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 […]

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 […]

How to Boost Fertility Naturally in Your 30s-image

How to Boost Fertility Naturally in Your 30s

Age is a big factor when it comes to fertility, but on the whole, people are having children much later than previous generations—some well into their 30s. If you’re looking for advice on how to boost your fertility naturally in your 30s, there are several things you can do. Read on to find out.  Quick facts: Fertility in your 30s Age is a big factor when it comes to fertility and we’ve all heard of the infamous biological clock. In other (more scientific) words, your biological clock refers to your ovarian reserve.  This is the number of eggs you have left and equally as importantly, the quality of your remaining eggs. Both of these factors unfortunately decline over time, significantly so after your mid-30s.  That’s not to say that you can’t have a very healthy and even easy pregnancy in your 30s, it’s just worth bearing in mind that as you get older, it becomes more difficult to get pregnant and to keep the pregnancy. Luckily there are many different types of fertility treatments, like egg freezing and IVF, which can help those who have more difficulty conceiving naturally.  When you’re trying to conceive in your 30s, whether you’re using fertility treatments or trying to get pregnant naturally, every little helps. Your lifestyle choices, nutrition, menstrual cycle awareness and mental health can play a crucial role in your fertility journey in your 30s, and at any age. Let’s take a look at some of the key lifestyle factors and medical factors that can help you on your journey. Medical considerations and check-ups Boosting fertility naturally in your 30s begins with a proactive understanding of your reproductive health. Regular medical check-ups, including hormone and fertility testing, can help you to understand if any underlying conditions may be affecting your reproductive health and help you address any potential hurdles to pregnancy. Lots of healthcare providers recommend only visiting a fertility specialist if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year without success, but you don’t need to wait that long.  While some couples have no trouble conceiving, 1 in 6 heterosexual couples face fertility struggles. Knowing your body from the inside out means you can seek support and advice faster with all the facts, should you need it. When it comes to getting pregnant in your 30s, timing is everything. By taking charge of your reproductive health through regular check-ups and fertility screenings, you equip yourself with the knowledge needed to optimise your chances of a successful pregnancy.  You may also want to consider getting a pelvic ultrasound scan to give you your definitive Antral Follicle Count (AFC). This gives you a clear and accurate picture of your remaining ovarian reserve Lifestyle changes to boost fertility Despite common misconceptions, you can implement lots of lifestyle changes to help support your fertility and reproductive health. While some aspects of fertility are out of our control, there are actions you can take to improve your chances of getting pregnant in your 30s, with and without fertility treatments. Lifestyle changes can help to boost your fertility naturally. Choosing a well-balanced and nutritionally rich diet, doing regular physical exercise, managing your stress and getting enough sleep can all support your fertility. Physical exercise to boost fertility Getting at least 150 minutes of physical exercise a week is important for supporting overall health—physical and mental.  Broken down, that could look like five 30-minute workouts, a week. This can be anything from a brisk walk to a gym session, yoga, swimming—or any kind of movement that’s right for you.  30-60 minutes of physical exercise per day was shown to reduce the risk of anovulatory infertility (infertility due to an ovulation disorder). Exercise not only balances your hormones, but it can boost your mood, help you manage stress and support your energy. However, being underweight, or doing vigorous physical exercise (more than 60 minutes a day) combined with eating in a calorie deficit, can negatively impact your fertility. This can have a knock-on effect on your hormones, which can lead to irregular periods and ovulation. Your menstrual cycle relies on a delicate hormone balance, and if your weight is too low or too high can throw them out of sync affecting your chance of conceiving. Stress management strategies for fertility Stress can also throw your hormones off balance, causing irregular periods and ovulation. It might also affect your desire to get intimate and reduce your sex drive.   Manage stress to boost fertility in your 30s by identifying coping strategies that work for you. You could try relaxation techniques like breathwork, yoga, meditation and mindfulness to help you relax.  If you find that self-help measures are not helping out, you can always consider seeking professional help.  The connection between sleep and fertility It’s recommended to get between 7-10 hours of sleep every night regardless of your health concerns. Sleep is associated with better health outcomes all round, including reproductive health.  So, how does sleep affect our fertility? A lack of sleep can cause your circadian rhythm (responsible for your sleep-wake cycle) to become dysregulated. This can cause knock on affects for your hormones and in turn your menstrual cycle and fertility.  One study revealed that in a survey of nurses of reproductive age, 53% reported menstrual cycle changes while engaging in shift work. To get a healthy sleep routine, try switching all screens off two hours before bedtime, and have a wind-down routine which could include a hot bath, calming tea, stretching or bedtime yoga. Try to stick to a schedule by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, so your sleep-wake cycle is regulated. It’s usually easier to fall asleep when it’s quiet, dark and cool, but test different sleep environments to see which works best for you. Morning sunlight is proven to improve your ability to sleep too. Exposure to sunlight in the first hour of waking for 10-30 minutes a day, and in the afternoon as the sun is setting, […]

What are the Five Main Factors that Affect Fertility in Women?-image

What are the Five Main Factors that Affect Fertility in Women?

