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 […]

Alcohol and Fertility: Drinking While Trying to Conceive-image

Alcohol and Fertility: Drinking While Trying to Conceive

If you’re trying to conceive, or thinking about trying soon, it’s a good idea to get clued up about how alcohol can impact fertility and your chances of conception. Read on to find out how drinking can impact female and male fertility. Quick facts: The relationship between alcohol and hormones If you’re trying to conceive, or beginning to think about starting a family, chances are you’ve probably recommended to stop, or at least cut down, drinking alcohol…  Not exactly the news most of us want to hear, but unfortunately alcohol consumption can affect our fertility (in both women and men) and therefore, our chances of conceiving. Although all alcohol can affect fertility, new research has indicated that in those assigned-female-at-birth, both the timing of alcohol consumption, in relation to where we are at in our menstrual cycles, and the quantity we drink can determine how bad it’s negative effects are.  But do we need to cut the vino out all together? Or is there space to find a happy medium? Let’s take a look at exactly how alcohol and fertility are linked and what the effects of drinking are at different stages of the menstrual cycle and conception. Can you drink while trying to get pregnant? Any form of alcohol consumption may impact our ability to get, and stay, pregnant.  Less is known about alcohol’s effects on fertility and chances of conception than about its harmful effect on pregnancy, but overall the NHS currently recommends that alcohol should be avoided by women who are actively trying to conceive. This is to keep any possible risks to a baby that might be conceived to a minimum, as we may not know that we’re pregnant until a few, or more, weeks into a pregnancy.  If we’re drinking and do become pregnant, we may risk unintentionally exposing the baby to alcohol. Since there is no known safe level of alcohol for a developing foetus, the safest approach is to avoid it.  Additionally, as we mentioned before, alcohol will also affect our ability to get pregnant in the first place—so if we’re trying to conceive, it’s also best to reduce our drinking to a minimum. Does alcohol affect fertility? In short yes—any form of alcohol consumption has been found to affect both female and male fertility. Some studies suggest that even low to moderate alcohol consumption, which is classed as two drinks or less per day, can be associated with reduced fertility in both men and women.  However, there have been some recent studies that suggest in women, timing of alcohol consumption can play a part in determining its negative effects on our ability to conceive. Let’s take a look at female fertility and alcohol a little more closely… Female fertility and alcohol A recently published study by the University of Louisville was the first of its kind to investigate alcohol consumption’s effects on fertility during different phases of the menstrual cycle. Whilst researchers observed a significant association between heavy drinking and a reduced likelihood of conceiving at all points during the menstrual cycle, light to moderate drinking varied significantly.  The study found that when participants drank in moderation, around 3-6 alcoholic drinks per week, during the luteal phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation), it resulted in a 44% reduction in the chance of conceiving compared to non-drinkers.  However, during the follicular phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle, before ovulation) and during ovulation, only heavy drinking was associated with a reduced chance of conceiving. Light and moderate drinking during these phases did not impact the participants chances of conceiving compared to non-drinkers. So what does this mean for the average person? Basically, if we’re in the first two weeks of our cycle and we’re trying to conceive—it might be safe to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. However, everyone’s cycle is different and we will all ovulate at different times—literally no cycle is exactly the same. If we’re trying to conceive and in the last two weeks of our cycle, it’s probably best to steer clear of the booze all together. Why does alcohol affect fertility? Although the exact cause isn’t known, it’s been suggested that alcohol disrupts hormone levels, which in turn, can have knock-on-implications for our fertility.  Studies have shown that alcohol intake is associated with an increase in levels of oestrogen, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and  Luteinising Hormone (LH), in addition to a decreasing our progesterone levels. In those assigned-female-at-birth, disrupting just one of these sex hormones can disrupt the menstrual cycle and our ability to ovulate, thus reducing our chances of conceiving.  High oestrogen levels can also lower the chance of implantation—which is when a fertilised egg or developing embryo attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. If implantation fails, no pregnancy will occur.  Aside from its effect on our hormone levels, alcohol also negatively impacts our general health—which can lead to knock-on impacts for our fertility, making it harder to get, and stay pregnant, in addition to raising the risk for foetal conditions and other birth complications. Male fertility and alcohol Despite most conversations centering on female responsibility when it comes to fertility—it’s important to remember that male fertility is also affected by alcohol consumption.  Similarly to those assigned female-at-birth, alcohol also disrupts the normal balance of hormones in men—including reducing testosterone levels, which again becomes more pronounced with heavy drinking over a longer period. Does alcohol affect sperm? A study of 1221 men in Denmark found that sperm quality decreased in men who reported drinking more than 5 units (around 3 small beers) of alcohol a week. This decrease in sperm quality became even more pronounced in men who reported drinking over 25 units of alcohol in a typical week (around 10 pints of beer). Can a man drink alcohol while trying to conceive? Although alcohol intake in men when trying to conceive will not harm any possible pregnancy that may occur, as mentioned above, it will likely affect […]

