How to cope with endometriosis and manage it moving forward

Endometriosis can be a challenging condition to deal with, both physically and emotionally. But with proper interventions and proper management and treatments after diagnosis, you can be shown how to deal with the associated symptoms of endometriosis and improve your quality of life. Please have a read of some of the best ways to cope with endometriosis.

Endometriosis can be painful disorder that is characterized by tissue that behaves like the lining of the uterus but that grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis is really normal tissue growing in abnormal places. This tissue can be found in various places, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic lining, and even in or around the bladder and bowel.

Endometriosis affects around 1 in 10 women and girls and those are only the ones diagnosed. This mean these figures are grossly under-diagnosed and downplayed with many women not being diagnosed properly and those that do not even know they have the disease. Endometriosis can cause symptoms during the reproductive years, between the ages of 12 and 60, but it can show up in young girls under 10 years old too.  Many people with the condition remain undiagnosed and many more and missed and dismissed with many taking up to ten years or more to be diagnosed.

The main symptom of the condition is usually pelvic pain typically associated with the menstrual period. While women can experience some discomfort during their menstrual period, some of those with endometriosis describe pain that is worse than usual. For some it is actually unbearable. There are also other symptoms such as painful periods, pelvic pain, ovulation pain, pain with sex, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel like symptoms, bladder issues and pain and bleeding on bowel movement. This is why all women need to know that period pain is not normal, because many times, period pain can actually be a sign that a woman has an underlining gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis

There is no cure for endometriosis (not yet anyway), but there are treatment options and lifestyle changes that can ease your symptoms so that the condition does not interfere with your day-to-day life. The main thing with endometriosis is to manage the disease and try and create a quality of life moving forward. While there is no cure for endometriosis, it is possible for women to become asymptomatic (meaning having no symptoms) and this requires the right treatments and management of the disease and to see the right people from the beginning. Again, it all gets back to who you are seeing and their experience with knowing about endometriosis. This is one the biggest issues women face when trying to get treatment. Many just do not know much about the disease at all and why women are left to deal with the horrible symptoms. But with the right treatment and management, women can have a better life and be able to cope with this horrible disease.

Before we look at proper management for women with endometriosis, it is important that all understand the facts because there is so much misinformation out there and this is part of the bigger issue for women with this disease.

The Facts About Endometriosis

  1. Period Pain IS NOT Normal
  2. A significant portion of women with Endometriosis are asymptomatic
  3. Symptoms DO NOT correlate to the extent of the disease
  4. The only way to diagnose Endometriosis definitely is via surgical intervention
  5. There is NO cure for Endometriosis
  6. Having a baby will not cure endometriosis
  7. Endometriosis does not always cause infertility
  8. Endometriosis is Estrogen Driven and is not caused by Estrogen dominance
  9. The Pill, or Contraceptives DO NOT fix endometriosis
  10. You can have Endometriosis at a Young, or Older Age
  11. Hysterectomy does not cure endometriosis
  12. Endometriosis requires a multi-modality approach to be managed properly. You need a team for proper management
  13. Endometriosis IS NOT an autoimmune disease
  14. There Are Hereditary and Genetic links
  15. Endometriosis can cause many other issues in the body
  16. The first line approach for hormone therapy should be the use of progesterone only options
  17. Endometriosis needs to be excised (cut out) by an advanced laparoscopic surgeon, who has had extra years of specialised surgical training, and who specialised in the excision of the disease and specialised in the disease itself. Surgery should be performed by anyone other than an advanced laparoscopic surgeon and not by just a regular gynaecologist
  18. Not all women with endometriosis have suffered sexual abuse

 

What Women Can Do To Help Manage Endometriosis

1.Seeing the Right Specialist & Surgeon

First and foremost make sure you have seen someone who specialises in endometriosis and the management and treatments moving forward. You also need to make sure that your first surgery is your best surgery and that you have seen an advanced laparoscopic surgeon to ensure you have had the proper surgical intervention. This is many women’s biggest issue as they have not seen the proper surgeon initially and they aren’t seeing someone who specialises in the management of the disease moving forward.

2.Watch your diet

Eating the right foods may provide some protection from the symptoms of endometriosis. The role of diet in endometriosis has been investigated in recent years due to the influence of diet on some of the processes linked to the disease, such as inflammation, prostaglandin metabolism, and estrogen activity. Many of the so called endometriosis diets out there are now outdated and have outdated nutritional and dietary advice that don’t really help much at all. Women need to adopt an anti-inflammatory (grain free, primal, ketogenic style diet) to help with settling any inflammation in the body and also helping the immune system. This also needs to include prebiotic and probiotic bacteria to help with digestive function, immunity and gut health.

Certain environmental estrogens such as preservatives, plastics, pesticides and insecticides that can be ingested through certain nutrients have been suggested as risk factors for exacerbating endometriosis too.

Excess body fat, now known as obestrogens (because it is estrogenic) needs to be controlled and managed through diet and exercise too. We know that estrogen drive endometriosis and that any estrogens (dietary, body fats, environmental etc) needs to be regulated and controlled.

3.Boost intake of omega-3 fatty acids

Researchers have also found that the type of fat included in your diet makes a difference in your risk of endometriosis. Studies have shown that people whose diets were heavily laden with trans fats increased their risk of the expression of endometriosis by 48 % when compared with individuals who ate the least of these. By comparison, women whose diets were rich in omega-3 oils lowered their risk of endometriosis by 22 % compared with those who consumed the least amount.

Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, flaxseeds, almonds, and walnuts, may be helpful for endometriosis. Women should also be supplementing with Omega 3 oils too. Just remember, it is all about reducing inflammation.

4.Exercise

Often, people who experience pain fear exercising, in case it causes more problems for them. But over time, regular physical activity may decrease the pain and discomfort that you feel. High-intensity exercise and resistance training can help to reduce the symptoms of endometriosis.

Exercise may help those with endometriosis in many ways, including:

  • encouraging the circulation of blood to your organs
  • maintaining nutrients and oxygen flow to all your body systems
  • decreasing estrogen production
  • reducing stress
  • releasing endorphins in the brain, which are pain-relieving, “feel good” chemicals

Women who regularly exercise may be likely to have the symptoms associated with endometriosis. Research has shown that those who engage in frequent high-intensity physical activity have fewer symptoms of  endometriosis than women who do not participate in regular exercise. High-intensity physical activity, such as running, swimming, weight training etc, may be beneficial for reducing your symptoms.

Low-intensity exercise, including Yoga and Pilates may provide some relief in endometriosis, too. Yoga and Pilates can stretch and strengthen your muscles, help with core strength, help with circulation, which all may be beneficial for pelvic pain management and stress reduction.

5.Managing Stress Levels

Stress is a big factor in any disease and can make any disease worse. Not only can stress be exacerbated by endometriosis, but so can endometriosis symptoms be exacerbated by stress, in a never-ending cycle. Endometriosis could contribute to making your stress levels worse, due to the impact that the associated symptoms have on all aspects of your life, including family and personal relationships and work.

Stress management, Counselling, Mindfulness and Relaxation techniques can help to reduce stress that exacerbates endometriosis-related symptoms and pain.

Women with endometriosis need to manage stress by using mindfulness and relaxation techniques. These can help you to increase your awareness of your body, refocus on something calming, and reduce the activity of stress hormones and inflammation in the body. It is all about learning coping mechanisms and what works best for you, not what works best for others.

6.Try complementary medicine and therapies

Many women with Endometriosis find symptom relief from using a range of different complementary and alternative medicines. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also recommends that women try natural medicines to help with the management of endometriosis and the associated symptoms. There is now some good research to support many natural medicines treatments such as acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, vitamins, omega 3 oils, probiotics, chiropractic/osteopathy, yoga, pilates and more.

Out of all the natural medicine therapies, Acupuncture and Chinese medicines has been the most researched and have shown to be the most beneficial to those suffering this disease and its associated symptoms.

Certain strains of prebiotics and probiotics have also been shown to help with the immune system, microbiome, bowel, and digestive associated symptoms of endometriosis. Probiotics have also been shown to not only help with digestive and immune function, but also with the psychological function as well. It does need to be specific strains of probiotics though.

Just like with medical treatments, when it comes to complementary medicines, it is important to find someone who is a qualified practitioner and who specialises in endometriosis. Just like in the medical model, this can also be hard to find.

7.Medications

Your endometriosis specialist can provide you with a list of treatment options for endometriosis and outline the risks and benefits of each. They will take into account your age, your symptoms, whether you want to become pregnant, and any treatments that you have had previously. It is important to manage pain and inflammation so that you can have a life and to be able to function daily.

You may need to use different forms of pain medications on script, as well as those that can be purchased over the counter. Please ensure you speak to your healthcare provider about setting up a pain management plan when using medications

You will also need to look at hormone therapy to help slow down the growth and expression of the disease and microscopic implants and also help with the associated symptoms of the disease. Hormones will usually be in the form of progesterone only medications and gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonists and agonists. You may be prescribed other hormones depending on your individual case and symptoms.

Although all of these hormone therapies are effective at treating endometriosis, but,  they all have different side effects. You need to talk to your doctor and pharmacists about the side effects and risk factors of any medications and hormones that you are taking.

In Summary

It is important to know that women with endometriosis will need a multi-modality, or team approach to deal with this disease. The team you need and modalities that you will need will be dependent on your individual symptoms. Try and find healthcare professionals that can offer you a multi-modality approach for ongoing care and support and who also have a team of other people who specialise in the disease too. Again, the approach that you and your specialist choose to take will vary depending on your signs and symptoms, and whether or not you would like to become pregnant in the future.

Before starting any treatment, it is important to know all of your options and the potential outcomes of all of them and to know that the people that you are seeing are specialists in endometriosis and know how to manage the disease properly. That can often be the hardest thing to find and why you need to do your homework and see people who are specialists in this area of medicine.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

-Period Pain IS NOT Normal

 

Incontinence, Bladder issues and Weak Pelvic Floor

Incontinence is often an embarrassing condition that will have more than a third of people suffering in silence because they are too embarrassed to seek treatment. Both men and women can suffer incontinence. Although patients don’t die of incontinence, they often can’t live a fully productive life, they may have to curtail their workload or change jobs. Many factory workers and school teachers are only allowed set times for toilet breaks, so patient with urge incontinence may have to change jobs. Patients who work in the military or the police force may have to resort to desk jobs. Too many women with incontinence stop having sexual intercourse, either because they are afraid they will leak during sex, or else they actually do leak, either at penetration, or at time of orgasm, which can be very disastrous. While men can also suffer incontinence, I am mainly going to focus on the causes of incontinence in women for this post.

Many people don’t seek treatment because they also believe that surgery is their only option. Nothing could be further from the truth and surgery should only be used as a last resort once conservative methods have been used and aren’t working. Even then, the surgical approaches used today are less invasive, are very effective and the recovery is very quick. It is not like it was 10-20 years ago. Keyhole surgery has really made major changes in this area and new surgical techniques are so highly effective.  I know people want to avoid any surgery, but sometimes it is needed and these days the recovery rates are so quick. A few days out of your life for recovery, can actually change your whole life. I just do not understand why anyone would put up with a life with incontinence, prolapse, or weak pelvic floor, when these issues are so easily fixed these days. I know many patients are so amazed at how easily their incontinence issues was fixed and how amazing they feel in getting their life back again. No more leakage when they laugh, cough, or exercise.

Some people never seek treatment believing that incontinence is just a normal part of life. Again, this is not true and all and I encourage anyone with incontinence to come and talk to me, or you pelvic floor specialist, so we can help treat you and can also refer you to the right people for treatment and management if needed. I know my pelvic floor/urodynamic surgeon is amazing and what he can do for women and these issues is amazing too. Then I just help with the management and strengthening moving forward.

Like I said before, surgery isn’t always needed. Many times conservative measures such as pelvic floor exercises, core strengthening, bladder toning, topical estrogen therapy, internal TENS (electrostimulation) and pulse magnetic therapy can all product fantastic long term treatment to this often debilitating condition, without the need for surgery. There are also some special rings and other devices that can be used to prevent leakage and support prolapsed bladder and also vaginal prolapse causing incontinence. Men with incontinence also have options at hand and these can also be explored well before surgery is needed. What people need to be aware of too, is that if you have been doing all the conservative treatments, and they aren’t helping, then it is time to get some surgical intervention. I think people think that pelvic floor exercises with fix all bladder and pelvic floor issues, and this doesn’t work, then there is nothing that can be done to help them. I need for all women (and men) to know that there is always help for bladder and pelvic floor issues and you just need to see a specialist, not just your GP.

On a natural medicine level, acupuncture has been shown to be very effective in the treatment and management of pelvic pain, prolapse and incontinence. Anyone with incontinence should be using acupuncture as part of their overall management. There are also Chinese herbal medicines that can help with toning the pelvic floor and bladder to help stop incontinence. Yoga and Pilates may also help toning of the pelvic floor and help managing incontinence, pelvic floor and post-surgical management of prolapse too.

Incontinence and bladder issues are defined as needing to pass urine more than 8 times per day, leakage of urine through cough, sneeze, urge, or without cause. It is important to seek help if you notice damp underwear, need to use pads because of leakage or are constantly running to the loo to pass urine.

There are many different types of incontinence with the main ones defined as stress incontinence, urge incontinence and voiding dysfunction/incomplete emptying. There is also mixed incontinence (mix of the 3 main ones) and also a term called overactive bladder syndrome which can be a mixture of all forms of incontinence. There are also inflammatory bladder conditions that cause incontinence such as bacterial cystitis and interstitial cystitis. Physical issues such as previous surgery, childbirth and prolapse can also cause incontinence too.

The first task for the clinician is to find out how severe the incontinence is, based on the frequency of leakage, whether the woman finds it necessary to use incontinence pads, and if so how many pads. Some patients may prefer to change their underwear more frequently, while others may tuck tissue paper inside their underwear, and just throw away the tissues whenever they are damp.

The classic feature of stress incontinence is that the patient leaks with coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, playing sport or lifting heavy objects

The classic feature of urge incontinence is that the patient rushes to the toilet with an urgent desire to pass urine, but as she gets to the loo and is taking down her trousers, the urine comes away from her- sometimes before she has even sat down. Unfortunately these patients cannot predict when these bladder spasms will come upon them, and therefore can’t really tell when they are likely to leak.

Nocturia is defined as being woken up by your bladder needing to go to the toilet- as opposed to being woken up by a crying baby, a snoring husband, or menopausal night sweats. However nocturia is age dependent. Nocturia is defined as waking 1 or more times per night if under 60 years of age

Typically this patient Voiding dysfunction/ Emptying difficulty has to strain to commence voiding (called “hesitancy”). She may also have observed that when she compares herself to other women urinating in the toilets at the movies or in airports, her stream seems poorer than others with the urine dribbling out more slowly. She will often also describe the sensation of incomplete emptying and may need to go back to the toilet within a relatively short time to re-void. Sometimes she will leak as she gets off the toilet, which is how she realises that she is not empty. This is called post-micturition dribble incontinence.

In males these symptoms most commonly occur when the prostate gland is enlarged- causing a relative urethral obstruction and making it more difficult for the urine to get out. These men have chronic high residual urine, so they end up going to the toilet very frequently in a vain attempt to empty out. They often dribble urine onto their clothes. When such men have prostatic surgery they usually find that their urine flow rate returns to normal and they usually stop dribbling.