In this article, we’ll delve into the five main lifestyle factors that play a pivotal role in female fertility, and how you can shape and optimise your lifestyle to support your reproductive health. Quick facts: Understanding female fertility When embarking on your fertility journey, whether it’s trying to conceive for your first or your fifth—planning is everything.  Understanding the various lifestyle factors that can affect your fertility is crucial for both individuals and couples looking to begin their conception journey.   Lots of couples conceive without any issues, but 1 in 6 heterosexual couples face fertility struggles, so if it’s taking longer than you’d hoped, know that you’re not alone.  The earlier you know what’s going on inside your body, the earlier you can take action to support your future fertility goals.  There are lots of different factors that can impact female fertility—including age, lifestyle factors, hormones, reproductive health conditions and environment.  To get pregnant and have a baby, lots of these biological and environmental factors come into play. When one or more of these factors fall out of sync, that’s when you might face difficulties with fertility. Let’s take a look at some of these factors and how you can prepare for your fertility journey. Age and fertility First, let’s explore what fertility is from a biological perspective. Ovulation plays a critical role, marking the release of an egg from the ovary. For a pregnancy to occur, a healthy egg must meet healthy sperm (usually in the fallopian tube) where the egg gets fertilised. Plus, the uterus (womb) must be in optimal condition so the fertilised egg can implant and grow into a healthy baby. But unfortunately, biology often has other plans for us. We hear a lot about the ‘biological clock’ when it comes to women and those assigned female-at-birth (AFAB). This references the deterioration of both the quality and quantity of your eggs over time—known as your ovarian reserve.  Women and those AFAB are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have. Each menstrual cycle, you lose eggs. Once you hit your mid-thirties, this decline increases even more rapidly. Add in hormonal changes as a result and collectively, it reduces your ability to become, and often stay, pregnant. For a pregnancy to occur, you need healthy eggs. So from a biological standpoint, the younger you are, the healthier your eggs will be.  While an Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) test can help you to understand how many eggs you have left, it can’t tell us the quality of the eggs we have. Additionally, after the age of 35, there’s a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications and negative health outcomes for the baby. There’s also a higher risk of miscarriage, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes. Plus, chromosomal conditions like Down’s syndrome are more common. Despite misconceptions, ageing affects male fertility too. From age 40 onwards, sperm quality and sperm function decrease with significant implications to pregnancies and births including increased time to conception and increased risk of miscarriage. Lifestyle choices and fertility The idea that our fertility is out of our control is somewhat of a myth. Whilst biological and genetic factors play a big role—there’s a lot we can do to support our reproductive health.  Through lifestyle choices, we can impact the quality of our eggs and contribute to a healthier reproductive environment. Eating a well-balanced, nutritionally rich diet, getting regular physical exercise, managing stress, getting enough sleep and stopping or reducing smoking and excess alcohol can contribute to improving your fertility. This is because your lifestyle choices directly impact your hormones, and hormonal balance (involved in regulating your menstrual cycle) is crucial to a successful conception, pregnancy and healthy baby. Let’s take a look at some lifestyle tips that can help take care of your fertility Eat a fertility-friendly diet One of the best things you can do to support your fertility is to focus on your nutrition. Eating a Mediterranean diet—one that’s based on plant foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains with a moderate amount of dairy, fish, meat and eggs—can be really beneficial.  Check out our fertility-friendly meal plan, and fertility nutrition shopping list to support your healthy diet.If you’re trying for a baby and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, taking prenatal supplements like folic acid is important as it can help prevent major birth defects by supporting neural tube development. Get regular physical exercise Getting regular physical exercise is healthy no matter where you are in your fertility journey, but be wary of overexercise. Too much vigorous physical activity can stop ovulation, cause irregular periods or stop them altogether, known as hypothalamic amenorrhea. An absent period is often a sign that something’s not quite right, so it’s worth speaking with a healthcare professional if you’re worried. Limit smoking and alcohol Smoking, alcohol and recreational drug use are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and complications during conception and pregnancy. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that can disrupt your hormones and impact your fertility. It’s also been linked with early onset menopause. There’s limited evidence to know how vaping affects fertility (although early studies suggest it could affect the ability to implant and result in lower birth weights) but if you’re trying to get pregnant, not vaping is safer than vaping.  The lack of information doesn’t mean it’s safe, but by stopping, you’re being exposed to fewer chemicals. Get help to quit smoking in the UK with the NHS. Excess alcohol consumption is not only associated with hormone imbalances, there is no safe level of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy as it can lead to adverse health effects for the baby.  In women and those assigned-female-at-birth, disrupting your hormones can affect your menstrual cycle causing irregular periods which can affect ovulation, reducing your chances of conceiving. As well as its impact on our hormones, drinking and smoking negatively impact our general health which can lead to knock-on impacts on our fertility making it harder to become and stay pregnant, […]