How to support LGBTQ+ employees-image

How to support LGBTQ+ employees

Deciding to start a family is never an easy process, but for some employees who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, their journey to parenthood might need some more support.  Being a 21st-century employer means establishing an inclusive, progressive and supportive work environment to attract and retain employees. A 2017 study by Mercer found that 33% of UK respondents do not offer equal benefits to LGBTQ+  employees because they do not know how to implement such a benefit!  Here are some ways to provide support to your LGBTQ+ employees in their fertility journeys Partner with experts like Hertility to raise awareness about the advances in fertility treatments such as IVF (in vitro fertilisation), IUI (intrauterine insemination), surrogacy, etc., that made it possible for LGBTQ+ couples to have biologically related children. Refer your employee to resources like Hertility that may help them understand the basics of all things reproductive health will make them more confident in their reproductive journeys. Gender-affirming treatments can impact fertility, and therefore, many require fertility preservation, such as banking eggs, sperm or embryos before medical transition. With the number of NHS-funded cycles declining rapidly, LGBTQ+ couples have to fulfil extensive criteria before being eligible for a funded cycle, because of which,  many are opting for private treatment, where the average cost per cycle can be about £5,000, varying significantly depending on the treatment options chosen and the clinic (HFEA). Listen to feedback from employees,  ask them what they would want to feel more supported in their choices and try to develop policies around them. Establishing fertility benefits policies – covering proactive fertility testing, fertility treatment or egg freezing costs or providing low-interest loans – can help align your interests with your employees, supporting their individual journeys to parenthood, facilitating equality, diversity and inclusion. If you have existing family planning and health benefit policies, revisit the language and clauses to ensure LGBTQ+ employees are eligible for the equal benefits to support them as they embark on their parenthood journey, whether that be through fertility treatment, surrogacy, adoption, or parental leave. Hertility can help train your staff on all things related to policies.  About Hertility Health Hertility Health is shaping the future of Reproductive Health by giving women the ability to understand and manage their fertility and hormone health from menstruation to menopause. 1 in 3 women suffer with a reproductive health issue, yet conversations around fertility, menopause and menstrual symptoms are still stigmatised in the workplace. As employees suffer in silence – up to £4k is lost per year per employee due to reduced productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism. To learn more about our Reproductive Health Education and Benefits for Employers, reach out to benefits@hertilityhealth.com or visit our website. Trusted resources:https://www.imercer.com/uploads/dmi/2017_lgbt_sample.pdfhttps://www.bpas.org/media/3484/bpas-fertility-investigation-nhs-funded-fertility-care-for-female-same-sex-couples.pdf    

How Alcohol Affects your Hormones-image

How Alcohol Affects your Hormones

When our reproductive hormone levels are affected, it can cause menstrual cycle disruptions that can result in fertility issues. In this article, we’ll take a look at alcohol’s effects on the main female reproductive hormones. Quick facts: How alcohol and hormones interact According to recent data, women and those assigned-female-at-birth are, on average, drinking more alcohol than ever before. Whilst many people are aware of the immediate health consequences of drinking—including the caloric impact and the dreaded hangover, there’s still very limited awareness of the effects that alcohol can have on female hormonal health.  Hormones act as chemical messengers, which control and coordinate various bodily processes. Each of our hormones relies on a complex system of interactions, often with other hormones, to maintain their levels and carry out their intended functions.  Drinking alcohol, as well as other lifestyle factors like smoking, can affect our hormones, both directly and indirectly. Which hormones are affected by alcohol? Hormones affected by alcohol include: Our hormones are sensitive. They rely on a complex set of interactions, both with one another and other bodily processes in order to stay in balance and perform their functions properly.  Alcohol consumption is known to affect our levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone significantly—three very important hormones in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and overall health. It can also affect our levels of Anti-müllerian Hormone (AMH), gonadotropins like Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and Lutenising hormone (LH), thyroid hormones and prolactin.  Let’s take a look at each of them in turn. Oestrogen and alcohol Oestrogen is probably the hormone you know best—it plays an important role in many elements of our health, including the regulation of the menstrual cycle, maintaining bone density and skin health. Acute consumption of alcohol has been shown to increase oestrogen levels. Increased oestrogen levels over a prolonged period can be associated with breast cancer development in those assigned-female-at-birth. The United Kingdom Million Women Study revealed that every additional drink per day contributed to 11 breast cancers per 1,000 women up to age 75. Progesterone and alcohol Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH), are involved in egg maturation and ovulation, two key elements of the menstrual cycle and female fertility. A surge in your levels of LH triggers the egg to be ovulated, however, there is some evidence that alcohol consumption may affect both the levels of LH in general and the ability of the egg to respond to LH. Excessive alcohol consumption may even affect how the cells within the fallopian tubes function. Testosterone and alcohol Testosterone is typically associated with male sexual development and fertility, but it also plays an important role in female sexual development and fertility, including regulating female libido.  There is some evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may increase testosterone levels, causing an imbalance in androgen levels. High testosterone levels can lead to symptoms like acne, excessive facial and body hair growth (hirsutism), irregular periods, mood changes and loss of libido. Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) and alcohol AMH is produced by the granulosa cells within your ovarian follicles and is used as an indicator of ovarian reserve (your egg count). The relationship between alcohol consumption and AMH is slightly contentious. Some studies have found no change in AMH levels in people who consumed alcohol but more recent studies have shown those who engage in “binge drinking” had lower levels of AMH.  Binge drinking is defined by the Centres for disease control (CDC) as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above”. Basically, consuming 4 or more drinks in the space of 2 hours.  Because of AMH’s close ties to your ovarian reserve, lowered AMH levels can indicate a low ovarian reserve. Gonadotropins and alcohol There are two types of gonadotropin hormones in the body—Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Both FSH and LH are involved in egg maturation and ovulation, two key elements of the menstrual cycle and female fertility.  A surge in LH levels at the midpoint of the menstrual cycle is what triggers ovulation—that month’s mature egg being released into the Fallopian tube.  There is some evidence that suggests alcohol consumption may increase LH levels in general and also impair the ability of our eggs to respond to LH. Excessive alcohol consumption may also affect how the cells within the Fallopian tubes function. Thyroid hormones and alcohol Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that plays an important role in the regulation of many different bodily functions such as your heart rate, body temperature and growth development.  Alcohol consumption has been shown to alter the levels of the thyroid hormones, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) with heavy use showing decreased levels of T3 and T4. Low levels of thyroid hormones are known as hypothyroidism and can cause a huge number of symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, heavy or irregular periods, fertility issues and irregular ovulation, depression and more. Prolactin and alcohol Chronic alcohol consumption is associated with increased prolactin levels. Consistently high levels of prolactin in your body is called hyperprolactinemia and is significantly associated with infertility through interference with other hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. Alcohol and trying to conceive When trying to conceive, cutting down on your drinking is often one of the first things on your preconception to-do list. The dangerous effects of alcohol on the developing foetus can range from physical to mental and generally disrupt their development in the womb (see foetal alcohol syndrome).  It is also known that alcohol consumption affects the success of IVF treatment, with one study showing people who had at least four drinks per week were 16% less likely to have a live birth than those who had less than four drinks. Additionally, a 21% lower live birth rate was found for couples in which both drank more than four drinks per week. Other effects of alcohol on the body As well as impacting our hormones, alcohol has other broad-reaching effects on the body and the […]

Folic Acid Supplements: Why They’re Vital for Preconception Care-image

Folic Acid Supplements: Why They’re Vital for Preconception Care

Folic acid is a vital preconception supplement. But what makes folic acid so important? How and when should you be taking it? We’ve broken down everything you need to know about folic acid for preconception care. Read on to get clued up. Quick facts: What is folic acid?  Folic acid is the man-made version of the vitamin folate, a form of vitamin B9. It is used by our bodies to make new cells and is needed to support the rapid growth of foetal tissues and organs in early pregnancy.  Unfortunately, our bodies do not store folic acid, which is why we must get our supply from certain foods and supplements. Why is folic acid important for pre-conception and pregnancy? Folic acid is important in helping your unborn child’s brain, skull and spinal cord to develop properly. It reduces the risk of potential neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, by 70%.  Whilst spina bifida is not that common, it can create significant problems for its sufferers that affect everyday life. These include problems with mobility and movement, bladder and bowel problems and learning difficulties.  Folic acid is also used to: When should you start taking folic acid? The advised amount of folic acid to take daily is 400mcg. However, some people may need a higher dose if they have a higher risk of having a pregnancy affected by neural tube defects.  You may have a higher risk if:  In these cases, your doctor will be able to advise the correct dosage you should be consuming to keep your child protected. Which foods contain natural forms of folic acid? You can also find the natural form of folic acid or folate, in certain foods. Introducing these to your diet will increase your folate levels: However, the amount of folic acid in these foods is often not enough to provide your baby with the best protection, so it is important to add the tablet form to your daily routine too. Understanding preconception nutrition If you’re looking for some help understanding your preconception or pregnancy nutrition, you can book a call with one of our Fertility Nutritionists.  Our nutritionists will work with you and recommend a personalised nutrition plan for your specific fertility goals, taking into consideration your medical history and lifestyle. Get in touch today if we can help.