5 Things AMH Testing Can Tell You About Your Fertility-image

5 Things AMH Testing Can Tell You About Your Fertility

Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) is a really important hormone for your fertility because of how closely it is linked to your eggs, AMH testing can help you understand your fertility and give you insights into your overall reproductive health. Here’s what testing can and can’t tell you. Quick facts: What is AMH and why is it so important? Anti-müllerian hormone (AMH) is a super important hormone for fertility. AMH is made by the small sacs, called follicles, in your ovaries. These follicles house your eggs.  Because of its close relationship to your eggs, testing your AMH levels can help indicate how many eggs you have left at the time of testing.  There are a few myths out there about what exactly AMH testing can tell us. So in this article, we cover the main things an AMH test can and can’t tell you. Let’s get into it… What can AMH testing tell me? Whether your ovarian reserve is a normal for your age AMH testing will give you insights into whether your ovarian reserve is in line with other healthy people in your age group. If you are not using any hormonal contraception, testing other hormones, like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and oestradiol alongside AMH can also help to build a full picture of egg reserve. Generally, people with low egg reserves are known to have higher levels of FSH and lower levels of oestradiol. Whether you have polycystic ovaries or polycystic ovary syndrome AMH testing can also indicate whether you could have polycystic ovaries (PCO). PCO is a common reproductive health condition affecting around 30% of reproductive-aged people assigned female-at-birth. PCO is benign and does not affect fertility, but it can cause other unwanted symptoms.  People with PCO have a higher-than-expected number of immature follicles in their ovaries. More follicles mean a higher level of AMH in the blood.  Some people with PCO also have the syndrome that can be associated with it—polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which often presents as symptoms like irregular periods and high testosterone levels.  According to updated guidelines, AMH testing can be used as a marker for polycystic ovaries, which is one of the criteria for a  PCOS diagnosis. However, we would always recommend getting a scan of your ovaries) to confirm the diagnosis. Whether IVF or egg freezing could be right for you AMH testing and understanding your ovarian reserve can also help to determine if certain fertility treatments like IVF or egg freezing could be suitable for you. During these fertility treatments, AMH levels are often tested to help determine the doses of medication needed and used to predict the outcomes of the egg collection process. People with lower AMH levels are known to have less successful IVF treatment cycles, whereas someone with high AMH might be at increased risk of developing a rare but potentially life threatening condition called OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome).  Many NHS-funded and private IVF clinics therefore require a minimum AMH level for you to be eligible for a free IVF treatment cycle. The minimum level on the NHS will depend on where in the UK you are currently residing. Whether you may be perimenopausal or menopausal or have POI Menopause refers to the period of your life, usually post 45-50, where you no longer have menstrual cycles and are therefore no longer able to conceive naturally. Menopause is associated with having an extremely low, or completely diminished, ovarian reserve.  It is usually diagnosed retrospectively—when women are over 45 years old and have not had a period in 12 months (and are not using hormonal contraception).  For people who are younger, FSH levels are useful for diagnosing menopause, as FSH levels are known to increase for people with low egg reserves. Although AMH levels are not recommended to help diagnose menopause, it is known that AMH levels reduce to very low levels at the time of menopause. There is also evidence that people with very low AMH levels (who are not going through menopause) will undergo menopause much sooner than those with AMH levels that are within range. When the ovaries stop working before the age of 40, this is known as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), which AMH levels have also been shown to provide a good indicator of. If you have a higher risk of miscarriage or recurrent pregnancy loss It is estimated that approximately 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriages occur most frequently in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and can be associated with lots of different risk factors. Some of the most common are your and your partner or sperm donors’ age, pre-existing conditions and ethnicity. Recent evidence has shown that people with diminished ovarian reserve, and therefore very low AMH levels, are more likely to have a miscarriage or recurrent miscarriage (two or three consecutive pregnancy losses).  However, more research needs to be done to understand the links between AMH levels and miscarriage, including its risk factors. What can’t AMH testing tell me? Unfortunately, AMH testing and ovarian reserve forms only one part of the fertility picture and there are some things that AMH testing may not be able to tell you. Let’s take a look… It can’t determine your egg quality Although AMH levels can give insight into your egg quantity, it does not provide any insight into the quality of those eggs. Despite poor egg quality being one of the most common causes of female infertility, there is currently no test that can definitely determine egg quality (unless testing embryos in IVF treatment). It can’t determine your exact egg quantity Your AMH result can give an indication of the size of your ovarian reserve.  This is because it is released by the follicles which contain our eggs, meaning that the more follicles we have, the higher the AMH that will be produced. However, it can’t tell you your exact number of eggs because each follicle may produce a different amount of AMH depending on its size.  In order to estimate the number […]