The Ultimate Guide to Fertility and Pregnancy Nutrition-image

The Ultimate Guide to Fertility and Pregnancy Nutrition

Having a healthy diet and active lifestyle is essential for good health at all times, but when you’re trying to conceive or pregnant—it’s even more vital. Here, we’ve laid out everything you need to consider for your nutritional health if you’re starting your conception journey.  Quick facts: Nutrition and fertility During all stages of the conception journey—right from trying to conceive, through to pregnancy and postpartum—nutrition needs to be front and centre for both your health and your baby-to-be.  Questions we frequently hear include ‘which foods increase fertility?’, ‘what are the best foods for pregnancy?’, and ‘what nutrients are needed for pregnancy?’. In this article, we’ll tell all and take a deep dive into everything pregnancy and fertility nutrition. Follow these tips for what to and what not to eat for optimal health during your conception journey. Key nutrients to eat when you’re trying to conceive When trying to conceive, you’ll need a high-nutritional diet. This is because nutrition directly impacts our fertility and can shape the health of your baby during those vital first 9 months of its life.  Whilst there are no specific guidelines for a recommended ‘fertility diet’, the Mediterranean diet offers a great template for the kinds of foods you should be consuming.  This diet is rich in fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It includes smaller amounts of dairy, eggs and lean meat and limits processed and red meats and ultra-processed foods.  Due to the abundance of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the Mediterranean diet, it is rich in antioxidants which have been shown to protect sperm and eggs from DNA damage and oxidative stress.  Diets opposing this way of eating, such as those poor in fruit, veg and dairy, but high in saturated fat, have been associated with an increased risk of pregnancy complications.  Here are some key nutrients and minerals found in the Mediterranian diet that are especially important for pregnancy. Vitamin D How much Vitamin D do I need when trying to conceive? Folic acid and folate If you are currently trying to become pregnant, it is advised to take at least 400 mcg of folic acid supplement every day. You should supplement for 12 weeks before conception and at least three months after conceiving.  It is also a good idea to include food sources of folate in the diet such as dark green leafy veg, avocado, citrus fruit, peas and lentils. Folate (Vitamin B-9) is very important in red blood cell formation and for healthy cell growth. Studies have shown that taking folic acid can greatly reduce neural tube defects in the baby (defects in the brain and the spine). Neural tube defects affect one in 1,000 pregnancies, with 190 babies born with an NTD every year in the UK. Omega-3 fatty acids Omega- 3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are antioxidants that are found in oily fish such as salmon, herring, anchovies, sardines or mackerel. Aim for two portions per week of fish (140g each), one of which should be oily.  Plant-based sources include flax, hemp, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, rapeseed oils, linseed vegetable oils and soya products. Plant-based sources aren’t as rich, so you may want to consider supplementing with 450mg EPA/DHA per daily adult dose of Omega-3 every day if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Avoid taking Omega-3 supplements that contain fish liver, such as cod liver oil. Some benefits of taking Omega-3 fatty acids when trying to conceive are:  Fat plays a crucial role in the production of hormones and is needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. So in addition to omega-3 PUFAs, you should also be focusing on including healthy fats from monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, olives, nuts, avocados and seeds. Monounsaturated fats are associated with improved pregnancy and live birth rates.  Fibre In a study in the US, higher fibre intake was associated with an increased chance of conception. Those who had a higher fibre intake had a 13% higher chance of conceiving, compared with those who had a lower fibre intake. How much fibre should I be eating when trying to conceive? In the UK, it is recommended that we all aim for 30g of fibre per day. The carbs-to-fibre ratio is also extremely important. More carbs than fibre can lead to reduced fertility, whilst more fibre-to-carbs is more beneficial for fertility. Some foods that are high in fibre: Protein Adequate protein intake whilst trying to conceive can positively affect egg and sperm development. To increase your chances of getting pregnant, make sure you and your partner are getting enough daily protein.  The average adult needs around 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. However, active individuals, especially those doing weightlifting or resistance training, will need to up their intakes.  What foods are high in protein?  Animal meats are high in protein but according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, it found that infertility was 39% more likely in women who ate high intake of animal proteins.  Women who ate plant-based proteins were much less likely to be diagnosed with infertility, linked to a reduced risk of ovulatory infertility. High-protein foods that can help aid fertility include fish, eggs, lentils, beans, tofu, quinoa, chickpeas, yoghurt, seeds and nuts. What’s the best type of protein when trying to get pregnant? The best type of protein when trying to get pregnant is plant-based protein. Including more minimally processed, plant-based sources of protein in the diet and fewer animal sources of protein could improve ovulatory infertility. This doesn’t mean you have to become fully vegan. You can simply limit your consumption of animal proteins and make a conscious effort to consume more plant-based proteins (better for you and the environment). Some plant proteins include chickpeas, lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds and quinoa. Iron and planning for pregnancy Iron is essential for the reproductive system and too little iron can cause anaemia. Women need 14.8mg of iron […]

