Could you be suffering Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)?





Could you be suffering Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)?

Do you suffer any of the following symptoms?

Are some of these symptoms worse around your menses, or mid-cycle?

  • Mood swings (worse around your menses, or mid-cycle)
  • Depressed mood or feelings of hopelessness
  • Marked anger, increased interpersonal conflicts, the anger can be worse at certain times of your cycle, or near your period. You may even feel violent with the anger.
  • Tension and anxiety
  • Irritability, especially with your menses, or even mid cycle.
  • Decreased interest in usual activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
  • Sleep problems
  • Physical problems, such as bloating, breast tenderness, swelling, headaches, joint or muscle pain.

If you do, then you may be suffering a condition called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS but are severe enough to interfere with work, social activities, and relationships. It is often a very much overlooked hormonal issue and often misdiagnosed. PMDD can actually cause women to have extreme anger and extreme mood swings and even become physically violent towards a partner, or loved ones.

How Common Is PMDD?

PMDD occurs in up to 10% of menstruating women, but it may be much higher than this.  Women with family history of premenstrual syndrome or PMDD are at greater risk for developing PMDD as there appears to be a strong genetic component. There can be underlying gynaecological conditions exacerbating, or contributing to PMDD too and we will talk about this later

What Causes PMDD?

As with PMS, the exact cause of PMDD is not known. Most researchers believe PMDD is brought about by the hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle. Hormones can be affected from anything form dietary changes, increased stress, medications, lack of exercise, increased abdominal fats and also consumption of alcohol.  Recent studies have shown a connection between PMDD and low levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps transmit nerve signals and helps regulate moods, sleep and even pain. Changes in serotonin levels can lead to PMDD symptoms.

How Is PMDD Diagnosed?

PMMD is diagnosed by seeing a healthcare professional who knows what signs and symptoms to look for. Usually this is a gynaecologist or women’s health specialist.  PMMD can be diagnosed by charting mood swings at certain times in  the cycle, along with other changes to the body during this time.

Before a diagnosis of PMDD is made other emotional problems, such as depression or panic disorder, need to be ruled out first, as these may be a cause of all of the symptoms.  In addition, underlying medical or gynecological conditions, such as endometriosis, fibroids, menopause, and hormonal problems that could account for symptoms, also must be ruled out.

For the diagnosis of PMDD to be made usually at least five of the  listed symptoms listed before (including at least one of the first four) occur for most of the time during the seven days before menstruation and go away within a few days of the start of the menstrual period. If these symptoms are present every day and do not improve with menstruation, they are unlikely due to PMDD.

How Is PMDD Treated?

Many of the same strategies used to treat PMS may also be helpful in relieving symptoms of PMDD. The main ones to focus on are:

Good nutrition –  High Gi carbohydrates and highly refined grains increase insulin levels and this then in turn causes disturbances with hormone levels and can also cause inflammation. This then exacerbates the symptoms of PMDD. It is recommended that women with PMDD limit their intake of refined sugar, and alcohol. There are vitamins and nutritional supplements that will help with PMDD as well.

Exercise – Moving the body is so important  for PMDD and it is important to do some sort of weight bearing exercise, or resistance work such as weights. Exercise such as walking, or swimming appears to improve premenstrual symptoms too. Exercise will also have other benefits to the body and overall health as well.

Medications-  Medically PMDD is usually treated with medications such as antidepressants and hormone therapies. Some over-the-counter pain relievers may help some  of the symptoms of PMDD,  such as headache, breast tenderness, backache, and cramping. Diuretics, or water pills, can help with fluid retention and bloating. Hormones can be used to treat PMDD but it is unclear whether this approach is effective.

Natural Medicine– Various Herbal medicines and vitamins and nutritional supplements have all been researched and shown to reduce the symptoms of PMS and PMDD. Always consult with with a qualified natural medicine practitioner for proper treatment and advice.

Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)–  Research published in the BMC (Effects and treatment methods of acupuncture and herbal medicine for premenstrual syndrome/premenstrual dysphoric disorder: systematic review) showed that Acupuncture and herbal medicine treatments provided a 50% reduction in symptoms in the first month of treatment and symptoms continued to reduce with subsequent treatments.

Counseling-  Counseling and psychology need to be a big part of the overall treatment therapy to help women with PMDD develop effective coping strategies.

Other Therapies– Relaxation therapy, meditation, reflexology, and yoga may also help, but these approaches have not been widely studied.

At Shen Therapies, Dr Andrew Orr can help you with PMDD and PMS with a combined integrative approach of using western medicine and complementary medicine and therapies. Dr Andrew Orr is a Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist (medical) but also has qualifications is TCM, Naturopathy and Nutritional medicine. If you need help with PMDD, please give our clinic a call on 07 32795697, or email


Seminal fluid improves fertility women and improves IVF pregnancy rates

o-SPERM-FERTILITY-facebookSeminal fluid is often viewed as simply a vehicle to carry sperm to fertilize the female egg, but a more complex function in influencing female reproductive physiology is now evident
Remarkably, seminal fluid contains special signaling agents that interact with the female reproductive tract to prime the immune response, with consequences for fertility and pregnancy outcome. This research isn’t new and we have spoken about this in previous posts. But we now know a bit more about how sperm may assist in implantation for, especially for IVF.

See our other post

Recent studies demonstrate a key role for seminal fluid in enabling  embryo implantation and optimal placental development. In particular, seminal fluid promotes health immune responses which facilitate embryo implantation by suppressing inflammation, assisting uterine circulation and blood supply and also protecting the embryo.

There is emerging evidence  where seminal fluid provokes an adaptive immune response in the cervical tissues after contact at intercourse, and spermatozoa accessing the higher tract potentially affect the endometrium directly. Research has now shown that sperm and seminal fluid actually help with endometrial receptivity, which is needed to create the right environment for a healthy embryo to implant.

These biological responses may have clinical significance, explaining why

[1] intercourse in IVF ET cycles improves the likelihood of pregnancy

[2] inflammatory disorders of gestation are more common in women who conceive after limited exposure to seminal fluid of the prospective father

[3] preeclampsia incidence is elevated after use of donor oocytes or donor sperm where prior contact with conceptusalloantigens has not occurred.

Research like this is important to define the mechanisms through which seminal fluid interacts with female reproductive tissues, to provide knowledge that may assist in preconception planning and infertility treatment. It also bring attention to the fact that couples still need to be engaging in regular intercourse during IVF cycles to help not only with implantation, but to increase pregnancy rates through optimization on the endometrial lining through contact with seminal fluid. Regular intercourse also promotes connection and bonding for the couple as well and this is something that is very much overlooked.

