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7 Ways Your Diet Can Help Manage Menopause Symptoms-image

7 Ways Your Diet Can Help Manage Menopause Symptoms

There are several ways to manage the symptoms of menopause through nutrition. The best way for you will depend on your symptoms and preferences. Talk to your Hertility Menopause Nutritionist to get a tailored approach to managing your menopausal experience. Quick facts: Nutrition for menopause symptoms Nutrition and diet can play a big role in managing menopause symptoms. Eating a healthy diet can help to reduce hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and weight gain.  Importantly, it can also reduce your risk of associated health conditions, like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. These can result from low levels of oestrogen postmenopausal.  As people progress through the stages of menopause, it’s common for body weight to fluctuate. There are several ways to manage the symptoms of menopause, including lifestyle changes and hormone replacement therapy. 3 lifestyle tips to help with menopause symptoms Exercising regularly Exercise can help to reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and improve sleep. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. This includes weight training and light cardio activity. Getting enough sleep Getting enough sleep can help to reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Try to create a comfortable sleep space with a separate sheet and duvet. This is in case you need to remove one at night.  Try to keep your room cool and avoid blue light in the hours before bed. You can get some glasses that have blue light reflectors in them. Also, avoid caffeine after midday. Reducing stress and unhealthy habits Stress can worsen the symptoms of menopause. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature. Counselling sessions can also help with stress management. Try to cut back on any unhealthy habits like smoking. Smoking can worsen the symptoms of menopause.  7 ways nutrition can reduce menopause symptoms Healthy eating and exercise may seem obvious when it comes to managing menopause and perimenopausal symptoms. However, approaches to this may vary depending on your symptoms and how much they are affecting your daily life.  Here are some tips for using your diet for menopause symptom management. Try the Mediterranean-style diet The Mediterranean-style diet is a great place to start. Well researched in its positive effects on heart health, managing menopausal symptoms and reducing heart disease risk.  This way of eating is rich in heart-healthy nutrients such as healthy fats and fibre. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans and unsaturated fats such as olive oil and oily fish.  It includes smaller amounts of dairy, eggs and lean meat and limits processed and red meats and ultra-processed foods. Eat more oily fish  Oily fish like trout, sardines, herring, anchovies, mackerel and salmon can help to reduce inflammation that is associated with menopause. The risk of heart disease increases after the menopause due to the decrease in oestrogen which is an important hormone as it works to reduce inflammation in the blood vessels.  Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish are beneficial to heart health and in maintaining normal cholesterol levels. Therefore, taking HRT containing oestrogen and or optimising your diet and lifestyle can lower your increased risk of heart disease that is associated with the menopause and also reduce cholesterol.  Plant-based sources include flax, hemp, chia and pumpkin seeds, walnuts, rapeseed and linseed vegetable oils and soya products such as beans, milk and tofu also contain omega-3’s.  It should be highlighted that plant-based sources are not as rich as a source and should be consumed in addition. Therefore you may consider supplementing if you do not consume oily fish. Eat more pulses and beans Lentils and chickpeas are a great plant-based source of protein, fibre, and iron. They help to maintain energy levels and support healthy weight management. A decrease in oestrogen in menopause impacts where fat is stored and the rate of body fat gain.  Oestrogen increases the storage of fat around our bums and thighs, which is associated with a ‘pear-shaped body’, whereas increased androgens after menopause increase the accumulation of visceral abdominal fat causing weight gain and redistribution of body fat to the middle and around the organs, including our heart.  This is what’s sometimes known as an ‘apple-shaped body’ and in turn can have negative effects on our health.  Resistance and weight-based training are also beneficial for central adiposity – that’s weight found around your tummy.  Try some soya products Soya is a great way of increasing your calcium intake and works well for anyone with diet restrictions. It helps maintain healthy bone density and around 2 to 3 portions of soy per day may reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes.  There is also some evidence that isoflavones improve symptoms of vaginal dryness. Soya beans are the main dietary source of isoflavones. A large glass of soya milk (250ml) will provide approximately 25 mg of isoflavones, but not all soya foods contain isoflavones due to some processing methods removing them.  Isoflavones do not behave like the human hormone oestrogen, therefore you could consider adding in some isoflavones into your diet such as tofu, tempeh, soya milk or yoghurt and edamame beans. Dairy or calcium-fortified alternatives  These provide a wide range of benefits including protein, calcium, vitamin D and probiotics, which are important for our bone health, mood and gut health. During menopause, oestrogen, a hormone that protects and maintains our bone density rapidly declines, increasing our chances of osteoporosis.  50% of women or people assigned female at birth over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture due to poor bone health. Changes to your bone health are silent and may go unnoticed so it’s really important to keep your bones healthy.  It’s essential to live an active lifestyle, including implementing weight-bearing and strength-building exercises to strengthen bones so that you limit your risk of falling and breaking your bones, but also it’s so important to eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Up your intake of […]