Five Personal Accounts of Navigating Egg Freezing-image

Five Personal Accounts of Navigating Egg Freezing

For women or those assigned female-at-birth, society ensures that as we age, we’re hyper-aware of our declining fertility. Jokes about our ticking ‘biological clocks’, extended family constantly asking when we’re going to ‘settle down’ and even trying to navigate company maternity policies—it can feel really overwhelming. There are many different pathways to parenthood and for a lot of people, either for medical or social reasons, their fertility timeline just doesn’t line up with where they are at in their personal or professional lives. Luckily, advances in reproductive science are enabling many people to access fertility treatments, like egg freezing, to preserve their fertility.  We spoke to five people, all with different circumstances, who have undergone egg freezing. We hope these accounts can help you to understand a little bit more about the egg freezing experience. Recap: What is egg freezing? The egg freezing process (known medically as ‘oocyte cryopreservation’) is a fertility preservation method and medical procedure that involves having your unfertilised eggs surgically removed from your ovaries, frozen and stored in a lab until you’re ready to use them.  You may choose to freeze your eggs if you want to have children in the future, but aren’t ready to yet. As you age, the quantity and quality of your eggs decline, which means your chance of getting pregnant does too. Freezing your eggs will preserve their quality, as they are now, for if and when you become ready to use them. There are two types of egg freezing: The egg freezing process An egg-freezing cycle involves several different stages including preliminary tests, ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, storage and then subsequently thawing once you’re ready to use them. Egg-freezing can be incredibly empowering—allowing you to control your family planning timeline and focus on your personal and professional life, or any medical treatment, without having to worry about your fertility decline.  However, it can be an intensely emotional journey full of ups and downs, with financial strain, daily injections, and hormonal changes that can affect your mental and physical health.  Remember—if you’re going through this process, Hertility’s fertility counsellors can support you through these challenges. While the procedure is generally safe, there is a small risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which is a condition that can happen in response to fertility medication. For more information, read our egg-freezing guide. Natalie Getreu’s egg freezing journey Ovarian biologist and one of our very own co-founders, Dr Natalie, had a unique egg freezing experience after having been both a fertility practitioner and patient.  “I thought I knew everything about egg freezing, at least from a scientific standpoint. I’d supervised procedures, sat in on consultations, educated women and delivered lectures on treatments.  But when it came to undergoing the process myself, as a patient, it was a completely different experience.  I definitely didn’t fully appreciate the physical toll it would take, how draining it would be emotionally, or how much I would have to relinquish control to the process and just let my body do what it needed to do in response to the treatment.  Probably the biggest thing I came to appreciate was how much I needed to slow down. As a founder, there is an enormous pressure to be available 24/7, and as a woman, for everything to be done perfectly. There often doesn’t feel like we are afforded the space to slow down, but I realise now how important that is. The whole process made me have a much deeper appreciation of the lack of education and awareness out there about alternative routes to parenthood. If you’re thinking about undergoing treatment, get as much info as possible. Support is out there no matter what your circumstance is’.” Asher’s egg freezing journey “I discovered the importance of [egg freezing] the same day that I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and recommended for Testosterone HRT. Luckily, this is when I was introduced to Hertility – finally some humane guidance, clarity and crucially being seen and understood as a trans person. The whole process became much clearer and felt more manageable, and honestly I started to feel inspired by the gift of being able to do this. The actual process wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined, especially in relation to triggering my dysphoria.“ Georgia Habboo’s egg freezing journey “The reason I did this was that I had not had a period since coming off the pill (it had been 3.5 years) and I literally was getting no answers from doctors after 10,000 tests. I did the hormone testing kit which I’m SO grateful for. My AMH, which is an indicator of your egg reserve (ovarian reserve), was really low – within the range of a 55-65-year-old, so they recommended that I freeze my eggs straight away”. Daniella Abraham’s egg freezing journey “At age 30, I wasn’t anywhere near ready to have a baby. Although I wanted the option to have kids in the future, I didn’t want to feel pressured into trying sooner than I might have done just because of my ‘biological clock’. Honestly, the hardest part was deciding if the process was right for me, but in the end, I’m so glad I chose to do it. “Freezing my eggs has given me reassurance that I didn’t need to rush into making any major life decisions and given me peace of mind that I will have the option to start a family in the future when I’m ready to.” Mish’s egg freezing journey “As I approached 35, I knew I wanted to freeze my eggs. I didn’t want to feel pressured to have a baby just because of my biology. But I had no idea if I would be able to  – I knew you can only get screened on the NHS if you’re trying, so I assumed I would just have to wait until then. “That’s when I found Hertility. I took a Hertility test which allowed me to see if I had any issues in advance of starting […]

