Why should you test your hormones?-image

Why should you test your hormones?

First, let’s get back to basics… What even are hormones? Put simply, hormones are small chemical messengers that travel through the blood to different parts of your body. They help control many different functions from growth and development to metabolism (how your body gets energy from the food you eat), menstrual cycles,  fertility and mood, just to name a few!  Hormones are made by special cells in a network of glands and organs called the endocrine system. If you cast your mind back to  biology lessons at school, you’ll probably remember that some of the major endocrine glands are: The pituitary gland, pineal gland and hypothalamus (these can all be found in the brain) The thyroid and parathyroid gland (the butterfly-looking gland at the front of your neck) The adrenal glands (these sit right on top of the kidneys and pancreas)  Sex organs (also known as the testes and ovaries) Why do you need to test your hormones? As well as maintaining your reproductive health, hormones play a role in influencing our general health and well-being.  Our hormones are carefully balanced all the way from puberty to menstruation, pregnancy to menopause and beyond. However, when this system becomes disrupted or doesn’t function properly, it can affect your whole body. So, a change in your hormone levels could be the reason why  you’re feeling sluggish, slightly emotional, your period has gone out of whack or you’re struggling to get pregnant So much of modern medicine focuses on treating one health issue at a time, resulting in a long and arduous journey to pinpoint a cause for various combinations of symptoms., However, our hormone test aims to revolutionise the diagnostic process to shorten the diagnosis time for a range of reproductive health conditions. In short, it is no longer acceptable for an endometriosis diagnosis to take an average of 8 years or for a  PCOS diagnosis to take longer than 2 years.  Nor is it acceptable to be made to feel like your symptoms are all in your head.  Hormones 101 Let’s look at the hormones that control your menstrual cycles: We are all born with all the eggs we will ever have. This is called the ovarian reserve. During the first half of each menstrual cycle, a small number of eggs from this reserve will begin to grow and mature under the influence of our hormones. To learn more about the basics of the menstrual cycle, check out this article but for now, let’s take a look at each of the menstrual cycle hormones Follicle-Stimulating Hormone: One of the main hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle is Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). It’s produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and plays a big role in your fertility as it stimulates a chosen set of eggs from the ovarian reserve to grow and develop during the first half of every cycle called the follicular phase. However, not all the eggs which get matured under FSH will make it to the final stages of development. Eventually, only one egg will be selected as the chosen one, called the dominant follicle, and will continue to grow.  The smaller your ovarian reserve, the more FSH your brain produces to try and encourage eggs to grow, which is why monitoring it can help you understand the health of your ovaries. FSH levels will therefore slowly increase with age as your ovarian reserve declines. When your ovarian reserve is finally depleted (and menopause occurs), FSH levels become substantially elevated, which is why it is a good indicator of menopause. Persistently high FSH levels in someone younger than 40 is an indication of premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) which is when someone experiences menopause before the age of 40. Oestradiol: During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, the follicles start to make another important hormone, called Oestrogen, as they grow. Oestrogen levels rise throughout the follicular phase, which also encourages the growth and thickening of the lining of the uterus, creating a comfy place for a fertilised egg to implant. So, monitoring oestrogen levels gives a good indication of how well your ovaries and menstrual cycle are working. Although this is not Oestrogen’s only job, it really knows how to multitask. Not only does it help to control our menstrual cycles, but it also regulates many other aspects of our well-being, including our bone health, heart health, skin, hair, and mood. Oestrogen levels will fluctuate and eventually significantly drop when your ovarian reserve becomes depleted and menopause (or POI) occurs. Low oestrogen levels are therefore linked with many symptoms of menopause, such as dry skin and hair, vaginal dryness, painful sex, hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty falling asleep and fatigue. Oestrogen levels before menopause could be affected by lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise.   Towards the end of the follicular phase, oestrogen levels reach their peak. This stimulates the pituitary gland in the brain to produce a surge of a hormone called  Luteinising hormone (LH). LH then triggers ovulation, which is the release of the mature egg from its ovarian home so it can have a shot at fertilisation.  If you have ever used ovulation predictor kits to track ovulation, then you’ll be familiar with LH as they are designed to detect the LH levels in your urine. Checking your LH levels at the beginning of your cycle with a blood test can help you understand if you’ll ovulate later in the cycle, which is particularly important if you’re looking to conceive. If your LH levels are too low or too high, it can interfere with ovulation. High LH levels are often seen in those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can cause irregular ovulation and issues with periods and fertility. Consistently low LH levels are often associated with issues with the pituitary gland, which can be caused by anorexia or malnutrition. Did you know?  You can have your period even if you didn’t ovulate during that menstrual cycle. It’s called an anovulatory cycle and is […]