Oestrogen 101: What it is, What it Does and How it Changes-image

Oestrogen 101: What it is, What it Does and How it Changes

Oestrogen—the matriarch of female sex hormones. But what exactly does it do in the body, what’s its role in the menstrual cycle and what are the symptoms to look for if your oestrogen has become imbalanced? Read on to find out.  Quick facts: What is oestrogen? Oestrogen is an important reproductive hormone in people of all sexes. It’s generally known as the ‘female’ sex hormone, because of its role in the development of the female reproductive system and regulation of the menstrual cycle.  Oestrogen works to enable ovulation and produce female sex characteristics. When we have healthy levels of oestrogen, it can help us to feel feisty, frisky and fabulous. Whilst it’s true that oestrogen plays a bigger role in those assigned-female-at-birth, everybody produces oestrogen, regardless of sex. In those assigned-female-at-birth, oestrogen is produced mainly in ovaries and depends on other reproductive hormones including follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinising hormone (LH) and testosterone for both its production and regulation. Like all of our hormones, our oestrogen levels can sometimes become off-balanced—with many different lifestyle and genetic factors impacting its production and regulation throughout the body. Types of oestrogen? There are three different types of oestrogen, also sometimes spelt estrogen (the American spelling). What does oestrogen do? Oestrogen wears many hats—it helps to regulate our menstrual cycles, triggers the development of secondary sex characteristics like breasts and pubic hair and helps to maintain things like our skin’s moisture, our mood and even our bone and heart health. Let’s take a look at these in more detail: What is oestrogen’s role in the menstrual cycle? Like all of our menstrual cycle hormones, our oestrogen levels during the menstrual cycle fluctuate.  During the first part of our menstrual cycles, the follicular phase, which lasts from day 1 of our periods until ovulation (when we release a mature egg), our oestrogen levels start off low but steadily increase. In this phase, our eggs are maturing in preparation for ovulation.  Our eggs mature in our ovaries, in little sacs called follicles. These follicles make oestrogen, so whilst your eggs are maturing, your follicles steadily release this oestrogen—and it rises until it reaches a peak, just before we ovulate. Because of oestrogen’s feel-good factors, just before and during ovulation is the time of the month when we’ll be killing it, feeling our most fierce and fabulous. This is the time to book that big presentation at work, go on that first date or really push it in your gym session. This peak in oestrogen causes a surge in LH, which triggers the release of a mature egg from one of our ovaries during ovulation. After ovulation, oestrogen levels gradually drop and despite a small second wind around a week later, they continue to level off throughout the second stage of our menstrual cycles—the luteal phase. At the end of our cycles, if the ovulated egg has not met a sperm and been fertilised, all of our menstrual cycle hormones, including oestrogen, drop off to their baseline levels—triggering our periods. If our oestrogen levels get off balance, it can disrupt the balance of our other menstrual cycle hormones—potentially impacting ovulation. No ovulation = no pregnancy. So if you’re trying to get pregnant, testing your hormone levels is really important for understanding your ovulation and general menstrual cycle health. What affects oestrogen levels? As well as fluctuating naturally month to month, lots of other lifestyle, genetic and medical conditions can affect our oestrogen levels, including: Does oestrogen decline with age? Thanks to our wonderful ‘biological clocks’, as we age, our oestrogen levels gradually decline. This is because our number of egg cells decreases as we age and as a result, our follicles stop growing and producing as much oestradiol (E2). After menopause (when our periods stop completely), our E2 levels completely drop off, which is what causes the common low oestrogen menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, dry skin and mood swings. During perimenopause (the lead up to menopause), E2 levels fluctuate up and down which can also cause menopausal symptoms. Declining oestrogen levels has whole-body knock-on effects, but luckily these days hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be a great option to relieve symptoms for many people during perimenopause and postmenopause. How do I know if my oestrogen levels are normal? Because our oestrogen levels fluctuate during our cycles, as we age, and are dependent on whether we’re taking hormonal birth control or not, our ‘normal’ level is constantly changing.  Like all of our hormones, our oestrogen is super sensitive and can easily get off balance. Oestrogen imbalances can cause a whole host of symptoms and can be caused by both lifestyle and genetic factors. Symptoms of high oestrogen levels Oestrogen dominance is a phrase that has been used to describe a phenomenon when oestrogen levels are too high in relation to the other sex hormones in your body.  Although it’s not a clinically recognised term, being more sensitive or having excess oestrogen is known to cause symptoms like irregular periods, abnormal vaginal bleeding, bloating, swollen or tender breasts and weight gain. Some causes of high oestrogen levels include underlying health conditions, genetic factors, dietary and lifestyle factors and environmental pollutants. Symptoms of low oestrogen levels On the flip side, when oestrogen levels are too low we can experience irregular periods, fertility difficulties, reduced bone density, vaginal dryness, hot flashes and dry skin—to name a few. Having very low oestrogen levels can be caused by your ovaries not working properly, which occurs in menopause or primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). However, underlying health conditions like pituitary gland disorders, as well as having very low levels of body fat, a high caffeine intake, smoking and excessive exercise can also result in lower oestrogen levels. Luckily, testing our E2 levels with a hormone test can help us to decipher if our oestrogen levels are within the normal range for us. Oestrogen FAQs Where can I get an oestrogen blood test? You’ve landed in the right place. With a Hertility Hormone and Fertility test […]