Everything You Need to Know About Ovulation-image

Everything You Need to Know About Ovulation

If you’re trying to conceive, understanding when you’re ovulating can greatly improve your chance of getting pregnant. Read to find out what ovulation is and how to track it.  Quick facts: What is ovulation? Ovulation refers to the phase around halfway through your menstrual cycle when your body releases an egg (ovum). It travels through the fallopian tube where sperm can fertilise it and you can become pregnant. The fertile window Pinpointing the day you ovulate can improve your chance of conception since you can ensure you have sex within your fertile window. Your fertile window is a six-day window during each menstrual cycle, it includes the five days leading up to the day of ovulation, and the day after ovulation. If the sperm fertilises the egg and implantation (the attachment of the fertilised egg to the wall of the uterus) occurs, it can develop into a pregnancy. But if it doesn’t implant, around 14 days later, you’ll have a period. Your period (or menstruation) bleed is the uterus wall lining (endometrium) shedding. An egg can only survive for 12–24 hours, which might seem like a brief window of opportunity for the egg and sperm to meet and fertilise, but sperm’s lifespan is much longer. Sperm can survive for up to five days in the female reproductive tract, so if you have sex five days before ovulation, it’s still possible to become pregnant. When does ovulation occur? Ovulation will usually happen during the middle of your cycle (anytime from 11-16 days after your period starts) if you have a regular period.  The day of ovulation is dependent on the length of your cycle and can also sometimes vary from cycle to cycle, particularly if you don’t have regular periods. You may hear that ovulation happens on day 14—but this assumes everyone has a 28-day cycle which isn’t always the case.  Cycles can vary in length from person to person and even from one cycle to another. Anything from a 21-day cycle to a 35-day cycle is considered regular. If you’re taking birth control or hormonal contraception exactly as prescribed, you shouldn’t ovulate. The hormones in hormonal contraception work by stopping ovulation and thickening cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to reach and fertilise an egg. Tracking ovulation: signs and symptoms There are a few different methods you can use to track ovulation, such as using a predictive period tracker app, monitoring signs like basal body temperature and discharge changes, or using an ovulation test kit. Let’s take a look at each.  Ovulation test kits Ovulation test kits can determine whether you’re ovulating. They work similarly to a pregnancy test. They test your urine to detect the levels of luteinising hormone (LH) – the hormone released by the pituitary gland in the brain to trigger ovulation. Although LH is always present at low levels, it surges 24-36 hours before you ovulate. Ovulation prediction kits may not be suitable for someone with PCOS, because they often have high LH levels which can cause falsely positive results. Our at-home hormone and fertility test can help you get clarity on what’s going on inside your body including your egg count and highlight any red flags to do with fertility. It’s personalised to include a comprehensive Online Health Assessment, personalised hormone panel, at-home blood collection kit, and a gynaecologist to analyse your results and help you create an actionable plan for the future. Calendar method Tracking your menstrual cycle is an effective way to determine when you’re ovulating. You can use a traditional pen and paper, digital calendar or even period tracking apps that you mark when you’re bleeding. You can also track different symptoms throughout the month to notice patterns that can indicate which menstrual cycle phase you’re in. Mobile application-based fertile window predictions may not always take into account current cycle variations or factors that might impact your cycle. They are also reliant on the accuracy of the information you input, which is why you should be careful with relying on them for predicted fertile windows because it could put you at risk of an unintended pregnancy.  Cervical mucus changes Cervical mucus changes throughout your menstrual cycle and plays a key role in conception. Before ovulation, it’s often pasty and creamy. During ovulation, it becomes clear, slippery and stretchy resembling raw egg whites. This consistency makes it easier for sperm to swim up the vagina and into the uterus to meet and fertilise an egg. Cervical mucus can be affected by many other factors, such as infections, sex and medications, and may naturally alter within each cycle, which is why relying only on this method alone might not be accurate. Basal body temperature changes You may be able to detect ovulation by checking your basal body temperature with a digital basal body thermometer. Your body temperature increases slightly during ovulation by 0.5 to 1 degree. This method works more effectively if you track your basal body temperature for several months first thing in the morning before you eat, drink and go to the toilet to get an idea of your baseline temperature. That way, you’ll notice when it increases. Although, it is important to remember that basal body temperature can be affected by many things such as alcohol consumption, a change in sleep schedule or if you are feeling unwell.  Physical ovulation symptoms Some people who menstruate often feel physical symptoms when ovulating too. It’s common to have tender breasts, an increased sex drive, minor pelvic or abdominal pain (ovulation pain or mittelschmerz), light bleeding or spotting, bloating, a heightened sense of smell, taste or sight, mood changes and appetite changes. However, these symptoms aren’t an effective way to predict ovulation. Whether you’ve just started trying to get pregnant or are considering your future family options, knowing when you’re ovulating and understanding your body puts you in the driver’s seat of your reproductive journey to give you peace of mind and improve the chance of conceiving. Problems with ovulation If […]

