The good news is that many fertility problems can be treated medically but also by changes in lifestyle and diet. The first step is to become more aware of your fertility by monitoring your menstrual cycle and knowing what alarm bells you should be watching out for. You can take steps to improve your fertile health and boost your fertility before fertility issues make it difficult for you to get pregnant. femSense can help you make sense of your fertility, visit the talkingSense blog for a range of interesting articles on fertility, getting pregnant, hormones and much more.
Signs of possible fertility problems include:
The first day of your period is the first day of your menstrual cycle and your cycle should always be approximately the same length. Your cycle can vary from month to month depending on lifestyle influences, travel, stress, sickness, weight (too high or too low) etc but the variation should not be more than a few days. A cycle length of between 20 and 38 days is considered normal. A woman’s period is considered irregular if her menstrual cycle is shorter or longer than this average or if the cycle length varies significantly from month to month. Irregular periods could be a warning signal for PCOS, pelvic inflammatory disease or thyroid problems.
Very heavy or long periods
Your menstrual flow is as individual as your menstrual cycle – there is no normal. Some women only ever have a couple of days of light flow while others endure a week of cramps, backache, and heavy bleeding. A period is considered heavy when you are losing more than 80ml during each period and/or having periods which last more than 7 days. But how much is too much? If you need to change your sanitary products every hour or 2, are passing blood clots larger than 2.5cm, are bleeding through to your clothes or bedding or need to use 2 types of sanitary product together (for example, tampons and pads) then your flow would be considered very heavy. If you regularly experience heavy periods, then you should visit your doctor. They could be a sign of hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS or thyroid problems, fibroids or endometriosis, an underactive thyroid gland, or diabetes.
Very dark or very pale menstrual blood
During your period the colour of the blood shed changes each day. It probably starts with a pink spotting, turning bright red as cramps kick in and the flow increases, before slowing down to a darker red, and then finishing up with dark brown spots. The colour of the blood basically depends on how long it has spent in your uterus and vagina. Fast flowing blood is bright red, whereas slow flowing blood oxidizes (reacts with oxygen in the body) and turns a dark red or even brown. Passing very dark blood at the beginning of a period can be an indication of Endometriosis. Very pale blood could be an indication of an infection, especially in combination with a smell, itching, pain, or fever.
Stress, sickness, or extreme sport can cause an occasional missed period but if you haven’t had a period in months, you should visit your doctor to find out why.
Many women experience cramps and pain during the first day or two of their period. Sometimes it comes in intense spasms, while at other times it may be dull but more constant, it is usually in the tummy but can spread into the back, pelvis, and thighs. The pain is usually at its worst when bleeding is at its heaviest. Normal period pain that does not have an underlying cause can usually be treated at home with painkillers, a warm bath, or a hot water bottle. Severely painful periods or pain that lasts longer than usual could be an indication of a medical condition such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or fibroids.
The hormones in our body are the body’s messenger system for various different systems and processes, including the menstrual cycle. Hormone levels fluctuate continuously during the menstrual cycle not only triggering ovulation and menstruation but also influencing us physically and mentally. A hormone imbalance can therefore not only affect your period and fertility but also your skin, weight, mood, hair growth, sex drive and much more. Symptoms of hormonal imbalance include irregular periods, mood swings, fatigue, and bloating. Other signs of a possible hormone imbalance include skin changes and acne, weight gain and hair growth on the face and chest.
Pain during sex
Discomfort or vaginal pain during sex can be caused by vaginal dryness, vaginal infections or allergies and irritations. These can be helped by using lubricant, infection treatments and avoiding products which cause irritation. However pelvic pain during sex can be a symptom of a medical condition like pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids or endometriosis and should be investigated by a doctor.
The most common problems
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb (uterus). The growths are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue and vary in size. Many women are unaware they have fibroids because they do not have any symptoms.
Endometriosis is very difficult to diagnose, and the symptoms can vary. While some women may experience a lot of pain and endometriosis has a huge impact on their lives, others will only notice mild symptoms. It is a condition in which cells that usually grow inside the uterus grow outside of it. These cells make up the uterine lining, which thickens and sheds with each menstrual cycle. If this condition reaches a moderate or severe stage, it can affect your fertility, your hormonal chemistry, and even the lining of your uterus.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive system which includes the womb, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Symptoms include pelvis pain during sex, pain while peeing, bleeding between periods and after sex and very heavy and painful periods.
PCOS is a condition where the ovaries produce higher than normal amounts of male hormones. Symptoms include irregular periods, excess androgen – high levels of “male” hormones in your body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair and polycystic ovaries – your ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs (despite the name, you do not actually have cysts if you have PCOS).