Once upon a time women weren’t able to discuss their health needs – orgasms was a forbidden topic of conversation, advertising for contraception was illegal and sanitary pads were impossible to hunt down in your local store. However, luckily times have changed. Women have become more vocal about their needs, with taboo-breaking social media campaigns such as #livetweetyourperiod and also become savvier due to a rise in more female-targeted products, which give women valuable health info about themselves.
We think sexual and reproductive health shouldn’t be an afterthought to general health care, it should be taken more seriously! In light of Fertility Awareness Week this week, we wanted to shed some light on how Natural Cycles, which is programmed to spot underlying fertility issues, can help you keep a closer eye on your health so nothing gets in the way of your reproductive goals.
As you may already know, changes in temperature throughout your cycle is directly linked to what is going on in your body. A rise in temperature indicates ovulation has occurred and a cooling of the body happens as your new cycle begins and you get your period. However, these events don’t always happen, which could be linked to your reproductive health. For instance, anovulatory cycles (no ovulation), frequent periods (short luteal phase) or excessive pain leading up to your period can all be indicators of a health issue that might need a closer look from your doctor. Here’s what to look out for!
Anovulatory cycles is when a women skips ovulation. Without ovulation it is impossible to get pregnant, which is why it is linked to infertility. Anovulatory cycles are common amongst women especially if you have only recently started your period, come off the pill, on the lead up to menopause or if you are breastfeeding.
Periods still appear as normal during anovulatory cycles as your endometrial lining still sheds (estrogen breakthrough bleeding), so if a woman is not tracking her cycle, it is likely that she may not even know she has had one.
The most common cause of anovulatory cycles is Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects 8 to 12 percent of all women. PCOS is strongly linked to lifestyle as are the occasional anovulatory cycles, which can be caused by obesity, stress, illness, thyroid dysfunction and even travelling.
Tell tale signs of PCOS are heavy periods, acne, facial hair and excess belly fat. And if you’re tracking your cycle your cycles will appear irregular, longer than average at around 35 days and you will have a lack of temperature shifts (rise of 0.2 – 0.45C), which indicates that no ovulation occurred. The algorithm will notify you if it captures an anovulatory cycle and furthermore, if your cycles are more than 40% anovulatory it will recommend that you visit a doctor to get assessed.
It is important to diagnose PCOS as there are simple changes that you can make to your lifestyle that can control it. Eco Watch has a great article to help women overcome PCOS through changes to their diet.
Frequent periods may be caused by an abnormality in your endometrial development – the lining of your uterus – which is known as a Luteal phase defect.
The luteal phase is the stage of your menstrual cycle that occurs after ovulation and before your period starts. During this phase, progesterone causes the endometrium to thicken in order to support the implantation of a fertilised egg, however, with luteal phase defect, the lining of the uterus does not grow properly, which can make it difficult to get or stay pregnant. This can be because either your ovaries do not release enough progesterone or the lining of the uterus does not properly respond to the progesterone.
Luteal phase defect is often characterised by a short luteal phase, which can difficult to diagnose as there is no single test that can but monitoring the number of days between ovulation and your period is a good start. Natural Cycles is a useful tool, as it will notify you if it suspects such irregularities if for instance your luteal phase is often found to be shorter than 9 days long.
Symptoms such as severe menstrual cramps and pain during intercourse can be indicative of a condition called, Endometriosis. It is a condition that affects around 10% of women and is where uterine cells that normally shed during menstruation implant in other places in the body. The cells that continue to act like uterine cells, create scar tissue at the time of menstruation which is what causes pain and often infertility.
If you experience painful menstrual cramps, it is worth monitoring your cycle to look out for other symptoms, such as premenstrual spotting, periods lasting longer than 8 days, low luteal phase temperatures near the cover line and feeling tired throughout your cycle.
If you suspect you might be suffering from endometriosis and not just bad period pains, speak to your doctor and ask whether it could be possible. Before visiting your doctor, It is worth knowing that endometriosis takes on average 7.5 years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis [Ref. 1] as many doctors believe it doesn’t occur in young women. Unfortunately, there is no way of preventing endometriosis but there are ways of managing symptoms and in some cases, eradicating the disease with surgery.
So there you have it Cyclers, the reproductive organs are important to track along with your general health like your heartbeat or sleep patterns! Sex-tracking technologies, like Natural Cycles, have the power to help people take more charge of their health and communicate better with their doctors so there’s no more guessing games!
- Diagnosis Survey. Endometriosis UK. February 2011.