What to Do When You Have a Haemolysed Blood Sample-image

What to Do When You Have a Haemolysed Blood Sample

In this article we will walk you through what happens if your Hertility at-home hormone testing kit comes back with a haemolysed blood sample, what happens during lab tests affected by hemolysis and our top tips for taking and sending off your samples to ensure your hormone blood test results don’t come back haemolysed. Quick facts: What does it mean when a blood sample is haemolysed? A haemolysed blood sample is when the red blood cells in the sample you provided have burst or broken down.  This process is called haemolysis—the red blood cells rupture and spill their contents, mainly haemoglobin (a protein that carries oxygen around your body) into their surrounding serum or plasma.  With any type of blood collection, haemolysed blood samples can happen. They are very common—in fact, they are actually the number one cause of rejected samples by labs, second only to insufficient sample size (1). Haemolysed samples are unable to be tested and labs will reject and request new samples. This is because analytes that are tested for in the sample will potentially have become diluted by haemolysis and an accurate result will not be able to be obtained. We know it can be frustrating to hear that your sample couldn’t be analysed—especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like having blood taken.  What causes a haemolysed blood sample? Haemolysis can happen with any form of blood collection, whether it’s a finger prick sample like the one used in our at-home Hormone & Fertility Test or a traditional venous blood drawn by a nurse or doctor. It can also happen regardless of where the sample was taken.  Samples can become haemolysed for a number of different reasons, but here are some common ones we’ve found with our tests. Haemolysed blood could be caused by: Can my sample be analysed if it’s haemolysed? Unfortunately, no. Because the red blood cells have broken down, the hormones within the sample can’t be analysed.  We know this can be really disappointing and frustrating. So, if your sample has come back haemolysed, we will send you a second test kit, free of charge, for you to retake your sample.  All you need to do is log in to your health hub, navigate to your tests and click on the notification we’ve sent you. We will have already credited your account with a free test, so all you need to do is check out.  Top tips for taking your sample Sometimes haemolysis can happen because of the way your blood sample was collected or packaged. We’ve put together a few tips and tricks to help you get your sample to us safe and sound. Top tips for preventing hemolysis when taking your blood sample: 1. Slow it right down Take your time when taking your sample, don’t rush through or squeeze your finger really hard. Use gentle downward strokes to encourage blood flow. 2. Make sure your hands are warm Warm hands = more blood circulation. This means it will be easier to draw your sample. Submerge your hand in warm water for a couple of minutes before collecting your sample to get that blood pumping all the way to your fingers. 3. Use your ring finger This one usually works the best, giving the biggest drops. Make sure you prick the fleshy part. 4. Always wipe away the first droplet Use a tissue or sterilised wet wipe to wipe the first drop clean, before aiming the rest of your drops into your collection tube. 5. Pierce a second finger if the blood stops flowing on the first Don’t overdo it on the first finger, if the blood flow stops, start fresh on a new finger. 6. Use the cartwheel method Take your arm that is not being used for the sample (we don’t want an American psycho situation up the walls) and swing in a cartwheel motion for about a minute. Don’t ask why, but it works. 7. Get your blood pumping with some star jumps Bring back some P.E class nostalgia star jump it out for a minute or so before you take your sample. This will get your blood flowing and your fingers warm.  8. Make sure you’re hydrated Everyone is more dehydrated than usual when first waking up which can make circulation slower and collecting your sample more difficult. Stay hydrated the day before you’re due to collect your sample and drink a couple of glasses of water roughly half an hour beforehand.  Top tips for preventing hemolysis when packing your blood sample 1. Do not shake your tube after collecting your sample Place your tube carefully back into your kit box, into the space indicated. This will keep it wedged safely in place during transit. 2. Post your sample on the same day it was collected Ideally you’ll do your test first thing in the morning. Then, keep it at room temperature and post it to your nearest postbox as close to the collection time as you can. This will reduce the time it’s outside for, potentially getting hot in the sun or too cold. 3. Use a priority postbox if you can These are collected everyday, you can find your nearest one on the Royal Mail website.  4. Check our social channels for lab closures and postal service delays We regularly post or email reminders about upcoming lab closures, postal strikes and delays due to public holidays on our stories, make sure you’re following us and check our socials before doing your test. FAQs How will I know if my sample arrives haemolysed? Rest assured, we will always contact you directly if your sample arrives haemolysed. One of our customer service team will be in touch.  Will I get another test free of charge if my sample is haemolysed? Our labs will inform us, we will contact you to let you know and will offer a second kit free of charge to redo your test Do I have to wait until day 3 of my cycle before I can test again? Unless you’re on hormonal contraception, unfortunately yes, you will have to wait until […]