Shen Therapies offer a Fertility Program where couples are educated on important factors such as this… and more

If you would like to find out how you could improve your chances of having a baby, please give Shen Therapies a call and ask about our highly successful fertility program that has helped over 12,000 babies (and counting) into the world and can increase a couples chances of conception by 96.1% *

For more information on our highly success fertility program, see also

A Special Kind of Pill for Better Health and Increased Fertility

Chill PillSeveral weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to talk to you all about a special medicine and a special kind of pill, that can not only help you with gynaecological and other healthy issues, but it can also help with fertility and being able to fall pregnant. I was going to post this up straight away, but then I had to think more about it, because I know when you mention this subject, people can take a message with the intention of helping the wrong way.

So what is this special pill that I am talking about and not yet available on the market?

Well, it’s called a “Chill Pill” and many of us need to be taking it often, or learning to administer it often.

Now, before anyone gets all up in arms about this and what I am about to say, I need you to listen and take the personal out of this and just hear the reasons why. I have been on the other end of stress, where it almost killed me, literally and I know how it then affected my health and then exacerbated pre-existing health complaints I had. So I am coming from a place of understanding, but also a place of wanting to help people through my own experienced personally, but also what I see in clinical practice daily. I was one of those people who kept saying that weren’t stressed, or that I don’t feel stressed, yet all the while my body signs were saying something different. Like any change we need to make, the first part is admitting there may be something wrong in order to enact that change.

The sad fact is that 9 out of 10 people report being stressed and 41% of people feel they experience unhealthy levels of stress. Stress and the body’s response to it, can affect people in different ways. Small amounts of stress that are easily resolved can help to keep us motivated and achieve our goals. The difference with long term or chronic stress is that it can affect the whole body in a negative way. It is the long grade, low grade stress (or busyness) that often creeps up on us and causes issues. Many people do not even know they are stressed, or that stress is a big factor in their current health issues, because they are either so used to it, or their health issues takes over and they cannot even begin to see the correlation.

The harsh reality of many problems in life is that we are ultimately responsible for our own well-being. Not all people will want to accept this, as it is so much easier to blame someone or something else for our dilemmas.

Nearly every problem we experience in life may have an element of stress to it bought on by ourselves and our busy lives, with many of us not consciously knowing it is at play. That means everything from a common cold to a long-standing illness. Everyone reading this will be by now squirming in his or her seats as the harsh reality of such a statement hits home. But the real problem with this is that it is true. I know I had to face this reality with my own health issues. We do cause many of our own health problems, or exacerbate them, either consciously, or subconsciously.

The problem with any health matter is getting people to become responsible for their own self. So much illness is completely preventable if we would just take responsibility for our own actions. It is so much easier to blame someone, or something else with comments such as “ I have tried everything”, “That didn’t work for me”, or “I’ve been everywhere and nothing can help me”. The problem with many of these statements is that they are all just excuses not to take responsibility for our actions. Maybe it isn’t that the methods you are trying aren’t working. Maybe it is simply a matter of nothing will ever work unless we make that all important change for ourselves first. Sure, some disease states are hereditary, or someone have a predisposition for them, but even so, once the illness, or disease is expressed in the body, it is our responsibility to do what we can to control it. Yes, sometimes it doesn’t seem fair, I get that, but sometimes you just have to admit there is an issue that isn’t going away in a hurry, or keeps being flared up, because you need to make some changes in your life to better manage this issue. I know this is something I had to learn myself. Boy did I fight the reality of this in the beginning too.

Stress is also a major factor in many couples not being able to conceive. Stress affects cortisol levels and the adrenals and this then has an effect on testicular and ovarian function. Stress can affect both sperm and egg quality and high stress levels also affects our hormones and our immune system. Stress also has an effect on the uterine environment, which can affect implantation, affect circulation in the uterine lining, activate high number of natural killer cells and also increase the risk of miscarriage. High stress levels also exacerbate, or fuel many gynaecological and men’s reproductive health issues too.

Looking for the ‘Off ’ Butt on

Stress can affect each of us differently. Perhaps you are suffering from anxiety, feeling worried, depressed or irritable; even feeling exhausted and overwhelmed can indicate you are under stress. As well as affecting your ability to cope, stress may also be causing a disruption to your health. When under stress for a length of time, you may be more susceptible to tension headaches, high blood pressure, frequent colds and flus, digestive disorders or a worsening of an existing condition. So you can see, there are many reasons why it is so important to manage your stress now, take that “Chill Pill” before it starts impacting your health and wellbeing.

How Resilience Begins

Some people seem to deal with stress better than others. That doesn’t mean that the rest of us need to continue suffering. The ability to increase your resilience to stress is something that can be learned and helped with talking to a counsellor, or psychologist etc. There are supplements, nutrients, and vitamins to support your body’s individual stress response system too. Many people are lacking key nutrients because of our highly processed diets now and we also know that gut health, and a healthy microbiome is integral to psychological wellbeing and our moods. Taking a strain specific probiotic and a prebiotic daily can improve gut health and improve your immune system and psychological wellbeing. Omega 3 oils, multivitamins, melatonin, St John’s wort, passion flower, chamomile and many other herbs and nutrients can assist with coping with stress and its impact on the body. Don’t buy vitamins or supplements off the shelf at the chemist or supermarket as these are so inferior and contain lots of fillers and additives that aren’t good for you. Always see a qualified healthcare practitioner to get proper advice on what nutrients and supplements are needed for your health complaint. By the way, Dr Google is banned in my clinic. Dr Google is not a reliable way to find out about healthcare products and illnesses. Only a trained healthcare professional should be giving you that advice.

Some people may be in such a bad state that medication may be needed to get them over their first hurdles and develop some resilience and coping skills. This should always be done in conjunction with talk therapy as well. To be honest, most of us could do with talking to a good counsellor or psychologist to get some coping strategies to deal with work, business, health, or life better.

Lifestyle Tips to Help Manage Stress

Managing your stress is essential for long-term health and vitality. With proper support, a variety of stress relief techniques can be introduced, in conjunction with a

healthy eating plan to help you stress less. These may include:

  1. Exercise: Daily movement is essential for brain health. Aerobic exercise including running, swimming or walking is proven to decrease stress hormones. Resistance exercise is also great for stress relief, burning fats, increasing lean muscle and keeping you healthy.
  2. Enjoy the benefits of spending some time in the sun. Being in nature for 30 minutes per day can help reduce stress hormones and assist recovery after a stressful situation.
  3. Meditation and/or yoga can help to increase relaxation whilst benefiting not just the mind, but also the body. Learning to unwind is important for reducing stress.
  4. Favourite pastime: create time for YOU! Do something that you love, like listening to music, enjoying a candle lit bath, watching a movie, or starting a creative project – these fun activities can help you become more tolerant of everyday stress.
  5. Get creative and express yourself in as many different ways as feels good; singing, dancing, and art projects are but a few ways to do this.
  6. Eat seasonally, fresh and organic as much as possible. Include protein at every meal with a variety of fruit and vegetables.
  7. Include good fats such as omega 3s from fish, nuts and seeds, and olive oil to help with brain health and mood regulation.
  8. Drink plenty of water, a minimum of eight glasses per day and avoid excessive alcohol, caffeine, sugar and salt.
  9. See a counsellor, or psychologist to get some coping strategies in place.
  10. Acupuncture has been shown to be as effective as medications for stress and equal to the effects of talk therapy in several major studies.