Luteinising Hormone: What do Your LH Levels Mean?-image

Luteinising Hormone: What do Your LH Levels Mean?

Luteinising hormone is an important cycling hormone, involved in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and ovulation. But what happens when our levels get a little off balance? In this article, we’ll explain exactly what luteinising hormone is, how it works, and take a deep dive into its importance for female fertility. We’ll also take a look at LH levels and why they’re important, as well as how to recognise the symptoms of low or high LH. Quick facts: What is Luteinising Hormone (LH)?  Luteinising hormone (LH) plays a huge role when it comes to fertility and ovulation, despite it being one of the lesser-known cycling hormones. Luteinising hormone (LH) is what’s known as a gonadotropin hormone. There are only two types of this hormone, LH and its partner in crime, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Gonadotropins are hormones that are released from the pituitary gland in the brain, into the bloodstream where they are transported to the gonads—or ovaries in those assigned female-at-birth and the testes in those assigned male-at-birth. LH has 3 main functions in those assigned-female-at-birth:  Oestrogen production LH works in tandem with FSH to stimulate the ovaries and surrounding cells to produce oestrogen. First, LH stimulates what’s known as theca cells in the ovaries, which then produce testosterone. Once testosterone is abundant, nearby granulosa cells are then stimulated by FSH to produce an enzyme called aromatase, which converts the testosterone into a type of oestrogen, oestradiol, or E2. Without the correct functioning of LH or FSH, testosterone and oestrogen production can become impacted. Ovulation LH is also crucial for successful ovulation. First, FSH stimulates the growth of follicles (small sacs that contain your eggs) in your ovaries. A number of eggs mature during the first half of your cycle, but only one gets released during ovulation—usually the ‘most mature’ follicle. In the days leading up to ovulation, this follicle increases its sensitivity to LH. It gradually produces more and more E2 and when this reaches a certain level, the pituitary gland releases a surge of LH. This LH surge is what causes the follicle to rupture and release the mature egg into the fallopian tube—triggering ovulation. Progesterone production After ovulation has occurred, LH stimulates the now empty follicle to start producing progesterone throughout the second half of the menstrual cycle—also known as the luteal phase. Both progesterone and E2 released by the empty follicle are intended to support conception, implantation and the early stages of pregnancy. However, if the egg is not fertilised and no embryo implants into the uterus, the empty follicle stops producing these hormones and eventually wastes away at the end of the menstrual cycle. What are normal LH levels in women? LH levels in women, or those assigned-female-at-birth, fluctuate during the menstrual cycle—so their levels will vary depending on where you are in your monthly cycle. LH levels can also vary depending on an individual’s age and whether they’re pregnant. Normal LH levels for women before menopause are around 5-25 IU/L, depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle. After menopause, normal LH levels range from around 14-52 IU/L. LH levels during the menstrual cycle Let’s take a closer look at how LH fluctuates during the menstrual cycle. As we mentioned earlier, a dramatic surge in LH around the middle of the cycle triggers ovulation. But after ovulation, LH production is dulled by rising levels of progesterone. If no pregnancy occurs and progesterone levels fall, LH production will start again anew at the beginning of the next cycle. LH levels during pregnancy During early pregnancy, LH levels remain low—blocked by continued progesterone production. High levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) released throughout pregnancy also ensure that they stay low throughout pregnancy, so no further ovulation is triggered. LH levels in menopause During menopause, LH levels become elevated, although this can vary from person to person. This increase in LH levels happen as a result of the general decline in hormone production by the ovaries. When the ovaries stop producing as much oestrogen and progesterone, the pituitary responds by increasing the production of FSH and LH, in an attempt to stimulate the ovaries. However, the ovaries become less responsive and, instead, LH levels rise. This rise in LH levels is associated with a lot of the typical symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats. After menopause, LH levels can decline by around 30-40%. High LH levels High LH levels in females outside of normal menstrual cycle fluctuations can cause fertility problems, irregular periods and early puberty. High LH levels are often seen in people with primary ovarian insufficiency and in those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often have elevated LH compared to their FSH. This unusual imbalance can lead to irregular periods and the overproduction of testosterone, both key symptoms of PCOS. Sometimes LH levels can become elevated due to dietary and lifestyle factors, including: Symptoms of high LH levels Symptoms of high LH levels in females are more related to the underlying cause than the LH itself. However, some of the most common symptoms associated with the causes of high LH levels include: How to lower LH levels If your LH levels are elevated and you are a regular smoker or drinker, consider taking steps to reduce these habits. If you’re trying to conceive, consider cutting alcohol and cigarettes completely as this will improve your chances of conception and prevent harmful effects to the baby during pregnancy. Low LH levels There are also a number of reasons why low LH levels might occur. Meningitis infections that have occurred in the last 12 months have been linked to low LH levels and so have eating disorders. Sometimes, LH levels can be decreased due to dietary and lifestyle factors as well as certain medications including: Low LH levels in females can lead to problems with ovulation. This includes anovulation, which is not ovulating at all. This can also lead to problems with menstruation, such as irregular, missing, or complete cessation of periods. Symptoms […]