Diagnosed with PCOS? How to Manage Symptoms-image

Diagnosed with PCOS? How to Manage Symptoms

If you have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and are feeling a bit clueless or overwhelmed, we’re here to help. In this article, we explain all of the possible treatments for PCOS and how to effectively manage your symptoms. Quick facts: What is PCOS? PCOS is an extremely common reproductive health condition that affects up to 1 in 10 people assigned-female-at-birth. It can affect how the ovaries work and can cause an array of different symptoms, which can range in severity from person to person.  The good news is, that even if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious at the outcome of your recent diagnosis, PCOS symptoms can be treated and managed with lifestyle changes. Symptoms of PCOS As with most conditions, the symptoms of PCOS vary from person to person, as does the severity of the symptoms. Not everyone with PCOS will experience all of these symptoms, but you need to have at least two of the below to have been diagnosed.   Other symptoms can include: What causes PCOS? Currently, the exact cause of PCOS is unknown but it often runs in families and can be related to abnormal hormone levels in the body, including high insulin.  Higher insulin levels also induce your ovaries to produce androgen hormones such as testosterone. An increase in androgen hormones can cause symptoms like excess hair growth (hirsutism) acne and alopecia.  High levels of insulin can also eventually cause insulin resistance. Because insulin metabolises carbohydrates in your body, those with insulin resistance are therefore unable to respond to glucose properly.  This can then lead to being overweight as your body is not able to absorb the sugars from your food into your liver and convert it into energy—so it is stored as fat instead. How to manage your PCOS symptoms The current treatment options for PCOS are symptomatic, as there is currently no cure. This means treatment is focused on treating and mitigating symptoms with lifestyle changes and certain medications.  Your treatment will follow patient-centred care, meaning you will have a say in your treatment and your doctors should respond by providing you with care that is responsive to your preference and needs. The first line of treatment they will recommend will be to make changes to your lifestyle. These include changing your diet, exercising, losing weight and taking part in activities to maintain healthy mental health.  Don’t underestimate the power of lifestyle changes. Making healthy choices and bringing positive changes to your lifestyle can create a major difference in your symptoms, allowing you to control them and improve your quality of life. With the right, tailored care plan, many people find that their PCOS symptoms can be controlled and that they don’t present any further problems for them. Let’s take a look at some of the lifestyle changes involved in PCOS symptom management. PCOS diet and nutrition Some research suggests that following a healthy balanced diet is a significant way to manage your PCOS—it can regulate your period and ovulation and reduce the presence of symptoms like acne and hirsutism. High GI carbs Vs low GI and weight loss If you are currently overweight, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for managing PCOS.  The more overweight you are the more complications you will face with PCOS as well as having a higher risk of developing other long term health conditions. There are many different PCOS diets that people recommend, but a healthy and sustainable option is a low glycaemic index (G.I) diet. This involves substituting high GI carbs with low GI carbs which can help PCOS sufferers lose weight efficiently. Low GI carbs increase blood glucose levels very slowly, whereas high GI foods are digested rapidly, which can cause spikes in your glucose and insulin levels.  A great book that explains the G.I diet very well is ‘ The Low GL Diet Bible’ by Patrick Holford, it contains a list of foods that you can substitute your daily carbs with. Here are some great examples of Low GI carbs that you could incorporate into your diet: Following a low GI carbs diet is generally the key piece of advice that clinicians and dieticians will advise in the case of any PCOS diagnosis and will likely form the basis of a PCOS specific nutritional care plan.  However, there are other foods and simple switches that you can incorporate into your diet which may help to further reduce your symptoms too. A PCOS friendly food list may contain: If you’d like help with anything regarding PCOS specific nutrition, you can book a consultation with one of our Fertility Nutritionists who will be able to help you with a nutritional care plan. Reducing fat and salt As well as managing and decreasing your carbohydrate intake, you should also manage your fat and salt intake and make sure you’re taking in all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Try to keep your salt intake to a maximum of 2,300 mg per day.Also, increasing the intake of whole foods aids weight loss and helps to maintain a healthy balanced diet.  Although losing weight isn’t so easy for PCOS sufferers, it is totally worth it—just a decrease in 5% of overall body weight can significantly improve symptoms. PCOS and exercise benefits Like losing weight, exercise increases metabolism and may help to improve many of your symptoms. When exercising, the main goal is to lose weight in the abdomen and reduce fat around the organs.  This will help to support your endocrine system, which secretes and regulates your hormones, including your insulin and testosterone levels.  If you’re new to regularly exercising, it’s best to start slowly, steadily increasing your workouts as well as the time spent working out. In the long run, this will be much easier to maintain.  Cardio is great for heart health, with things like swimming, hiking and running great for getting a sweat on. But there is a misconception that you will only lose weight with cardio, it’s a total myth!  […]