Stress Less for Good Health

Our modern lifestyle is inescapable. The stress of it however, is manageable. This is why I mentioned the magic “Chill Pill”. All people have to do is take the advice and administer it often. You aren’t born stressed and being stress isn’t a part of you. It is a learnt behaviour that can be changed. You can become more resilient to the symptoms and long term effects of stress through the aid of individualised lifestyle and dietary changes, together with nutrients, supplement and in some cases medicines that your healthcare provider can help you with. Talk therapy such as counselling and psychology is an integral part of leaning to cope with stress and dealing with it better too. Supporting a healthy stress response will allow you to feel more energised, resilient and ready to tackle life, so you can maintain the state of health and wellness that you deserve. I hope that helps everyone and please remember to take off those superwoman/superman capes regularly, allow space to just breath and shut off the mind and just have some you time. It is OK to just sit there and not feel guilty about it. People need to learn to switch off the “busyness” and close down the 100 boxes they have open. It is Ok just to sit in peace and quietness and not feel guilty about it. Actually, your body needs to do this to maintain your inner health, but also your psychological health.

When was the last time you allowed yourself the space to just be, just take some quite time and let the world pass by for a little while without worrying about it?

Take care and relax and don’t work too hard. We work to live, not live to work.


Dr Andrew Orr


Alcohol Decreases Fertility & Makes Gynaecological Conditions Worse

glasses of alcohol







In today’s modern society, alcohol has become the cornerstone for social engagements, business dinners and after work relaxation. It is important to realise however, that alcohol can directly impact the fertility of both males and females. In males it can decrease sperm quality, reduce testicular size, decrease libido and cause impotence, all of which can impair fertility. In females it has a more systemic response, affecting the reproductive hormones, leading to abnormalities in the menstrual cycle and an increased risk of miscarriage.

Effect of Alcohol on Conception for Men

Fecundability refers to the probability of conception during a particular menstrual cycle. It is dependent on the reproductive potential of both partners. Alcohol decreases fecundability by its effect on sperm quality and quantity. Men who continue to consume alcohol on a regular basis, can decrease their sperm motility, morphology and their DNA in the sperm. All of which are important factors in achieving fertility. While outwardly a man’s sperm may look OK, many forget that inwardly, the sperm DNA could be highly fragmented and unless this is tested every ejaculation, you will have no idea how bad the sperm actually is. A one off DNA fragmentation analysis does not mean the sperm each time is OK. It only measures the sperm from the ejaculate that was tested and sperm quality can change by as much as 20% each ejaculation.

Testicular size is also affected by alcohol intake; and can also affect sperm production. Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system (CNS), and can disrupt the autonomic system of the CNS. These effects are temporary and short lived. Abnormal sperm production is also temporary and also can resume after abstaining from alcohol.

One study, this one looking at couples going through IVF treatment, found that for every additional drink a man consumed per day, the risk of conception not leading to a live birth increased by 2 to 8 times. This was especially true if the drinking occurred within a month of the IVF treatment.

Effect of Alcohol on Conception for Women

In women, alcohol affects fecundability, by disrupting the delicate balance of the menstrual cycle. Clinical research data published in the “British Medical Journal” suggests that women, who drank socially, 1-5 drinks per week, were at a greater risk of decreased fecundability when compared to women who remained abstinent. These findings underscore the importance of remaining abstinent while attempting to conceive.

Alcohol disrupts the hormonal imbalance of the female reproductive system, leading to menstrual irregularities, and even Anovulatory cycles, (menstrual cycles where ovulation fails to occur). Menstrual pain can directly be linked to the amount of alcohol consumed in the lead up to the menses and consumptions of alcohol, even small amounts, exacerbates most gynaecological conditions. These changes can drastically decrease a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant and thus affect fertility.

Alcohol effects fertility in both partners, and can do so in so many ways. For couples who desire to have a baby, it is best to stay away from drinking completely. Presently there is no safe limit of alcohol intake; even socially acceptable amounts of alcohol can affect fertility potential and outcomes. Moderate drinking (1-2 drinks in one sitting) is probably okay, especially if you reserve those drinks to a few times a week, instead of daily. However, if you’re going through IVF treatment, or trying to conceive naturally, you might consider cutting out alcohol for the time being.

Trying to conceive is a special time in a couple’s life, it should be filled with love, devotion and safe health practices, which means a healthy diet and lifestyle and having a healthy mind too.

A healthy detoxification program is also a great idea for those trying to increase their fertility and get their reproductive systems working better. Healthy eggs and health sperm make healthy babies. Healthy reproductive systems also mean better menstrual cycles and better testicular health too.


Excess Body Fat Can Cause Gynaecological Conditions, Lead to Menstrual Irregularities and Also Lead to Infertility

Metabolic table








When women come to see me for help with gynaecological conditions, or couples come to see me for help with having a baby, one of the first things I ask all of them to address is excess body fats and look at diet and lifestyle modifications. Women, men, and couples who are underweight, need to look at this also, because being underweight can be just as bad as being overweight, but for the purposes of this post, we are going to look at how excess fats can not only interfere with fertility, but they can be a major driving factor in gynaecological and men’s health conditions that many face on a daily basis. Worse still, excess body fat can also lead to many cancers that both men and women get also.

One of my biggest challenges with men, women and couples is getting them to look at how excess body fat is playing a big part in their current health, the gynaecological condition they have, or how it is affecting their fertility. I always get all sorts of excuses from “My friend was overweight and he/she does not have my condition”, or “The next door neighbour is overweight and she has had 3 children” and all many of excuses that seem to be a big block in actually taking responsibility for one’s health. I get that it can be hard to get started and hard to make the steps for a better life, but at the end of the day, all these things I hear are just excuses really. Yes, the next door neighbour may not have your health issue, but they may also have some other health issue, or be at risk of another health issue. Yes, your friend might be overweight and has had a couple of children easily, but they may also be younger than you and many of the health issues they face because of their weight may not have caught up with them yet, but it will. I always have to get people to stop focusing on others and get back to looking at themselves, because other people are different. Other people are not you. We are all different individuals with different weaknesses in the body and what may affect one person, may not affect another, but this does not mean we can sit back and just do nothing about our health, or keep comparing our life to another.

Looking at a person’s overall weight is paramount for any health condition that the body faces and we need to look at the individual, not at the masses. Research shows us that excess body fat can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular events, cancers, gynaecological issues, infertility, men’s health issues and many other complaints in the body. It can also lead to an early death too. This is a fact and no matter how many excuses people want to make, nothing is going to change the fact that excess body fat is not good for us and it causes problems with our health and now costing the health systems dearly too.