What Do Your SHBG Levels Mean?-image

What Do Your SHBG Levels Mean?

Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) is an important protein involved in the regulation of our sex hormones and in turn our ability to conceive. So what is a good, or ‘normal’ range for our SHBG levels? And how do we know when ours might be too high or too low? We’ve broken down all you need to know about SHBG levels, including what they mean, why they matter and what to do if you suspect yours might be out of range. Quick facts: What is SHBG? SHBG is an important protein that regulates the amount of testosterone and oestrogen available in the body by ‘binding’ to these hormones—which makes them inactive. This is because to bring about an effect in the body, hormones need to be unbound or free so they can enter cells and bring about their effect. The vast majority of testosterone and oestrogen in our bodies is bound to SHBG and other proteins. SHBG also controls the balance between testosterone and oestrogen, which is also important for the healthy functioning of our menstrual cycles. Why do SHBG levels matter? Because SHBG levels regulate the amount of testosterone and oestrogen available to be used by the body, if our SHBG levels are too high or low, this will have a knock on effect on our levels of both of these sex hormones.  If our SHBG levels are higher, we’ll have less free testosterone or oestrogen available. If our SHBG levels are lower, we’ll have more testosterone and oestrogen available.  Both of these sex hormones have important roles in the regulation of the menstrual cycle, ovulation, libido, energy levels and our mental health. Low SHBG When our SHBG levels are low, our levels of free unbound testosterone and oestrogen can become high. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms, causes and what can be done to help. Symptoms of low SHBG These symptoms can often mirror those of excess testosterone including: Or excess oestrogen: Causes of low SHBG There is no single cause for abnormal SHBG levels, although increases in insulin, prolactin and androgens have been found to block SHBG production which could be a factor for those with low SHBG levels.  Low SHBG can also be caused by a number of lifestyle factors, certain medical conditions and genetics. Here are several conditions, as well as other factors, that low SHBG has been found to be associated with: How to raise low SHBG If you have low SHBG there are a number of lifestyle changes that may help to increase your levels. These include: High SHBG  On the flip side, when our SHBG levels are too high, our unbound testosterone and oestrogen can become abnormally low. Here are some symptoms, causes and what can be done to reduce high levels of SHBG. Symptoms of high SHBG These symptoms can often mirror those of low testosterone including:  Or low oestrogen: Causes of high SHBG Again, there is no single cause for abnormal SHBG levels, although as we mentioned previously, increases in oestrogen and thyroxine (T4) have been found to increase SHBG production, which could be a factor for those with high SHBG levels. There are also a number of conditions associated with high SHBG which include: How to lower SHBG Dietary changes are the most effective way to lower SHBG levels. Decreasing alcohol consumption, gaining weight if you have a low BHM and following a high-fat, low fibre diet may help decrease levels of SHBG. One study involving 48 premenopausal women showed that maintaining a high-fat, low diet decreased SHBG. However, more clinical studies are required to confirm this association. If the levels are elevated due to contraception use, this will usually return to normal levels once you stop using that contraception. Other possible causes such as type 1 diabetes and an overactive thyroid will need further investigation and will require medication specific to these conditions. SHBG tests Ultimately, if you suspect you may have abnormal levels of SHBG, the only way to definitively get a diagnosis is via a blood test. Because symptoms of abnormal SHBG levels can mimic those of high or low oestrogen and testosterone, your SHBG levels should be tested in tandem these hormones. You can test all of these hormones and more, with a Hertility at-home Hormone and Fertility Test. Resources:

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone: What Do Your FSH Levels Mean?-image

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone: What Do Your FSH Levels Mean?

