertility Nutrition Consultation. Benefits for your hormones  Insulin resistance is common among those with PCOS and can contribute to many of the symptoms like dark skin patches, fatigue and weight issues. This goes hand in hand with visceral fat and general inflammation throughout the body.  This is believed to be associated with greater levels of visceral fat and amount of visceral fat Women who had greater levels of physical activity, had better chances of normal insulin responses (6)  and reduced chances of inflammation (7).  Excess insulin can increase the production of androgens in the ovaries, contributing to hyperandrogenism. […]

Who should consider fertility preservation? More people than you may realise.-image

Who should consider fertility preservation? More people than you may realise.

We created Hertility to give women a way to proactively track their fertility, but the last thing we want to do is panic people who aren’t in a position to have babies just yet or scaremonger people into starting a family when they’re not ready. Cue: fertility preservation, as explained by our trusted partner clinic, The Evewell.  Quick Facts: Fertility preservation is not just for single women; it’s relevant to anyone who is not yet ready to start a family regardless of their relationship status. You can freeze eggs, or embryos (fertilised eggs) with either a partner or donor sperm. Fertility preservation is also a form of ‘Strategic family planning’, a way to work towards building the family you want before you get pregnant with your first child. Fertility preservation: the difference between freezing eggs vs. embryos Let’s talk about something very topical right now: fertility preservation. You’ve probably heard about it in the context of egg freezing, almost always in relation to single women, but in reality, it’s something that may be relevant to many more of us than we think.   Emma Whitney, Director of Embryology and Genetics at The Evewell in London (and @emmatheembryologist on Instagram), is passionate about helping people understand the available steps they can take today, so they can have options to build and complete their family in the future. In this article, she will take you through some of the science as well as the groups of people who are or should be thinking about fertility preservation. To speak to a member of our nursing team about The Evewell Clinic and how to access services contact  Our team will be able to book in your appointment and provide insights into pricing and next steps. The Evewell Clinic, West London  Firstly, what is fertility preservation? Fertility preservation is when we collect eggs and then we can either freeze them at this point (the well-documented egg freezing option) or create embryos by fertilising them with either partner or donor sperm and freeze those instead. We work with patients to help them make the best choice for them. Talking about freezing eggs or embryos is something I speak to patients about every single day and we can help patients decide which option is best for them depending on their family goals. What is so frustrating is that many people have not considered fertility preservation because they didn’t understand it related to them or could have supported them in creating their future family. So could fertility preservation be relevant to you?  I’m in a committed relationship but we’re not ready to start a family yet… I see it all the time, for people in their 30s, the pressure to settle down and start a family can intensify, particularly if they’re in long-term relationships. But for some people now is just not the right time. It may be career commitments, financial concerns or simply still having things on the “list” they want to do or achieve before they become parents. What’s interesting is that people in committed relationships may just feel fertility preservation isn’t relevant to them because it’s all about egg freezing for single women. By explaining that it’s not just eggs that can be frozen, but embryos too, it’s a bit of a lightbulb moment as they realise this is quite literally, a way to press pause and start a family when they’re ready. And for those of you thinking: I’m not sure I want to freeze embryos with the person I’m with right now, you can freeze both eggs and embryos, giving yourself even more options for who you want to start a family with. We’ve been trying to conceive but it’s harder than we thought… When people are trying to have a baby, the focus understandably is getting pregnant as quickly as possible, and little thought is given to what will happen when you want to have baby two and beyond. As more people are starting their family later in life, it can be harder than they thought. Some find it takes more time or they need medical support. What’s frustrating is that we often see patients in The Evewell who are now two to three years older than they were when they had their first baby and now it’s considerably harder to achieve a second pregnancy. If I know people want more than one child, I always talk to them about ‘strategic family planning’; making sure we aren’t just focused on baby number one, but how we can help them plan for the family they dreamed of. This is when embryo freezing – before the first pregnancy – can be a really useful option. We call it ‘strategic family planning’ because it’s a strategic approach that really can make the difference between needing more invasive, exhaustive and expensive treatments later down the line, when you’re – inevitably – a couple of years older, with older eggs (and with a toddler running around!) I’m single and I may want a family in the future…. Single people in their 20s and  30s are understandably confused and feeling overwhelmed. On the one hand, they understand the harsh fact that females are born with all the eggs they’re ever going to have, and, as much as science and technology have improved almost all areas of our lives, we haven’t been able to stop a female from losing her eggs, or those eggs ageing. But they’re also being bombarded by press articles telling them that egg freezing is not the solution. Just this month, Tory MP mother of three Miriam Cates told women they should not consider egg freezing and that if they wanted to be parents, to have babies “sooner rather than later”. It’s this kind of attitude that is really distressing. I see this all the time in the clinic because women who haven’t met their life partner and who don’t want to parent alone, feel like they’re left with no choice and they may […]

