Women’s Month 2023

Spotlighting the importance of healthy periods

Certainly, one of the unique and amazing features that make women so special is their ability to conceive, carry a pregnancy and give birth to a baby, thanks to a monthly sequence of events in their bodies that prepare for the possibility of pregnancy, called the menstrual cycle.

Healthy menstrual cycles are a crucial component of a woman’s reproductive health. Irregular cycles, on the other hand, could indicate a health condition that requires medical treatment. This Women’s Day, our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic encourages all women who have concerns about their menstrual cycle, especially if they are trying to fall pregnant, not to delay in seeking medical assistance.

Every day at Medfem Fertility Clinic, we are inspired by the incredible resilience and strength that women demonstrate under the most difficult circumstances. This Women’s Month, we honour the remarkable tenacity of women and their unwavering spirit, and acknowledge their vital role in shaping our society.

Women have proven to us time and again that they can overcome challenges, break barriers, and create positive change. This is true even when facing one of the greatest life challenges that, sadly, increasing numbers of women encounter today: infertility, or the inability to achieve a pregnancy without medical assistance. Among the many possible causes of this medical condition is irregular or even completely absent periods.

Many women also struggle with prolonged or painful periods. During Women’s Month this year, our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic would like to share important information about menstrual cycles that all women should know, as well as to spread awareness that women who have concerns about their menstrual cycle or are not having healthy regular periods, should not delay in seeking medical assistance, especially if they are trying to fall pregnant.

What are healthy periods?

The menstrual cycle is part of a woman’s reproductive system and prepares her body for a possible pregnancy. The cycles are driven by hormones released at certain times during the menstrual cycle by the pituitary gland in the brain and the ovaries.

Hormones cause the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation of the possibility that a fertilised egg may implant there and become a pregnancy. Hormones also cause the ovaries to release an egg, called ovulation. The egg moves down the fallopian tubes, where it waits to be fertilised by sperm. If the egg is not fertilised or does not successfully implant to become a pregnancy, the lining of the uterus breaks down and sheds.

A woman gets her period or menstruates because of the shedding of the lining of the uterus. Most women experience bleeding for between three and seven days, and passes around 3 tablespoons of blood.

The average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days. However, a cycle can range in length from 21 days to about 35 days and still be normal. The cycle starts on the first day of your menstrual period, when the bleeding begins, until the first day of your next menstrual period.

Every person’s cycle is slightly different, but the process is the same.

When are periods considered irregular?

Some examples of an irregular menstruation include periods that occur less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart; bleeding that’s much heavier or lighter than usual or lasts longer than seven days; passing blood clots; experiencing severe pain, cramping, nausea or vomiting during a period; bleeding or spotting between periods; and not having a period for three months (or 90 days).

What could cause irregular periods?

There are many possible causes of irregular periods, but the reason why the vast majority of women are not ovulating or ovulating regularly is confused hormonal signals from the body.

The pituitary gland regulates ovulation by secreting two hormones – FSH and LH – that are essential to normal ovulation. An abnormality with the secretion of these hormones will result in irregular ovulation, referred to as pituitary dysfunction, or even the absence of ovulation, called pituitary failure.

Not releasing an egg for more than three months is called anovulation, and it causes irregular periods or no periods at all. Ovulatory dysfunction refers to cycles that are shorter than 21 days, or longer than 36 days, or where the length of cycles varies widely from month to month. Amenorrohoea – or the absence of periods – is experienced by many women with ovulation issues.

These possible causes of ovulation problems are often associated with and/or indicative of general health problems.

For example, being just 10 to 15% over your ideal body weights can contribute to ovulation problems. Weight lost in women who do not ovulate will often cause the normal process to resume. Being overweight is also linked to PCOS.

PCOS, short for polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a condition where eggs mature in the ovaries but are not released and thus develop into cysts. It affects up to 10% of reproductive-aged women. Notable symptoms of PCOS include disordered or lack of ovulation as well as excess facial and body hair growth, hair loss, acne, skin discoloration, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and/or elevated cholesterol.

Endometriosis is another reproductive health condition that that interferes with ovulation and occurs when the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows in other places of the body, forming cysts.

Heavy exercise and low body weight can also stop ovulation, but it can be restored by returning to moderate exercise and nutrition. In addition, emotional and other stresses such as bereavement can take a toll on a woman’s health and her fertility. Early menopause will also affect menstrual cycles.

How do irregular periods affect infertility?

When a woman is anovulatory, she can’t get pregnant because there is no egg to be fertilised. If a woman has irregular ovulation, she has fewer chances to conceive, because she is ovulating less frequently. Furthermore, late ovulation does not produce the best quality eggs, which will also substantially reduce the chances of fertilisation.

It’s also important to remember that irregular ovulation indicates that the hormones in a woman’s body are not balanced. These hormonal irregularities can sometimes lead to other issues, like lack of fertile cervical mucus, thinner or over thickening of the endometrium (where the fertilised egg needs to implant), abnormally low levels of progesterone, and a shorter luteal phase, all of which will affect the chances of conception.

How can you track your period?

Because an irregular period can be a sign of a medical problem, it’s a good idea to keep track of your menstrual period.

At Medfem, we believe in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone. For this reason, we have made available a free Medfem Ovulation Calculator, which will help you to keep track of your cycle easily. You can access it by visiting our online ovulation calculator page here.

If you detect up any irregularities in your cycles or if you are concerned about your menstrual periods for any reason, we urge you to speak to a doctor without delay, and if you trying to conceive, we would like to invite you to meet one of our fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic.

Simply click here to book an initial consultation, or here to book a virtual consultation via Zoom or Skype or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.

We look forward to meeting you at Medfem Fertility Clinic!


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