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is really important for our reproductive health. In this article, find out how to know what normal FSH levels look like, what the symptoms of high and low FSH levels are and how to balance your FSH levels. Quick facts: What is FSH?  FSH stands for Follicle-Stimulating Hormone and is one of the main hormones involved in the regulation of your menstrual cycle and ovulation—making it an important hormone not only for your health but your fertility too. FSH is what’s known as a gonadotropin hormone. It’s released by the pituitary gland in the brain and then acts on the ovaries.There is only one other gonadotropin hormone in the body—luteinising hormone (LH). True partners in crime, there’s no FSH without LH, and they act in tandem to bring about changes which essentially regulate ovulation. Normal FSH levels in women Because our FSH levels are intricately linked to our ovarian reserve, what’s considered a ‘normal’ FSH level changes as we age. This is because our ovarian reserve declines as we age which makes our FSH levels increase.  Gonadotropic hormones are hormones released from the pituitary gland in the brain and released into the bloodstream. Gonadotropins then go on to act on the ovaries. There are two types of gonadotropins, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).  The pituitary gland produces FSH which acts on the ovaries to stimulate the growth of follicles containing your eggs. As well as growing the ovarian follicles, FSH stimulates the granulosa cells that surround the follicle to produce oestrogen from testosterone, an essential hormone for regulating the menstrual cycle (1). You can read more about oestrogen here.  What does FSH do? FSH has two primary functions:  Follicular development FSH does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin—it stimulates the growth of follicles which contain your eggs.  You’re born with ‘immature’ eggs. So each month, a number of them start maturing before one is released during ovulation. Your eggs are housed in tiny follicles inside your ovaries, and it’s these follicles that FSH signals to prepare your eggs for ovulation (2). Oestrogen production FSH also stimulates the cells that surround the follicles to make an enzyme called aromatse, which converts testosterone into oestrogen, another essential hormone for regulating the menstrual cycle and reproductive health (1). The relationship between FSH and LH When your eggs are fully mature and ready to be released during ovulation, LH steps in. A surge of LH is released, again by the pituitary gland in the brain, causing the most mature follicle to rupture—releasing an egg into your Fallopian tube. This is ovulation.  Despite FSH causing numerous follicles, and therefore numerous eggs, to mature each cycle, only one follicle will release an egg each month. This is because FSH and LH are both involved in negative feedback loops, controlled by E2. But what does negative feedback loop mean? Increasing FSH levels in the early stages of your menstrual cycle leads to more oestrogen being made, but this ha, a negative feedback effect on FSH levels. In other words, when you have lots of oestrogen, it feeds back to the brain that it needs to stop making more FSH. Similarly, with LH, oestrogen levels keep increasing through the cycle and once they reach a peak around the middle of the cycle, it causes a sudden surge in LH that promotes ovulation. After ovulation, the empty follicle that once contained the egg makes another hormone, progesterone, to support conception, implantation and the early stages of pregnancy. High levels of progesterone tell the brain to stop making more FSH. Now if a pregnancy doesn’t happen, there is a drop in oestrogen and progesterone which triggers your period. It also tells the brain it needs to start making FSH to start the whole process all over again in the next menstrual cycle (5). High FSH levels Okay, but what happens when we have high FSH levels? Let’s take a look at the causes and symptoms of high FSH levels. What causes high FSH levels? The most common reason for high FSH levels is a low ovarian reserve (egg count), or ovaries that aren’t functioning properly. When we have a low ovarian reserve, this essentially means we have a smaller number of immature follicles available in our ovaries and our bodies will produce less oestrogen.  Because oestrogen controls how much FSH we produce (remember that negative feedback loop), when we have less oestrogen, our FSH levels may go up.  High FSH levels can therefore indicate that our ovaries aren’t functioning properly, be an indicator of low ovarian reserve or an indicator of the onset of menopause. Other reasons for high FSH levels can be ovarian cancer (although this is very rare) (9) and Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) which is the loss of ovarian function before the age of 40 (6,7). In some cases, dietary and lifestyle factors can moderately raise FSH levels. Symptoms of high FSH levels Symptoms of high FSH levels usually mimic symptoms of menopause and are related to low oestradiol levels —which is why it’s so important to test a range of your reproductive hormones to get to the bottom of symptoms. Symptoms can include: How to lower FSH levels? It is important to understand that if high FSH levels have been caused by menopause or a low egg reserve, modifications to your diet or lifestyle will not be able to reverse this. However, there are some dietary lifestyle factors associated with a higher FSH, such as smoking and high alcohol consumption.  If you’re trying to conceive, consider cutting alcohol and cigarettes completely as this will improve your chances of conception and prevent harmful effects to the baby during pregnancy (17). For advice on how to quit smoking, see the full list of NHS quit smoking services here. Nutrition can be a really powerful tool in balancing hormones and helping to alleviate symptoms. You can book a nutritional health consultation with one of our registered nutritionists via your health hub. […]