Why Reproductive Health Benefits Should be in Your 2024 Budget-image

Why Reproductive Health Benefits Should be in Your 2024 Budget

No longer seen as a ‘nice-to-have’, but an essential part of employee wellbeing, reproductive health and fertility benefits are increasingly becoming a top priority for employers. Here’s why they should be included in your budget. Quick facts: The rise of reproductive health benefits  With the dynamics of the workplace having rapidly shifted since the pandemic, more and more employees are prioritising their wellbeing and looking to their employers to provide well-rounded benefits packages.  Fertility and reproductive health support is emerging as a key employee need within this matrix. Demand for inclusive fertility benefits is growing year on year—with up to 71% of employers looking to adopt fertility benefits within the foreseeable future.  Additionally, the estimated global productivity loss due to employees experiencing menopausal symptoms is a staggering $150 billion a year. With around 20% of the workforce, according to Let’s Talk Menopause, being pre to post-menopausal, it’s clear to see that menopause benefits are also emerging as a vital lifeline for employers and employees alike.  However these initiatives aren’t just a tick box for improving D&I metrics—they can drive a significant impact on your organisations’ bottom line, with some providers seeing an ROI of x6 and upwards.  Here are the top four reasons why your organisation’s wellbeing budget should include a comprehensive fertility and reproductive health benefits package. Improved retention and reduced turnover costs Recent research from Fertility Network UK showed companies that are not supporting their employees through fertility treatments and journeys, including LGBTQIA+ individuals, has a significant negative impact on employee retention.  1 in 5 employees going through fertility treatment left their jobs due to insufficient support within the last 5 years alone. With the average cost to replace an employee in the UK being around £30K, it’s no secret that the right reproductive health and fertility support can have a positive impact on your bottom line through employee retention alone. Appealing to wider talent pools Despite previous sentiment that fertility benefits are just a concern for millennial employees, or just for women, reproductive health issues affect employees of all ages and identities across the talent pool.  1 in 3 Gen Z employees think fertility benefits should be a part of their package and are actively looking for employers that offer attractive, well-rounded benefits.  At the other end of the spectrum, perimenopausal and menopausal women are seeking employers with rigorous menopause support policies—with 42% considering quitting their jobs due to symptoms.  With job ads citing fertility benefits up by 700% since March 2022, fertility benefits are fast becoming an important factor in diverse talent acquisition at all organisational levels. This rings especially true for companies looking to attract women into senior leadership positions and improve gender diversity at the top. Fostering a culture of care  Fertility benefits signal to your workforce that you, as an organisation, are committed to supporting your employees beyond the scope of the office. This can demonstrate to your employees that you care about them as individuals, whatever life stage they are at.  Creating an environment where employees feel supported through any struggles, or simply aware that they have options should they need them, helps to foster a culture of care that translates into improved productivity and overall employee satisfaction. Upstream and downstream cost savings Whilst fertility benefit packages might seem like less of a priority compared to mental or physical health initiatives during times of tighter budgets, the upstream and downstream savings can have significant longer-term ROI.  Reproductive health is intimately linked to mental and physical wellbeing. Offering a well-rounded support package that focuses on education in addition to reproductive health testing and treatment can initiate preventative care, reducing longer-term costs like employee absence. Getting started with reproductive health benefits Reproductive health benefits are far more than simply covering the cost of IVF treatments or extra time off for menopause support. Impactful initiatives should be multifactorial, focusing on community-building and education right through to treatment support.  Regardless of life stage or identity, all employees should feel supported across the physical and mental wellbeing spectrum. The Hertility productivity loss calculator can help you decipher your estimated annual losses from employee reproductive health. In turn, you can accurately estimate your workforce’s needs for fertility and reproductive health benefits—the first step towards building a robust business case. Contact to find out how reproductive health support can positively impact your people and business.