8 Ways to Help with Perimenopause Symptoms-image

8 Ways to Help with Perimenopause Symptoms

Perimenopause symptoms can be hard to deal with. Everything from hot flashes to vaginal dryness. But there are several things you can do to manage perimenopause symptoms. Read on to hear our 8 top tips from our specialists. Quick facts: What is perimenopause? Perimenopause is the transition period leading up to menopause. This is when your body starts preparing you for menopause. Menopause is when your periods stop and you can no longer become pregnant.  Perimenopause can last anywhere from a few months to several years, with the average length being four years. However, this will depend on the individual, your lifestyle and hormones.  Most people start perimenopause at some point after their mid-40s, but some as early as their mid-thirties (although this is quite uncommon). During this time, the ovaries begin making less oestrogen and progesterone, which can cause a variety of symptoms, including: While perimenopause can be a challenging time, there are several things you can do to help manage your perimenopause symptoms and improve your overall well-being. Ways you can manage perimenopause symptoms 1. Exercise regularly Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, and it can be especially beneficial during perimenopause. Exercise helps to reduce hot flashes, improve mood, boost energy levels, and promote healthy weight management. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. 2. Eat a healthy diet Healthy eating and exercise may seem obvious when it comes to managing menopause and perimenopausal symptoms. However, approaches to this may vary depending on your symptoms and how much they are affecting your daily life. Focus on your diet by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and saturated and unhealthy fats. 3. Get enough sleep During perimenopause, some sleep problems can happen due to night sweats. If you’re not sleeping well, it could also impact your mood. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. 4. Manage stress  Stress can worsen perimenopause symptoms. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature. You may also find it helpful to talk to a therapist or counsellor about how to cope with stress. Our Hertility counsellors are trained to support these experiences. 5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol Caffeine and alcohol can trigger hot flashes and other perimenopause symptoms. If you’re experiencing hot flashes, it’s best to avoid caffeine and alcohol altogether or try to limit your intake to one or two servings per day. 6. Dress in layers It may sound simple, but this will help stay comfortable during hot flashes. By picking lightweight, breathable fabrics, and wearing layers, you can pivot between outfits as necessary. 7. Use a fan or cool compress If you’re experiencing a hot flash, try using a fan or cool compress to help you cool down. You can also try placing a cool washcloth on your neck or wrists. 8. Talk to a Hertility menopause specialist Our Menopause Specialists can offer tailored perimenopause advice and guidance. Our calls are always personalised to you, offering you a safe space to discuss treatment options for perimenopause symptoms, including HRT prescriptions. Managing the main symptoms of perimenopause Perimenopause can be a challenging time, but it doesn’t have to be hormonal hell. By following the above tips, you can manage your symptoms and improve your overall well-being. Here are some additional tips for managing specific perimenopause symptoms: Managing hot flashes: Managing night sweats: Managing vaginal dryness: Managing mood swings: Manage stress: References: 