Fibroids 101: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments-image

Fibroids 101: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

Around 2 in 3 people assigned female-at-birth will develop a fibroid at some point in their lifetime. But what are fibroids, how do we look out for symptoms and what are the treatments if we’re diagnosed? Read on to find out.  Quick facts: What are fibroids? Uterine fibroids are benign or non-cancerous growths in and around the uterus, or womb. They are made up of fibrous muscle tissue and are extremely common. Around 2 in 3 people assigned female-at-birth will develop a fibroid at some point in their lifetime (1). Your risk of developing a fibroid increases with age and if you: Where do fibroids grow? Fibroids can vary in size and you may have one or multiple fibroids. They can develop as singular fibroids or as clusters. There are three different types of fibroid, depending on where in the body they grow: Signs and symptoms of fibroids Not all people who develop fibroids experience symptoms. Most are actually asymptomatic and have no symptoms at all. Only approximately 1 in 3 people with fibroids will experience symptoms. The symptoms of fibroids can include: What causes fibroids?  Unfortunately, like many reproductive health conditions, the exact cause of fibroids is unknown. What we do know though, is they’re affected by oestrogen and progesterone—two hormones important for regulating the menstrual cycle. After menopause, when oestrogen and progesterone levels drop, fibroids tend to shrink (3). How are fibroids diagnosed? To diagnose fibroids you’ll need a pelvic ultrasound scan. Usually, your doctor will discuss any symptoms you’ve been experiencing with you first. Then they’ll carry out an abdominal examination to look for any areas of tenderness or masses in your abdomen, before referring you for a scan.  The ultrasound will look at your reproductive organs including your uterus, Fallopian tubes, ovaries and general pelvic area. This can be done either transvaginally (through the vagina) or transabdominally (looking at your uterus through your abdomen). A scan is the only way to definitively diagnose fibroids and to determine their size and location. You may also be offered a blood test to screen for iron deficiency anaemia, which is a condition that can occur as a result of heavy bleeding.  Because lots of people with fibroids don’t experience symptoms, often fibroids are found coincidentally. This could be during an ultrasound for a pregnancy or another suspected condition. Black women have an increased risk of developing fibroids Black women are three times more likely to develop fibroids than white women. They’re also more likely to be diagnosed with fibroids at a younger age, have a longer duration of symptoms and have larger, more rapidly growing fibroids. Although the increased risk of fibroids in Black women is known, there’s been little research conducted to understand why this is. Some research suggests genetics, such as Vitamin D deficiency in Black women (4) could be a link. Other research has suggested certain environmental factors could be linked. These include exposure to chemical relaxers, used for afro-textured hair, which have been linked to a higher risk of developing fibroids (5). Will fibroids affect my fertility? Some fibroids can cause problems with fertility (6). This largely depends on their size and where they are located.  Fibroids can affect the structure of the uterus and its surrounding organs. Meaning they can prevent sperm from fertilising an egg or prevent an embryo from implanting. However, lots of people with fibroids do not have any difficulties getting pregnant. How are fibroids treated?  Treatment for fibroids depends on:  If you have fibroids that are not causing symptoms and aren’t likely to affect your fertility, then generally no treatment is required. But if you begin to experience any new symptoms, it is really important to go back to the doctor to have a check-up.  The treatment methods for fibroids can be broken down into non-surgical and surgical methods. Non-surgical methods If you commonly experience heavy periods as a result of your fibroids, you may be given medications such as tranexamic acid. This is a medication which breaks down blood clots in the womb. You may also be given anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen or an oral medication called Ryeqo. The combined oral contraceptive pill and hormonal IUD can also be prescribed to help you have lighter, less painful periods.  As well as treating heavy periods directly, you may also be given a gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogue. This is to try and shrink your fibroids and is also commonly prescribed before any surgical treatment.  GnRH analogues work by reducing your levels of oestrogen. Low levels of oestrogen can lead to several other long-term complications, so this method can only be used for a short period.If you have larger fibroids, you may be offered a procedure called Uterine Artery Embolisation. This is used to block the arteries which supply blood to the fibroids. If you have smaller fibroids, you may also be offered a procedure which removes the lining of the womb called Endometrial Ablation. Surgical methods There are various surgical techniques which can be used to treat fibroids. Surgery can be explored if medical treatments don’t work for you or aren’t suitable in the long term.  You may be offered one of the following surgical treatments for fibroids:  What type of procedure is most suitable for you depends on the location, size and number of your fibroids. Each varies in terms of invasiveness, risks and its potential effect on fertility. Some people’s fibroids may grow back after surgery, known as ‘recurrence’.  Suspect you may have fibroids? As the symptoms mentioned above are commonly experienced in various types of pelvic issues, they may be linked to other causes apart from fibroids.  If you’re suffering from painful periods or any of the above symptoms, it’s important to get your hormones tested, to rule out a hormonal cause. This, alongside a pelvic ultrasound scan, can help you get to the bottom of symptoms and get a recommended care plan based on your biology.  If you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, you can also talk to our team of […]

Why Should I Test My Hormones?-image

Why Should I Test My Hormones?

Hormones help to regulate almost all of the body’s processes, including reproductive health and fertility. Testing your hormones regularly can give you insights into your overall health and help you track changes in your menstrual cycle and fertility over time. Here we’ve broken down which hormones you should test and why.  Quick facts: What 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, the menstrual cycles, fertility and mood, just to name a few. Hormones are made by special cells in the endocrine system. Some of the major endocrine glands are: Why are sex hormones important? Sex hormones are a group of hormones that help to regulate the female and male reproductive organs and fertility. They are important not only for reproductive health but for overall health too—often having multiple functions within the body.  The main hormones involved in the female reproductive system are:  Thyroid hormones can also impact your levels of reproductive hormones. Why do you need to test your hormones? Hormones are often involved in complex feedback loops with one another. This means if one hormone gets off balance, it can often disrupt the whole system and bring about multiple, often overlapping symptoms.  Our hormones are also changing constantly, as we age and in response to things like lifestyle factors, medications or external stresses. A change in your hormone levels could be the reason you’re feeling sluggish or slightly emotional, explain your irregular periods or why you’re struggling to get pregnant. Our hormone levels can give us insight into both our overall reproductive health, show our risk factors for certain conditions, explain any unwanted symptoms, or indicate the health of our ovarian reserve and fertility.  Which hormones should I test? Which hormones you need to test and monitor will depend on your individual medical history, symptoms, biometrics and fertility goals. Luckily, our Online Health Assessment is built on a proprietary algorithm that does the leg work for you, recommending you hormone panel personalised to you.  Let’s take a look at each of the main female sex hormones and what testing them could tell you.  Follicle-stimulating hormone One of the main hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle and fertility is follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Its main job is to stimulate your ovaries each month to mature a set of follicles (the sacs that house the immature eggs) into mature eggs.  If FSH gets out of balance, ovulation can be affected, negatively impacting fertility and causing irregular cycles.  FSH levels increase with age. High FSH is usually an indication that ovarian reserver is declining and more FSH is needed to encourage your eggs to grow. This is why monitoring FSH can help you understand the health of your ovaries.  FSH levels will slowly increase with age as your ovarian reserve declines. When your ovarian reserve is finally depleted (and menopause occurs), FSH levels become substantially elevated. This is why FSH is used as an indicator of menopause.  Persistently high FSH levels in someone younger than 40, along with irregular periods and vasomotor symptoms, could indicate premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). This is when someone experiences menopause before the age of 40. FSH levels are usually not recommended as an indicator of menopause beyond the age of 45. Oestrogen (Oestradiol) Oestrogen is an important hormone for the growth and maturation of eggs and the thickening of the uterus lining each cycle. It’s also incredibly important for overall health, regulating bone, heart, skin and hair health, as well as mood.  Oestrogen is made by the ovaries, so monitoring oestrogen levels gives a good indication of how well your ovaries, and menstrual cycle in general, are functioning. Oestrogen levels will fluctuate and eventually significantly drop when your ovarian reserve becomes depleted and menopause occurs. Low oestrogen levels are therefore linked with many symptoms of menopause, such as dry skin and hair, vaginal dryness, hot flushes, brain fog, night sweats, difficulty falling asleep and fatigue.  Luteinising hormone (LH) LH is the hormone responsible for triggering ovulation, which is the release of the mature egg from an ovary each month.  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. Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH)  is a super important hormone for fertility and overall reproductive health. AMH is made by the small sacs, called follicles, in your ovaries. These follicles house your eggs.  Since AMH is made by the follicles, your AMH levels can therefore give you an insight into your ovarian reserve, or how many eggs you have at the time of testing.  We were all born with all of the eggs we’ll ever have, and as we age, both our egg quality and quantity decline. Generally, our AMH levels will decline with age as our egg count diminishes, unless we have an underlying condition or lifestyle factor which is affecting our AMH levels (like PCOS).  High AMH levels can be an indicator of polycystic ovaries and can be used to diagnose PCOS based on recently updated clinical guidelines. On the other hand, low AMH along with high FSH and low oestrogen is usually an indicator of low ovarian reserve.  AMH is often also used to predict someone’s chances of success during fertility treatment, such as egg freezing and IVF. However, it’s important to remember that AMH can only tell you about the quantity, and not the quality, of your eggs. Testosterone Testosterone can be converted to produce the wonder hormone oestrogen and is also associated with libido, maintaining muscle mass, vaginal health, breast health and bone health.  High levels of testosterone can cause symptoms such as excess body and facial hair, acne, and irregular or absent periods. These symptoms are often seen in women with PCOS which can cause high testosterone. […]

Testosterone 101: Understanding Your Testosterone Levels-image

Testosterone 101: Understanding Your Testosterone Levels

Testosterone is an important androgen hormone in people of all sexes. In this article, we’ll cover exactly what it does in the body, what the symptoms and causes of high or low testosterone are and how you can ensure your levels are balanced and healthy.  Quick facts: What is testosterone? Testosterone is an important hormone for regulating sex drive (libido), bone and muscle mass and fat distribution. It’s part of a group of hormones called androgens.  There are a lot of misconceptions about testosterone being just a “male” hormone. Whilst testosterone plays an important role in the development of the male sex organs and male secondary sex characteristics, people of all sexes have testosterone.  Everyone produces and requires a certain amount of androgen hormones for reproductive development. The difference is just how much testosterone we have based on our sex-at-birth. How is testosterone made? In women and people assigned female-at-birth, testosterone is produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. It’s then converted to hormone–oestrogen. Testosterone production is age-dependent and it gradually declines with age. Most of the testosterone in the body is inactive. It remains bound to a protein called, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). The small amount of testosterone that’s unbound and therefore active, is called freely circulating testosterone (free T).  Free T can enter cells to bring about its effects. Our free T levels are affected by the levels of SHBG. Low levels of SHBG result in higher free testosterone, whereas high levels of SHBG result in lower free testosterone. What does testosterone do in the body? Some of the functions of testosterone are: What are the symptoms of high testosterone? Excess levels of testosterone in the body is called hyperandrogenism. This can bring about symptoms like:  Some studies suggest that high testosterone levels may increase the risk of developing high cholesterol, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. What causes high testosterone levels? The most common causes of high testosterone levels are underlying health conditions. It can also be caused by certain medications and lifestyle factors. Let’s look at the main ones… PCOS Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal and metabolic condition affecting 1 in 10. The exact cause is still being researched, however, the proposed causes include an excess of androgens and insulin, genetic and environmental factors. If you suspect you might have PCOS, our at-home tests can give you a better insight into your hormones.  Congenital andreal hyperplasia 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 hormones like cortisol (stress hormone), 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’s been 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. Medications Testosterone levels can rise due to certain medications, such as: Alcohol Excessive alcohol consumption may increase levels of testosterone in premenopausal women, however, research is conflicting.  How to lower my testosterone levels? Treatment for high testosterone depends on the cause, but generally, it is a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. Achieving a healthy weight by including a healthy balanced diet and exercise routine may help with the symptoms of a hormonal balance.  Medications used to treat high testosterone, and associated symptoms include: What are the symptoms of low testosterone? If you’re experiencing low testosterone, you may experience some of the following symptoms:  Low testosterone over a long period may also contribute to long-term health conditions such as heart disease, memory issues and loss of bone density. Often, the symptoms of low testosterone in women are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Some of the conditions that low testosterone may be mistaken for include stress, depression and the side effects of menopausal changes in women. What could cause low testosterone levels? The most common causes of low testosterone levels are often age, underlying conditions and problems with certain glands. Age Testosterone levels naturally decrease as we age. As it’s produced in the ovaries, the natural decrease in ovarian function with age means that some may experience low testosterone levels as they transition from the perimenopausal phase into menopause.  Underlying health conditions Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) can increase your risk of low testosterone. Additionally, surgery, such as the removal of the ovaries, can cause lowered testosterone levels.  Problems with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland Underlying health conditions impacting the pituitary, hypothalamus, or adrenal glands can also cause lowered testosterone levels. This is because these parts of the brain are responsible for the secretion of hormones which control the proper functioning of the ovaries.  A disruption in the pituitary gland can also impact the adrenal gland. Addison’s disease or adrenal insufficiency is a hormonal condition that occurs due to underactive adrenal glands and can cause a low level of its hormones. What can I do to increase my testosterone levels? Low testosterone levels effects and treatments in women are still being researched and treatment is usually recommended only if symptoms are significantly impacting health and quality of life.  Testosterone replacement therapy is a form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) based on the replacement of testosterone. It may be prescribed orally, as injections, gels or skin patches. DHEA is a precursor to testosterone, and it is believed that taking DHEA supplements could increase the amount of testosterone. It is always recommended to speak with a doctor before starting any medication or supplements. How to test testosterone levels? If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, our at-home hormone tests can determine your testosterone levels. Hormone testing is the only way to know what your testosterone levels are for definite.  Our Doctors can recommend a care plan for you, based on your symptoms, hormone levels and specific health goals. Resources: