Women's Health - March 29, 2022

Women's Health 101

Hormones, fertility, blood tests, menopause and UTIs.

Women's Health - March 29, 2022

Hormones, fertility, blood tests, menopause and UTIs.

Women’s health can be complicated and sometimes overlooked - here you can find symptoms of certain female health complications or illnesses, as well as advice on dealing with them. We will touch on: hormones, fertility, blood tests, menopause and UTIs. It is important to note that the conditions discussed in this blog may also affect trans and non-binary people.

Hormones

Your normal hormone cycle changes during certain stages: puberty, pregnancy, if you are breastfeeding and during menopause. There are many possible causes of a hormone imbalance, which are outside of the natural changes during stages of your life. Because of this, it is important to understand the symptoms of a hormone imbalance, so you are able to spot if you may be encountering one. Hormone imbalances can produce a variety of symptoms, these include:

  • Irregular periods

  • Acne

  • Abnormal hair growth

  • Feeling very lethargic

  • Weight gain/loss

  • Menopausal symptoms

Most hormone levels can be checked through a simple blood test. Checking hormone levels provides peace of mind and is the first step to addressing any issues you may have. 

There are a few natural ways to balance your hormones - all of which contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle. These include:

  • Eat enough protein at every meal

  • Engage in regular exercise

  • Avoid sugar and refined carbs

  • Consume healthy fats

  • Avoid overeating and under-eating

Fertility

Only 1 in 7 couples have trouble conceiving, however it is often a very emotional process and not commonly talked about. 84% of couples conceive naturally within the first year of trying - this increases to 92% after two years, and 93% after three years. Conception investigations happen after one year of trying. There are a few reasons someone may experience fertility issues, including:

  • Having endometriosis

  • Uterine fibroids

  • Thyroid disease

Besides these common causes, there are also risk factors to be aware of. These include age, weight, STIs, smoking, alcohol and stress. There are fertility treatments available, such as medical treatment to support regular ovulation, surgical treatment for conditions such as endometriosis, and assisted conception (e.g. IVF). 

If you are struggling with fertility, there are a number of charities and support networks available, such as The Fertility Network

Blood tests to consider

There are 4 key blood tests that are recommended for women to have regularly. The recommended blood tests are:

Blood sugar tests

  • This checks your glucose levels and should be done once a year

  • This is to check for diabetes and pre-diabetes

Liquid panel

  • Used to assess your heart disease risk

  • Only needed regularly if you have diabetes or an increased risk of heart disease

Thyroid-stimulating hormone and T4 test

  • Checks the production of hormones and checks your thyroid is working correctly

Vitamin D test

  • Lack of vitamin D can cause fatigue, and is essential for good bone health

The Menopause

Menopause occurs when a woman no longer has periods and her ovaries lose their reproductive function. Usually, this occurs between ages 45 and 55 with the average age being 51. 

Menopause happens in stages, with the first being perimenopause - this is the transitional stage before menopause and can cause menopause-like symptoms. Perimenopause can last for years and most often it starts around the ages of 40-44. Postmenopause is the term used to describe someone who has gone through menopause and has not had a menstrural period for longer than 12 consecutive months.

Common symptoms of menopause include:

  • Hot flushes

  • Night sweats

  • Sleeplessness

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Low mood

  • Lack of libido

You can ease symptoms through lifestyle management techniques such as: a healthy diet, regular exercise, stop smoking, drink within reason and make use of health screenings. Symptoms can come and go throughout the duration and the cycle of menopause.

There are approximately 13 million women in the UK that are either peri or post menopausal. If you are struggling with menopause symptoms, it is important to remember you are not alone in this. 

UTIs

It is estimated that 1 in 2 women will get a UTI in their lifetime, with many getting repeat UTIs. The symptoms include a burning sensation when passing urine, frequent or intense urges to pee, dark or cloudy urine, feeling shaky and pain in the lower abdomen. 

Mild UTIs often resolve themselves, as long as you drink plenty of fluid. Most severe UTIs can be treated with a course of antibiotics. If you have the symptoms, book a doctor visit or phone consultation to get treatment. It is important not to ignore a persistent UTI as they can develop into kidney infections. 

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