We will also need to explore how inflammation of the urinary bladder leads to suprapubic pain, and consider the two main causes of this, Bacterial Cystitis and Interstitial Cystitis .It often feels difficult to treat incontinence in the presence of bacterial cystitis, because such patients are overwhelmed by frequency and urgency of micturition and they may experience disabling suprapubic pain. It is fixable with the right treatment though. It all gets back to who is managing you.

On the other hand, a separate cause of Urinary Pain, called Interstitial Cystitis, does not usually cause much incontinence at all- it just causes suprapubic (bladder) pain with severe frequency and urgency of micturition.

The overactive bladder (OAB) is a clinical syndrome, not a urodynamic diagnosis. It comprises frequency, urgency, and nocturia, with or without urge incontinence.

Gynaecological conditions such as Endometriosis and Adenomyosis etc can also cause issues with bladder and pelvic floor.

Please read my post on Atrophic vaginitis as this is also another cause of weakness in the pelvic floor and bladder and could be a cause of incontinence.

No matter what sort of incontinence you have, there is always an answer and a solution to your problem. Not all solutions are surgical either. More often than not some conservative treatments, some exercises and some acupuncture is all that is needed. Sometimes all some women need is some treatments with estrogen creams to help with tone in the vagina, bladder and pelvic floor

Surgery and now bionic devices are always an option for those whom have tried conservative options and aren’t getting the desired results. Surgery is often used because of quality of life issues. Again surgery these days is so effective and less invasive and the recovery is so much quicker due to keyhole surgery and new surgical interventions.

If you are experiencing incontinence or bladder issues, please book in and see me, or a good pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, so you can be evaluated properly and see what is going on and implement the right treatment strategies to get your quality of life back again. Many times there may be an easy non-invasive treatment for your particular issues. Even when surgical intervention is needed, these days even this is less invasive than it used to be and the recovery and results are very quick.

Please read my post of Atrophic Vaginitis as well as this all ties into this area too, especially for those women in the menopause and post menopausal time of their life.

 

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-No Stone Left Unturned

– Women’s & Men’s Health Advocate

The Different Colours of Semen and What These May Mean

Many men often believe they have healthy sperm and healthy semen just because they were born male. The fact is that these days men’s sperm is now not as good as men’s sperm was 50 years ago. Much of this is now blamed on environmental estrogens and also dietary and lifestyle factors. Let’s face it, many guys are big alcohol drinkers, they eat poorly and some of the population are also indulging in recreational drugs regularly too.

To put it honestly, many of the male populations sperm are drunk, stoned and have so many defects from the lifestyle their owner has been living. The fluid they swim in, the seminal fluid, is often contaminated and not that much better.

While many men may want to believe they could impregnate every woman in their sight, or at the local bar, many men are flat out getting the woman they are with pregnant.

As I have often said, many often look at the female as being the major factor in the reproductive and fertility journey, yet to be honest; men are more than 50% of the issues faced with fertility and up to 85% of miscarriage issues are related to chromosomal and DNA factors related to sperm. These chromosomal and DNA factors cannot be seen in a routine semen analysis either and does require specialised genetic testing.

Men’s overall health is reflected in his sperm and semen and this health is now known to be passed onto his offspring. Yes, what men eat, drink, smoke, think etc, is passed onto his offspring. That is why we say the healthier the man is, the healthier his sperm is. Healthy men produce healthy babies.

The colour of semen

Much can be seen in the quality of men’s sperm and much can also be seen by the colour of the seminal fluid that sperm are carried in.  While semen is typically a whitish-gray colour, there are some instances when semen may appear as a different colour, which is commonly yellow. Sometimes producing unusual coloured semen is a once-only occurrence. Other times, a man may notice a more consistent change in the colour of his semen. Although this occurrence is not always a cause for concern, there are some instances when semen colour change can be an indicator of an underlying medical condition, or that a man’s health and lifestyle may be affecting his seminal fluid and his sperm.

 

Fast facts about semen and colour changes

Semen is a gel-like liquid that males emit during ejaculation or sexual release. Semen contains sperm, which can fertilize a female egg. Several glands and male reproductive organs are responsible for producing semen and transporting it for ejaculation. Dysfunction of one or more of these areas could lead to semen colour changes. Treatments for unusual coloured semen will depend upon the underlying cause.

Semen as a substance is a combination of secretions from the male reproductive glands as well as sperm. Changes and disruption to these areas are what cause colour changes.

Colour changes to semen and what is could mean:

Yellow Semen

One of the main colour changes seen in sperm is that is changes to the colour yellow.
The urethra is the tube that urine and semen pass through, so urine may mix with semen to change the colour. Although semen is usually a whitish-gray color, some men may have sperm that can change to a yellow colour. However, if yellow semen represents a significant colour change for a man, this could be cause for concern.

While semen that is light yellow is not usually a cause for concern, there are instances when a man should see a doctor for yellow semen, especially when the semen is a dark yellow.

If a man has other symptoms, such as yellowing skin, fever and high temp, the semen that has a terrible smell, or he experiences pain when ejaculating, he should see his doctor.

Some potential causes associated with yellow semen include:

  • Jaundice: This results when the liver a dsyfunction of the liver, or when the liver is in overload. Jaundice can causes yellowing of the eyes and yellowing of the skin and the semen can appear yellow too.
  • Abnormally high white blood cells: Inflammation can produce excess white blood cells. When there is infection, or inflammation, additional white blood cells can cause semen to appear yellow.
  • STIs: A sexually transmitted infection may also cause yellow semen. It may also cause other symptoms and cause the semen to have a terrible smell too.
  • Dietary changes: Eating certain refined foods can cause yellow semen. The smell of ejaculate may also change if a man eats strong-smelling foods, or have too much alcohol, or recreational drugs.
  • Infrequent ejaculation: If a man has not ejaculated in some time; the semen is more likely to have mixed with urine. The quality of semen and sperm is affected by infrequent ejaculation too. Storing it up makes it worse, not better and this is why regular ejaculation is important for sperm quality.

Other semen colour changes and what they may mean

Semen can be other colours too. Some other potential colour changes a man may notice include:

  • Brown or red: Sometimes blood vessel may burst around the seminal vesicles. The release of blood can cause semen to take on a brown or red appearance. If the semen continues to be red after 1 to 2 days, a man should seek medical treatment.
  • Green-tinted: Green-tinted semen can indicate a potential infection of the prostate or surrounding tissues. A man who has green semen may need to see his doctor.

What do if your semen colour changes

It is not completely abnormal for a man to produce semen that varies in colour, texture, and even smell. This can be caused by a man’s diet, lifestyle, amount of alcohol he drinks, drugs consumed, medications he is taking, and the amount of time since he last ejaculated. Stress can also affect his sperm and semen.

If a man notices something out of the ordinary, or his semen remains discoloured for an extended period, he should contact his doctor who can diagnose the potential cause and provide peace of mind. Sometimes medications and antibiotics may be needed. In severe cases surgical intervention and hospitalisation may be needed too.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-‘Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader’

-‘No Stone Left Unturned’

 

 

 

 

 

What Is Lichen Sclerosus?

Lichen sclerosus is a long-term problem of the skin. It mostly affects the genital and anal areas. Sometimes, lichen sclerosus appears on the upper body, breasts, and upper arms. For this article I am just going to talk about Lichen Sclerosus of the genital region (Vulva) and more around how this affects women and how it can be treated and managed. Lichen sclerosus can cause itching, pain and scarring of the affected areas, but there are treatments available that can relieve symptoms and prevent and treat scarring.

Who Does Lichen Sclerosis Affect?

While anyone can get lichen sclerosus at any age, women after the menopause have the highest risk. In fact, it is about 10 times more common in women than in men. It is possible, but rare, for children to be affected.

What Are the Symptoms?

Early in the disease, small white spots appear on the skin. The spots are usually shiny and smooth. Later, the spots grow into bigger patches. The skin on the patches becomes thin and crinkled. The skin may also be inflamed and red or ulcerated from scratching.