International Women’s Day: Fostering Inclusion & Empowering Future Leaders-image

International Women’s Day: Fostering Inclusion & Empowering Future Leaders

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an important annual event for celebrating all of your employees who identify as women. In this article, we give a quick recap of the day’s history and how to embrace its sentiment every day of the year. Quick facts: What is International Women’s Day? International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on the 8th of March. A day of global signification, IWD celebrates and champions the social, economic and political achievements of women everywhere. Each IWD has a theme that reflects current struggles or aspirations for women around the world. The 2024 theme will be #inspireinclusion. History and significance  IWD was first recognised in 1977 by the United Nations. It has its origins in early Twentieth-century labour movements, which facilitated some of the first organised strikes for female workers.  Today, it has evolved into a growing international women’s rights movement that underscores the work that is yet to be done for global gender equity.  Why IWD matters for your organisation IWD is an incredibly important event for any organisation’s internal events calendar. It provides a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to fostering gender equity within the workplace, year-round.  By celebrating the achievements of female colleagues and leadership, organisations can foster an environment of support, inclusion and respect for women within their workplaces. This is far from trivial and has been proven to improve female talent retention and contribute to meaningful diversity and inclusion initiatives.  Representation matters at all levels of an organisation. Workplaces that actively seek to champion their female employees can inspire future generations of female leaders who can help build a more inclusive and diverse workforce.  Year-round female health initiatives  Any IWD events should be supported with year-round initiatives that support your female employees. Reproductive health benefits are fast becoming a cornerstone of any progressive employee wellbeing support. We believe that knowledge is power and hosting education sessions for your team centred around awareness days helps to educate everyone across the business, whilst bringing recognition to important issues. This can in turn foster your organisation’s culture whilst making your employees feel seen and supported. Here are some key awareness days to build into your internal events calendar.  From family-forming to menopause in the workplace, we deliver specialist CPD-accredited education sessions for the entire workforce that can help to empower your people.  Don’t just take our word for it . “Dr Helen and the Hertility team did a phenomenal job in educating our workforce on all things menopause related. It was done in such an approachable and engaging way.” – Flora Kong, the Co Chair of The One Gender Equality Network at Dentsu commented on the impact of our education delivered to Dentsu employees.  Get in touch with our team to learn how we can support you with your journey to becoming a Reproductively Responsible™ employer.

The Undeniable Impact of Women in Senior Leadership Roles and Strategies for Retention-image

The Undeniable Impact of Women in Senior Leadership Roles and Strategies for Retention

In this article, we’ll explain why women are so integral to senior leadership roles for the effective operation of organisations, both internally and externally. As well as lay out some effective approaches companies ought to adopt to ensure senior female retention.   Quick facts: Current workplace gender imbalance The benefits of gender equity within the workplace, particularly for top-down initiatives, are well known, well documented and certainly well reported.  But even in the face of such benefits, gender imbalance, especially across senior leadership and boards, overwhelmingly persists. Globally, male employees occupy an incredible 65-95% of senior roles.  Any progressive employer should not only be striving for gender balance within the workplace but actively ensuring they have an effective gender parity strategy in place to plug current organisational gaps. Not only should strategies focus on upward mobility for women but also on retention for female leaders. Effective strategies often require nuanced approaches that span employee benefits, competency-based hiring and pay and the need for a cultural shift in often deep-rooted, systemic biases.  The impact of women in leadership Here are some of the top line and most well documented positive impacts that gender equity and increased numbers of women within senior leadership teams can offer organisations. Improved organisational performance  Countless studies have shown a clear and definite correlation between women in senior leadership and improved company performance. This not only applies to improved financial performance but extends granularly into individual employee performance.  Studies have also shown that an increased number of women on board teams can de-risk company performance, reducing the incidence of lawsuits, corporate crimes and tarnished organisational reputations.  Increased innovation In addition to performance, organisations with a higher percentage of women in senior leadership have been found to both invest more in innovation and be more innovative overall.  This has been attributed to increased diversity, viewpoints and creative approaches to decision making apparent within gender-equitable senior leadership teams.  Enhanced employee engagement  Studies have also found that an increased number of women in senior leadership improves overall employee engagement and retention—regardless of gender or identity.  Employees from companies with higher proportions of women are more likely to report overall levels of job satisfaction and positive organisational culture.  Women are more likely to embody empathy and prioritise communication within their leadership style, often driving a more positive and meaningful workplace culture.   Strategies for retention Effective retention strategies are multi-faceted and can include a number of the following iniatives alongside organisational policy change. Address gender pay gaps Despite women in SLT performing, often better than their male counterparts and contributing to improved company performance, they still earn significantly less than men.  Ensuring transparency across pay structures is essential for acquiring top talent and retaining the best female employees. Fair compensation reflective of competency, irrespective of gender, combined with regular reviews and a clear commitment to closing any outstanding pay gaps is critical.  Offer fertility and reproductive health benefits Over 1 million women have left the workplace due to menopausal symptoms and a further 1 in 5 employees going through fertility treatment left their jobs due to insufficient support within the last 5 years alone. Offering fertility and reproductive health benefits has been found to significantly improve retention and employee engagement. These benefits can particularly help female employees, both through challenging life events, like menopause and fertility struggles—but also via mitigating potential future health issues and concerns. Companies need to remember that women’s hormones impact them for nearly their entire lifespan and the workplace needs to cater for these changes.  Educate employees on second-generation gender bias Harvard Business Review recently reported that an integral part of upward organisational mobilisation for women is the removal of second-generation bias. This is often deeply rooted in organisational practices, creating ‘invisible’ barriers for women.  Bias can lead not only to a reduced number of women in SLT but also implicitly hostile working environments for them when they get there. Making employees aware of bias can radically alter attitudes and foster possibilities for meaningful change.  The future of your senior teams  Forbes recently reported on studies highlighting that to see the benefits of an increased number of female leaders, a critical mass of a 30% female team is needed. Forbes similarly reported the need for a Reproductive Revolution in the workplace. This maps onto things like company performance, competency based pay and employee engagement.  The need for women within leadership is, evidently, more crucial than ever. The Economist and McKinsey Global Institute estimate that if global workplace gender gaps were bridged the global economy would surge by 26%. Any successful 21st century business should adopt a rigorous gender parity strategy focusing not only on upward mobilisation but also retention. Contact the Hertility team to learn how we can support you with your journey to becoming a Reproductively Responsible™ employer.