Excess body fat produces excess estrogens in the body and we are now calling these “Obestrogens”. These excess estrogens can not only have an effect on testicular and ovarian function, but they also interfere with other hormones, increase inflammation in the body and then add as drivers for other health issues in the body. These “Obestrogens’ can also interfere with your DNA and can also be passed on to your future offspring through the DNA of the sperm and eggs and also pass genetic conditions onto them as well.

Eating too many grains, sugars, alcohol and refined foods are a big cause of excess fats in the body. These foods lead to increased blood sugar levels, which in turn lead to excess insulin in the body. This then leads to the body storing fat and also stopping the burning of fat. This then leads to high levels of inflammation in the body and a big driver behind many of the major health complaints in the body and even our leading causes of death, in both men and women. When people ask me how refined foods and grains lead to excess fats I also ask them “How do we fatten up cattle and livestock?” The answer is we give them high amounts of grains which increase hormone levels, which then lead to excess growth and also lead to higher amounts of fats in their bodies.

Excess body fats are a big contributing factor in PCOS, Endometriosis, Fibroids, Cysts, Polyps, Sperm quality issues, Prostate issues, Diabetes, Infertility, Cardiovascular disease, Heart disease and Cancers in both men and women

For women excess body fat can lead to menstrual irregularities and heavy periods too, without necessarily having a known gynaecological condition. These excess fats produce estrogens, which is needed to thicken the uterine lining. But when there are too much circulating estrogens, the lining becomes too thick and unstable, eventually leading to bleeding. This can be unpredictable, and often very heavy, lasting a long period of time. These excess estrogens can then lead to gynaecological conditions such as PCOS, Endometriosis, Fibroids etc, but they can also be a big contributing driver of cancers in women.

These excess fats can also lead to men growing breasts, feminisation, having prostate cancers, prostate issues, sperm issues, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, erectile dysfunction, and many cancers that men face.

With many of the developed western countries have a population with over 70% of its people being overweight, or obese, now more than ever we need to look at ways of educating people about eating better, exercising more and looking after their health. While we need governments to intervene, we also need people to take personal responsibility too. With so much health information about the dangers of refined foods, processed foods, sugars, grains and alcohol, we really do have lots of resources that we never used to have available to us. There really is no excuse any longer. If you really do not know what a good diet is supposed to be, there are qualified health professionals, such as nutritionists etc, who can help you. If you truly are eating a proper healthy diet and exercising, then you shouldn’t be overweight. If you are doing all the right things, then there could be other underlying issues that need to be addressed by an appropriate healthcare professional. But many times I find that what people think is a healthy diet, or appropriate exercise, is very far from what a healthy diet and appropriate exercise is. It is all about what people have been taught by their family and what their perception of a healthy lifestyle is.

If you do have a gynaecological condition, have a men’s health issue, are having problem with fertility, or just need to get healthier, now is the time to act. We can no longer deny that excess fats are a major concern for the population and are causing so many health issues across the board.

Just so people know, it isn’t necessarily about weight and measuring yourself with scales. Scales do not show the amount of body fat we have and muscles weighs more than fat. We need people to get out the tape measure to truly see how much fat they have and start to look at waist measurement, rather than weight measurement.

A health male needs to have a waist measurement of 94cms or below and a woman needs to have a healthy waist measurement of 80cms or below. If a male has a waist measurement about 94cm or more, or a woman has a waist measurement of 80cms or more, both he and she are at increased risk of health issues. A measurement of above 102 cm (for men) or 88 cm (for women) is one of the components of Metabolic Syndrome, which puts you at increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is vital protection against many of the health issues we face. Regular exercise, limiting alcohol, non-smoking, a nutritious diet, reducing grains and refined foods and stress reduction are all important. The lower GI diets (Primal, Zone etc) have been shown to be much better than others for people who are overweight, obese and have excess body fats. At Shen Therapies we believe that we can give you the best dietary advice available. A healthy diet, nutritional and herbal supplementation has been researched and shown to benefit many people and is a big part of our overall treatment for everybody that comes to see us for help. Please know that we are here to help you, not judge you. Helping you, help yourself have a better life and have better health, is our priority.

What You Can Eat During Pregnancy

Pregnant belly 2




“What you can eat during Pregnancy”

Earlier this year, I put up a post to see what people thought that you (can) and (can’t) eat during… pregnancy, or if you were trying to fall pregnant. It was really interesting to see what foods people thought you could not eat during pregnancy. It is really interesting that most people want to tell you want you can’t eat, but hardly anyone tells you what you can eat during pregnancy and while trying to fall.

What prompted this post was that a while back I overheard one of my staff and lovely mother to be, talking to another mother to be about what she has been cutting from her diet while she was pregnant and how her food choices were so limited.

I heard all kind of wonderful things from not eating any seafood; not eating any cold meat, not eating soft cheeses, not eating eggs, not eating nuts and nearly the whole food pyramid was being added.

What many people don’t know is that I actually have a background in food science and that I used to teach about bacteria and food hygiene and the nasty consequences of what bacteria can do to the body.

Most pregnant women have the number one fear of foods containing Listeria. It is a rare form of bacteria but it can be fatal (very rare) to a lady if she is pregnant and cause issues such as miscarriage. So not discounting it at all and some countries around the world do not have the food hygiene standards we have here in Australia. We only see about 5 cases per million people in Australia. Basically there is about 0.3-0.4% chance of getting it and we all make such a big deal about it. Again, this is not to discount it either. Listeria can be found in unpasteurised products such as diary and cheese and can be found in some forms of deli meats mainly.

But if a health issues such as Listeria poisoning is so rare, why do we make such a fuss about it and not warn women of other potentially worse factors that cause more cases per year, and can be potentially fatal too. The problem is if women only hear about the foods they can’t eat, many of them are going to be nutrient deficient all for the fear of a tiny chance of listeria causing an issue with a pregnancy.

The truth is, other bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella and Camphyobacter have a higher rate of infection per year than listeria ever will and nobody ever talks about them. There are over 25,000 cases of these combined and most of the spread is through person to person contact, not just foods themselves. Basically many food poisoning cases are actually from bacteria being on your own hands, which then at some stage end up in, or near your mouth. This is why smokers are at higher risk of food poisoning.

Then we have a far wider implication of gestational diabetes, which account for about 15,000 plus, pregnant women per year, with an annual increase of 5% per year. When someone eats sugary foods, highly processed foods, grains etc during pregnancy, that are a major cause of diabetes, nobody says a thing. Yet mention the word Brie cheese, cold meats etc and everyone goes nuts.

So what do pregnant women really need to know and what can you eat?

Basically the same food hygiene that is needed when you aren’t pregnant is to be observed when you are. There only needs to be a little bit more caution, not an ‘OMG’ stay clear of everything, that unreliable Dr Google, or ‘Someone’, has told you. I would love to know who ‘Someone’ is because he, or she, causes a lot of problems. Remember temperatures between 5 and 60 degrees C are you danger zone area. This is why foods need to be stored below 5 degrees and heated over 60 degrees C.