Skin affected by lichen sclerosus can tear easily, and there may be tiny fissures (cracks in the skin). When severe, there may be bleeding and blistering.Sometimes, the skin becomes scarred. If the disease is a mild case, there may be no symptoms. 
Other symptoms are:

  • Itching (very common)
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Bleeding

Genital lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus that affects the vulva usually feels intensely itchy. There may also be pain, stinging, burning or discomfort, especially during sex or when urinating.

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic, or ongoing, condition, and over time it can lead to scarring. If this affects the vulva, it may narrow the entrance to the vagina, interfering with sexual intercourse.

Women with severe lichen sclerosus in the genitals may not be able to have sex. The disease can cause scars that narrow the vagina. Also, sex can hurt and cause the patches to bleed. However, treatment with creams or ointments can help. Women with severe scarring in the vagina may need surgery, but only after lichen sclerosus is controlled with medication. When the skin around the anus is affected, pain when emptying the bowels can lead to constipation.

What Causes Lichen Sclerosus?

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of lichen sclerosus. Some doctors think a too active immune system and hormone problems may play a role. In women, lichen sclerosus also seems to be associated with autoimmune diseases (conditions where the immune system attacks the body), such as lupus , alopecia and thyroid disease. It is also thought that people inherit the likelihood of getting the disease. There may also be a hormonal involvement as It is also more common after menopause, when there is less oestrogen in the body.

Lichen sclerosus is more likely to appear on skin that has been damaged or scarred from some other previous injury. Importantly, lichen sclerosus is not infectious and your partner cannot catch it during sex.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Lichen sclerosus can often be diagnosed from the appearance of the affected skin. It is important that your GP refer you to a pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, reproductive medicine specialist or women’s healthy specialist that specialises in conditions affecting the female reproductive organs. Sometimes a referral to a dermatologist may also be needed also.

Besides visual diagnosis, a biopsy may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis. This involves taking a small sample of affected tissue for a pathologist to examine under a microscope. This allows specialists to make sure that it is not a different disease.

Treatment of lichen sclerosus

Treatment of lichen sclerosus is aimed at:

  • Relieving symptoms of itch and discomfort;
  • Healing the lesions (returning the affected skin to its normal colour and texture);
  • Preventing the development of scar tissue; and
  • Treating any scar tissue that has developed.

Medical Treatments for Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is usually treated by applying a strong steriod cream, or ointment to the affected area. This is usually applied daily for several weeks, or months, and then less frequently (once or twice per week) long-term to prevent a recurrence.

Corticosteroid ointment or cream should be applied only to the white patches and gently rubbed in. Try to avoid applying steroid to the normal surrounding skin to help prevent side effects.

Symptoms such as itch may improve within a couple of days of starting corticosteroid treatment. Healing of lesions generally takes longer.

Women with Lichen Sclerosis will need regular follow up consultations and management with their specialist while using these creams and ointments for a long time because they can cause the following

  • Thinning and redness of the skin
  • Stretch marks where the cream is applied
  • Genital yeast infections.

Sometimes, women just do not get better using this medication and there could be other things that could be stopping symptoms from clearing up. This could be from the following:

  • Low estrogen levels
  • Infection
  • Allergy to the medication.

Other treatments

If topical steroid treatment is not effective, your specialist may recommend other medications and treatments that target the immune system and help control inflammation.

  • Sometimes other medications such as Retinoids, or vitamin A-like drugs are used and your specialist may also recommend laser treatment.
  • If scarring has occurred, this does not usually improve with steroid treatment. Scarring in females that is affecting sexual intercourse or urination may be helped by surgery
  • There are also some new medical treatments that are presently being researched and providing some amazing results options and I will discuss at a later date. They are actually natural medicines that are being used as a medical treatments. All I can say is that I have seen the results of this new treatment option and I think it is going to help many people. At present on of my colleagues, Dr Philip Hall, is using this treatment to help women as part of a research project. I will update people when I am allowed to say more about this new treatment.

Natural Medicine Treatments

  • There are natural medicine treatments that have been shown to help Lichen Sclerosus
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Homeopathy
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Nutritional Supplements
  • Diet and nutritional changes ( to help reduce inflammation)
  • Counselling ( to help with dealing with the long term affects of dealing with this disease)

Self-care measures for genital lichen sclerosus

The following self-care measures may help in the treatment of lichen sclerosus that affects the genital area.

  • Gently wash the area daily with warm water and pH neutral soap cleanser.
  • Try not to rub or scratch the area. This can sometimes be really hard when it is itchy and inflamed
  • Avoid tight clothing and any activities that may aggravate itching and discomfort, such as bike riding.
  • Your specialist may recommend you apply cream to gently moisturise and protect the area.
  • Women should use a mirror to become familiar with the location and appearance of their genital lesions, and to apply cream or ointment to the affected area of the vulva.

Complications and follow-up

If you have been diagnosed with lichen sclerosus then it is advisable to have regular follow-up appointments with your specialist every 6 to 12 months. In addition, genital lichen sclerosus is associated with a small, but important, increase in the risk of cancer developing at the affected site. Frequent check-ups are important to detect any cancers early on, when they can be more easily treated.

I have treated many women with Lichen Sclerosus in my years in practice and I do find that a multimodality approach is the best way to treat and manage this disease effectively. Sometimes you need to have a team to help treat this, just like many other diseases women endure.So many women are are at their wits end with this disease and all sorts of treatments that have not worked. I can say this if this disease is treated and manage properly, it can give women their quality of life back.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

Women’s & Men’s Health Crusader

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

 

 

 

 

Women with PCOS Have Four Times Higher Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

One of the hardest things I find that is hard to get through to women with PCOS, is their risk factors for type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and their increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It has long been known that the major driving factor behind PCOS is insulin resistance and this also increases the risk factor of developing diabetes for those with this endocrine/reproductive disorder.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is an endocrine/reproductive disorder that affects millions of women of reproductive age worldwide, and a new study has shown that it also put these women at a significant risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

PCOS is also the leading cause of female infertility and many women with this condition are often misdiagnosed, or do not know that they have it. PCOS is also a risk factor for miscarriage too. Please see my other posts about signs and symptoms of PCOS.  (Click Here)

All women with PCOS will have insulin resistance, either hereditary insulin resistance, or purely caused by diet and lifestyle choices. Insulin resistance is a condition wherein the muscles, fat, and liver do not respond properly to the hormone, so the body keeps producing more of it. Excessive insulin production is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. This is why it is so important for women with PCOS to follow a modified Ketogenic/low GI style diet and that the number one treatment for PCOS (as recommended by the World Health Organisation) will always be diet and lifestyle changes.

Young women with PCOS at risk

This new study investigated 54,680 women in total and found that younger women with PCOS are now more at risk of developing diabetes than older women with the disease. The study found that the risk factor for developing diabetes is four times greater for younger women. This is probably due to poor diet and lifestyle choices that many young women are choosing these days.

The increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes is an important finding and this is something that women with this disease should know, especially those who are obese and have PCOS as well. But it is important for women that are of normal weight, or even underweight to know that they are also at an increased risk as well. Just because you are underweight, or of normal weight, doesn’t mean you cannot have PCOS, or be at risk of diabetes.

This new research was carried out by Denmark-based scientists and the findings were published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader

-“The International Baby Maker”

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

Atrophic Vaginitis

Atrophic Vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis is a vaginal disorder that usually happens after menopause. When estrogen levels fall, the vaginal walls can become thin, dry, and inflamed. This then causes the surrounding tissue to lose its elasticity and become atrophied. This can be uncomfortable. Gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids can make someone more prone to atrophic vaginitis as well.