COVID-19 Vaccine and Fertility – Take Part in Research-image

COVID-19 Vaccine and Fertility – Take Part in Research

As we approach two years of living in a pandemic, the focus is turning to COVID-19 boosters to ensure the nation stays protected. Whilst there are no known risks to women’s reproductive health of the COVID-19 vaccine, little is known about the effects on menstrual cycles and hormone levels.  Throughout the pandemic, we have received countless questions from our community asking for information on the COVID vaccine and fertility, and to date, we have followed the guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, British Fertility Society and the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists. These governing bodies advise that there is no current evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility and people of reproductive age should have the vaccine.   Why research into COVID-19 Vaccine and fertility is needed Whilst there are no obvious risks to your reproductive health, there have been reports that both COVID-19 infections and the vaccine can cause changes in the menstrual cycle. It is unknown what exactly causes these changes – so far it has been thought that the stress of living during a pandemic for the past year could explain it. However, there are also theories that the inflammatory response after a COVID-19 infection or vaccination can lead to hormonal changes, which then causes menstrual cycle irregularities. We need you We’re looking to bridge the gap in knowledge. If you fit the below criteria, we would like to invite you to take part in our study to investigate the effect of a COVID-19 booster vaccination on menstrual cycles and hormone levels.  Who can take part? If you have already had your 1st and 2nd COVID-19 vaccination, and are currently awaiting your booster you’re perfect for this study. You’ll also need to: 1. Have regular periods, are not on a form of hormonal contraception and do not have any pre-existing or chronic conditions which affect your periods  2. Have already had your 1st and 2nd COVID-19 vaccination 3. Be willing to take two Hertility tests across two consecutive months 4. Be willing to answer a 15-minute questionnaire at the same time as taking your Hertility tests 5. Be willing to show us your vaccination certificate as proof of vaccination How does it work? If you’re planning to book your booster vaccination within the next 1-2 months, we will ask you to complete a Hertility test and a study questionnaire before and after your vaccination appointment. These must both be done on day 3 of your period with your booster appointment in between.  If your booster appointment is scheduled over 2 months away, or you are not planning on getting a booster vaccination, we will ask you to complete two consecutive Hertility tests and questionnaires over 2 months.  We will then compare the difference in the test results from each group to investigate whether the booster vaccination changes menstrual cycles or the associated hormones. Register your interest If you want to help us, please complete this form and we will contact you regarding the next steps. As a thank you, all participants who have not tested in the last 3 months will receive a 50% discount on each test. Any recent customers will receive a complimentary research assessment.

Testosterone 101: Understanding Your Testosterone Levels-image

Testosterone 101: Understanding Your Testosterone Levels

It’s become a common misconception, that when it comes to sex hormones, those born female are driven by oestrogen and those born male are driven by testosterone. But the reality is, all sexes have these hormones running through their bodies, just in different quantities. So if testosterone isn’t just for testes-bearers, what does it do in your body? And what can the knock-on effects of an imbalance be? Welcome to testosterone 101 – where we cover all you need to know and the hormone, and what your testosterone levels mean.   What is testosterone? Testosterone belongs to a group of hormones called androgens. There are a lot of misconceptions about it being just a “male” hormone.  Although they are important hormones for the sexual development of people with male sex organs, everyone, irrespective of biological sex, produce and require some level of androgens for reproductive development.   What does it do inside my body? In women and gender diverse people assigned female at birth, it is produced by the ovaries and by adrenal glands. It is then converted to the primary sex hormone – oestrogen. Testosterone production is age-dependent and gradually declines with age. Most of the testosterone in our body is inactivated as it remains bound to two proteins, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and albumin. The small fraction of testosterone that remains unbound is called freely circulating testosterone (free T) which can enter a cell and bring about its effect.  The levels of free T in the body are determined by how fast testosterone is made, how fast it is broken down, and the level of SHBG. Low levels of SHBG result in higher free testosterone, whereas high levels result in lower free testosterone. You can read more about SHBG here.  Some of the functions testosterone serve in the body include: Maintaining sex drive (libido) Maintaining muscle mass and bone density Menstrual health & fertility Stabilising mood Growth, repair, and maintenance of reproductive tissues May help support cardiovascular health   What do high testosterone levels l mean? In cases where a hormonal imbalance leads to an excess amount of testosterone (hyperandrogenism), it may result in the following symptoms: Skin issues such as acne and oily skin, specifically concentrated around the jawline, back and chest. Excess facial & body hair (hirsutism) Thinning or loss of scalp hair (alopecia) Irregular or missed menstrual cycles, which in severe cases can result in fertility issues Changes in mood Deepening of the voice Increased muscle mass Issues with weight Enlargement of the clitoris Some studies suggest that high testosterone levels may increase the risk of developing high cholesterol, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.   What could cause high testosterone levels?  The most common causes of high testosterone levels due to underlying health conditions are polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. In extreme cases, it may be a sign of tumours affecting the ovaries or adrenal glands. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal & metabolic condition affecting 1 in 10 women & gender diverse people assigned female at birth.  The exact cause is still being researched; however, the proposed causes include an excess of androgens and insulin, genetic factors and environmental factors. You can read more about PCOS here. If you suspect you might have PCOS, our at-home tests can give you a better insight into your hormones. But at Hertility, we don’t believe in giving you results without the rest, we give you the what’s up and the what’s next. Our team of experts includes PCOS specialists who can help you manage your symptoms and create an actionable plan for the future. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is an inherited condition that affects the adrenal glands.  These are small glands located on top of the kidney. They produce the hormones cortisol (stress hormone) and aldosterone, which regulate metabolism and blood pressure. They also produce the hormones dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and testosterone. People with CAH are unable to produce an enzyme necessary to regulate the production of these hormones, which can result in an overproduction of testosterone. It was found to be more common in some ethnic groups such as people of Hispanic, Mediterranean, Yugoslavian and Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Cushing’s syndrome is another hormonal condition impacting the adrenal glands. It results in excessive cortisol and androgen production. A recent study including 3124 people found that those who were premenopausal and showed symptoms of depression had higher free testosterone levels than those without them. Testosterone levels can rise due to certain medications, such as: Anabolic steroids are made up of testosterone and other substances related to testosterone that promotes muscle growth. They are often used to improve athletic performance and enhance cosmetic appearance.  Anabolic steroid use can be addictive, making it difficult to stop. However, there are significant negative physical and psychological effects of anabolic steroid use, one being elevated testosterone levels. Testosterone replacement therapy is a form of hormone replacement therapy. It is used to treat menopause symptoms and as part of the medical transitioning process for gender reaffirming therapy for trans men.  DHEA is a precursor to testosterone, and taking DHEA supplements could increase the levels of testosterone. Danazol is a synthetic steroid that possesses some structural similarities with testosterone. It is a drug used as part of treatment. It works by suppressing the number of hormones made by the ovaries and is also known for its affinity to bind with SHBG, which results in increased levels of free testosterone.   Excessive alcohol consumption may increase levels of testosterone in premenopausal women, however, research is conflicting. You can read more about the impact of alcohol on fertility here. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a  chemical present in some plastics. Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA. It is considered to be an endocrine-disrupting chemical with reproductive toxicity. A study including 71 people with PCOS and 100 without it found a higher BPA level in people with PCOS and a statistically significant […]

Understanding the Causes of Infertility-image

Understanding the Causes of Infertility

Despite what we may have been led to believe by our teachers and society, getting pregnant is often not as easy as we may think. For many, the journey to parenthood can be a  challenging process, both physically and emotionally. As many as 1 in 7 heterosexual couples experience infertility in the UK, yet the causes are sometimes preventative, or treatable. We’re here to help you understand the different causes of infertility, and the options available for those who need support.   Defining Infertility Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive within a year of trying, despite having regular unprotected sex with your partner. There are 2 types of infertility: Primary infertility: If you have never conceived a child previously and have difficulty falling pregnant.  Secondary Infertility: If you have had 1 or more pregnancies in the past, however, you are struggling to conceive again.  With 1 in 7 couples struggling with infertility, we believe that opening the conversation around the topic is incredibly important, to not only help support those within the community but also spread awareness and educate others. Before we discuss the physical factors that can cause infertility, please know that if you need support on your path to parenthood, we are always here to guide you. How lack of ovulation causes infertility   Anovulation, also known as the inability to ovulate, is the most common cause of infertility. Ovulation is the process in which a mature egg is released from the ovary, and travels down the fallopian tube, where it prepares to be fertilised by the sperm. When trying to conceive, it is a crucial event, as it presents you with your “fertile window” – the 5-6 days in which you can get pregnant.  Research suggests that as many as 25% of infertility cases are caused by anovulation, which can be explained by the following reasons: Gynaecological or ovarian complications: such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). (We’ll explore these in further detail below) Age: As you age your ovarian reserve declines as does the quality of your eggs. Endocrine disorders: Certain conditions that affect your reproductive hormones in your body such as, thyroid disease or defects in the hypothalamus, can also affect the hormones that trigger ovulation. Lifestyle and environmental factors: such as smoking, an unhealthy diet, consuming excess alcohol and/or drugs and more. Problems in the Menstrual Cycle Another possible explanation that is linked to failure to ovulate, is a problem with the egg maturation process. This means that an “immature” egg may be released from your ovaries when it is not quite ready. In this case, it may be unable to travel down the fallopian tubes to be fertilised. PCOS Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), is the most common hormonal condition, affecting as many as 1 in 10 people with ovaries. It is also considered one of the main causes of infertility. People with PCOS produce higher levels of androgens, which are considered “male” hormones. These androgens can then interfere and disrupt your menstrual cycle and ovulation. Although not present in all, some people with PCOS also possess tiny fluid-filled sacs, called cysts in their ovaries. These can sometimes block the release of an egg from your ovaries. As PCOS is still under-researched and misunderstood, many people are left undiagnosed and are unaware they have it until they are actively trying to conceive. If you would like to understand more about PCOS click here. POI  Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), explains when the ovaries stop working “normally” before the age of 40. Due to the ovaries being responsible for producing the core hormones needed to work a regular menstrual cycle when their function is disrupted ovulation either does not occur regularly or stops completely. People with POI also often have a lower ovarian reserve, meaning fewer eggs for their age. Without a sufficient amount of eggs and the correct level of hormones needed to regulate your cycle, the possibility of conceiving is reduced considerably. According to the National Infertility Association, POI can be caused by genetics or autoimmune factors and is much less common than PCOS, affecting only 1 in 100 women younger than 40. Understand more about POI here. Structural Infertility Causes When thinking about your reproductive health organs, there are many different components to consider. And they all play vital roles in your fertility and general health. These organs include your ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. One other possible cause of infertility is explained by either a physical dysfunction or a problem in the growth or structure of these organs, disabling them to function effectively.  These organs all play vital roles throughout the menstrual cycle, such as your egg being released from your ovaries, and travelling through your fallopian tubes to the uterus, where it awaits fertilisation – and if this occurs – is implanted. If there is any structural damage to your fallopian tubes, it can cause blockages, which can prevent the egg and sperm from meeting for the fertilisation process.  Additionally, if the structure of your uterus is abnormal, this can also cause infertility problems, as it may prevent the implantation process needed to create a healthy embryo and pregnancy. Other possible explanations of implantation failure are: Defects in the embryo are either genetic or simply embryonic Endometrium Defects: A defect in the wall of your uterus Endometriosis Hormone resistance, in particular, progesterone. Scar tissue in the endometrium. Structural infertility problems can also be explained by scarring of the uterus, which can increase the risk of pregnancy loss. This scarring can be caused by several factors, such as surgery, infections, or possible previous injuries. Others experience the growth of noncancerous tissues such as uterine polyps, that grow on the lining of the uterus. Polyps occur when additional tissue grows on your uterus. However, sometimes tissue grows elsewhere in your reproductive system potentially blocking your fallopian tubes and preventing pregnancy.  Uterine Fibroids Not too dissimilar from polyps, uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumours that affect as many as […]