So what can you eat?

  • So basically you can eat any deli meats as long as they are cryo-vacced and in date. Cryovacced means the air has been taken out and not even bacteria can live in an non-oxygenated environment.
  • You can eat all seafoods as long as they are cooked and fresh.
  • You can eat all cheeses but need to be more careful around the soft cheeses. New research actually shows that small amounts can be beneficial for you. If you cook soft cheeses there is definitely no issue. Just don’t eat cheeses from unpasteurised sources.
  • You can have any form of pasteurised milk or UHT milk.
  • You can have soft serve ice-cream as long as the place you are getting it from looks hygienically clean. Maybe not a good idea to get them from the old ice-cream trucks that aren’t checked regularly by food standards.
  • You can eat nuts and now there is evidence to show that mums not eating nuts during pregnancy may now be the cause of nut allergies.
  • You can definitely eat eggs and you just have to make sure they aren’t raw. Boiled eggs, poached eggs and fried eggs are all fine. Egg custard is fine because it is cooked
  • You can eat all meats if they are cooked and you don’t have to char it until it resembles an old leather shoe. Medium is fine. You just need to cook all chicken right through because all chicken contains salmonella and cooking it kills it.
  • You can have coffee and tea and you just need to limit all caffeine to no more than two cups per day (remember tea has as much caffeine as coffee)

Basically the healthy food pyramid we teach at Shen Therapies needs to be applied.

1. Take our ConceptShen Multivitamin & Omega 3 Oils daily and take a probiotic

2. Eat 2 handful of nuts daily or two tablespoons of healthy oils

3. Limit you grains to one serve (only) per day or cut them completely (best)

4. Eat 2 pieces of low GI fruits per day

5. Protein with every meal or snack

6. 3 serves of veggies or salads per day (just not from a salad bar)

7. 8 glasses of water

8. 2 serves of electrolytes per day when pregnant

9. 30 -45 minutes exercise 2-3 times per week

# No diet drinks or artificial sweeteners at all

Remember food is to be enjoyed and so is pregnancy. Don’t get too caught up in all the worry of what you can’t eat and look more at what you can eat and stick to those foods.

Increasing Pregnancy Rates With PGD Testing & Shen Therapies Fertility Program





Increasing Pregnancy Rates With PGD Testing & Shen Therapies Fertility Program

At least three things are required for a successful pregnancy during in vitro fertilization (IVF): a healthy embryo, a receptive endometrium, and careful transfer at the proper time in the cycle. IVF has improved significantly in its almost 40-year history. Different types of hormone and fertility drugs have been developed that are easier to administer and are associated with an improved safety profile. In addition, numerous stimulation protocols are available that allow us to individually tailor treatments. For example, ultrasound-guided embryo transfer using soft catheters and embryo glue (enzyme to assist implantation) has also helped with ensuring better placement of the embryo, without trauma to the endometrium, but very few clinics are actually doing this. Tests can also be used to evaluate the receptivity of the endometrium in order to determine the best time to schedule the transfer.

Despite all these improvements, however, implantation and pregnancy rates with IVF only slowly increase year after year.

The rate-limiting step of IVF is implantation. It requires the proper interaction of a healthy embryo and a receptive endometrium. It often fails due to problems with the embryos. The genetic health of the embryo depends on both its inherited genetic material and on the errors and repairs during the cell divisions. A chromosomally abnormal embryo is unlikely to implant, and when it does it is likely to be lost early on. Many embryos that are transferred have chromosomal abnormalities, even if they look fine on the outside, or are classified as being the best grade prior to transfer. We need people to understand that just because and embryo has reached Blastocyst, or Morella stage and it looks like a good quality embryo from the outside, it does not mean that the inside and the chromosomes inside the embryo are OK. Not every fertilised egg will result in a genetically sound embryo that will go on to become a baby.

We also need people to realise that an embryo is made up the genetic material of two people and that requires the sperm to be healthy both outwardly, but also chromosomally, and this can change with each batch of sperm ejaculated. Sperm quality and the viability of sperm changes and just because something was “OK” last cycle, or two years ago, or last month, or last week, does not mean that it is OK now. People need to face the reality of what happens with the body and reproduction. The health of the sperm is also reflected in the health and lifestyle and age of the male too. Unhealthy males produce unhealthy sperm and higher levels or sperm with chromosomal abnormalities and damage to the DNA. Unless you are testing every batch of sperm for DNA and chromosomal abnormalities, you aren’t going to see this and even then, testing can only see so much.

A healthy embryo also requires a female to be healthy and her eggs to be health chromosomally and on a DNA level. Egg quality is also related to age, diet, lifestyle, environment, and exposure to environmental disruptors, weight, body fat, stress and so many other factors. We need people to be aware of this. Then when you put two unhealthy people’s genetic and reproductive material together, there is a high likelihood that it will produce higher numbers of abnormal embryos, and sometimes it can be all of them. It all depends on the health of the sperm and health of the eggs at time of fertilisation.

Various methods of genetic testing of embryos have been evaluated in past decades. One can test the chromosome content of the polar bodies, but a cleavage-stage embryo (day 3 of development) or a blastocyst-stage embryo can be evaluated as well. In addition, various techniques  are available for assessing the chromosomes.  There are also new testing and new technologies that have addressed the shortcomings of these earlier tests.

The authors of a recent systematic review concluded that comprehensive genetic screening of embryos using day 5 blastocyst biopsy is associated with increased implantation and pregnancy rates. In addition, this technology appears to be a good tool to limit the number of embryos transferred. But embryos can still be tested early on in their development, with good results, too.

Most experts recommend genetic testing of embryos in women with advanced reproductive age, recurrent implantation failure, recurrent pregnancy loss, or severe male factor infertility/DNA issues. This then gives a greater probability of transferring a chromosomally normal embryo and having a higher chance of implantation and pregnancy occurring. But even a chromosomally normal embryos doesn’t ensure a pregnancy. This is often the hardest thing for people to get their heads around. To be honest, much of this comes down to luck and is really in the hands of the gods.

But what you can do to ensure healthy egg quality, healthy sperm quality, healthy embryo quality, healthy uterine lining, decreases stress levels, optimal health at time of transfer etc, is being on our highly successful fertility program, which has been shown to increase a couples fertility and success rates by 96.1% * ( ) and has helped over 12,000 babies into the world.

