Postmenopause

The menopause is a natural stage of any woman’s life, marking the end of the menstrual cycle. Known to cause a variety of unpleasant side effects, you may not realise that the symptoms can begin long before your periods end, and last way longer than you think.

After going through the menopause, you enter postmenopause. So, what exactly is postmenopause and what can you expect?

What is Postmenopause?

The menopause occurs in three different stages. First, you have the perimenopause which begins 8-10 years in the lead-up to the menopause. The menopause itself is diagnosed when you haven’t had a menstrual cycle for at least a year, and 12 months after that is when the final stage begins – postmenopause.

When you reach postmenopause, your hormone levels are consistently low. You won’t have any more periods and will no longer be able to fall pregnant. Due to the changes that occur within the body, you’ll also be at an increased risk of various conditions. These include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Changes in vaginal health
  • Depression and mental health issues

The increased risk of these conditions means you need to be extra-vigilant about your health.

Managing postmenopausal symptoms

As you enter postmenopause, you will continue to experience lingering side effects such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, dry skin, and mood swings. The good news is that in most cases these symptoms do start to become less intense.

If your symptoms have become more intense and they are impacting your daily life, you should seek advice from a medical professional. It could be that you have an underlying health condition that needs to be treated.

Hormone therapy medications can help to ease side effects of postmenopause. However, they do tend to cause their own side effects. Another option is to make healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. There is some evidence to suggest a plant-based diet can help ease the symptoms as they are natural sources of oestrogen.

If you are struggling to manage the symptoms by yourself, don’t hesitate to seek medical help. There are lots of treatment options available to help.

Book a menopause health check

Due to the increased health risk posed by postmenopause, having a regular menopause health check is important. It is recommended you undergo a check-up every year to monitor your health and ensure there are no underlying issues.

When you book a menopause health check with SureScan, you will first undergo a consultation with an expert consultant gynaecologist. A number of tests and examinations will be carried out, such as a blood pressure check, and an abdominal examination. This check can help to put your mind at ease, as well as protect you against the health complications associated with postmenopause.

Cervical Screenings

According to the latest statistics released by NHS Digital, cervical screening saw just over a 15% increase in 2021-2022 compared to the previous year. While this is a step in the right direction, there are still thousands of women who are missing out on this crucial service.

Here, we look at the latest data, who cervical screening is for, and why it is so important.

Cervical screenings rates rise, yet 3 in 10 are not adequately screened

Annual figures released by NHS Digital show that 3.5 million people aged 25-64 were treated by the Cervical Screening Programme in England during 2021-2022. This is an increase of 15.5%, up from 3.03 million the year prior.

NHS Digital has credited the rise in screenings to an increase in invitations being sent out, an increase in eligible population, and a catch-up from the COVID pandemic backlog. Out of everyone who was screened, a total of 235,000 women were referred to undergo a colonoscopy, which is a 33.2% increase on the previous year.

Although there are more patients undergoing screening, 3 in 10 people are currently inadequately screened. The age group reporting the biggest shortfall in screening in England were women aged 25-29.

Result turnaround times falling short

It isn’t just getting women screened that poses an issue. Result times are also falling short of where they should be. According to national standards, 98% of women should have their test results within two weeks. However, in 2021-2022, 80% of patients received results in this time period.

Waiting times for results different by region, with those in the south-east region receiving the fastest results. Those in the West Midlands had to wait the longest.

Who should undergo cervical screenings?

Cervical screening, also referred to as a SMEAR test, should be undertaken by premenopausal women, and anyone who is sexually active.

The test largely aims to identify HPV (Human Papillomavirus), an infection that develops through skin-to-skin contact. Even those who have had very few sexual partners are still likely to develop the virus at some time in their lives. In most cases, it is completely harmless. However, it can develop into various types of cancers, including cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is extremely difficult to detect in its early stages as it doesn’t typically produce any symptoms. That is why screening regularly is crucial. Attending cervical screening appointments gives you the best chance of identifying cervical cancer early.

Keep in mind that if HPV is detected during screening, it does not mean that you have cancer.

At SureScan, we know cervical screening can be daunting and many women can feel embarrassed. Our friendly experts will help to make the experience as quick and painless as possible. Undergoing cervical screening is crucial, and could potentially save your life.

risks of ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are common, with approximately one in 10 women in the UK requiring surgery to remove them. The fluid-filled sacs develop on the ovaries, and most of the time they heal by themselves without the need for treatment.

While most ovarian cysts will clear up by themselves, there are various risk factors you need to be aware of. Here, we look at the main risks of ovarian cysts and how to tell when you need to seek medical help.

What are the risks of ovarian cysts?

Most of the time, ovarian cysts aren’t a serious issue. You will have no, or minimal symptoms, and they will naturally clear up in time. However, there is a risk they could be an indicator of another issue, and they may cause complications if left untreated. Let’s look at some of the common risks of ovarian cysts to consider…

Ovarian cyst infections

One of the more serious risks of ovarian cysts is infection. If you have a pelvic infection, cysts can develop as a result, posing a significant risk if they rupture. A ruptured infected cyst can potentially lead to sepsis, which is a life-threatening immune response.

Women who have been diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease are at a greater risk of developing ovarian cyst infections. Antibiotic treatment is provided to eliminate the infection, or hospital treatment may be required to drain the cysts.

Pregnancy

Ovarian cysts are common in the first trimester of pregnancy. They will usually clear up by the second trimester, and they are there to produce hormones that help to continue the pregnancy.

If you are experiencing an Ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised egg has attached itself to the outside of the uterus, it can trigger the development of cysts. These types of cysts will need to be treated with either medication or surgery as they will worsen as the pregnancy progresses.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis causes the tissue lining to grow outside of the uterus. If the tissue grows in the ovaries, it can lead to the growth of cysts known as endometrioma. These types of cysts can grow larger as they fill up with blood.

If the cysts rupture, it can cause internal bleeding, so they do typically need to be removed. Endometrioma may need to be removed via surgery.

How to tell if you have a burst ovarian cyst

Although it sounds incredibly painful, not everyone will feel a burst ovarian cyst. Most women do feel some level of pain as the cyst bursts, followed by discomfort for a few days afterwards. Some of the most common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Vaginal bleeding/spotting
  • A sudden sharp pain within the lower abdomen or back
  • Abdominal bloating

If you experience a fever, severe nausea and vomiting, faintness, or heavy vaginal bleeding, you should seek immediate medical help.

In most cases, ovarian cysts can be treated with over-the-counter medications. However, it is best to undergo a check-up to determine the cause of the cyst, especially if you do suffer with endometriosis.

Prepare Your Body for a Baby

Trying for a baby can be both exciting and daunting. Contrary to popular belief, it can take couples up to a year to conceive when they are actively trying to get pregnant.

If you want to speed up the process and increase your likelihood of falling pregnant, there are things you can do to prepare your body for a baby. Here, we look at some of the best ways to prepare your body for a successful pregnancy…

Speak to a fertility specialist

If you are planning on starting a family but you’re struggling to conceive, it is worthwhile speaking to a fertility specialist. At SureScan, we offer in-depth fertility check-ups to determine why you might be struggling to conceive.

There are a huge number of reasons why couples struggle to conceive. Whatever the problem may be, there are effective treatment options to help you achieve your dream of starting a family.

Understand your menstrual cycle

Having a good understanding of your menstrual cycle is one way to increase your chances of falling pregnant. During each cycle, you have six fertile days which typically fall before and on the day of ovulation.

There are some great apps you can use to track your menstrual cycle. This will help you to see when you are at your most fertile.

Quit smoking

According to the NHS, smoking can reduce fertility in women, reducing the quality of their eggs. Smoking is also linked to poor sperm health and early menopause. If you currently smoke, quitting will help to increase your fertility, and prevent long-term damage.

If you need help to quit, there are some excellent resources on the NHS website.

Eat well and exercise regularly

Both men and women who are looking to boost their chance of conceiving can benefit from a healthy diet and regular exercise. Women can take folic acid to increase their chances of falling pregnant, and both sexes should increase their intake of folate, which is the natural form of folic acid. Foods such as brown rice and green leafy vegetables are packed full of folate.

Exercising regularly can help to keep your weight under control, which will also aid in fertility. Obesity and being overweight can decrease your chances of conceiving. It can play havoc with your periods, which ultimately impacts your chances of getting pregnant.

Minimise stress

Finally, if you stand any chance of conceiving, you need to keep your stress levels to a minimum. This is often easier said than done, especially if you are stressed because you aren’t falling pregnant. The trouble is, when you are stressed your sex drive can decrease. It can also cause issues within your relationship. Spend time together where you can just relax and have fun. If possible, get away for a few days to truly switch off and relax.

The advice above will help you to prepare your body for a baby and increase your chances of getting pregnant. However, if nothing you try is working, it could be an indicator of a deeper issue. Book an appointment with one of our friendly fertility specialists today.