As many as 40% of postmenopausal women experience symptoms of atrophic vaginitis after menopause, but only 20 to 25 percent will seek medical help. Many women will not seek treatment because they feel embarrassed due to the sensitive nature of the condition. Some women just put up with it believing it is normal. Untreated, it can affect a woman’s quality of life and even lead to increased risk of prolapse and other gynaecological and urological conditions. Many of the treatments are non-invasive and are very effective in a short amount of time.

Symptoms of Atrophic Vaginitis

  • vaginal dryness
  • pain during sexual intercourse, or dyspareunia
  • thin, watery, yellow or gray discharge
  • paleness and thinning of the labia and vagina
  • irritation when wearing certain clothes, such as tight jeans, or when on a bike seat
  • more frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), or urinary tract like infections(which is from inflammation, with no infection present)
  • Vaginal Prolapse

Symptoms can also present in issues with the bladder and urination

  • painful urination
  • blood in the urine
  • increased frequency of urination
  • incontinence
  • increased likelihood and occurrence of infections, or irritation to the bladder that may feel like an infection

There may also be a reduction in pubic hair, and the vagina may become narrower and less elastic, which may cause a condition called vaginismus.

Causes

During perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause, a woman can have decreased levels of estrogen. When the ovaries stop making estrogen after menopause, the walls of the vagina become thin, and vaginal secretions are reduced. Similar changes can happen to women after childbirth, but these changes are temporary and less severe. These same changes can happen for women with endometriosis and adenomyosis and often why there can be changes to the wall of the vagina. Some of the medications used to help these conditions can also cause thinning of the vaginal wall and surrounding area. Many women with endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids etc, will have increased risk of atrophic vaginitis during the perimenopause, menopause and post-menopausal period.

Medications, or hormones, can be used as part of the treatment for breast cancer, endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, or infertility to reduce estrogen levels. This decrease in estrogen can lead to atrophic vaginitis.

Other causes of atrophic vaginitis include:

  • severe stress
  • depression
  • Surgery, or treatment to the pelvic area
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • rigorous exercise
  • chemotherapy

Other substances that can cause further irritation to the vagina are:

  • smoking
  • soaps
  • laundry detergents
  • lotions
  • perfumes
  • douches
  • tampons
  • yeast infections
  • condoms (due to latex allergy)

Diagnosis

The best person to see for this condition is a pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, or a women’s health specialist. While you GP can help with diagnosis of this condition, it is preferable to see a specialist who has more training in this condition and can help manage this moving forward. A specialist will carry out proper examinations, be able to diagnose this correctly and ask about medical history. They may ask about the use of agents that can irritate the area and cause or aggravate symptoms, such as soaps or perfumes.

Your specialist will also do tests to rule out STI’s and other possible causes of infections such candidiasis, bacterial vaginosis etc. Atrophic vaginitis can make the area more susceptible to becoming infected. It can occur alongside an infection. A diabetes test may be performed to rule out diabetes. A biopsy may be taken to rule out cancer.

Treatment

The first line treatment is usually conservative treatments with topical estrogen creams inserted into the vagina and focuses treatment on the affected area. A low-dose estrogen cream can be used to stimulate rapid reproduction and repair of the vaginal wall, tissue and cells. Women should be shown how to insert the creams with an applicator and then use their finger to help disperse the cream properly to get good coverage of the vaginal wall.

Creams are much better than pessaries, because pessaries often do not disperse well and may only give coverage to a small area. These creams are also safe to use for those at risk of certain cancers, or who have had hormone dependent tumors.

Some women may also need to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), in the form of a tablet, gel, patch, or implant to supply estrogen to the whole body. These estrogens are effective, but there may be side effects. Patients should discuss the risks of long-term HRT (especially breast cancer risk) with their healthcare practitioner.

Some women may also need to use a water-soluble vaginal lubricant may help to provide relief during intercourse, for mild cases.

Regular exercise is important, as it keeps blood flow and genital circulation high. Pilates and yoga is very beneficial for the pelvic floor and core stability and should be part of a woman’s overall lifestyle management. Women in the perimenopause and menopausal periods of their life should be doing some form of weight baring and strengthening exercise regularly.

Diet is also important and very effective in the overall treatment of atrophic vaginitis, menopause and gynaecological conditions. A low GI/Low Inflammatory based diet should be adopted and it is important to see a qualified nutritionist to help set out the right individualized diet for you.

There are also herbal medicines, supplements, omega 3 oils, and other natural based formulas that can help with atrophic vaginitis. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are very effective in helping with atrophic vaginitis, menopause and gynaecological issues such as endometriosis and adenomyosis. There are many natural medicines and natural treatments that can help with pain, hormone regulation and micro-circulation for the vagina, uterus, bladder and reproductive organs.

Prevention

Regular sexual activity and stimulation of circulation to the vagina can help prevent atrophic vaginitis. It is more around climax helping, rather than just sexual activity, or intercourse. Some women have pain during intercourse, or experience dryness, so foreplay and being well lubricated can help this. Using a water-soluble vaginal lubricant can soothe mild cases during sexual intercourse. Masturbation and stimulation without intercourse to produce climax may help those women who have pain with intercourse, or who may not have a partner.

Regular climax and sexual activity can also show benefits for both the elasticity and flexibility of the region. Women who have regular climax and are sexually active report fewer symptoms of atrophic vaginitis when compared to women who do not regularly climax, or have regular sexual intercourse.

Regular exercise, such as Pilates and Yoga can help with the pelvic floor, vaginal tone, bladder and reproductive organs.

A low GI/Low Inflammatory based diet should be adopted and it is important to see a qualified nutritionist to help set out the right individualized diet for you.

There are also herbal medicines, supplements, omega 3 oils, and other natural based formulas that can help with the prevention of atrophic vaginitis and assist with circulation and hormone regulation.

Fast facts on atrophic vaginitis

  • Atrophic vaginitis refers to dryness of the vagina.
  • Symptoms include painful intercourse and an increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs), or urinary tract like infections (due to inflammation of the bladder, not from infection).
  • It is caused by a reduction in estrogen, normally following menopause or treatment with anti-estrogen drugs. It can also be caused from gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids.
  • Topical treatments and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help relieve symptoms
  • Around 40 percent of postmenopausal women experience symptoms of atrophic vaginitis, but many do not seek treatment.

If you you need help with any of the symptoms mentioned above, please book in to see me for a consultation and management. If you cant see me, please get your healthcare practitioner to refer you to a specialist for diagnosis, treatment and management of this condition and its symptoms

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

-“The International Baby Maker”

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

 

Could you need an Iron Infusion?

Iron infusion: Uses, benefits, and what to expect

As a reproductive medicine and women’s health specialist I am used to seeing women with really low iron, due to various gynaecological conditions.

Many women do not even know they are low in iron until they get bloods tests to show that they are. Being low in iron can be very dangerous for a woman on so many levels.

Many women who are suffering from fatigue are actually low in iron.

Symptoms of low iron can include

Fatigue

Dizziness

Fainting, or feeling of feeling faint

Pale skin

Breathless

Frequent headaches

Palpitations, or racing heart

Easily irritated

Difficulty in concentrating

Cracked, or reddened tongue

Loss of appetite

Strange food cravings

Risk Factors For Low Iron

Heavy menstrual bleeds

Endometriosis

Adenomyosis

Fibroids

Coeliac disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Pregnant and Breast Feeding Women

Certain Cancers

Vegetarians and Vegans

Girls going through puberty

Certain illnesses

Sometimes when Iron gets too low, supplements just will not be enough to get iron levels up to where they should be quick enough. This is where iron infusions can be very effective.

So what is an Iron Infusion?

An Iron infusion is when iron is delivered via an intravenous line into a person’s body.

Increasing the amount of iron a person has in their blood can cure anaemia, or increase a low red blood cell count.

The body uses iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an important part of red blood cells and helps carry oxygen around the body.