How Can Women Check Their Fertility? A Guide to Fertility Tests-image

How Can Women Check Their Fertility? A Guide to Fertility Tests

This comprehensive guide will serve as your go-to resource for female fertility tests, providing detailed information about different types of fertility testing, and everything you need to know to take control of your reproductive health, wherever you are in your fertility journey. Quick facts: Fertility testing in the UK If you’re planning a family, now or in the future, checking your fertility can offer you insights and peace of mind.  In this article, we’ll cover where you can get female fertility tests done and when you would be eligible, including fertility tests on the NHS, fertility tests at home, and fertility tests online. We’ll also explain how fertility tests are carried out, whether they’re painful, and information about blood tests. We’ll delve into the hormones and individual tests so you know exactly how the tests work, what exactly they’re testing for, and what your fertility test results mean for you. You can get answers to your fertility testing questions including: Understanding fertility in women Let’s start with the foundations of female fertility and the biological processes that govern your reproductive system. Your fertility is influenced by various factors, both physiological and environmental. Understanding what goes on inside, and how your fertility works, helps you gain a deeper understanding of fertility testing. The menstrual cycle The foundation of fertility lies in your menstrual cycle—a recurring roughly 28-day cycle that’s regulated by your hormones. A normal menstrual cycle can last between 25-31 days. The cycle consists of phases, including menstruation (when you get your period), the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. Within different phases of your menstrual cycle, different things are happening in your body, all orchestrated by your hormones. Each phase has its superpowers, but for fertility, the most important phase is ovulation. Ovulation Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovary making it available for fertilisation (the first step of conception and pregnancy). Ovulation typically happens around the middle of the menstrual cycle (around day 14 of a 28-day cycle, but it might be later or earlier depending on your cycle length) and is an important moment in the fertility timeline. The egg travels down the fallopian tube where it awaits potential fertilisation by sperm. If you’re not ovulating, this could impact your fertility potential. Issues with ovulation accounts for 40% of female infertility. Fertilisation and implantation Fertilisation occurs when sperm successfully penetrates the egg. If it does fertilise it, the fertilised egg is called a zygote. The zygote travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus where its goal is to successfully attach itself to the uterine wall lining (implantation). From there, it grows and develops into a baby. Hormone regulation Hormones play a crucial role in the menstrual cycle and fertility. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) released from the pituitary gland in your brain, along with oestrogen and progesterone from the ovaries, regulate the various phases of the cycle. Each hormone has a specific role to play. A big part of female fertility testing is testing your hormones to offer insights into your fertility. Ovarian reserve Your ovarian reserve refers to the quantity of eggs you have remaining. It gradually declines with age, particularly after the age of 35. Assessing ovarian reserve provides insights into a woman’s fertility. Age, and therefore, declining ovarian reserve, is the most common reason for infertility. Cervical mucus and reproductive environment The consistency of cervical mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Just before ovulation, and during ovulation, your cervical mucus becomes slippery and water like to help the sperm travel through the fallopian tube to meet the egg, for the egg to become fertilised. If fertilisation is successful, the next stage towards healthy pregnancy is implantation (when the fertilised egg successfully attaches to the uterus wall lining). For implantation to be successful, the uterine lining has to be thick enough. If implantation doesn’t occur, the uterine (womb) wall lining sheds resulting in a period (and no pregnancy). External factors Lifestyle factors such as nutrition, sleep and overall health can impact fertility. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential for optimising reproductive function. Why and when to check your fertility There are various reasons why and optimal times you’d want to check your fertility from age-related concerns to family planning and if you’ve been trying to conceive without success. Family planning If you want to get pregnant or are planning a future pregnancy, checking your fertility from the get-go could be beneficial. Getting a fertility test at the start of your journey can help to start your journey from a place of knowledge and understanding. Some individuals and couples wait until the 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month mark trying to conceive without success before pursuing a fertility test. To get a fertility test on the NHS, you have to have been trying for a year without success. You can, however, check your fertility from the comfort of your own home at any point in your fertility journey. The earlier you know, the better, since fertility declines with age. Age-related concerns Concerns about age-related fertility decline might prompt you to check your fertility to assess your ovarian reserve and fertility potential, especially if you’re considering delaying conception until later in life. This might be the case if you’re in your 30s but don’t want a baby yet. Women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have (the ovarian reserve), and as you age, you gradually lose eggs every menstrual cycle. Your naturally declining ovarian reserve is the leading cause of infertility. In your 20s and early 30s, you are considered at your most fertile age. After the age of 35, fertility can decrease significantly. This prompts many to take a fertility test whether it’s out of curiosity or wanting to plan for the future. Age is one of the most important factors when it comes to your fertility. If you plan on delaying having a baby until later in life, having a fertility test to check your ovarian […]