Perimenopause

Current support for women going through menopause has been criticised as being inadequate. A new report published by the Menopause All-Party Parliamentary Group, has revealed long waits for patients to access support, alongside failures in treatment.

Now, MPs are being urged to provide all women with a menopause check at the age of 45. As the group calls for action to help address the inadequacies in menopause care, patients are urged to watch out for early symptoms.

Signs of Perimenopause

Identifying early menopause symptoms can help to speed up diagnosis. Here’s the signs that you are heading for perimenopause:

Hair thinning/loss

During the lead up to the menopause, your hormone levels begin to fluctuate. Your oestrogen and progesterone hormone levels start to rapidly decrease, causing the hair to thin and grow much slower than usual.

Sebum production is also decreased, making the hair appear dull and lifeless. Eventually, the hairs get so thin that they stop growing completely. This can result in patches of hair loss on the scalp. You will typically notice the hair starting to thin around 2-3 years before menopause.

Anxiety and depression

During perimenopause, many women experience changes in their mood. This again is down to a drop in oestrogen, increasing the risk of anxiety and depression. There is also evidence to suggest those who suffer severe PMS, and who experienced postnatal depression, are at a greater risk of mental health issues during menopause.

Hot Flushes

As your hormone levels fluctuate, it can bring on sudden, unexpected hot flushes. One of the most common symptoms of menopause, many women don’t realise hot flushes can often start during perimenopause.

Hot flushes can come on at any time, and they may be severe or mild. Despite how common it is, there are very few treatments available to combat this symptom. However, simple lifestyle changes such as limiting caffeine intake and getting enough sleep, have been shown to help.

Brain fog

If you find it increasingly difficult to think clearly and function mentally, it could be a sign of perimenopause. It could be you have brief memory lapses or forget people’s names. Often these symptoms are a result of a lack of sleep, stress, and hot flushes.

These are some of the most common symptoms to watch out for. If you suspect you are going through perimenopause, seeking help from your doctor will help you to get the treatment you need as early as possible.

Book a Menopause Health Check

If you are struggling to get the diagnosis you need, book a menopause health check today. SureScan provides in-depth, friendly assessments for peri and postmenopausal women. Following a consultation with a consultant gynaecologist, a range of tests and examinations will be carried out. You will be advised on how to manage the symptoms, and be offered a range of treatment options.

Pregnancy BMI

A new study has revealed that obesity in pregnancy is linked to cardiometabolic dysfunction in children. Not only can it increase the risk of severe cardiovascular issues later in life, but it can also lead to a shorter lifespan.

Today, more than half of women who attend antenatal care are clinically obese or overweight. However, the latest study also highlights that simple lifestyle changes could help to mitigate the risk.

Here, we’ll look at how pregnancy BMI links to cardiovascular disease, and the simple changes you can make to reduce the risks.

How does pregnancy BMI link to cardiovascular issues?

Obesity and being overweight during pregnancy is known to increase the risk of multiple complications. As well as raising the risk of gestational diabetes, thrombosis, caesarean birth, and high blood pressure, it is now known to link to cardiovascular disease in children.

The new study aimed to discover whether simple lifestyle choices could help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Participants with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 in early pregnancy were randomised in the trial. Some were provided with diet and exercise intervention, while others were presented with standard pregnancy care. Those partaking in the intervention treatment underwent one-to-one counselling, eating low-glycaemic index foods, moderate exercise, and limited their saturated fat intake.

Results of the trial showed that when lifestyles changes were made, it protected infants against cardiac remodelling. This limited the risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.

Led by researchers from the King’s College London, the UPBEAT (UK Pregnancies Better Eating and Activity Trial) multicentre randomised controlled trial was part funded by the British Heart Foundation. Published in the International Journal of Obesity, the findings show that diet and exercise intervention are key to reducing cardiovascular risk in babies.

Making lifestyle changes to reduce the risks

While the new research does cause concern given the increase in the number of pregnant women who are obese or overweight, it also shows simple changes can reduce the risk.

Women are generally advised to maintain a healthy weight throughout their pregnancy. However, expectant mothers shouldn’t try dieting to achieve weight loss. Instead, making healthy changes such as maintaining a safe exercise plan, increasing the number of fruits and vegetables, and limiting the amount of saturated fat in the diet can help.

It is important that any lifestyle changes are monitored by a professional. Our Consultant Obstetricians are members of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (MRCOG), and are fully trained to advise women throughout their pregnancy.