For more information on our highly successful fertility program, please call the clinic on 07 32795697, or email us at  You can also visit our website and our web page that explains more about our fertility program as well


  1. Mains L, Van Voorhis BJ. Optimizing the technique of embryo transfer. Fertil Steril. 2010;94:785-790. Abstract
  2. Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. Clinic Summary Report. Accessed April 27, 2015.
  3. Staessen C, Platteau P, Van Assche E, et al. Comparison of blastocyst transfer with or without preimplantation genetic diagnosis for aneuploidy screening in couples with advanced maternal age: a prospective randomized controlled trial. Hum Reprod. 2004;19:2849-2858. Abstract
  4. Mastenbroek S, Twisk M, van Echten-Arends J, et al. In vitro fertilization with preimplantation genetic screening. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:9-17. Abstract
  5. Yang Z, Liu J, Collins GS, et al. Selection of single blastocysts for fresh transfer via standard morphology assessment alone and with array CGH for good prognosis IVF patients: results from a randomized pilot study. Mol Cytogenet. 2012;5:24.
  6. Scott RT Jr, Upham KM, Forman EJ, et al. Blastocyst biopsy with comprehensive chromosome screening and fresh embryo transfer significantly increases in vitro fertilization implantation and delivery rates: a randomized controlled trial. Fertil Steril. 2013;100:697-703. Abstract
  7. Forman EJ, Tao X, Ferry KM, et al. Single embryo transfer with comprehensive chromosome screening results in improved ongoing pregnancy rates and decreased miscarriage rates. Hum Reprod. 2012;27:1217-1222. Abstract
  8. Scott RT Jr, Upham KM, Forman EJ, et al. Cleavage-stage biopsy significantly impairs human embryonic implantation potential while blastocyst biopsy does not: a randomized and paired clinical trial. Fertil Steril. 2013;100:624-630. Abstract


Why Early Puberty Is More Common Than Ever

hot water bottle





Why Early Puberty Is More Common Than Ever

In today’s modern world we are seeing more and more young girls going through puberty much younger than they used to. We do know that girls as young as 7 years old are getting their menstrual cycle and going through all the changes of puberty, yet these poor children aren’t able to fully comprehend the emotional changes that go with it, or what this means for them on a reproductive level. Researchers Blame Childhood Obesity, Endocrine Disruptors and I will discuss this at length for you all.

It wasn’t that long ago the average girl would begin menstruating around the age of 16 or 17. On average, the general consensus would have been that girls could be starting to begin menstruation around the age of 14 years old. By early 2000’s, that age had fallen to less than 13 years old and now it has fallen again to being as young as 7 years old.

What we forget is that even before a girl gets her first period, there are signs of maturation that signal impending changes, and these come even earlier. So actually, some of these girls are beginning their puberty phase when they are 5 years, or 6 years old. A generation ago, less than 5 percent of girls would see these changes in their bodies— being breast growth, body hair, acne, pubic hair and all the other things that go with puberty. But now many of these young girls are seeing this around 7 years old, with an average age being 8 years old, for all of these changes to start to happen. This is definitely becoming the increasing norm and some experts think this age is still falling. Some doctors see fit to begin assessing girls for puberty-related changes at age 6.

Classically, precocious puberty has defined puberty that begins before age 8 in girls and 9 in boys, but this is no longer universally accepted. In general experts are now saying that 7 years old is now probably a normal age to have some signs of puberty. While they are some that may not agree, we do need to start asking the big questions as to why this is happening?

So far, researchers haven’t proven any physical risks that come with early maturity. Although this could pose a significant risk to their ongoing fertility, bone health and also be putting women into menopause earlier too.

Many researchers have suggested that the main risks that come along with precocious puberty are not biological. Recent studies have found that girls who began the process early had an increased risk of depression during their adolescent years. There are also social risks that can disrupt a girl’s healthy development.

Puberty can be very confusing and emotionally damaging for girls, as they may face “sexual innuendo or teasing” long before they’re ready for it, according to researchers and experts. Early puberty may change the way a girl behaves, along with the way others behave towards her. This could pose other significant risk factors such as early pregnancy, but also exposure to STI’s and many other things these young girls are too young and too naive to know. This could even lead to earlier use of alcohol and drugs as well.

Why Is It Happening?

One of the biggest issues for young girls, and women in general, is changes in diet and higher use of highly processed foods and high intake of grains. This leads to higher levels of insulin and then the body storing more fats and stops the burning of fats and this then also creates inflammatory disease in the body. High insulin levels also lead to higher levels of estrogen in the body too. This is leading to more children being overweight and problem with changes to hormones, their cycles and gynaecological conditions. Childhood obesity rates have increase exponentially in the past 30 years, with more than one-third of children and adolescents weighing in as overweight, or obese. What people fail to realize is these Fat cells produce estrogen ( now known as Obestrogens), which plays a central role in stimulating breast growth in girls, causing problems with hormones, causing gynaecological conditions and playing a major factor in them getting their cycles much younger.

Researchers and experts are saying that obesity is leading to earlier puberty and this theory is well supported by the fact that these girls’ breasts are developing at a much younger age, and the age at which they start to menstruate has declined. The ovaries control menstruation, signaling that earlier breast development may be occurring because of different variables such as diet and environmental factors

There may be are other factors at play, other than diet, lifestyle and obesity though. Girls at a normal weight have been starting puberty earlier as well, though at a lower rate than these girls whom are overweight, or obese. Chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, such as the phthalates used in the production of plastics, as another potential contributor to early puberty have been cited as the most likely cause. They mimic estrogen and also cause disruption to the reproductive function and could therefore cause precocious breast growth and issues with the menstrual cycle. We know that there are over 87,000 chemical found in our foods, plastics, and preservatives and even in our water ways from detergents and even small traces of the contraceptive pill making its way into our water we drink as well. Others have said stress during childhood can play a role in prompting puberty as well.

Many children now face far more stresses that did in generations gone by, with many children growing up in families with a lot of domestic violence, arguing at home, or violence in their neighborhood are more likely to develop earlier. There have been studies and research that has suggested that girls who grew up without their biological father were twice as likely to get their period before age 12.

Scientists are even researching prenatal variables. Researchers now know that the parental mode of inheritance, through genes, is one way parents health, diet and lifestyle is being passed onto children. One study found that overweight mothers who developed gestational diabetes while pregnant gave birth to daughters who would start puberty earlier in life, regardless of what the girls themselves weighed. But, we also now know that the sins of the fathers can play a part in a child’s development. If the father isn’t healthy at the time of conceptions, or has genetic abnormalities, or genetic issues, these can be passed through the sperm and then onto a child, who then is affected with this issues that get expressed later, or now early, in life.

Regardless of whether its cause is environmental, genetic, biological, or some combination, precocious puberty may be reaching a biological breaking point.

This is why we need to be more of our children’s health early on, but we also need to be aware of our own health, before conceiving too, as we can pass our genetic disposition onto our children.

Early intervention and prevention is the centre of managing any issue such as this and this is why we need to teach our children better eating habit, having a healthy active body and also being in touch with their bodily functions and emotions at a young age

Period pain and menstrual irregularities are not normal and we need to teach young girls this. Please see our article of what a proper menstrual cycle should be like to familiarize you and your daughter with this. The earlier you get onto menstrual issues and gynaecological issues, the better long term prognosis they have for their health and future fertility overall. Young girls can have gynaecological issues such as Endometriosis and PCOS. We know this beyond a doubt.