If a person does not have enough hemoglobin, they can feel tired, or have symptoms mentioned previously. An iron infusion may be used for someone with an iron deficiency when supplements do not work.

As discussed before, there are a variety of medical reasons can cause low iron levels, so your doctor, or healthcare specialist will order iron studies and other tests to see what may be causing someone to be deficient in iron.

An iron infusion may be given if a person’s blood counts are so low that taking iron supplements or increasing their daily intake of iron-containing foods would be ineffective or too slow in increasing their iron levels.

What to expect

A person will go to a doctor’s office, hospital, or another healthcare facility to have an iron infusion. This is done intravenously and the infusion will take between 15-30 minutes if it is given in amounts of 200-300 milligrams (mg). In days gone by iron infusions would take hours to do and would have to be done in a hospital setting.

The new rapid iron infusions allow iron into the body much quicker and have little to no side effects compared to the older solutions that took hours to administer and were not as good as the new versions used now.

What happens after an iron infusion?

An individual can experience some mild side effects after an iron infusion. The symptoms are usually mild side effects such as headaches, metallic taste in the mouth, or some mild joint pain. Some people can feel faint and nauseas after an infusion but this is usually people who do not tolerate having blood taken, or having needles given. Reactions to infusion are rare, but your healthcare provider will explain all this too you. There are some people who may be allergic to iron, just like people can be allergic to certain foods.

Most people will only need one infusion done, but sometimes people with very low iron may need multiple infusions done. This will be after careful monitoring and testing to see where your iron levels are.

Usually iron levels will return to normal and symptoms of iron deficiency will decrease several weeks after the infusion. A doctor will regularly check the person’s iron levels and blood counts to ensure the iron infusion is working.

Iron infusion vs. injection

Doctors can administer iron to someone via an injection or an infusion.

Iron injections are given intramuscularly, but while iron injections may be faster than iron infusions to administer, they can have some unpleasant side effects. Some of the side effects can be pain at the site of the injection, bleeding into the muscle, and permanent discoloration at the injection site. This is why more doctors are now recommending iron infusions over the injections

Before and after the Infusion

Most people do not need to fast or stop taking their medications beforehand, and can also resume their everyday activities after an iron infusion.

If a person is taking regular iron supplements, however, a doctor will usually tell them to stop taking these about a week before the procedure. This is because the supplements may prevent the body from absorbing the iron from the infusion efficiently.

A person will need to resume iron supplements at some stage after the receiving iron infusions, t ensure levels stay where they should be. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to do this.

People who have a genetic issue called haemochromatosis should not ever have an iron infusion.

Iron infusions are now being used more and more, when iron levels are low and people are not responding to supplementation and adjustments to their diet. I recommend them to many of my patient who have low iron due to many varying reasons. Like I said said before, many of my gynaecology patients, fertility patients and pregnancy patients have very low iron levels and will actually need an infusion to get their levels up quickly.

If you are feeling tired, lethargic and may be at risk of low iron, have a talk to your healthcare provider about finding out if you are low in iron and also discuss having an iron infusion if your levels are really low. Your healthcare practitioner may not know about the new iron infusions and that they are now a great option to use and have very little side effects compared to the older methods and solutions. Some GP clinics now specialise in administering iron infusions too.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist

-The International Baby Maker

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

The Toxic Consequences of Sugar on Mental Health

When sugar cravings set in, the last thing we might think of is how this may affects our long-term mental health. There is now so much research to suggest that we should.

After a stressful day and when our moods can sometimes be low, it is all to easy to reach for sugary treats. But sugar can also be in the form of savoury things too. We need to remember that savoury things convert to sugar and may have hidden sugars as well. There is so much evidence to show the link between sugar and chromic inflammation and now the evidence around it affecting mental health and mood disorders is increasing.

Last week, I shared some new research in post about the greater risk of depression in men and women who consumed significant amounts of sugar in their diet. A few people commented that feeling depressed may lead to increased sugar consumption, rather than the other way around. However, what was really interesting about this study was that the researchers, from University College London Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health in the United Kingdom, used a mathematical model to exclude exactly that. This is known as reverse causation.

Using data from a large group of civil servants in the U.K. – they showed that sugar consumption came before depression, rather than being a consequence of it.

Diet and mental health are linked

When people ask me for help with mood disorders, I always tell them that a multimodality approach is needed, which encompasses changes to diet and lifestyle. It isn’t just about taking a pill. To be honest, there are no magic pills for mood disorders so people need to stop looking for them. True help come from changes to diet, changes to lifestyle, talk therapy, medicines and treatments that have been shown to help mood disorders.

In 2002, a study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas showed that the overall sugar consumption per person in six different countries (Canada, France, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, and the United States) implicated sugar as a factor in higher rates of major depression.

There have been many other research teams that have investigated the effect of diet on mental health. For example, consumption of processed food, take-away foods and fast food – including hamburgers, pizza, and fried foods – was found to be higher in both children, teenagers and adults with increased rates of depression.

A study of Chinese adults, who traditionally drink unsweetened tea , also showed that those who drank soft drinks and other sweetened drinks had higher rates of depression.

The science of sugar

Sugars are simple carbohydrate molecules. While being essential for cell and organ functioning, our bodies have sophisticated machinery to break complex carbohydrate molecules into simple sugars. Sugars therefore do not need to be added to the diet and our bodies do not need added sugar to function properly. Refined carbohydrates (bread, cereals, pastas, sweet drinks etc) all convert to sugar very quickly. This makes the blood sugars spike and causes the body to store fats and also stop the burning of fats. It also causes inflammation in the body, which is the cause of many disease states and health issues that we all face.

What is really important understand is that our bodies do not differentiate between sugars from different sources. Whether it comes from white sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, concentrated grape extract, fruit, or milk, our bodies use the sugar in exactly the same way. Sugar is sugar, not matter what sources it comes from. We can try and sugar coat it (pardon the pun) and dress it up to look healthy, but at the end of the day, it is not healthy for us and is causing major issues with our health, both physically and mentally.

The daily recommended intake of sugar is roughly about 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men. Even that is probably way too much. To put that into context, a can of Coca-Cola contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, while a small banana contains about 3 teaspoons. When people add up what they have in a day, they might be very surprised. Add in some bread, some pasta, some dried fruits, some juice, some sugar in your tea and coffee and it all starts to add up exponentially. We really do consume a lot of sugar.

Sugar affects on the nerves and brain

Neurons are very sensitive cells and are not well prepared for sugar level spikes. In fact, individuals with diabetes are at risk of neuron and nerve damage, and scientists now understand how high blood sugar causes this.

Researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, performed studies on diabetic rats and showed that high blood glucose led to chronic inflammation and neuronal damage and death in the brain. Importantly, there is a strong link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, further supporting the claim that sugar toxicity has a role in brain health.

How to cut down your sugar intake

Cutting sugar from our diet may be easier said than done and these we are bombarded with advertisements for convenience foods and tasty treats. But even seemingly healthful foods can have high levels of hidden sugars. This is where many people get caught out. Food such as breakfast cereals, sauces (including ketchup and pasta sauce), dried fruits, gluten free products, flavoured milks, wholemeal bread, and many products labelled as low fat, such as fruit yogurts, low fat milk etc.

The other food that often get overlooked are fruit juices and so called healthy smoothies. A study published in the British Medical Journal last year showed that over 40% of the smoothies and fruit juices for children contained at least 19 grams of sugar. That is a lot of sugar for an to ingest, let alone a child. High levels of sugars are also in many toddler and baby foods too.

The best way to keep tabs on sugar consumption is to become familiar with nutritional labels. While some products may claim that they have no added sugars, the nutrition facts panel will show the amount of carbohydrates and sugars in the product. It is really important to read these panels because some of what you are ingesting may shock you. Just beware of clever marketing and advertising.