Hormone Replacement Therapy in Menopause: Is HRT right for you?-image

Hormone Replacement Therapy in Menopause: Is HRT right for you?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a common treatment for easing menopause symptoms, like hot flashes, brain fog, joint pain, low mood and low libido. But how does it work and what are the signs you need hormone replacement therapy? Read on to find out. Quick facts: HRT explained Hormone Replacement Therapy for menopause is a treatment that uses hormones to relieve the symptoms of menopause and to prevent health problems that can occur after menopause.  The hormones commonly used in HRT are oestrogen, progesterone and sometimes testosterone. It does what it says on the tin—replaces the hormones that are declining in your body during this natural part of ageing, with synthetic or bioidentical hormones. These hormones mimic your natural hormones, relieving symptoms.  HRT can be taken in a variety of ways, including pills, patches, gels, sprays, vaginal cream and pessaries. The best method to take HRT will depend on your individual needs, preferences and medical history. Do you need HRT? You can take HRT to relieve menopause symptoms if you’re in perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause before your periods stop) or postmenopause.  Challenging symptoms like brain fog, night sweats, vaginal dryness, reduced sex drive, insomnia and concentration issues can interrupt your daily life. Hormone replacement therapy helps to restore hormonal balance to provide relief. Whether or not you’ll need HRT will depend on your symptoms and physiology and is always a personal choice. For personalised advice, you can book an appointment with one of our Menopause Specialists.  They can prescribe HRT based on your individual needs and preferences and can offer expert guidance on navigating symptoms and treatment options. Different types of HRT There are different types of HRT to choose from. Which type is right for you will depend on: HRT options can contain different hormones, including oestrogen, progestogen, a combination of both, and sometimes testosterone. HRT can be taken in different ways tablets, including patches, gels, sprays, implants, coils, or creams. It can also be taken using different regimens, including cyclical or sequential treatments, or continuous treatments.  Tablets Tablets are one of the most common ways of taking HRT. You usually take them once a day. Tablets are available in both oestrogen-only and as combined HRT.  Although it’s small, the risk of developing blood clots is higher with tablets compared to other HRT methods like patches, gels and sprays. Skin patches HRT patches are available in both oestrogen-only and combined. They are stuck to the skin, usually on the lower half of your body, and gradually release small amounts of hormones through the skin. You’ll usually change your skin patch every few days. Patches could be a preferred option if you have difficulty swallowing tablets, get indigestion or are likely to forget to take tablets. Some patches can leave marks and cause redness or irritation. Oestrogen skin gels and sprays You apply oestrogen-only skin gels by smoothing them onto your skin. Apply sprays by spraying them on the inside of your arm or thigh once a day. Your body absorbs the oestrogen gradually. Vaginal oestrogen Low-dose vaginal oestrogen is also available in tablets, pessaries, creams or vaginal rings that you insert into your vagina. This can help to provide relief for particular menopause symptoms like vaginal dryness and pain during sex (dyspareunia). Testosterone Like oestrogen and progesterone, menopause also causes your testosterone to decline. This can make you feel tired, unmotivated and low in libido. While testosterone isn’t currently licensed to treat menopause symptoms in the UK, specialists may prescribe it. It’s given in the form of a gel that you can rub over the skin where it’s gradually absorbed. Although uncommon, possible side effects of taking testosterone include acne, unwanted hair growth and weight gain. Intrauterine system (IUS) or Mirena coil If you have a womb and are using oestrogen-only HRT, you’ll need to also take a form of progesterone HRT to protect against endometrial cancer. You can do this with the Mirena coil, an intrauterine system (IUS). Inserted into your womb, the Mirena coil gradually releases progestogen (levonorgestrel) into your body. Once inserted, the Mirena coil can stay in place for up to five years and double up as contraception to prevent pregnancy. Benefits and risks of HRT Like other medications, there are benefits and risks associated with HRT. Benefits of HRT Most of the symptoms of menopause are associated with declining oestrogen levels. People have found that HRT is useful to manage symptoms including:  There are several long-term effects associated with low oestrogen. Taking HRT can help to reduce the risk of: Risks of HRT The risks of any serious side effects are usually very low, and depend on: HRT can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. If you’ve had breast cancer or have a family history of it you’ll usually be advised not to take HRT.  Currently, the risk of breast cancer when using HRT has been found to be an extra 5 in every 1000 women who take combined HRT for 5 years. The risk increases the longer you take it, and the older you are. It falls again after you stop taking it.  Oral HRT can increase the risk of blood clots and in rare cases, stroke. If your medical history would indicate that you are at an increased risk of blood clots or strokes you should be recommended HRT patches, spray or gel rather than tablets, which have been found to not carry this risk. Weighing up the risks and benefits of taking HRT needs to be considered on an individual basis. It has been found in more recent studies that usually the benefits outweigh the risks and why HRT is now so commonly used. If you haven’t had a hysterectomy, you’ll need to take oestrogen and progesterone combined to protect against cancer. Oestrogen thickens the womb lining which can increase the risk of developing endometrial cancer. Progesterone helps to protect against it by ensuring the lining is shed regularly. The HRT timeline: How long before results? Once […]

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 […]

Everything you Need to Know About Menopause: Symptoms and Treatments-image

Everything you Need to Know About Menopause: Symptoms and Treatments

Menopause can be a challenging time, with many women experiencing a sleuth of uncomfortable symptoms. Here we get into everything you need to know about menopausal symptoms, the stages and the treatment options available.  Quick facts: What is menopause? Menopause is when your periods stop due to low hormone levels. It will happen to anyone who has periods, usually at around 45-50 years of age and is a natural part of ageing.  Menopause marks the end of your reproductive years. After you’ve experienced menopause, it’s no longer possible to become pregnant naturally without assistance. In the UK, the average age for experiencing menopause is 51. Approximately 25 million people go through menopause every year. Despite it directly affecting half of the population, knowledge and understanding of menopause remains incredibly low. For many people, menopause can be an incredibly difficult time as it is often accompanied by a series of both physical and psychological symptoms—in addition to a lack of public understanding as to what experiencing menopause can entail.  How is menopause diagnosed? Menopause is usually diagnosed when: If you are experiencing symptoms associated with menopause but don’t meet all of this criteria, it is possible you could be experiencing a different health condition, or premature menopause if you are under the age of 40. What is early menopause? Around 5% of people may experience menopause before 45 years of age, known as early menopause. This can happen naturally or due to side effects of some treatments, like cancer treatments or surgeries to remove the ovaries. What is premature menopause? If you experience menopause before 40 years of age, it is known as premature menopause, which may also be described as Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI), depending on your circumstances.  Again, premature menopause may occur naturally, due to genetics or lifestyle factors, or as a result of medical or surgical treatment. Some things that might increase the chances of premature menopause are: POI affects 1 in 100 people under the age of 40, one in 1,000 people under 30 and one in 10,000 people under 20. It occurs because the ovaries do not function properly and are unable to make sufficient levels of hormones like oestrogen and progesterone, which have important roles in overall health and well-being.  POI can occur because of many reasons. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, no underlying cause can be found. What are the 3 stages of menopause? The stages of menopause include premenopause, perimenopause and post menopause. The menopause actually only references the time when it has been 12 months since your last period. Let’s take a look at these stages one by one… What is premenopause? Premenopause refers to the period of your life before the transition into menopause has started, also sometimes referred to as your reproductive years. This is when you shouldn’t be experiencing any (peri)menopausal symptoms and have a healthy and regular menstrual cycle. What is perimenopause? The transition to menopause is known as perimenopause. This is when your body starts preparing you for menopause. During the perimenopausal phase, your ovaries will begin producing less oestrogen and progesterone and your periods can become irregular or erratic. Perimenopause can be challenging because it is often accompanied by lots of physical and emotional symptoms, which can be distressing and impact your quality of life.  Perimenopause can last anywhere from a few months to several years, with the average length being four years. However, this will depend on the individual, your lifestyle and hormonal make-up. Most people start perimenopause at some point after their mid-40s, but some as early as their mid-thirties (although this is quite uncommon). Sometimes people even skip perimenopause all together and enter menopause suddenly. Although chances of pregnancy are low during perimenopause, it is still possible as ovulation may still be occurring and an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections if you aren’t using barrier contraception methods. If you are sexually active and in the perimenopausal stage, it is important to speak to your doctor about appropriate contraception for you. The menopause The menopause actually refers to the time when it has been 12 months since your last period. This is technically when you have experienced menopause.  What is post menopause? Post menopause refers to the time after you have experienced menopause—the rest of your life after menopause. During this time your sex and cycling hormones will be at different levels to where they were before menopause and you will no longer have periods.  At what stage of menopause are symptoms worse? Symptoms and their severity will depend on the individual, but for most, perimenopause is the time when you will experience the most symptoms. This is because of the huge hormonal fluctuations happening during this stage and your body adjusting to lowering hormonal levels. What are the symptoms of menopause? Most of the symptoms of menopause are associated with declining oestrogen levels. The duration and severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the individual.  Symptoms usually start a few months or years before your periods stop (in the perimenopausal stage) and can persist for some time post menopause.  On average, most symptoms will last for around four years after your last period, although some people may experience them for much longer.  Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms… Changes in menstrual cycle characteristics Often the first sign is a change in the normal pattern of your periods—cycles may be shorter or last longer, become erratic or increase in frequency.  You may find that you begin to experience fewer periods and go for months at a time between periods until they eventually stop altogether. Your menstrual flow may also become lighter or heavier than normal and last longer than normal. Hot flushes and night sweats Hot flushes are sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make your skin red and flushed. These can happen at any time and often erratically with seemingly no external trigger.  Flushes can be followed by […]

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

What to Do When You Have a Haemolysed Blood Sample

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

Everything You Need to Know About PCOS-image

Everything You Need to Know About PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common reproductive health condition estimated to affect 1 in 10 in the UK. In this article, we’ll cover exactly what PCOS is, its causes and symptoms, common FAQs about PCOS and some tips for those living with the condition. Quick facts: What is PCOS? Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine and metabolic disorders. PCOS is characterised by an imbalance of sex hormones which can cause a whole host of symptoms – including missed periods, acne, excessive hair growth and even fertility issues.  Despite how common it is, many people don’t get a proper diagnosis until they’re having difficulties trying to get pregnant. Research has shown that it can take on average 2 years and visiting more than 3 doctors to get a PCOS diagnosis. What are the symptoms of PCOS? We are all unique, so every person affected by PCOS will experience symptoms differently but some common symptoms include the following. Menstrual cycle-related symptoms PCOS can impact ovulation by either causing irregular ovulation or no ovulation at all (anovulation). This is because people with PCOS tend to have imbalances in hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle – particularly luteinising hormone (LH).  As these hormones are key for regulating ovulation, an imbalance can cause ovulation to happen less frequently or stop it altogether. Irregular ovulation will often result in irregular periods (oligomenorrhea). This is when your cycle is less than 21 days, or more than 35 days apart. People with PCOS tend to have very long cycles (i.e. more than 35 days) or no periods at all (amenorrhea). They have also reported experiencing heavier-than-normal periods. Skin and hair-related symptoms This can include excessive hair growth (hirsutism), especially on the upper lip, chin, neck, sideburn area, chest, upper or lower abdomen, upper arm and inner thigh. Loss of hair or thinning of the scalp hair (alopecia) can also be experienced as well as thick dark patches of skin in your armpit or around your groin or neck (acanthosis nigricans) and skin tags. Acne is also a common symptom. Skin and hair-related symptoms are caused by having too many androgens (such as testosterone) in your body, which is a common trait in people with PCOS. Weight gain or difficulty losing weight Weight gain is particularly seen around the abdomen area (known as central adiposity), which is caused by PCOS affecting your metabolism. Difficulty conceiving This is due to the hormone imbalances in PCOS causing irregular ovulation. PCOS can cause ovulation to become less frequent and unpredictable, which may make it more tricky to conceive. If ovulation doesn’t occur, there’s no egg awaiting fertilisation. Mental health-related symptoms People with PCOS are more likely to experience mental health-related symptoms including depression and anxiety as a result of the negative impact their symptoms can have on their day-to-day life. What causes PCOS? Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, research suggests that a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors are at play. Here are some of the main factors thought to be responsible for PCOS symptoms. High levels of Androgens Androgens are a group of hormones, the most common being testosterone. They are made mostly by the ovaries and are important for muscle growth and getting your libido going.  People with PCOS have been found to have higher than normal androgen levels, a condition called ‘“hyperandrogenism”. This can result in characteristic PCOS symptoms such as excessive body and facial hair growth, hair loss from the scalp, oily skin and acne. Don’t be fooled by its name, polycystic ovaries do not mean cysts in the ovaries. This imbalance of androgen hormones does not allow follicles (little sacs that house your eggs) in the ovaries to mature properly.  As a result, there are a large number of immature follicles which get stuck in different stages of maturation. These can appear like cysts during a pelvic ultrasound scan but are very different to cysts. High levels of insulin Some people with PCOS also experience a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that controls blood glucose levels (basically your blood sugar). When blood glucose levels rise (after eating for example), insulin helps the cells to absorb it so it can be used by the body for energy. Insulin resistance is when the body doesn’t respond to normal insulin levels. The body starts making excess levels of insulin to compensate for this, leading to misregulation of blood sugar levels and knock-on effects on the proper functioning of the ovaries and ovulation.  Insulin resistance can also lead to problems with metabolism, causing further symptoms such as weight gain, difficulty losing weight and higher risks of conditions like type 2 diabetes.  High insulin levels also decrease the production of sex hormone-binding-globulin (SHBG)—an important hormone that regulates testosterone levels—which therefore results in increased levels of testosterone and excess androgen-related symptoms. Genetic causes PCOS has been found to run in families, so having an immediate relative with PCOS can put you at a higher risk of developing it yourself. There have been several genes which have been identified as possible causes of PCOS, but as of yet, no conclusive links have been made. Recent research published by members of the Hertility research team shows that PCOS may be associated with genetic changes in the powerhouse of our cells called the mitochondria. Ethnicity PCOS affects people of all ethnic backgrounds, however, research has shown that those from ethnic minority communities, especially those who are Black or South Asian, are at a higher risk of developing PCOS.  Different ethnicities are also known to have different PCOS symptoms. For example, research has found that women of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent are more likely to experience excessive body and facial hair and women of East Asia are more likely to experience irregular periods. How can I be diagnosed with PCOS? Someone would need to be experiencing at least two of the following to be diagnosed with PCOS:  Is there a […]

Can I Test My Hormones and Fertility While on Birth Control?-image

Can I Test My Hormones and Fertility While on Birth Control?

You can test some of your hormones with Hertility regardless of the type of birth control you’re using. In this article, we run through the differences between hormonal and non-hormonal birth control and which hormones you can test with us depending on the type you’re using.  Quick facts: Different types of birth control Despite most of us only being able to reel off a handful, there are actually many different types of birth control, or contraception. These include both hormonal and non-hormonal options, plus, long-term and short-term methods. Whatever method of contraception works best for you is personal and will depend on your goals, your body and if you choose to use hormonal contraception, your hormones too.  So, from condoms to coils, let’s take a look at the different types of birth control, how they work, and how each will affect a hormone and fertility test. What is hormonal contraception? Hormonal contraception uses synthetic hormones, which are basically (wo)man-made versions of our natural hormones, to either prevent us from ovulating and/or to bring about bodily changes that prevent pregnancy. Types of hormonal contraception include: How does hormonal contraception work? To understand how hormonal contraceptives work (and how this might affect your test), it’s important to first understand exactly how your hormones control your menstrual cycle and overall fertility. Your menstrual cycle hormones, including oestrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinising hormone (LH) and testosterone, all work together to ensure that each month you ovulate a healthy, mature egg from one of your ovaries.  If any of these hormone levels are altered, disrupted or suppressed, your overall menstrual cycle and ovulation can be affected—impacting your fertility and ability to conceive.  Hormonal contraceptives use either a combination of synthetic oestrogen and synthetic progesterone (called progestin), or simply just progestin (depending on the type) to alter the balance of your menstrual hormones.  This brings about a series of bodily changes that prevent pregnancy, including: Hormonal contraception can also be used to help relieve hormonal symptoms, like acne, and those related to your menstrual cycle, like heavy menstrual bleeding. Can I test my hormones if I’m on hormonal contraception? Technically, yes you can—but because your natural hormone levels will be altered due to the synthetic hormones in your system, you won’t be able to get an accurate result of your natural menstrual cycle hormone levels, including your FSH, LH, or oestradiol (E2). The good news is, with Hertility, even if you’re on hormonal contraception, we can still test you for Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) and your thyroid hormones—Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and Free Thyroxine (FT4).  Taking a Hertility Hormone & Fertility Test to test your AMH will give you insight into how many eggs you’ve got left (your ovarian reserve), giving you a good idea of your current fertility. Hormonal contraception can temporarily impact AMH levels, to determine your ovarian reserve more accurately. We would recommend retesting your AMH with your cycling hormones (FSH, oestradiol and LH) at least 3 months after coming off your form of contraception. Your thyroid hormone levels are a good indicator of your general hormone health and remain unaffected by taking any hormonal contraception.  If you’re using a long-term form of hormone contraception, such as the contraceptive injection (known as Depo Provera), you might have to wait up to 12 months for your menstrual cycle hormones to regulate and get back to their natural levels, so we can get an accurate result. What is non-hormonal contraception? These are your contraceptive types that don’t contain any synthetic hormones, and won’t alter your natural hormone levels if you use them.  Types of non-hormonal contraception include: How does non-hormonal contraception work? Non-hormonal contraceptives prevent pregnancy through several different methods, the difference being they tend to use just one method, rather than a combination, like in hormonal contraception. These include:  These include: Can I test my hormones if I’m on non-hormonal contraception? Yes, you’re good to go! Non-hormonal contraception does not alter any of your natural hormone levels, so with our Hormone and Fertility Test you can test all of your menstrual cycle hormones, AMH and thyroid hormones when you’re using non-hormonal contraception. Do I need a hormone test? Testing your hormones and fertility can give you important insights into both your overall and reproductive health.  Whether you’re experiencing possible hormonal symptoms, or planning ahead for your future family forming options—testing can help give you clarity into what’s going on inside your body.  Our At-home Hormone & Fertility Test is personalised to you and based on your unique biometrics, medical history, cycle and symptoms. Our test will screen you for up to 18 reproductive health conditions and give you insights into your ovarian reserve. This can help you to identify any potential underlying health conditions or hormonal imbalances that could affect your chances of conceiving. We recommend regular testing—once a year, or every six months if you’re above 35 or have an underlying condition that might affect fertility. Because our hormones are constantly changing, regular testing helps to ensure you’re tracking any changes over time. This can help you to better manage any symptoms and measure the success of any lifestyle changes or medication if you need to. So, whether you’re curious about your health, planning for future children or trying to conceive, regular hormone testing with our At-Home Hormone & Fertility Tests could be an essential step toward understanding your reproductive health. If you’re on contraception, hormonal or non-hormonal, and want to test your hormones and fertility, you can get started today by taking our online health assessment today. References:

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 […]

Diagnosed with PCOS? How to Manage Symptoms-image

Diagnosed with PCOS? How to Manage Symptoms

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