The benefits of a pregnancy check-up

If you are overweight and you are worried about the effects it may have on your child, undergoing a pregnancy check-up may help to ease your mind. After an initial assessment, the healthcare practitioner will recommend various treatment options.

A pregnancy check-up also helps to ensure there are no hidden health problems and that the pregnancy is progressing as it should.

At SureScan, we offer a variety of pregnancy services. Give our friendly team a call on 0121 308 7774 to book an appointment today.

Baby Loss

Baby Loss Awareness Week is a national campaign held annually from 9th October. Losing a baby through a miscarriage can be devasting, but when it happens again and again it can prove unimaginably painful.

Recurring miscarriages affect around 1% of couples, or around 1 in 100 women. However, they don’t necessarily mean that you won’t ever carry a baby to full term.

New research published in the Lancelet, has highlighted the profound impact miscarriages can have on couples. Here, we shine a light on the impact recurrent miscarriages can have, and the options available to those who have experienced more than one loss.

The toll baby loss can have on couples

A study carried out by the charity Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage, discovered that a miscarriage can have a profound psychological impact. It quadruples the risk of suicide and doubles the risk of developing anxiety and depression. In terms of recurrent miscarriages, it can also link to pregnancy complications such as a premature birth, in future.

Experiencing multiple miscarriages can undoubtedly have a devastating impact on couples. That is why the charity is now calling for changes to the care and support couples receive in light of a miscarriage. Right now, many are left unable to access the help they need due to the current system.

What causes recurrent miscarriages?

It isn’t always possible to determine the cause of recurrent miscarriages. While some may be caused by lifestyle factors such as drinking excessive levels of alcohol or smoking, others are less obvious.

There are increased risk factors that were identified in the recent study, such as age – of either the mother or father. Also, very low or very high body-mass index, ethnicity, history of miscarriages, stress levels, working night shifts, air pollution, and exposure to pesticides.

In early trimester miscarriages, the leading cause tends to be related to chromosomal or genetic problems within the embryo. There may also be an issue with the structure of the uterus if recurrent miscarriages occur.

Undergoing a thorough health check is the best way to determine the root cause, and the best course of treatment to help couples undergo a healthy pregnancy.

Treatment options for recurrent miscarriages

If you have experienced three or more miscarriages, you can seek help from a fertility specialist. Undergoing an assessment can help you to understand why you are experiencing recurrent miscarriage.

To diagnose the issue, blood tests will be carried out to check for any abnormalities. Tests can also be provided to diagnose infections and check the shape of the uterus.

Recurrent miscarriages can be traumatic to go through. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t go on to have a healthy pregnancy. Many couples go on to have a healthy baby after suffering 3 or more miscarriages.

To gain a better understanding of what is wrong, book a recurrent miscarriage health check with our friendly and supportive team. Together, we will get to the root cause of the problem, and determine the best course of treatment.

Post-Menopausal Diet

The menopause may be a natural part of a woman’s lifecycle, but that doesn’t make its symptoms and side effects any easier to deal with. According to research, a staggering 85% of postmenopausal women experience one or more unpleasant menopause-related symptoms.

While there are excellent medications and treatments available to manage the myriad of symptoms, they too can lead to some nasty side effects. The good news is there are more natural ways to control the symptoms, such as making changes to your diet.

Here, you’ll discover the best post-menopausal diet you can follow, and what to do if you are suffering with the symptoms.

Research shows vegan soy-heavy diet can help to reduce hot flushes

Research carried out by the North American Menopause Society, has revealed that a plant-based, soy-heavy diet can help to reduce hot flushes. In a 12-week study, almost 60% of the women participating saw their hot flushes disappear completely. No additional medications were used, just half a cup of soybeans were added to soups or salads each day.

The fact that most women saw their hot flushes disappear is significant. Approximately 80% of post-menopausal women experience hot flushes and they can be one of the worst symptoms to deal with.

How your diet can help with post-menopausal symptoms

Hot flushes aren’t the only thing the right foods can eliminate. While a plant-based diet may be great at treating this common symptom, you might not want to give up animal products entirely.

When you go through the menopause, your estrogen levels drop. This in turn can cause the bones to become weaker over time, increasing your risk of Osteoporosis. Consuming dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt, can help to strengthen the bones naturally.

Healthy fats are also known to control hot flushes and night sweats. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon and mackerel, have shown to manage symptoms effectively.

Avoiding fatty and processed foods is also a good idea. These can make hot flushes, alongside other symptoms, worse.

Undergo a menopausal health check

While you may be able to control your post-menopausal symptoms with the right diet, there is help available if you are struggling. Diet alone isn’t always enough to reduce unpleasant symptoms, so a full health check may be required.

At SureScan, we provide a thorough menopause health check that can help to identify the best treatment to manage your symptoms. This includes a blood pressure check, an HRT consultation, blood tests, thyroid function tests, and advice on lifestyle changes you could make.

You don’t need to suffer in silence. There are many different treatments available that can help to eliminate post-menopausal symptoms. Get in touch to make an appointment by calling our friendly reception team on 0121 308 7774.

Fertility Rates

For the first time since 2015, fertility rates in England and Wales are on the rise. According to the Office of National Statistics, a total of 624,936 live births occurred in 2021, showing an increase of 1.8% from the year prior.

Up until now, fertility rates have seen a gradual decrease, causing concern amongst experts and patients alike. However, it isn’t all good news as statistics also show fertility rates are dropping in younger women.

Figures from the NHS show 1 in 7 couples have trouble conceiving. Here, we look at the changes in fertility and the options patients have if they are struggling to conceive.

What do the latest fertility rates figures mean?

The latest fertility figures show that total fertility rate has increased from 1.58 in 2020, to 1.61 in 2021. Notably, it is the first increase in fertility for almost a decade.

Fertility rates were at an all-time high in 1964, with the total fertility rate measuring 2.93. Since then, there has been a steady decline. Interestingly, fertility rates have started to improve in older women. It is younger women who are now showing a decline in fertility.

The biggest increase was seen in women aged 35-39, while the biggest drop was seen in women under the age of 20. There were also some geographical differences, with women in the east of England recording the highest number of live births.

What causes fertility issues in couples?

While the fertility rate may be starting to increase, there are still millions of couples who are struggling to conceive. There are a lot of potential causes of fertility issues for couples, such as:

  • Age
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Medical conditions
  • Poor sperm count and mobility

These are just a handful of causes of infertility. Couples who are struggling to conceive will therefore need to undergo a health check to determine the root cause of the problem.

Options for those struggling to conceive

If you and your partner have been trying for a baby for over a year, it could be a sign something is wrong. However, the good news is there are lots of potential treatment options available to help.

The first thing you should do is book a fertility health check. At SureScan, we provide these checks to single women and couples who are worried about their fertility. It looks for any potential problems such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease, emotional issues, and issues with male fertility.

Once the cause of the problem has been identified, you will then be presented with a recommended treatment plan to help make your dreams of having a family a reality. To ease your mind and get the help you need to conceive, book a fertility health check with SureScan today.

Bacterial Vaginosis

One in three women experience Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) at some point in their lives. However, according to a recent survey, over half of women have no idea what the condition actually is.

If you’ve never heard of BV, read on to discover everything you need to know about this common condition…

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition that affects vaginal discharge. It occurs when the natural PH of the vagina is off balance. Bad bacteria begins to take over, causing the area to become more alkaline. This in turn leads to infection, as well as limiting the effectiveness of the vaginal mucus.

The main causes of bacterial vaginosis include:

  • Perfumed soap
  • Excessive washing
  • Semen
  • Diet
  • Menstruation
  • Some antibiotics

The condition mostly causes an unpleasant smell, and an increase in the amount of discharge being produced. While it isn’t caused by an STI, it can increase the risk of you developing one.

Can it impact fertility?

In some cases, bacterial vaginosis can impact fertility. It is known to be three times more common in those who are infertile. There are several reasons why it may increase your risk of developing fertility issues including inflammation, and damage to sperm and egg cells.

When the immune system is fighting off inflammation, it creates a toxic fertility environment. The infection can also cause damage to the sperm and egg cells, as well as interfere with healthy cervical mucus development. There is also the chance the fallopian tubes may get blocked due to damage to scar tissue caused by the infection.

While a one-off bout of bacterial vaginosis may not be a concern, ongoing infections could lead to problems conceiving.

How can I tell if I have Bacterial Vaginosis?

The trouble with bacterial vaginosis is that over half of the women who have it don’t have any symptoms. However, the two symptoms you can watch out for are an unpleasant smell and changes within the discharge.

If you want to get a true diagnosis, undergoing a gynaecological scan will give you the answers you need. Carried out by gynaecological experts, these scans can be carried out at any age, and they look for a variety of potential health issues.

In cases where bacterial vaginosis is diagnosed, an effective treatment plan will be created to help resolve the issue. Once it has been resolved, providing there is no damage left over, it should bring your fertility rate back to normal. If not, a fertility check may be required to get to the root cause of the problem.