Alcohol and Fertility: Drinking While Trying to Conceive-image

Alcohol and Fertility: Drinking While Trying to Conceive

If you’re trying to conceive, or thinking about trying soon, it’s a good idea to get clued up about how alcohol can impact fertility and your chances of conception. Read on to find out how drinking can impact female and male fertility. Quick facts: Any form of alcohol consumption may impact your ability to get and stay pregnant When trying to conceive it’s recommended to completely abstain from alcohol Alcohol can disrupt normal hormone functioning and cause subsequent imbalances in reproductive hormone levels Alcohol can also affect male fertility and sperm quality The relationship between alcohol and hormones If you’re trying to conceive, or beginning to think about starting a family, chances are you’ve probably recommended to stop, or at least cut down, drinking alcohol…  Not exactly the news most of us want to hear, but unfortunately alcohol consumption can affect our fertility (in both women and men) and therefore, our chances of conceiving. Although all alcohol can affect fertility, new research has indicated that in those assigned-female-at-birth, both the timing of alcohol consumption, in relation to where we are at in our menstrual cycles, and the quantity we drink can determine how bad it’s negative effects are.  But do we need to cut the vino out all together? Or is there space to find a happy medium? Let’s take a look at exactly how alcohol and fertility are linked and what the effects of drinking are at different stages of the menstrual cycle and conception. Can you drink while trying to get pregnant? Any form of alcohol consumption may impact our ability to get, and stay, pregnant.  Less is known about alcohol’s effects on fertility and chances of conception than about its harmful effect on pregnancy, but overall the NHS currently recommends that alcohol should be avoided by women who are actively trying to conceive. This is to keep any possible risks to a baby that might be conceived to a minimum, as we may not know that we’re pregnant until a few, or more, weeks into a pregnancy.  If we’re drinking and do become pregnant, we may risk unintentionally exposing the baby to alcohol. Since there is no known safe level of alcohol for a developing foetus, the safest approach is to avoid it.  Additionally, as we mentioned before, alcohol will also affect our ability to get pregnant in the first place—so if we’re trying to conceive, it’s also best to reduce our drinking to a minimum. Does alcohol affect fertility? In short yes—any form of alcohol consumption has been found to affect both female and male fertility. Some studies suggest that even low to moderate alcohol consumption, which is classed as two drinks or less per day, can be associated with reduced fertility in both men and women.  However, there have been some recent studies that suggest in women, timing of alcohol consumption can play a part in determining its negative effects on our ability to conceive. Let’s take a look at female fertility and alcohol a little more closely… Female fertility and alcohol A recently published study by the University of Louisville was the first of its kind to investigate alcohol consumption’s effects on fertility during different phases of the menstrual cycle. Whilst researchers observed a significant association between heavy drinking and a reduced likelihood of conceiving at all points during the menstrual cycle, light to moderate drinking varied significantly.  The study found that when participants drank in moderation, around 3-6 alcoholic drinks per week, during the luteal phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation), it resulted in a 44% reduction in the chance of conceiving compared to non-drinkers.  However, during the follicular phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle, before ovulation) and during ovulation, only heavy drinking was associated with a reduced chance of conceiving. Light and moderate drinking during these phases did not impact the participants chances of conceiving compared to non-drinkers. So what does this mean for the average person? Basically, if we’re in the first two weeks of our cycle and we’re trying to conceive—it might be safe to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. However, everyone’s cycle is different and we will all ovulate at different times—literally no cycle is exactly the same. If we’re trying to conceive and in the last two weeks of our cycle, it’s probably best to steer clear of the booze all together. Why does alcohol affect fertility? Although the exact cause isn’t known, it’s been suggested that alcohol disrupts hormone levels, which in turn, can have knock-on-implications for our fertility.  Studies have shown that alcohol intake is associated with an increase in levels of oestrogen, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and  Luteinising Hormone (LH), in addition to a decreasing our progesterone levels. In those assigned-female-at-birth, disrupting just one of these sex hormones can disrupt the menstrual cycle and our ability to ovulate, thus reducing our chances of conceiving.  High oestrogen levels can also lower the chance of implantation—which is when a fertilised egg or developing embryo attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. If implantation fails, no pregnancy will occur.  Aside from its effect on our hormone levels, alcohol also negatively impacts our general health—which can lead to knock-on impacts for our fertility, making it harder to get, and stay pregnant, in addition to raising the risk for foetal conditions and other birth complications. Male fertility and alcohol Despite most conversations centering on female responsibility when it comes to fertility—it’s important to remember that male fertility is also affected by alcohol consumption.  Similarly to those assigned female-at-birth, alcohol also disrupts the normal balance of hormones in men—including reducing testosterone levels, which again becomes more pronounced with heavy drinking over a longer period. Does alcohol affect sperm? A study of 1221 men in Denmark found that sperm quality decreased in men who reported drinking more than 5 units (around 3 small beers) of alcohol a week. This decrease in sperm quality became even more pronounced in men who reported drinking […]