It is so important that we all start to look at foods and start to choose foods that are low in refined ingredients, such as sugar and other additive, but high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients that can relieve the symptoms of depression. Scientists are now seeing that these foods are promoting good brain health, which is great to see.

The next time stress and low mood threatens to spoil your day, remember that good foods can help you and remember where that sugar can actually make your moods worse.

Let’s not forget that trying to withdraw off sugar can be harder than coming off some hard core drugs. Sugar is highly addictive and does have drug like effects on the body. Don’t believe me?

Try it sometime and see hard it is.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

The International Baby Maker

Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

 

What is Implantation Bleeding?


Implantation bleeding: Causes and symptoms

Implantation bleeding occurs when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of a woman’s uterus to start the growth process of pregnancy. Some women’s lining can be more affected and be more prone to bleeding during a pregnancy. It is a normal occurrence in pregnant women, yet many women are completely unaware of what it is. Obviously it can be a bit worrying for anyone when they are bleeding during a pregnancy and I will discuss this later.

Some women may confuse the bleeding with spotting from menstruation, as the two can appear similar. What women also need to know is that getting a menstrual cycle, or the appearance of what looks like a menstrual bleed, does not mean you aren’t pregnant. You can have a bleed and still be pregnant.

Usually when it is implantation bleeding. The bleeding is very light and will usually require no medical attention. In some cases, however, implantation bleeding may require a visit to your specialist, midwife, or healthcare provider

What is implantation bleeding?

Implantation bleeding can just before the expected menstrual cycle, or around the early stages of pregnancy. It can also happen again when the embryos is growing and impacting on the lining of the uterus.  Again this is a normal part of pregnancy for many women. Some women may not get any bleeding, or signs of implantation either.

The process of implantation starts  shortly are fertilization. Once a sperm has fertilized an egg, it is called an embryo. The embryo travels through the fallopian tube towards the uterus. During this time, the embryo multiplies, becoming a blastocyst, which usually takes about 5-6 days to reach this stage. About 1-2 days after an embryo reaches blastocyst stage, it will then attach itself in the wall of the uterus and this is called implantation. During this implantation stage, the embryo can cause disruption the uterine wall and this then cause what we know as implantation bleeding. As the embryo grows even bigger, it can then cause further bleeding later on in the first trimester as well. While this is considered normal, it can cause distress for women and any bleeding should be checked by your healthcare provider.

Signs and symptoms

Implantation bleeding is one of the earliest easily identifiable signs of pregnancy. It is also a normal part of pregnancy and all women should be aware of this. As explained before, women can still have a normal menstrual bleed and still be pregnant. It is usually a lighter bleed, but some women can actually have quite heavy bleeds and still maintain a pregnancy. About 1 in 4 women actually have a bleed during their pregnancy.

Despite all that, there are some distinct signs and symptoms to help women identify implantation bleeding:

  • Early bleeding: Implantation bleeding will often occur a few days before the expected menstruation cycle. This is not always the case, however, and many women confuse the two. As discussed, it is not uncommon for women to actually get their normal menstrual bleed and still be pregnant. Never think that just because you get a period, that you cannot be pregnant.
  • Unusual coloured bleeding, or discharge: Implantation bleeding produces an unusual discharge that varies in colour from pinkish to very dark brown or black.
  • Very light bleeding: Bleeding and discharge caused by implantation will usually not last no more than about 24 hours. It can last a bit longer for some women though. Many women experience just a few hours of spotting or one spot or streak of discharge. Obviously any bleeding should still be checked by your healthcare provider.
  • Cramping: Implantation can also cause mild and temporary cramps. Some women who are doing IVF may also be on progesterone gels that can also cause bleeding and cramping too. Cramping and bleeding does not always mean a miscarriage. If you do experience this and are worried, please always consult with your healthcare provider.

Other signs

As implantation is an early sign of pregnancy, a woman may also experience other pregnancy-related symptoms. Early signs of pregnancy can vary from woman to woman and may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches and Migraine’s
  • Tender, swollen breasts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes to the bowels (constipation, or loose bowels)
  • Heightened sense of smell
  • Food cravings and aversions
  • Increased body temperature

Treating implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding is a normal sign of pregnancy and is not usually dangerous. Because of this, there is no need for treatment. As I have stated before, if you are unsure, you should always consult with your healthcare provider.

Bleeding caused by implantation usually clears up within a couple of days with no treatment necessary. Abnormally heavy bleeding may be a sign of menstruation or a pregnancy complication. As I have previously shared, some women who are doing IVF, may be on progesterone gels and other medications, which may also cause some bleeding and cramping. Some women with signs of abnormal bleeding may need the same medications to help with hormonal levels. Some bleeding could be a sign of something more serious so please consult your healthcare provider. If you are experiencing heavy bleeding along with pain, please present to your nearest emergency centre as this may be signs of a miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy.

Complications of implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding is not usually a cause for concern most of the time. It is just a sign of embryo implanting into the lining of the uterus.

Women who are still uncertain about whether they have experienced implantation bleeding should consult their healthcare provider and take a blood test to see if they are pregnant, or not. Please do not rely on home pregnancy tests as these can be inaccurate in the early stages of pregnancy. The most accurate way to determine pregnancy is to do a blood test. This is very important for women undergoing IVF treatment too. Too often women will do a home pregnancy test and think they are not pregnant, when in fact they are. The issue is that the home pregnancy tests won’t pick up pregnancy hormone in the urine if it is too early. This can cause a woman much distress at the time and then when she finds out later on through the blood test, that she is actually pregnant. Please never rely on urine based home pregnancy tests.

Please note that if you experiencing heavy bleeding during any stage of pregnancy that this can be a sign of a complication and women should seek medical attention.

If you need help with irregular bleeding, miscarriage, fertility, pregnancy or any advice for Women’s health issues, please call my staff and they will be able to let you know what consultation, or program is best suited for you. Please call my clinic on +61 07 3832 8369

 

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Specialist

-The International Baby Maker

-Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader

“No Stone Left Unturned”

 

 

The Facts About Period Pain & Endometriosis- “What Women Need To Know”

The Facts About Period Pain & Endometriosis

-“Why some of the things I hear women get told gets me angry sometimes”

After my recent post on endometriosis and sharing what “Endo Belly” is,  I have to say that I think hearing your stories has got me even more fired up. Not because of your stories, these I like hearing ( if you know what I mean), but because so many of you have been ‘dismissed’ and had so much ‘missed’ over the years.

Many of you have also been told utter BS (bullshit… sorry for swearing) and it just gets me so upset to hear this BS continue in both the public arena, closed groups and by other healthcare professionals. When are women going to get the support they need and get the health system to start listening.

Today I was talking to a couple about this very topic and was explaining to the this young lady’s partner that if guys had pain in their testicles daily and couldn’t walk, were curled up on the bedroom floor, had vomiting from the pain, had to ingest copious amounts of pain killers etc to just function, then governments would rewrite the health system, laws would be made, research would be done and those testicles would endure pain no longer. Well.. that is what I think anyway.

The biggest problem for women is that many of you believe that period pain is normal, because that is what you have been led to believe. Then healthcare professionals reinforce it and you are basically made out to be neurotic when you try and tell anyone that you can’t handle it any longer. Suck it up they say. Take some painkillers they say. Have a baby they say. Take the pill they say. There are so many BS things said to you all and all of them are wrong. There are so many other things wrong with everything from support groups sprouting misinformation, GP’s telling people misinformation, specialists telling people misinformation and people now relying on “Dr Google” as the gospel for their healthcare diagnosis. This is where the problem all starts and in many ways ends.

So how do we fix this?

Well, education is the first step. This is not just to the public, but to healthcare professionals as well. We also need to start educating women at a young age that “Period Pain IS NOT normal” and neither are other menstrual irregularities that could be the signs of other gynaecological conditions. Early intervention and treatments and management it always going to be the key to any disease state. Thousands of years ago in China, the Yellow Emperor had a classic saying “To treat a disease once it has already started and been expressed in to the body is like trying to forge arms once a war has already started, or trying to dig a well once one if already thirsty”.

Trying to treat any disease once it has been expressed is hard work and for some diseases, nearly impossible. Prevention is the key and like any disease, we need to find ways of preventing endometriosis too. But if the disease is expressed, we need proper education to know the signs, know the symptoms and get early intervention and treatments and management as soon as possible.

Endometriosis can be managed, just like any other disease. I have asthma and I am symptom free because I manage it properly and have the training and education and proper treatments to manage it. I still have the disease, but I have learnt to manage it and be symptoms free. The same can be for endometriosis if you see the right people and get the right treatment.

But, finding these people is hard and we also need people to listen and do the treatment too. We do need people to take some ownership in there health too. I mean this is a caring way when I say this. Having had a debilitating and life threatening disease I know how hard it can be just to function, both physically and emotionally. I also know hard it was for me to find the right people to help me too. So I get it. But we still need to talk about this and be honest about ownership too. Please don’t buy into the diagnosis and the label if you know what I mean. Doing that can eat you up, make you angry/mad and then makes things worse. I know because I have been there. I now teach people to rise up, ditch the label and be the best they can be daily. But, it can be hard work, as many of you know. I get it.

So, lets start with looking at the facts around Endometriosis first and in the next lots of posts I’ll talk about the management and treatments to get women their lives back

The Facts about Endometriosis

1. Period Pain IS NOT Normal- You are not meant to get period pain. Some slight heaviness, or mild discomfort maybe, but pain you should not get at all. Pain is not normal and we need to stop saying it is.

2. A significant portion of women with Endometriosis are asymptomatic– A significant portion of women DO NOT get pain, or any symptoms at all. Just because you do not have pain, does not mean you do not have endometriosis.

3. Symptoms DO NOT correlate to the extent of the disease– As mentioned previously, some women with relatively small amounts of endometriosis will have significant pain, have lots of symptoms, while some women who are riddled with it may have no symptoms at all. This is why i do not like the staging system (1-4) because it really does not accurately describe a women’s symptoms, or have it correlate to the extent of the disease.

4. The only way to diagnose Endometriosis definitely is via surgical intervention– Scans, blood tests etc do not diagnose endometriosis. You cannot have a scan to diagnose endometriosis and you cannot have a blood test to diagnose endometriosis. The definitive diagnose IS and ALWAYS WILL BE via a laparoscopy/laparotomy, along with a biopsy and tissue taken to examine. A laparoscopy is the goal standard investigation of examining the pelvis and for investigating gynaecological disorders such as endometriosis. The laparoscopy also need to be done by what we call an Advanced Trained Laparoscopic Surgeon, who has extra years of surgical training, and who specialises in this disease and specialises in the excision of endometriosis. It can’t just be done by a regular gynaecologist and this is where many go wrong. They just haven’t seen the right surgeon first up who has he proper skills to deal with it effectively. The first surgery should always be your best surgery and early intervention and management of this disease is crucial. The longer it is there, the worse it can become. But, please know that surgery does not cure endometriosis. It is just the first stage in the management of the disease and endometriosis needs ongoing care and a multimodality approach to treat if  effectively. It needs a team to manage it properly.

5. There is NO cure for Endometriosis– At present there is no cure for endometriosis. Just as I mention my asthma before and it having no cure, the same applies to endometriosis. Once it is expressed into the body, it will always be there. Even if someone becomes asymptomatic, the disease it still there. But while there is no cure, the disease can be managed and women can become asymptomatic with the right help, right treatments and right management. I see this is practice daily.

6. Having a baby will not cure endometriosis– Many women are told to go away and fall pregnant and have a baby as this will fix their period pain and cure their endometriosis. This is a load of rubbish. Having a baby will not cure endometriosis. It may stop you having period pain for 9-10 months because you won’t be getting your menses, but you can still get other symptomatic pains and referral pains etc. Pregnancy does not fix endometriosis. The reason why women are told to go and have a family as soon as possible is because endometriosis can make it harder to fall pregnant, for some people.

7. Endometriosis may cause Infertility– While it may make it hard to fall pregnant for some women, other women with it may have no trouble falling at all. But women do need to be educated that it could affect your fertility and one of the major reasons women end up seeking help for fertility services.

8. Endometriosis is Estrogen Driven, Not caused by Estrogen dominance– Estrogens do drive endometriosis. This could be from oestrogen’s in our diet, in our environment, from hormones, drugs, plastics, abdominal fats, body fats and any small amounts of circulating oestrogen’s. Estrogens do not have to be in excess, or be dominant to drive endometriosis.

9. The Pill, or Contraceptives DO NOT fix endometriosis– While the pill and contraceptives can help with hormonal regulate and in some cases even stop the period, they do not fix endometriosis. In many cases the Combined pill can actually make it worse because of the oestrogen’s in it. Plus it then masks the symptoms of endometriosis and then when a woman comes off it, the endo is still there and for some women it could lead to them being infertile. The pill masks endometriosis and many other gynaecological issues. It does not fix them

10. You can have Endometriosis at a Young, or Older Age– Endometriosis does not discriminate age. Young girls can have it and older ladies can have it also. It can present at almost any age once the menses has started and can continue even when the menses has stopped. The symptoms may get less with menopause though.

11. Hysterectomy does not cure endometriosis– Hysterectomy does not fix endometriosis because many times endometriosis is not in, or on, the uterus and it can present anywhere in the body. It has been found in the joints, in the brain, around the heart, on the retina of the eyes, around the bowel and in nearly every part of the body. So removing the uterus does not cure endometriosis in many cases.

12. Endometriosis requires a multi modality approach– Like many diseases we all face, there is never one particular miracle cure, or miracle treatment for endometriosis. It requires a multi modality approach of surgery, proper diet, lifestyle management, counsellors, hormones, herbal medicines, acupuncture, physio therapy, plaits, exercise, pain killers, vitamins etc. This is how you diagnose, treat and manage endometriosis properly

13. Endometriosis IS NOT an autoimmune disease– Endometriosis is not an autoimmune disease. It is an autoimmune like disease because it is made worse by inflammation in the body, but it cannot be classed as an autoimmune disease.

14. There Are Hereditary and Genetic links– While we do not know the exact cause of endometeriosis, we do know that it does run in families and it there is genetic and hereditary links.

15. Endometriosis can cause many other issues in the body– Like any inflammatory disease, endometriosis can cause issues with moods, interfere with hormones, disturb sleep, cause fatigue, cause depression, exacerbate mood disorders, cause muscular pain, cause skeletal pain, have pain refer down your legs, make your joints ache, cause bowel movements to be difficult, cause loose bowels and IBS like symptoms, cause UTI like symptoms, cause bladder pain, nocturnal urination, pain with sex, pain and bleeding with exercise, ovulation pain and so many other symptoms not mentioned. It can cause many issues both physically and emotionally and people need to be aware of this. Some women are at the point of suicide and recently we have seen women take their lives, because they just have not been listened to and it has all become too much.

There is probably a few more things I need to add in here. Please feel free to add comments to add in more. But, this is a start and hopefully people can learn from this and we can start educating people on the facts around this horrible disease. Please know there is always help.

Please know the disease can be managed with the right people on board helping you. Please know there are some really good support groups like Endometriosis Australia out there.

Please know there are some amazing women ( and men like me) out there trying to be your voice and get people to listen. Hopefully one day we will get a cure and women will get the treatment and management of this disease that they so desperately deserve. Sorry for the long post. But we need to get this out there.

Take care amazing people. Keep your chins up and know that there are people who will listen too.

If you do need help with period pain, or endometriosis, please book in a consultation with me. I do see people from all over the world.

Regards
Dr Andrew Orr