If you or your daughter need help with menstrual issues and know more about better menstrual health, please book in and see me sooner than later. As I have said before, the earlier we start educating young women on what is right, then better is for them later on in life and for their future health and fertility

Take care


Dr Andrew Orr

“The Brisbane Baby Maker” & “Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader”

-Leaving No Stone Left Unturned

44143084 - spa stones treatment scene, zen like concepts.

Do You Have PCO or PCOS?








Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

The most common gynaecological complaint that I see in my clinic these days is Polycystic Ovaries/Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Some women only have the cysts (PCO), while others have no cysts but have the syndrome (PCOS). Some have both. The one thing that they all have in common is that they all have insulin resistance. For the sake of this article I am going to call this complaint PCOS so people don’t get confused. If you or someone in your family suffers from Irregular cycles, gets hormonal acne, gets extra hair etc, then there is a good chance they have it. They also need to get it looked at and treated early before it affects future fertility. You only need 1-2 of the symptoms to have the syndrome too.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a reproductive disorder characterised by multiple cystic growths on the ovaries. PCOS develops when the ovaries are stimulated to produce excessive amounts of male hormones (androgens), particularly testosterone, either through the release of excessive luteinising hormone (LH) by the pituitary gland or through high levels of insulin in the

blood (hyperinsulinaemia) in women whose ovaries are sensitive to this stimulus. It can also be caused by oestrogen dominance too.

PCOS is characterised by a complex set of symptoms with research to date suggesting that insulin resistance is a leading cause. A majority of patients with PCOS (some investigators say all) have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a common finding among both normal weight and overweight PCOS patients. Many years ago it was thought that you had to be overweight to have PCOS, but now we know that many normal and underweight women have too. Their elevated insulin levels contribute to or cause the abnormalities seen in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis that lead to PCOS. Specifically, hyperinsulinaemia causes a number of endocrinological changes associated with PCOS too. Anyone with polycystic ovaries does have a more than 50% chance of developing diabetes later on as well

Despite the link between insulin resistance and diseases states like PCO/PCOS, there is also a genetic link and this is mostly through the parental mode of inheritance. Someone in your family blood line will have had this disease. Some may know about it, others may not. Many of our parents and grandparents generation thought that menstrual irregularities were just a normal part of life and many were told it was normal and that they just had to suck it up. This is why we have so many issues with common gynaecological conditions today not being diagnosed properly, because some of this ignorance is still filtering through the medical system, or being passed down as what women class as normal. Menstrual irregularities are not normal and women need to know this. The other thing that we need to teach women, is that once a disease like PCOS, endometriosis is expressed out into the body, it is there. It is then up to the woman to get help in treating and managing the disease. The good thing with PCOS, is that it is now known to be reversible through diet and lifestyle changes, but in order to do so, one must be very strict in what one eats and how one keeps the body healthy, both physically and emotionally too.

PCOS is the most common cause of oligomenorrhoea and amenorrhoea, although 20-25% of normally menstruating women have PCOS. These women may have reduced fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage.

Risk Factors

Major causative factors and risk factors that can contribute to the incidence of PCOS include: Insulin resistance

Please note that women of normal weight, or those underweight, or lean can still have PCOS. PCOS is not limited to those that are overweight.
Family history of PCOS

Family history of diabetes Stress
Nutritional deficiencies High glycaemic load diet Sedentary lifestyle

Symptoms & Signs

Common signs and symptoms of PCOS include:
Irregular menstrual cycles – i.e., oligomenorrhoea or amenorrhoea
Infertility, generally resulting from chronic anovulation (lack of ovulation)
Elevated serum (blood) levels of androgens (male hormones), specifically testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) Central obesity – “apple-shaped” obesity centred around the lower half of the torso Androgenic alopecia (male-pattern baldness)
Acne, oily skin, seborrhoea

Hirsutism ( Excess hair growth), Hair Loss,  Acanthosis nigricans
Prolonged periods of PMS-like symptoms Sleep apnoea

Multiple cysts on the ovaries
Enlarged ovaries, generally 2-3 times larger than normal, resulting from multiple cysts Chronic pelvic pain
BGL dysregulation – e.g., hypoglycaemic episodes, diabetes, etc

*Please be aware that sometimes only 1-2 symptoms are needed for diagnosis. Some women are actually asymptomatic and would not even know that they have PCO, or PCOS. While PCO and PCOS can affect fertility, not all women with this disease will struggle to have a child either. Like other gynaecological issues like endometriosis, the symptoms do not always correlate to the severity of the disease

Diet and Lifestyle

Dietary and lifestyle changes are a must in the management of PCOS. The world health organisation recommends that dietary and lifestyle changes are the number one treatment for PCOS along with other therapies

By consuming reduced amounts of low glycaemic index carbohydrates, keeping protein levels up to maintain muscle mass and eating ‘good’ fats, insulin levels are reduced and fat stores can be accessed as fuel for energy production (thermogenesis).

The Wellness/Zone/Paleo/Primal style diets that I promote in my clinic help women with PCOS to maintain steady blood sugar and insulin levels and will assist in weight loss and also maintain body mass for those underweight. A diet composed of mainly low-GI foods combined with regular exercise will also help to combat the effects of insulin resistance. This is why the Paleo/Primal style diets are the best diets to follow. To be honest people with PCOS should get rid of grains altogether. Years go, we would have just called these style of diets clean health eating, but now we have names attached to them
Refined carbohydrates including sugar, sweets, fruit juices, white breads, pasta and should be avoided. These foods have a high glycaemic index and are damaging in any amount for PCOS sufferers. What PCOS sufferers need to know is that they do not metabolises sugars like other people and that even the smallest amount of it can play havoc with their bodies and their hormones. Basically it is like being highly sensitive, allergic, or intolerant to sugar. Women with this disease really need to keep this is their minds. Sugar and refined foods should not be consumed at all.

A diet high in vegetables (non-starchy), small amounts of Low-GI fruits, essential fatty acids and lean protein sources provides essential phytonutrients, antioxidants, magnesium and helps to control inflammation and hormonal dysregulation.
Smoking cessation is the highest priority in currently smoking patients.

Regular resistance training, or high interval exercise, is a must too (starting slowly and increasing as patient’s fitness improves)


Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicines, Nutritional supplements etc, are also a big part of the treatment on a complementary medicine level and can help dramatically.  There is lots of research to support use of supplements and complementary medicines that can help PCO/PCOS. At my clinic I also have our own herbal medicine formulas to treat PCOS too. Some women may need a combination of complementary medicine treatments alongside medical treatments too and this is something I assess in my consultations with women.

Medically, insulin-regulating medications (metformin), hormone treatments (Pill, HRT) are used to regulate the cycle, control insulin resistance and prevent further cysts developing. There are natural supplements you can use that are far better for you and without the side effects of Metformin.

