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 […]

Stress and Periods: How Stress Affects Your Menstrual Cycle-image

Stress and Periods: How Stress Affects Your Menstrual Cycle

Stress is bad news, period. It can affect the menstrual cycle, and just about every other bodily process. In this article we’ll cover exactly what stress is, the science behind it, how it can impact our periods, and some top tips for managing it. Quick facts: What is stress? Stress is defined as a state of worry caused by a difficult situation. It’s always been a part of human life and is a fundamental element for our survival.  Stress is a natural part of life and impacts us almost daily. Whilst a small amount of stress can actually be good for us (believe it or not), chronic stress and burnout can end up negatively impacting almost all of our body’s processes—including our menstrual cycles. The bodily changes you feel when you’re stressed are akin to what your ancestors felt when they were running away from life-threatening predators. Except, nowadays, predators take on the shapes of boardrooms, bosses and bills. Stress is classed as a state of ‘disharmony’, disrupting the carefully coordinated balance that your body is consistently fine-tuning. Usually, your body’s reaction to stress is temporary and it’s able to revert to its previous state.   However, it’s increasingly common to be exposed to prolonged periods of stress or several different, unresolved stressors, which cannot be adapted to—resulting in chronic stress. This can feel never-ending and all-encompassing, impacting both our mental and physical health.  This is the type of stress linked to depression, fertility issues and other health problems. The science behind stress The body’s reaction to stress is coordinated by something called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). The hypothalamus, in the brain, helps encourage the production of hormones like cortisol aka stress hormone (1). These kickstart the body’s stress response and divert the brain’s attention away from other processes, like coordinating your reproductive system. When we are chronically stressed, our cortisol remains constantly high. This can put us in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’, leading to the body being unable to adequately support other bodily functions. What is a ‘normal’ period? To understand how stress may affect your menstrual cycle, it’s important to understand what a ‘normal’ or average cycle looks like. A ‘normal cycle’ can last anywhere from 21 to 35 days, depending on the individual.   A one-off longer or shorter cycle is still considered normal, but if yours are consistently irregular, it’s worth getting checked out as they could be caused by an underlying health condition, such as PCOS. Can stress affect your period? Stress can affect your period in many different ways. This is because your menstrual cycle and your body’s response to stress are both coordinated by the same part of the brain—the hypothalamus. If you have high cortisol it can disrupt the hypothalamus, disrupting the production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).  GnRH controls the production and regulation of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH), two hormones incredibly important for the regulation of the menstrual cycle.  If FSH and LH become disrupted, you’re likely to experience disruptions to ovulation and menstrual cycle regularity. This can also disrupt sexual desire and arousal. One study found that women experiencing high levels of stress showed lower levels of sexual desire, linked to elevated cortisol levels. Can stress delay your period? Elevated cortisol levels as a result of stress can effectively delay ovulation by blocking the release of LH. Without a surge in LH, you won’t ovulate. This can make your cycles longer and potentially heavier. On the flip side, high levels of stress are also associated with shorter cycles. Can stress stop your period? In situations of chronic stress, ovulation can be prevented for long periods of time (known as chronic anovulation), stopping your period altogether. This can be due to psychological stress but also periods of intense exercise or eating disorders. Missing periods due to stress is called functional hypothalamic amenorrhoea. How do I know if stress is the cause of my menstrual cycle changes? Without the analysis of a medical professional or hormone test, it’s not possible to know for certain that stress is the cause of your menstrual cycle changes.  Lifestyle factors often work in tandem. Changes to your cycle may be because of a handful of interacting factors. That being said, there are steps you can take to get a better idea of whether stress could be behind your period irregularities.  Tracking your periods and symptoms, either with a period tracking app or just using a calendar or diary can help you understand if stress is linked to your cycle. Make a note of how irregular or regular your periods are and any symptoms like pain, acne and how you’re feeling emotionally, including stress.  You can also take our Online Health Assessment. Our assessment analyses your biometrics, medical history, periods and lifestyle factors, to calculate your risk profile and help determine the cause of your symptoms. By looking at the pattern between your menstrual cycle and stress levels, you should be able to spot if there’s any obvious link. Even if they aren’t linked, just being able to rule out stress as the cause of your period troubles is helpful—you’ll then at least know to direct your attention elsewhere. If you are under stress consistently, it may be difficult to pinpoint that this is what’s causing your irregular cycles. The best way to establish what is going on with your cycles is to look at your hormone health – you can do this using our tailored at-home Hormone and Fertility Test. By looking at hormones such as testosterone and thyroid-stimulating hormone, we can eliminate other things which can affect your cycle, such as PCOS or abnormal thyroid function. How can we manage stress? Although experiencing stress might not feel great in the moment, it does serve an important purpose and actually, in small doses, it’s a powerful motivator, helping us to work harder and achieve our goals.  Although our modern-day stressors might not be as dangerous as the threats facing our ancestors, they do still present […]

Period Poos: Let’s Talk About it…-image

Period Poos: Let’s Talk About it…

Period poo. What is it and why does it happen? In this article, we take a look at why our bowel movements seem to wreak havoc during our periods and some tips for managing any symptoms. Quick facts: What is period poo? Period poo is basically any changes to your bowel movements during your period. This can be loose stools, diarrhoea, more frequent bowel movements, constipation, or more wind.  Although period poo might not be the most hotly debated dinner party conversation, it’s actually really common—with one study citing that up to 73% of people who menstruate experience period poo.  What causes period poo? Throughout our menstrual cycles, our hormones cause a whole host of changes, some of which can affect our digestion and gastrointestinal tract. Here are some of the changes that occur in the lead-up to our periods specifically, which can lead to changes in bowel movements.  Prostaglandins and muscle contractions Prostaglandins are chemical messengers that your uterus (womb) produces around your period. They act on the uterine smooth muscles to help them contract and shed their lining each month. This means you have prostaglandins to thank for your period cramps.  Sometimes, excess prostaglandins can act on smooth muscles elsewhere in the body, including the bowels. This causes an increase in muscle contractions in the intestines and bowel, leading to loose stools or diarrhoea.  On the flip side, too little prostaglandins can have the opposite effect, causing things to slow down in the gastrointestinal tract. This is one theory of why some people experience constipation at the time of their period (3).  Increased progesterone levels Although the exact relationship is not well understood, your gut – as well as your uterus – also has receptors for sex hormones like progesterone and oestrogen. This means your gut is sensitive to the changes in hormones that come about at the time of your period. Just before your period, progesterone levels are high, which can cause gut sensitivity, including bloating, diarrhoea or constipation, in some people.  For people who already suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, this can be exacerbated at this time of the month. If you’re experiencing flare-ups, stick to your prescribed symptom management plan and if you think you need more relief, speak to your doctor about alternative ways to manage your IBS during your period.  Diet changes and cravings An increase in progesterone levels just before our periods can cause cravings for certain foods. Changing your diet, for example eating more, consuming more carbs and processed foods, consuming less fibre and not drinking enough water can all affect digestion and lead to changes in stools.  Increased stress or anxiety A common symptom of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) that is often experienced just before or during our periods is increased levels of anxiety, overwhelm or stress. Each of these symptoms can lead to a change in bowel movements, as our guts are intimately linked to our stress levels (think the nervous poos).  How to manage period poo symptoms There are certain lifestyle changes you can adopt to help alleviate any gastrointestinal symptoms you notice around your menstrual cycle. Try some of the following tips to help make that time of the month a little less crappy. Eat lots of natural fibre  Fibre is like your bowel’s best friend—it helps to move things through and keep your digestion and bowel movements regular. Make sure you’re getting lots of high-fibre foods like fruit, vegetables and whole grains in the run-up to and during your period. Try not to overeat processed foods and carbs as these often have the opposite effect.  Limit caffeine If you’re experiencing loose stools and diarrhoea, try cutting down on your caffeinated drinks and foods (like dark chocolate). This is because caffeine stimulates the gut, resulting in you needing to go more frequently.  Coffee in particular (even decaf) can stimulate the gut, so best to skip the morning coffee at your time of the month and opt for another way to energise yourself, like a morning walk or some yoga. If you do experience diarrhoea, be sure to increase your water intake to prevent dehydration.  Get moving  Movement and exercise are great for the gut and bowels. They help keep things moving through your digestive tract and can reduce the instances of bloating as well as helping to alleviate period cramps. If you’re not feeling up for your usual fitness routine, some yoga or simple stretching and walking are all great options.   Stay hydrated If you’re experiencing either constipation or diarrhoea, then drinking plenty of water is essential. Being adequately hydrated is very important for a healthy functioning gut and if you have diarrhoea you are at risk of becoming dehydrated quickly if you aren’t replacing lost fluids.  Painkillers and stool softeners It’s not unusual to mistake period cramps for bowel urges and vice versa during your period. Pain and cramps associated with either gut problems or your period can be eased with exercise, heat pads, or painkillers. You can also try stool softeners if you’re experiencing bad constipation. Resources:

How to Detect Ovulation: 5 Ovulation Detection Methods-image

How to Detect Ovulation: 5 Ovulation Detection Methods

Ovulation tracking can be a great way of either avoiding or planning sex during your fertile window. There are lots of ovulation detection methods, each with varying degrees of reliability. Read on to find out which could be right for you. Quick facts: What is the fertile window? The fertile window is 6 days around the midpoint of your cycle when you ovulate. It includes the 5 days before ovulation and the day after.  Ovulation is when you release an egg from one of your ovaries, and it travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus where it hopes to reach a sperm and be fertilised.  If you have regular periods, it is a good sign that you are ovulating (releasing eggs), every month. Your egg is capable of being fertilised 12 to 24 hours after ovulation but sperm can survive in the female genital tract for up to five days. So it’s possible to get pregnant if you have sex in the days leading up to ovulation. Ovulation tracking methods Lots of people choose to track ovulation, either to avoid or to plan to have sex during their fertile window. There are a few different methods available to predict your fertile window each month, but not every method will work for everyone—so it’s useful to try a few to find your fit.  Cycle tracking Tracking your periods is a helpful starting point for finding your fertile window. If your cycle is like clockwork and lasts 28 days, the chances are you’ll ovulate halfway through your cycle on day 14. Everyone’s cycle is unique and often not 28 days. It’s important to keep track of how long your cycles last, how long your periods are and any symptoms along the way. Ovulation generally occurs 11 to 16 days before your next period but this can also vary from cycle to cycle. You can use cycle tracking apps, some of which will predict your fertile window based on your previous cycle data—but these are not always 100% accurate.  Ovulation detection kits Ovulation detection kits involve a pee stick, which you use when you’re around the time in your cycle when you’re approaching ovulation. Ovulation sticks are considered the best way to identify if you are ovulating  From the start of your cycle, your oestrogen levels will increase to thicken the lining of your womb in preparation for pregnancy. When oestrogen levels reach a certain point, it signals the release of luteinizing hormone (LH), which triggers ovulation. Although LH is always present at a low level, it significantly increases 24-36 hours before you ovulate, known as the LH surge, which is what the kits detect. Changes in cervical mucus  The consistency of your cervical mucus (discharge) changes throughout your menstrual cycle. Just before ovulation, your discharge becomes clear and stretchy, a bit like egg whites. This is to help the sperm swim through the cervix and towards the egg.  Although this can be a good indicator of when you’re nearing ovulation, remember the appearance of discharge can also be affected by many other factors. This includes infections, sex and medications, and can also naturally alter within each cycle. Basal body temperate tracking After you ovulate, your basal body temperature (BBT) increases by 0.4-1°C. It is unlikely you’ll be able to feel this change, but it can be monitored with an accurate thermometer.  To use this method effectively, you must take your BBT first thing every morning before getting up, to get an accurate reading.  Again, there are lots of things that can cause your resting temperature to vary, such as sleep changes, alcohol consumption and fighting off a cold. This means using temperature changes alone may not be the most reliable. It is also important to consider that this method will only tell you that you have ovulated and won’t be able to predict your fertile window ahead of time.  Changes in saliva Your saliva can also vary throughout your cycle. High levels of oestrogen just before ovulation can cause there to be more salt in your saliva, which can be tracked using a testing kit. A specific pattern is seen in the saliva at ovulation which is called “ferning”, but this can be quite difficult to identify.  Similar to BBT tracking, saliva testing is not always reliable, as it can be easily influenced by the things you eat and drink, so shouldn’t be used alone.  Ovulation pain  Ovarian pain, also known as Mittelschmerz, is a fairly common symptom experienced by around one in five people who menstruate. Ovulation pain can be caused by stretching of the sac of fluid which contains the egg (the follicle) during its development, or by ovulation itself (when the egg is released from the follicle).  This isn’t a reliable method of fertility tracking and isn’t usually recommended as it can also vary from cycle to cycle. If you’re experiencing pain that’s disrupting your daily activities, speak to a specialist about treatment or pain relief options. Understand your cycle As ovulation is controlled by your menstrual cycle hormones, testing your hormones can give you insights into whether you’re ovulating regularly or not.  If you’re experiencing any symptoms like irregular periods, long or short cycles, it’s a good idea to get your hormones tested to understand what’s going on with your cycle hormones.  Check out our at-home Hormone & Fertility tests to find out more. 

Menstrual Cycle 101: Everything You Need to Know About Your Cycle-image

Menstrual Cycle 101: Everything You Need to Know About Your Cycle

The menstrual cycle is an incredibly important process that governs female fertility and can be a signifier of your overall health. The menstrual cycle is made up of two separate cycles that each run from bleed to bleed. Here’s everything you need to know, from your period to the proliferative phase.  Quick facts: The menstrual cycle: more than just your period When we talk about the menstrual cycle, our periods seem to get all the air time. But the menstrual cycle is far more than that, with our periods only making up a very small part of the whole monthly process. But thanks to cultural stigmas, taboos and limited sex education, it’s no surprise that many of us have grown up knowing very little about the ups and downs of our menstrual cycles.  Not only is your menstrual cycle super important for your fertility, but it’s intimately linked to your overall health. It can easily be influenced by other factors such as stress, diet, weight fluctuations, exercise, sleep, illness and medications. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has now classified the menstrual cycle as a vital sign—putting it right up there with your heart rate and blood pressure. So yeah, your menstrual cycle is a big deal. Period. What is the menstrual cycle? The menstrual cycle is the bodily process that makes pregnancy possible. It involves a series of natural changes in hormone production that affect the uterus and ovaries.  Your cycle starts on the first day of your period (the first day you bleed) and ends on the first day of your next period. It’s made up of both the ovarian cycle, which affects the ovaries and regulates ovulation, and the uterine cycle, which affects the uterus. Both of these cycles happen in tandem and are carefully regulated by your incredible cycling hormones—oestrogen, progesterone, luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). What happens during the ovarian cycle? During the ovarian cycle, one of your ovaries will develop an egg which will be released mid-cycle, during ovulation. The ovarian cycle includes three main phases, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. Let’s look at each phase in detail. The follicular phase Day 1 of your period is counted as day 1 of your menstrual cycle—it’s also when the follicular phase begins.  For most people, this phase lasts around 10-16 days, ending mid-cycle, around ovulation. (although this can vary from cycle to cycle and person to person). Changes to the length of your follicular phase are usually the main reason why your cycle length may vary from month to month.  During the follicular phase, a selection of immature eggs in one of your ovaries begins to mature. One egg will reach full maturation and be prepped for release during ovulation. The follicular phase kicks off when gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is secreted from your brain, which promotes the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).  FSH stimulates your follicles—little sacs in your ovaries containing immature eggs, and a few selected follicles will begin to grow and mature. As these follicles grow, they secrete oestrogen—the main female sex hormone.  Thanks to the rise in oestrogen, generally, this time in your cycle you’ll likely be feeling your best, most confident, sexy and unstoppable. Time to schedule that date and promotion discussion.  However, not all of the follicles make it. Only one follicle will be picked as the chosen one for that month and the others will stop maturing. This chosen one is called the dominant follicle and will be prepped for release during ovulation. Ovulation Oestrogen gradually increases during the follicular phase and peaks around the middle of the cycle. This triggers the brain to produce a hormone called luteinising hormone (LH).  A sudden surge in LH levels triggers ovulation, which is when the now mature egg will be released from your ovary.  Ovulation takes place 28-36 hours after the onset of the LH surge. The released egg will travel through the fallopian tubes, where it will wait in hopes of being fertilised by a sperm.   Ovulation usually happens around the middle of your cycle, if you’re having regular periods. This is usually estimated to be around day 14 of your cycle, but this is based on the assumption that everyone has a 28-day cycle, which is not always the case. The date of ovulation can fall anywhere between days 11 to 16 of your cycle. During ovulation, you are at your most fertile. Your fertile window is the 5 days leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation itself. This is when you’ll be most likely to conceive.  If you’re trying to conceive, or using natural birth control methods, there are a few things you can use to track ovulation.  The luteal phase The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle lasts from the day after ovulation until the day before your next period. It lasts about 14 days and usually, this is the same in each cycle.  After you’ve ovulated, the empty follicle that released the egg will get converted into a structure called the corpus luteum. This will produce a hormone called progesterone, which is important for pregnancy, and small amounts of oestrogen.  Progesterone thickens the lining of your womb, called the endometrium, in preparation for a fertilised egg to implant into it. The endometrium helps to support the growth and development of an embryo. If a sperm-meet-egg moment happens and fertilisation occurs, the corpus luteum will keep growing until the placenta (this is the organ that develops to help the baby get its food and oxygen) can take over the job of producing progesterone.  However, if fertilisation does not happen, the corpus luteum will shrink causing a drop in both progesterone and oestrogen levels triggering your period. This is also the phase during which premenstrual syndrome (PMS) might rear its ugly head.  What happens during the uterine cycle? The uterine cycle happens alongside the ovarian cycle and involves all of the changes happening in the endometrium as it prepares to […]