STIs and Fertility: What You Need To Know-image

STIs and Fertility: What You Need To Know

There are dozens of STIs out there, all with different symptoms and characteristics. If you find out you have an STI, you’re gonorrhoea-lly want to sort it out quickly, so it is important to get an STI check-up if you develop any symptoms and get treated as soon as possible. If you do develop symptoms, you should avoid having sex without a condom until you have been treated to prevent the spread of the disease.  General STI symptoms include: Symptoms develop at different times for different infections and some can take a long time to show themselves. Most STIs can hide in the body and only display symptoms months or years after they were contracted. Because of this, it might be hard to trace where the infection came from, so you must tell everyone you have had sex with so they can be checked out too.  To make things more complicated, lots of people don’t display any symptoms when they have an STI and so may not even know they have one. Because of this, it is also a good habit to have a test each time you have sex with someone new, even if you don’t have any symptoms. It’s better to be safe than sore-y! 

Veganism and Fertility: How does a vegan diet impact your fertility?-image

Veganism and Fertility: How does a vegan diet impact your fertility?

This month, an estimated 400,000 people are taking part in ‘Veganuary’: a movement in which you go vegan for the month of January. Perhaps, you are thinking of joining them or maybe you are just curious about how a vegan diet will affect your fertility? The vegan diet is often hailed as having many health benefits, but what about when it comes to your fertility… Firstly, what is a vegan diet? A vegan diet omits all animal produce, including meat, fish, milk and eggs. As such, vegans tend to eat lots of vegetables, fruit, beans, pulses and seeds. You may be thinking that following a so-called ‘plant-based diet’ sounds challenging; however, more and more people are becoming vegan. In fact, the Vegan Society estimates that the number of UK vegans has quadrupled over the last five years. The main reasons people decide to swap to a plant-based diet are for health, environmental factors and animal welfare. As veganism tends towards the mainstream, the range of vegan food substitutes has rapidly expanded. You’ll now find about eight different varieties of plant-based milk and products like ‘facon’ (that’s fake bacon to the uninitiated) and ‘tofurkey’ (we’ll let you guess that one…) on the shelves of your local supermarket. As such, adopting a vegan diet is now easier than ever, but will switching to a plant-based diet improve your health and fertility? Health benefits of a vegan diet  A vegan diet has a multitude of health benefits. Vegans typically have lower BMI and are up to 78% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. This is because plant-based foods are typically lower in sugars and fat. Consequently, many people make the switch to a plant-based diet to lose excess weight. Indeed, studies show that individuals following a vegan diet lose more weight on average than those following calorie-restrictive diets. There are many other benefits to a vegan diet, including improved kidney function, reduced risk of certain cancers and lower risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Veganism and fertility First things first, will veganism boost your fertility? No, not directly. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to a vegan diet.  Undeniably, diet and lifestyle factors greatly impact your fertility. The link between obesity and infertility is well-documented. Being overweight or obese not only makes you less likely to conceive but also increases the risk of miscarriage and pregnancy complications. In this way, following a vegan diet may be beneficial if you are trying to conceive, helping you to reach a healthy pre-baby body weight. In addition, following a vegan diet has been shown to decrease your risk of gestational diabetes. However, regardless of the diet you follow, it is important to ensure that you are obtaining all required nutrients when trying to conceive and then throughout pregnancy.   The risks: vitamin deficiency and fertility   You can definitely follow a vegan diet and have a healthy pregnancy, but a vegan diet can put you at greater risk of some nutrient deficiencies which may impact your fertility. Whilst a vegan diet may be low-fat, a plant-based diet can increase risk of certain nutrient deficiencies: –   Iron deficiency: Low iron intake can cause anaemia, a condition in which you have a lower-than-normal red blood cell count. As red blood cells are responsible for providing cells with oxygen, anaemia can cause fatigue, breathlessness and headaches, among other symptoms. Iron deficiency is common in pregnancy, even if you eat meat. However, vegans are at a much higher risk of anaemia. Whilst anaemia is detrimental to general health, the direct effects of iron deficiency on conception and fertility remain unclear. However, anaemia has been shown to increase risk of preterm birth and can also lead to developmental delays in the foetus. Anaemia can be easily treated by taking iron supplements. –   Vitamin B12: There is evidence that vitamin B12 deficiency can decrease your infertility and that, in severe cases, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause infertility. This infertility is normally temporary and can be resolved by taking vitamin B12 supplements. In addition, vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause anaemia. Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products such as milk, eggs and meat, and is essential for metabolism. With the exception of fortified cereals, vitamin B12 is not found in plant-based foods and so vegans are often unable to obtain sufficient vitamin B12 from their diet. Therefore, to avoid health risks and maintain good reproductive health, it is really important that vegans take vitamin B12 supplements.   –   Vitamin D: Whilst we obtain vitamin D from sunlight, it is also found in lots of animal products, such as eggs. As such, vegans can be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, particularly throughout the winter months. The links between vitamin D deficiency and fertility are unclear and require further research. However, observational studies indicate that vitamin D deficiency is a risk marker for subfertility. Therefore, if you and your partner are following a vegan diet whilst trying to conceive, it is worthwhile taking vitamin D supplements. Switching to a plant-based diet may seem daunting, but if you take the correct supplements then there is little risk to a vegan diet whilst trying to conceive. In fact, arguably, with the required vitamins and supplements, the preconception health benefits to a vegan diet are significant. A vegan diet won’t work for everyone, but if you are wanting to get healthy before trying to conceive then it may be worth giving it a go. Even switching to a plant-based diet for a few meals a week has been shown to have health benefits. So, maybe it’s time we start making the switch from beef to ‘beet’ burgers? Sources:

Hormonal Acne: The Culprits Behind Your Skin Stress-image

Hormonal Acne: The Culprits Behind Your Skin Stress

Maintaining healthy skin isn’t always as simple as skinsperts and bloggers may make it sound. Sometimes no matter how much money you spend in the lotion aisle, or how many fads you try, your dreams of perfect skin don’t come true. Often the culprits behind your skin complaints are your hormones which can cause hormonal acne and other skin stresses. The hormones in our body are balanced very meticulously, so even a small change can tip this homeostasis and produce a noticeable effect on your health. Any imbalances can affect your skin, so getting your hormones in check might be the only elixir. ⠀ We’ve broken down what exactly causes hormonal acne and how.     How are your hormones and skin problems linked? Your skin has many small glands, called sebaceous glands — that produce an oily substance called sebum. Sebum helps keep our skin supple, smooth, and healthy. These glands have also receptors for our sex hormones, particularly testosterone and oestrogen, meaning they are directly affected by the levels of these hormones. The sebaceous glands are particularly sensitive to changes in androgen levels, especially testosterone. Although androgens are traditionally considered as ‘male hormones’, don’t let the name fool you, women have small amounts of testosterone in their bodies as well. They stimulate the production of sebum, which is why during puberty, when our bodies produce excess amounts of androgens, it can cause hormonal acne and other skin problems. If androgen levels are higher than normal, there is more androgen binding to the sebaceous gland receptors, promoting more sebum production. This buildup of sebum causes visibly oilier skin and can clog the pores, resulting in inflammation.  Those suffering from conditions that cause elevated androgens, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), are more likely to experience acne, excessive facial and body hair growth (hirsutism), and skin darkening. Trans men who begin taking testosterone may also find this is a hormonal acne cause. Hormones and skin during your menstrual cycle Sebum production is also influenced by the menstrual cycle, specifically by the hormone oestrogen. Although the impact of oestrogen on the sebaceous glands is not fully known, it has been shown to suppress sebum production at high levels. Oestrogen levels are not constant and fluctuate during your cycle, you can read about the basics of the menstrual cycle here.   Oestrogen is also associated with increased collagen production, skin thickness, skin hydration and wound healing. After the menopause, some women may find that the drop in oestrogen levels causes hormonal acne, and may also leave their skin dry, itchy, and saggy. For some individuals, HRT ( hormone replacement therapy ) to reduce the symptoms of menopause can also cause hormonal acne.  What causes hormonal acne? As the name suggests, hormonal acne is caused by fluctuations in your hormones. Although seen mostly around puberty, it can affect individuals of all ages.  Hormonal acne includes: Blackheads: they are the type of comedones that are open at the surface of the skin and appear black because of the effect of oxygen.  Whiteheads: they are the type of comedones that are closed beneath the skin surface. Papules: they are small, raised, red bumps that occur due to inflammation or infection of the hair follicles.  Pustules: they are small and red pus-filled pimples. Cysts: they are large lumps, which are present under the skin. They contain pus and may be painful and tender to the touch.  How to spot hormonal acne? Hormonal acne usually erupts during puberty, often setting up base on the T-zone, which includes the forehead, nose and chin. Adult hormonal acne is usually concentrated on the jawline, chin and bottom of your cheeks. A flare-up usually occurs due to hormonal fluctuations due to: Menstrual cycle; Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS); Elevated androgen levels; Pregnancy; Menopause. How to treat hormonal acne? If you think you are suffering from hormonal acne, Hertility Health’s at-home hormone tests can help you identify any hormonal imbalances and get to the root of your skincare problem.⠀ Armed with your results, you could visit your GP or can ask to be referred to a dermatologist. The treatment options for hormonal acne vary depending on the severity of the outbreak. You may be prescribed a variety of treatments ranging from dietary changes, lifestyle modification to prescription medication such as oral contraceptive pills, hormone blockers, and topical treatments like retinol. References: Farage MA, Neill S, MacLean AB. Physiological changes associated with the menstrual cycle: a review. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2009 Jan;64(1):58-72. Thiboutot D. Acne: hormonal concepts and therapy. Clin Dermatol. 2004 Sep-Oct;22(5):419-28. Wierckx K, Van de Peer F, Verhaeghe E, Dedecker D, Van Caenegem E, Toye K, Kaufman JM, T’Sjoen G. Short- and long-term clinical skin effects of testosterone treatment in trans men. J Sex Med. 2014 Jan;11(1):222-9.  

How Your Fertility May Be Affected By Your Lifestyle-image

How Your Fertility May Be Affected By Your Lifestyle

  We’re all guilty of having bad habits; smoking, drinking, over-indulging on the caffeine or stressing out over the simplest of things, these are common poor lifestyle choices we often make. But vices like these can not only impact your general health but your fertility too.  1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK experience fertility struggles and for those, modifying bad habits and lifestyle choices are the first step. Whilst quitting can often feel impossible (especially when it comes to cutting out stress!), evidence shows that eliminating these factors can play a role in boosting your fertility chances.  It’s possible you’re going to be saying farewell to some of your favourite vices here,  while we go through the lifestyle changes you should be making before trying to conceive. Does smoking affect my fertility? This one is simple. Toxins present in cigarette smoke can potentially damage the DNA in eggs. In IVF, smoking by either partner can reduce success rates.  Good news though, the minute you quit smoking, your overall health begins to improve, which can only help improve your chances of conceiving. Can taking drugs affect my fertility chances? As for drugs, not all drugs will be detrimental to your fertility efforts, however, whatever drugs you take will find their way into your bloodstream, potentially affecting your eggs and impacting on your fertility.  If you’re currently on prescription medication and looking to get ‘In the family way’, it’s always worth a chat with your doctor.  Regarding those wild nights out trying to recreate those crazy Hacienda days? Recreational drugs are a big no-no as they can affect hormone levels and may cause long-lasting fertility issues. Should I cut out alcohol? In short, yes. With no ‘safe’ level for alcohol intake during pregnancy, cutting back prior to trying for a baby makes sense. Whilst pregnant, no alcohol is the recommendation according to the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines, in order to minimise risk to the foetus. Can I drink coffee while trying to conceive? So, what about caffeine? This one is a little bit hazier. Despite numerous studies, there is nothing concrete on the impact caffeine has on fertility. Many associations recommend limiting your intake to 200mg per day. Will weight issues decrease my chances of fertility? Wait! We need to talk about weight! It’s not so much the ‘being overweight’ or ‘being underweight’ that can cause difficulties in conceiving, more the associated medical conditions you’re more likely to suffer from through being either overweight or underweight.  Obese or clinically underweight females are at higher risk of encountering problems with their cycles, including irregular periods, or even none at all, not to mention diabetes (for those overweight)  and a host of other complications. Our advice? Keep an eye on your BMI. Can stress cause fertility problems? A silent hold-up in your fertility plans could be stress. Although studies have failed to prove that stress alone reduces your chances of getting pregnant, a number of cohort studies over the years have indicated a correlation. Stress hormones such as cortisol disrupt signalling between the brain and the ovaries, which can prevent ovulation. Bottom line, avoiding stress can only be a bonus, whether trying to conceive or not! After all, trying to get pregnant can be the most stressful thing of all. If you’d like to know more about how lifestyle choices may be affecting your fertility, or have any questions about your overall female health, we’d love to help you out. Our at-home hormone tests can give you an insight into your ovulation, and highlight any red-flags relating to fertility. But at Hertility, we don’t believe in giving you the results without the rest. Our team of experts include fertility experts that can help you create an actionable plan to optimise your fertility.

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: Behind Your Missing Menses-image

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: Behind Your Missing Menses

Hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) is when your menstrual cycle and ovulation are interrupted due to the influence of the hypothalamus gland, located in the brain. It is a commonly occurring condition in women with eating disorders, athletes or dancers or those with a low body mass index (BMI).     What causes hypothalamic amenorrhea? The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain that plays a crucial role in many important functions, including the release of hormones, and regulating body temperature. sleep, hunger and the menstrual cycle. Hypothalamic amenorrhea is caused by issues in the functioning of the hypothalamus.  Common causes include: Excessive exercise Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia; Malnourishment; Being underweight; Being on a calorie-restrictive diet;; Psychological stress; Substantial weight fluctuations.   When you eat too little or exercise too much, the body perceives this as stress. It leads to severe fluctuations in the hypothalamic hormone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone influences the production of other hormones which are needed for the egg to mature, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and for the release of the mature egg from the ovary during ovulation, such as luteinising hormone (LH). FSH and LH, in turn, regulate oestrogen and progesterone production by the ovaries. Oestrogen thins the cervical mucus and progesterone prepares the uterus lining for a fertilised egg. Typically, a rise and fall in FSH, LH, oestrogen and progesterone are signals for the menstrual cycle. If a disruption happens at the hypothalamic level, the whole hormonal cascade is affected, resulting in low FSH, LH and oestrogen. Symptoms of hypothalamic amenorrhea:  Common symptoms include: Missed period(s) or very light bleeding during menstruation; Low libido; Feeling cold often; Mental health issues including depression and anxiety; Difficulty sleeping; Increased hunger; Low energy. It is just your body trying to protect you, by putting basic energy needs ahead of your reproductive health, which is why your periods become irregular.  How can hypothalamic amenorrhea be diagnosed? It is usually a “diagnosis of exclusion,” which requires healthcare providers to rule out other conditions that could be interrupting the menstrual cycle. Your doctor may consider the following blood hormone tests to base their diagnosis on:  Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH);  Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH);  Luteinizing hormone (LH); Estrogen (E2); Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH); Prolactin;  Testosterone. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG);  GnRH levels are tested to analyse the function of the hypothalamus; low GnRH is indicative of a dysfunctional hypothalamus. Low levels of FSH, LH and E2, may indicate hypothalamic amenorrhea. High levels of prolactin may suggest a pituitary gland tumour, which could be leading to amenorrhea. Testosterone levels are analysed to eliminate the possibility of Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Thyroid-stimulating hormone is analysed to rule out the influence of thyroid gland disorders on your period. Human chorionic gonadotropin is purely tested to confirm or eliminate the possibility of pregnancy influencing your periods.    How can it be treated? If your reports are indicative of hypothalamic amenorrhea, your pathway to care and treatment options will usually be tailored according to the cause and reproductive concerns. Healthy lifestyle habits, diet and exercise routine modifications can help improve your symptoms, and make them more manageable. If you think you may be experiencing any of the symptoms above, we can help! Testing your hormones can be a looking glass into your reproductive and overall health. But at Hertility, we don’t believe in giving you results without the rest. Our team of experts can help to put you on the path to restoring your period and improving your overall health and fertility.