Cervical Health and Fertility: What You Need to Know-image

Cervical Health and Fertility: What You Need to Know

This January as part of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we explore how to improve your cervical health to prevent cervical cancer, enhance your fertility and improve your overall reproductive health. Quick facts: Understanding cervical health Cervical health refers to the health and functioning of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. To check your cervical health, you need to attend regular cervical screenings, (known as the smear test), and ensure you have your HPV vaccination. Your cervical fluid changes throughout your menstrual cycle and understanding these changes can give you insight into your fertility. Knowing what your cervical fluid looks and feels like throughout your menstrual cycle can help you identify your optimal fertile window (when you’re most likely to get pregnant). Usually, it becomes more slippery, slimy like egg white around ovulation, to help the sperm swim up towards the cervix. Cervical cancer Every year, more than 3,200 people are affected by cervical cancer in the UK. Two women lose their lives to cervical cancer every week and nine more receive a life-changing diagnosis. Despite this, 1 in 3 people don’t attend their smear test. Yet, if it’s caught early, cervical cancer can be treated. Some countries, like Sweden, predict that they will have eliminated cervical cancer by 2030, while the UK aims to eliminate it by 2040. Ensuring that you have your HPV vaccination and also attending your Cervical Screening when you’re invited is the best way to protect against cervical cancer. With the NHS, you should be invited to a smear test every 3 years between the age of 25-49, and every 5 years after that until to turn 64. The frequency may increase depending on if you have any abnormal results. These cervical screenings check the health of your cervix. It’s not a test for cancer, but it’s a test to help prevent cancer. They are crucial in spotting any changes in the cervical cell which could be signs of an infection or cervical cancer.  Cervical cancer often remains undetected because not everyone will always experience symptoms so ensuring your cervical screening is up to date is an important preventative measure.Symptoms like a change in your vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, or during or after sex, unexplained pain in your lower back or pelvis, or pain and discomfort during sex can all indicate cervical infection or cervical cancer. Cervical cancer awareness month Cervical Cancer Awareness Month aims to encourage more people to attend their cervical screening appointment and take their HPV vaccinations, (in case they haven’t already got it) to prevent cervical cancer as well as raise awareness about common signs and symptoms. You know your body better than anyone. Becoming attuned to it will empower you and help you spot anything out of the ordinary.If you notice anything that doesn’t feel normal (symptoms like bleeding between periods, or unusual vaginal discharge, for example) when it comes to your reproductive health, especially if you’re trying to conceive or plan to have a baby in the future, speaking to a healthcare professional and getting the necessary tests early in the process is key. The connection between cervical health and fertility First, let’s talk about the cervix and how it’s related to your fertility.  Your cervix is a narrow, cylinder-shaped passage, this is where all the uterine lining will pass through during your period. It is the mouth of the uterus and connects it to your vagina. When in labour, the cervix is also the part that dilates, so the baby can be delivered, but it’s more than just a passageway. The cervix plays a key role in conception. When you ovulate, your cervical fluid (sometimes called cervical mucus) becomes watery to help transport the sperm from the vagina towards the cervix and to the egg to become fertilised (the first step of conception). Your cervical health can affect your fertility in various ways. Infections, cervical cancer and structural abnormalities can lead to your cervix not functioning properly. Without the cervical fluid that helps to transport the sperm, and the protective barrier your cervical fluid creates during pregnancy, a poorly functioning cervix could have led to complications. After ovulation, your cervical fluid becomes sticky and thick, acting like a barrier to the sperm. If this happens around the time of ovulation, it could inhibit sperm from reaching the egg, preventing fertilisation and conception. If you do become pregnant, poor cervical health can cause miscarriage or preterm labour. Infections of the cervix, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can negatively impact fertility. Infections cause inflammation and scarring of the cervix, which can affect its normal function and increase the risk of infertility. Common cervical health issues affecting fertility Cervical infections can affect fertility Infections of the cervix, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can negatively impact fertility. Infections cause inflammation and scarring of the cervix, which can affect its normal function and increase the risk of infertility. Cervical polyps can affect fertility Cervical polyps are growths that can develop on the cervix. Polyps are usually (benign) harmless and do not often cause any symptoms, but they can sometimes cause fertility issues, or increase the risk of miscarriage.  Once found, the treatment is usually to remove them. The process of removal depends on the size, type, location, visibility and number of polyps. Cervical dysplasia can affect fertility Cervical dysplasia is a cervical condition in which abnormal cells grow on the surface of your cervix. Cervical dysplasia (also known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or CIN) is not cancer but if left untreated, it can develop into cervical cancer and affect fertility. Early detection and treatment is key. Cervical dysplasia is often termed “precancerous”, which can sound scary, but if you get timely treatment, most people who get it do not get cancer. If you have abnormal cells from your screening test, you may be invited to have a colposcopy test to look closer at your cervix. The treatment you need for abnormal cervical cell changes […]

How Ageing Can Affect Fertility Rate in Women-image

How Ageing Can Affect Fertility Rate in Women

In this article, we explore how and why ageing affects fertility, offering insights into hormonal shifts, alterations in egg quality and quantity, and your reproductive health overall. Quick facts: Does age impact fertility? Age is one of the biggest factors affecting female fertility. Although ageing is inevitable, how it affects your fertility is complex, and varies between individuals. As women and those assigned female-at-birth (AFAB) age, their reproductive health undergoes various changes that impact conception, pregnancy, and childbirth. But how and why does fertility decrease with age, and what can we do about it? Some of the most common questions we get at Hertility are, ‘What is the best age to have a baby?’, ‘What age does a woman stop being fertile?’ and ‘What are the chances of getting pregnant over 35 naturally?’ We’ll cover everything you need to know about fertility in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond, so you’re equipped to make informed family planning decisions as you navigate ageing and fertility. Understanding female fertility and age To understand how ageing affects female fertility we need to understand the basics of female fertility.  Three factors—the quality and quantity of your eggs, your hormones, and your reproductive environment (uterus and fallopian tubes)—are what is needed to be in tip-top shape for a healthy pregnancy to occur.  If one or more are out of sync, conception and pregnancy become more difficult. Let’s take a look at each. Ovarian reserve Women and AFAB people’s fertility is closely tied to the menstrual cycle. The average menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days, but it can vary. The menstrual cycle involves the release of an egg (ovulation) and the build-up of the uterine wall lining in preparation for a potential pregnancy. We are born with all the eggs we’ll ever have. Our eggs are stored in our ovaries and this pool of immature eggs is known as your ovarian reserve.  Each month, a couple of eggs from this pool start to mature, but only one egg is eventually released during ovulation. But here’s the thing: as you age, the quantity and quality of your eggs decline—they age too! Cycle hormones Hormones, particularly oestrogen and progesterone, play a crucial role in regulating the menstrual cycle. Hormonal balance is therefore essential for the proper functioning of your reproductive system, but hormonal imbalances affect lots of people trying to conceive for reasons in and out of their control. You can support your hormones with lifestyle adjustments like eating a well-balanced diet, regular exercise, managing sleep and stress, and limiting alcohol and smoking. Reproductive environment Your uterus provides a safe space for a fertilised egg to implant and develop into a foetus. The fallopian tubes transport the egg from the ovary to the uterus where fertilisation can occur (the first step of pregnancy).  For a natural pregnancy to occur, your reproductive environment (like your uterus and fallopian tubes) must be in good condition too. How age affects fertility in women Our bodies are incredible, but unfortunately, as we age, there’s a time limit on our fertility. Wondering how fertility decreases with age? For most, in your 20s and 30s, your reproductive health is in full swing and your eggs are super healthy. As you age, your eggs do too, which means there’s less available, and the ones there aren’t necessarily the best quality. Your ovarian reserve can be estimated with an Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) test, but it won’t tell you the quality of your eggs, only the number you have left. Good-quality eggs are associated with better rates of fertilisation, improved embryo quality, and a higher chance of successful implantation (when the fertilised egg attaches to the womb lining to develop into a foetus, then a baby). Infertility issues, frequent miscarriages and in rare cases, genetic disorders like Down syndrome, can be down to poor egg quality. As we age, our hormones change too. Your fertility hormone heroes, oestrogen and progesterone, can fluctuate and gradually decline over time, with the most significant dip at menopause. Reproductive health conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which can make your periods and ovulation unpredictable, thereby making getting pregnant difficult, is also the result of a hormone imbalance, especially androgens like testosterone. Plus, as you age, you might experience health issues. Medical diagnoses, chronic health conditions, and autoimmune disorders can crop up as you get older. These can all prevent your hormones and the reproductive environment from working as they should. At what age does fertility decline? Female fertility typically peaks during the 20s and early 30s. During this time, the likelihood of conception is higher and the risk of miscarriage is relatively low. One study by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health found that miscarriage was lowest among women aged 25-29 at 10%. This rose rapidly after age 30, reaching 53% for women aged 45 and over. Female fertility starts to decline in the late 20s and more significantly after the age of 35. The quantity and quality of eggs diminish more rapidly, making it more challenging to conceive. As we age, especially from our mid-30s, the decline in the ovarian reserve both in terms of quality and quantity happens very rapidly and the odds for conception and pregnancy become harder. Menopause marks the end of your reproductive years, usually occurring between ages 45-55. During menopause—an inevitable part of ageing—your ovaries stop working, your hormones gradually decline, your menstrual cycle ends and you can no longer get pregnant naturally. Females stop being fertile at menopause (not having a period for 12 months), however, fertility declines gradually with age, and after age 35, it becomes much more difficult to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. However, it is important to note that this decline is unique to each person. Fertility milestones by age group You are most fertile in your 20s. Fertility gradually declines in the 30s, particularly after age 35. The chances of getting pregnant each month during your 30s are about 20%.  That means that for every 100 […]

12 Reproductive Health Awareness Days for Your Organisations Event Calendar -image

12 Reproductive Health Awareness Days for Your Organisations Event Calendar 

Over the last five years in the UK alone, 1 in 5 employees undergoing fertility treatment left their jobs due to insufficient support from their employers—and a further 1 million women left their workplaces because of debilitating menopausal symptoms. These are just a couple of the stats that highlight the growing importance of workplace reproductive health benefits as an integral part of employee wellbeing.  As the adage goes, knowledge is power and one of the best places to start is ensuring your employees have ample access to educational resources surrounding their reproductive health.  Awareness days offer purposeful opportunities to provide employees with education and celebration over a range of important issues. This can in turn foster your organisation’s culture whilst making your employees feel seen and supported.  This 2024, why not build some of the following key female reproductive health-focused awareness days into your internal events calendar?  2024 Calendar of Reproductive Health Awareness Days 1. International Women’s Day When: March 8th 2024 What: A globally recognised campaign that celebrates women’s achievements social, economic and political achievements whilst raising awareness for gender equality.  2. National Endometriosis Action Month When: March 2024 What: A globally recognised month of action for the 1 in 10 people assigned female at birth who suffer from the reproductive health condition endometriosis.  3. National Infertility Awareness Week  When: April 21st – 27th 2024 What: A UK-focused awareness week highlighting the challenges, mental and physical, faced by those struggling with infertility. 4. Black Maternal Health Week When: April 11th – 17th 2024 What: A globally recognised week to amplify Black female voices and raise awareness for the historically higher maternal mortality rates in Black women.  5. Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week When: 29th – 5th May 2024 What: A global weeklong campaign dedicated to awareness around mental health struggles before, during and after pregnancy.  6. National Women’s Health Week When: May 12th – 15th 2024 What: A UK-focused weeklong campaign encouraging women and girls to make their health, physical and social wellbeing a priority. 7. Fibroids Awareness Month When: July 2024 What: A globally recognised month to raise awareness about uterine fibroids that affect around 2 in 3 women.   8. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month  When: September 2024 What: A globally recognised month to support those who’ve been diagnosed with or indirectly affected by ovarian cancer.  9. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Month When: September 2024 What: A globally recognised month of action for the 1 in 10 people assigned female at birth who suffer from the reproductive health condition PCOS.  10. Menopause Awareness Month When: October 2024 What: A globally recognised awareness month focused on breaking the stigma surrounding menopause, including World Menopause Day on the 18th of October. 11. Baby Loss Awareness Week When: October 9th – 15th  What: A UK-focused week-long event dedicated to supporting those who have suffered pregnancy or infant loss.  12. National Fertility Awareness Week When: October 30th – 5th November What: A UK-focused weeklong campaign initiated to raise awareness about fertility issues, treatments and reproductive health education.  What next? Embedding reproductive health awareness into an organisation’s event calendar is an imperative step toward fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. The alarming statistics revealing the impact of insufficient support on employee retention underline the urgency of addressing these issues.  By incorporating key awareness days and campaigns, such as International Women’s Day, National Endometriosis Action Month, and Menopause Awareness Month, employers can provide educational resources and celebrate the diverse aspects of female reproductive health. This not only promotes a sense of acknowledgement and support for employees but also contributes to a workplace environment that values the holistic well-being of its people.  At Hertility, we’re shaping the future of the workplace by supporting companies to become Reproductively ResponsibleTM. One way that we do this is through a range of CPD-accredited educational workshops that focus on female fertility and reproductive health. Ultimately, our aim is to change attitudes around reproductive health, both for individuals and in the workplace, and to encourage everyone to be proactive by tracking their reproductive health. We’re calling this the Reproductive Revolution! If you’d like to take proactive steps in this direction in 2024, get in touch – 

Can Menopause Cause Depression?-image

Can Menopause Cause Depression?

More women and those assigned female-at-birth (AFAB) are reporting depression during menopause, but can menopause cause depression? Here we explore the links between menopause and depression, how they influence each other, treatment options including lifestyle changes and medication and how to support a loved one struggling. Quick facts: Understanding menopause and mental health Menopause is a natural part of ageing. It’s when your ovaries stop making the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It marks the end of your reproductive years—you can no longer become pregnant and your periods stop. Since your sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, affect so much of your bodily functions including how you think and feel, the hormonal shift can cause emotional and psychological symptoms. These shifts can put you at a higher risk of developing mood disorders like depression. Changes in mood and energy can be frustrating and can have a knock-on effect on your relationships, work, life and confidence. Potential psychological side effects of menopause can include: On top of this, having trouble sleeping during menopause is common, and lack of sleep can worsen other mental health symptoms. Can menopause cause depression? Lots of women experience difficulties with depression and their mental health during menopause, but what’s the link? In multiple studies, it becomes evident that if you’re perimenopausal (the years before menopause when your hormones take a dip and you start getting menopause symptoms), you’re more likely to experience depression.  Such an enormous shift in hormones can be life-changing. Many women feel hopeless, out of control, anxious and overwhelmed. Studies found that more women in their menopausal years experience depression compared to pre-menopausal years. Additionally, women and those AFAB who have a personal or family history of depression are also more likely to experience a relapse during menopause. One study suggests that those who have had premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), or postpartum depression are also more likely to develop depression during menopause. So what’s the cause behind the correlation between the increased risk of depression during menopause? Simply put, hormones have a lot to answer for. Primarily, a dip in oestrogen can cause depression, along with other menopause symptoms. Oestrogen plays an important role in mood regulation. Without it, neurotransmitters serotonin (known as the “feel good” hormone) and norepinephrine can be affected leading to depressive symptoms and mental health difficulties. It’s important to note that depression during menopause is not a given. Not everyone going through menopause will experience depression. Symptoms vary for each individual. There are lots of treatment options to reduce and prevent menopausal depression.If you or someone you know is struggling with menopause and mental health difficulties seek professional help from a Menopause Specialist or mental health professional. Identifying depression during menopause Signs and symptoms of depression during menopause include: These symptoms are not just related to menopause, they can overlap with other menopause symptoms, and be different for everyone. The risk of developing depression seems to decrease in the 2-4 years after your last period. Menopause is marked by a single point in time when it’s been a year since your last period. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, or want more support with depression or menopause symptoms, contact a menopause specialist who can advise you. Factors contributing to depression in menopause Depression during menopause can be influenced by several factors. A genetic or family history of depression could influence the probability of you experiencing depression. Your medical history can play a part too. Having at least one chronic health condition like cardiovascular disease or diabetes can also double the risk of experiencing depression during menopause. Studies say that potential biological risk factors for depression during menopause include vasomotor symptoms (VMS) like hot flashes and night sweats can increase the likelihood of depression.  These symptoms can feel debilitating, and paired with tiredness, poor concentration and fatigue from the lack of sleep, can affect confidence and self-esteem often resulting in feelings of sadness and depression. Getting enough sleep is key to mood regulation. If your roles change because of physical health problems that come with menopause, which, for example, cause you to take early retirement, some studies suggest that the risk of developing depression increases by 88%. The Fawcett Society, in their report Menopause and the Workplace, found that 1 in 10 women leave their jobs because of menopause symptoms. Sadly, women and those AFAB aren’t getting the support they need at work. Hertility aims to change this by encouraging more employers to become Reproductively Responsible™. Seeking help and treatment for depression Seeking help for menopause-related depression is key to overcoming it. There are lifestyle changes as well as medical treatments available. Natural treatment options for menopausal depression include making lifestyle adjustments. Well-balanced, gut-healthy nutrition and regular physical exercise can improve your mood and reduce the risk of depression during menopause, along with helping to alleviate other menopause symptoms. Eating a nutritious diet Firstly, eating well and often is important. Eating protein with every meal, staying hydrated and fuelling your body will keep your energy and mood stable throughout the day. Fibre with each meal will help to keep you fuller for longer and aid your digestion. Read our piece on ways your diet can help manage menopause solutions. Experiments suggest that your gut has close links with and could play a crucial role in depression (the gut-brain axis). Eating 30 different fruits and vegetables, ideally as many different colours as possible, each week is recommended by nutrition experts to support your gut health. Probiotics like live yoghurt, tempeh and kimchi also keep your gut happy. Getting regular physical exercise Incorporating regular physical exercise can help to reduce depression and anxiety during menopause. Exercise releases endorphins—the feel-good hormone. It’s also thought that physical exercise has beneficial effects on mental health through distraction and boosting self-belief. Getting regular physical exercise also supports your energy and boosts your general health and wellbeing. It keeps your heart healthy, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and reduces the risk of chronic health conditions. Bonus! Having […]