You can also now get a procedure called “Ovarian drilling” to laser the cysts and help with the healing of the ovaries in severe cases. Some women may need surgery to help this disease and some women also have other gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis at the same time as having PCO/PCOS and this again warrants surgical intervention. Disease states like PCOS and Endometriosis often go hand in hand and are often triggered by the same causal factors.

While many women are put on the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), please remember going on the pill does not fix this problem, it just masks it. You don’t want to just mask a condition, with out treating it at the same time and this often what leads to long term issues with fertility later on.

This is why anyone with irregular cycles should see a women’s health specialist like myself, or a gynaecologist, not just your GP. You need to see someone who specialises in this area and knows what to look for and how to treat it properly.
If you need any help or advice with PCOS, or irregular periods then message, email, or phone my clinic and let me help you get the help you need to get on top of this disease that affects women all around the world.

Take care


Dr Andrew Orr (Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Specialist)

“The Brisbane Baby Maker” & “Women’s & Men’s Health Crusader”

“Leaving No Stone Left Unturned”

What Affects a Menstrual Cycle – Part 2 (Common Gynaecological Conditions)









There are many things that can cause disturbances to a woman’s menstrual cycle and on my previous post I discussed how Non-Gynaecological factors, such as diet, lifestyle etc, can be contributing. In this post I will discuss some of the common gynaecological conditions that can cause problems with women’s menstrual cycles. The sad thing is that many of these are often overlooked and often masked by putting women on the contraception pill. The other issue is that many are led to believe that the pill is the answer to their issues, when sadly it isn’t. Many of these common gynaecological conditions continue to become worse while having their symptoms masked and exacerbated by these hormones. Even more disturbing is that many women are not heard when speaking about menstrual issues, menstrual pain and other factors that do in fact interfere with their daily life on both a physical and emotional level.

Lets look at the common gynaecological factors that can affect a woman’s cycle.

  1. Endometriosis – is one of the most common causes of period pain and it caused by abnormal growth of endometrial cells both inside the uterus and outside the uterine lining. The exact cause is not known. While period pain, clotting, ovulation pain, pain with sex, pain on bowel movement, IBS like symptoms etc are commonly talked about, many women with endometriosis are asymptomatic and would not even know they had it. It is commonly missed, misdiagnosed and overlooked by healthcare practitioners and is why it often takes up to 10 years for the definitive diagnosis to be made. There is no cure and now it is thought that genetic factors and parental mode of inheritance is a predominant part of this disease. We do know that estrogens make it worse also. Endometriosis can only be diagnosed by surgical intervention. For more information please read my posts on endometriosis and also visit the Endometriosis Australia website.
  2. PCO/PCOS – Polycystic Ovaries/Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is one of the most common caused of menstrual cycle irregularities, or ceasing of the menstrual cycle. It is mainly caused by insulin resistance and it also runs in families. There are two types of presentation with this condition. One is just having the cysts on the ovaries and the other is just the syndrome without the cysts. These days it is common lobbed under the one condition called PCOS. Along with menstrual cycle disturbances, it can also cause mood swings, hair growth/hair loss, acne, ovulation pain, infertility, anovulation, weight gain/weight loss, pot belly, fluid retention and much more. Diet and lifestyle changes are the number one treatment for this condition. Scans can pick this condition up, but can also miss it too. It can be diagnosed via surgical intervention and sometimes-extreme forms of this do need surgical intervention known as “Ovarian Drilling”
  3. Fibroids – Also known as myomas are benign growths that can occur inside and outside the uterus. Up to 40% of women over 40 years old have fibroids. They can cause problems with irregular uterine bleeding, heavy long bleeding, bleeding in between cycles, anaemia, pain with sex, problems with urinating and back pain. They can also cause infertility and miscarriage. There are 3 types of fibroids (intramural, submucosal & subserosal). They are thought to be caused by excess estrogens and problems in hormone metabolism. They can be removed surgically and some small ones embolised.
  4. Polyps – Are benign overgrowths, or bulges, of the normal tissue lining the uterus into the uterine cavity. They can cause irregular bleeding, heavy bleeding, bleeding after intercourse and infertility. Some women have not symptoms at all. Polyps may also be found in the uterine cervix. Polyps are usually attached to the underlying tissue by a base or stalk, and they vary in size. They can basically act like an IUD and stop implantation and therefore need to be removed in order for a woman to fall pregnant. Polyps only rarely contain cancerous cells
  5. Adenomyosis – Is very similar to endometriosis by the fact that it causes pain, irregular bleeding, heavy bleeding, bloating, lower abdomen pain and can affect the day to day functioning of woman all over this world. Adenomyosis growth penetrates deeply into the uterine lining and also inflames the nerves inside the lining. It cannot be seen visually and some special high contrast scans and MRI can pick it up, but not always. Usually a biopsy is needed to diagnose it. Medically the only way to properly get rid of Adenomyosis is via a hysterectomy. In the meantime, mostly anti-inflammatories, some hormones and other forms of pain management are given to provide symptomatic relief.
  6. Thrush – Vaginal thrush is a common infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans yeast. This yeast lives naturally in the bowel and in small numbers in the vagina. It is mostly harmless, but symptoms can develop if yeast numbers increase. Symptoms you may experience if you develop vaginal thrush include vaginal discomfort – itching or burning, a thick, white discharge with a ‘cottage cheese’ appearance and yeasty smell, redness or swelling of the vagina or vulva, stinging or burning while urinating or during sex, splits in the genital skin that can cause bleeding and irritation. The condition is mainly treated with antifungal creams, pessaries and probiotics.
  7. Cancers – In 2008, a total of 4,534 new gynaecological cancers were diagnosed in Australia; this equates to an average of 12 females being diagnosed with this disease every day. On average 4 females in Australia die each day from a gynaecological cancer each day. The most commonly diagnosed gynaecological cancers are uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, vulval cancer, cancers of other female organ and placenta and vaginal cancer. All can cause irregular bleeding, but some may not present with any symptoms at all. Proper diagnosis and early intervention is the key to any gynaecological cancers. For more information on diagnosis, symptoms and treatment please refer to the cancer council website.

There are other conditions that I haven’t discussed because of focusing on the main gynaecological conditions that can affect a woman’s cycle. I haven’t gone into the treatments of these disease states and will go into this at a later date. What I will say it that early intervention is the key to any disease state in the body and seeing the right people is paramount too. Please know that many of these disease states will require a multimodality approach and please remember that there is always help out there. Never put up with period pain, or menstrual irregularities, or be told the symptoms many women face daily are normal. The value of a second, or third, or tenth opinion is crucial for some people to get help and to find the right person to help.

Please remember that period pain is not normal and neither are many of the menstrual irregularities that many of you face daily. There are always treatments and help out there too. I help so many women daily, with most of these sorts of conditions, and with the right treatments, diagnosis and investigations, you can be helped too.

Take care


Dr Andrew Orr

-Leaving No Stone Left Unturned

“The Brisbane Baby Maker” and “Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader”