Ways to practice Self Care when going through IVFRead More
By Leigh Lewis NMD, L.Ac., FABORM, RYT
The role of weight in all aspects of female reproduction has been validated by science for several decades with both underweight and overweight body habitus causing problems. Being underweight has been linked with a relative hormone deficiency what can lead to thin uterine lining and irregular ovulation and menses, therefore interfering with fertility. Adipose tissue, most notably abdominal fat, has been linked to excess production of estrogen which can also lead to issues with ovulatory and cycle irregularity and decreased fertility. Once pregnant, body weight should increase for most patients by 25-35 pounds, however, women who are underweight at the time of conception may need to gain more, with overweight women needing to gain less or sometimes, simply maintain their pre-pregnancy weight. Pregnant women who are underweight are at a higher risk for having a miscarriage, an underweight baby or a preterm birth. Being overweight confers an increased risk for miscarriage, gestational diabetes and hypertension, preeclampsia, C-section, and an overweight baby. There are also increased risks to the baby born to an overweight mother: diabetes and metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol, blood sugar imbalances, hypertension, overweight) in child- and adulthood. In a recent study, the CDC concluded that 50% of American women gain too much weight in pregnancy. Oftentimes, excessive weight gain during pregnancy is difficult to lose in the post-partum and can be further compounded by subsequent pregnancies. Finally, many women gain weight during the months or years of hormonal fertility treatments…this weight can be the most difficult to lose.
In general, recommendations are for women to maintain a “normal body weight” as indicated by a body mass index between 18.5-25, although individual variability may dictate otherwise. This would be a weight between 120-140 for a woman who is 5’6”. However, there are individual issues that might change this recommendation; for example, a female body builder will have a higher muscle to fat ration and since muscle weighs more than fat, she would likely have a higher healthy body weight. Your provider can help determine your ideal weight range.
Diet and exercise are often the first recommendations made to women and while this is typically good advice, many women are frustrated because usually they have tried it all before. An important and often neglected first step is to make sure there aren’t any underlying metabolic issues that might predispose one to having weight issues. Lab analysis of Vitamin D, thyroid function, cholesterol, glucose and insulin can provide insight to underlying factors that could make weight loss or gain more difficult. Radical diets may help one achieve initial goals, but are difficult to maintain for the long-term and may lead to nutritional deficiency. In fact, most current research suggests that a sensible, whole-food, Mediterranean-style diet is the best for promoting and maintaining both a healthy weight as well as general health, including fertility and pregnancy. Some individual variations may be necessary; women with PCOS for instance often fair better with a higher protein/lower carb diet.
In general, one does not have to even achieve a “normal” body weight to see improvement in ovulation, menses and fertility, including improving the success of in vitro fertilization treatments: improvement can be seen with as little as 5-10% weight change. This is good news, but can seem daunting to many nonetheless, and getting assistance from a team of professionals at least initially may be the best course. As many of us know, what to eat is only part of the issue for most…we all know less sugar and alcohol and more fruits and vegetables would be beneficial, portion size matters, exercise is important. You likely have heard it all before and could probably tell your best friend or daughter or mom the keys success. The issue isn’t so much how to eat better and exercise more, it is why can’t we implement what we already know we should be doing. There are several studies that illustrate the positive impact individual or group therapy can have in changing lifestyle behaviors is a way that can have long-lasting health impacts. In addition, while it may seem like a luxury to have a personal trainer, a series of 4 weekly sessions or joining small group trainings geared for women can set you up to have success with your workouts instead of just grinding out miles on the treadmill. Some trainers can also help set up individual meal plans. Finally, stress, both physical and mental can play havoc with the hormones that affect both weight and fertility, adding a mind/body practice to any regimen is a great place to start, whether it be as part of a group or as a home practice.
The bottom line is if you are concerned that your weight may be negatively impacting your reproductive health and fertility or you simply are trying to re-establish your pre-pregnancy weight for general health reasons, consider making an appointment to discuss your individual goals with one of the practitioners here at ilumina and please see resources below for other specialists offering programs to help you meet your goals.
Farrah Hauke, PsyD – offering individual therapy and a 4-week workshop series on psychological strategies to lose weight & keep it off. 480.659.5107; www.arizonapsych.com
Lindsey Cusey & McKenzie Smalley - Personal Trainers/Nutrition Consultants *offers a discount to ilumina patients; www.fithappygirl.com
Donation-based Yoga + Mindfulness classes for women @ Kinfolk Chiropractic, Tuesdays 6:30pm, to RSVP email firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Dr. Dana Price DOM, Dipl. O.M., L.Ac.
For part three of our Libido Recharge blog series I would like to explore a far too common reason for low libido- “I’m too tired for sex”, which in Chinese medicine translates as Yang deficiency. This is the common pattern of living a lifestyle on the go, working too much and not getting enough rest and downtime, and then when sex does cross your mind, you just don’t have it in you.
With Yang deficiency, women can feel like their metabolism has slowed, they are gaining weight easier, they tend to be tired and low energy, and often feel cold easily. Yang is the warmth, active, moving, extroverted energy that we all have. So when we deplete our Yang through taking on too much, overwork, lack of exercise, stress and excessive adrenaline, or chronic illness we don’t have much energy left for sex.
So what can you do to rebuild your Yang deficient low libido?:
Diet: Non-wheat complex carbs with a small amount of high-quality protein (vegetable) is best as well as cutting out dairy, fruit juices, and fried or fatty foods.
Foods that rebuild the Yang are: Carrots, mushrooms, onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, ginger, cherries, apples, bananas, quinoa, lentils, black beans, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, walnuts, and cabbage.
Exercise: Don’t exercise when you are tired and get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week.
Avoid Caffeine: Caffeine gives a “false” energy and can make you feel more run down when it wears off.
Cut Down on Alcohol: No more than one drink per night and 3 drinks in a week.
Avoid Excess Salt: Salt in a small amount boosts the Yang but in large amounts depletes it. Check your labels and avoid processed foods which are high in sodium.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs also work great to boost the Yang
Written by: Charlene Hagner M.Ac., Dipl. O.M., L.Ac.
It is important to move and get your blood circulating. In Chinese Medicine, movement facilitates the qi, and removes stagnation; it’s essential to keep the blood and qi moving for a healthy endometrial lining and pregnancy. It can be as simple as taking a daily walk for 20-30 minutes.
If you are regularly active, and have been staying on an exercise routine, it is safe to continue, but stay away from abdominal strengthening activities after ovulation (around cycle day fourteen) and with a positive pregnancy test. When trying to conceive and during pregnancy, yoga can be relaxing and helpful, but hot yoga can be counterproductive.
After an Embryo Transfer (FET), the reproductive endocrinologist asks the patient to rest the three days following, and keep their heartbeat under 100 beats per minute in the first 10 weeks after transfer. After the first trimester, the woman can return to her normal exercise routine, with the consent of her doctor.
Here are some of the benefits from exercise during pregnancy you may experience according to the American Pregnancy Association:
- Helps reduce backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling May help prevent, or treat, gestational diabetes.
- Increases your energy
- Improves your mood
- Improves your posture
- Promotes muscle tone, strength, and endurance Helps you sleep better
- Regular activity also helps keep you fit during pregnancy and may improve your ability to cope with labor. This will make it easier for you to get back in shape after your baby is born.
You will probably want to avoid the following type of exercises during pregnancy:
- Activities where falling is more likely
- Exercise that may cause any abdominal trauma, including activities with jarring motions, contact sports or rapid changes in direction.
- Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, or bouncing
- Bouncing while stretching
- Waist twisting movements while standing
- Intense bursts of exercise followed by long periods of no activity
- Exercise in hot, humid weather
- Do not hold your breath for an extended period of time
- Do not exercise to the point of exhaustion
You may want to include these basic guidelines in planning exercise during pregnancy:
- Be sure to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes, as well as a good supportive bra.
- Choose well-fitting shoes that are designed for the type of exercise you are doing.
- Exercise on a flat, level surface to prevent injury.
- Eat enough healthy calories to meet the needs of your pregnancy, as well as your exercise program.
- Finish eating at least one hour before exercising
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.
- After doing floor exercises, get up slowly and gradually to prevent dizziness.
Here are a few resources of trainers that work with women trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
Lindsey B. Cusey, Lindsey@fithappygirl.com - owner/online coach, certified personal trainer, and paleo nutrition specialist. Website- WWW.FITHAPPYGIRL.COM
Mckenzie Smalley, Mckenzie@fithappygirl.com - Personal Trainer, online and At home Training, and paleo nutrition specialist.
Steel Fit, Joe Steel, CPT email@example.com
Written by: Audrey Blanchard LMT
Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of cells (endometrial cells) similar to those that form the inside or lining of the uterus, but in a location outside of the uterus. Endometrial cells are cells that are shed each month during menses. Endometrial cells attach themselves to tissue outside of the uterus and are referred to as “endometriosis implants”.
Endometriosis is estimated to affect over one million women (estimates range from 3% to 18% of women) in the United States. It is one of the leading causes of pelvic pain and reasons for laparoscopic surgery and hysterectomy in this country. Estimates suggest that between 20% to 50% of women being treated for infertility have endometriosis, and up to 80% of women with chronic pelvic pain may be affected.
Here at ilumina, one of the ways we treat Endometriosis is with the Arvigo Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Therapy®. This type of massage can help loosen adhesions or scar tissue in the abdominal cavity. Gentle massage strokes are used to help align the uterus to a center position and increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. If the uterus is out of place, it can cause additional pain or cramping around menses. Additional blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients to support healthy tissues. Along with the in office massages, clients are given special self care instructions that can be done at home, castor oil packs, vaginal steams as well as nutrition and lifestyle modifications that can help to decrease symptoms of Endometriosis.
Check out our case study on Endometriosis here. One client came in for treatment of painful menses, endometriosis and low ovarian function. After a couple of Arvigo Mayan Abdominal massages her pain level went from a 10/10 to a 5/10 with reduced need pain medication at the onset of menses. Also her uterus showing at midline per ultrasound.
By Dr. Dana Price DOM, Dipl.O.M., L.Ac.
The #metoo movement has really opened my eyes to how prevalent sexual trauma is for girls and women in our society with incidents ranging to very forceful and overt, to the subtle sprinklings on day to day life. I have my #metoo experiences and have been investigating how these experiences have encouraged me to suppress and shut down my fierce, blossoming and powerful sexual force. I wonder what the fully unhindered and empowered sexual me would look like. I do not have the answers and know that this process will unfold and recreate itself with time- as the feminine does. I encourage you, during this month of the expression of love and coupledom, to look within and investigate your sexual energy and what you would look like to be fully unencumbered and empowered.
I am engrained in Chinese medicine and have spent my adult life viewing the world through the interplay of Yin and Yang. A dark and cold wintry day is an opportunity to go within and nourish the Yin, a day that I want to be outside riding my bike in the wind of a sunny spring day gets my Yang recharged. Mental, physical and emotional health arises out of this interplay and when something is off- your Yin/Yang balance is disrupted.
So what happens when there is the lack of desire to have a fulfilling sexual experience or your body just does not respond? There are reasons related to unresolved trauma that are beyond the scope of this blog, so I am going to address the Yin/Yang imbalance that can arise and manifest as three main patterns. The first and most common is being too stressed and therefore your Qi (part of the Yang system) gets stuck. The second is not feeling from Yin deficiency and a woman can not feel sexy and confident enough for sex, and thirdly being Yang deficient and too tired for sex. In this first part of a series of three we will take a look at the libido being suppressed because of stress.
If you are feeling too stressed for sex you need to get your stuck Qi moving. In particular we call it your Liver Qi. Something I hear from my patients is that the desire for sex is low until they get warmed up and once they get going everything is fine. This is Qi stagnation. The Qi gets moving and you feel better.
Exercise is great for this. Get your blood pumping and do higher intensity endurance exercises like power yoga, running, spin class and the like. Be sure to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day and get your 10,000 steps in per day.
A plant based diet is best; focusing on 70-80% of each meal as vegetable based, while avoiding dairy and refined foods. Good foods to move Qi include: broccoli, cauliflower peppermint, radish, tomato, celery, asparagus, lemon, brown rice and chia seeds. Avoid caffeine, that morning coffee stagnates Qi and is infamous for exacerbating PMS symptoms and fibrocystic breasts. If you need the ritual of coffee I recommend organic cold-brew.
Avoid toxins: skip the plastic bottles, check and see what you are putting on your body- go organic as much as possible on all of your beauty products. To find what is best check out the Skin Dee section of www.ewg.org. Also, change your pads and tampons to organic, if you do nothing else do this.
Meditate and have some downtime. Where is your happy place? A nice bath, reading a book, having sex? Spend some time each day nourishing yourself.
Supplement with some vitamins: calcium and B vitamins get depleted with stress so make sure that in addition to taking your multivitamin you take extra calcium and a B complex.
Acupuncture & Massage: here at ilumina we work with stress and anxiety on a daily basis and we know that our acupuncture and massage really help break the stress cycle and sustain relaxation. Even better is to supplement these therapies with Chinese herbs.
If you find that you fit into this imbalance of Qi stagnation give yourself 3 months to journal on your vision of your full sexual expression, exercise, eat clean, meditate, and follow the other steps and see the change.
In my next two blogs I will write on the other two patterns that are frequently encountered at ilumina.
By Charlene Hagner M.Ac., Dipl. O.M., LaAc.
Transfer Day can be full of many different emotions. Women can have a range of emotions from excitement, anxiousness, and even a range of both. Having a moment to breathe and experience some relaxation before and after the transfer is wonderful, and a small benefit compared to the biological benefits of acupuncture on the day of transfer. Acupuncture increases the blood flow to the uterus. Research has been done, by using a Doppler to detect blood flow before and after treatment, showing an improvement of blood flow to the uterus and ovaries after a treatment. Treatments given before and after transfer help to improve patients' response to IVF medications, and the chances of pregnancy.
A two year case study, involving our clinic and a top rated Fertility Clinic in the valley, showed a 10% increase of pregnancy rates when using Acupuncture day of transfer. ilumina Healing Sanctuary has continued a valued reputation with fertility doctors in the valley for two decades, and we support in making the process as easy and comfortable as possible. All of our practitioners have extensive experience in IVF transfers and supporting with acupuncture in a clinical setting.
It is important to contact us when you know the date of transfer to reserve the time for transfer day services. We meet with patients 45 minutes ahead of the frozen embryo transfer, so the Acupuncturist has plenty of time for the treatment and the patient stays an extra 30 minutes after the transfer to receive the second acupuncture session.
Let us know how we can support you through your fertility journey. Call or email us with any questions.
By Leigh Lewis ND L.Ac. Naturopathic Doctor
Most patients have had thyroid function testing prior to seeking assistance at ilumina, whether it is for fertility issues, difficulty losing weight, mood and energy issues or simply as part of a general check up. However, there is much confusion amongst health care providers and patients regarding what constitutes normal function tests. In fact, recent research suggests that patients can be experiencing significant symptoms such as those mentioned above even when the results are normal and may be able to safely take and benefit from thyroid replacement. This is why we often request patients bring in their results or get new testing even if they have been told that all their thyroid testing is within normal range.
The thyroid can be through of as the gas pedal to many bodily functions. It’s hormones increase heart rate, bone turn-over, basal metabolic rate, cognition, digestion, reproductive function, etc. When there are not enough thyroid hormones, these processes slow down and when there is too much, they speed up. The tricky thing is, two individuals can have the same thyroid hormone levels and one feels great and the other feels terrible. Individual biochemistry dictates these differences and our current lab testing is based on pooled population data, therefore, often missing individual nuances.
A quick explanation on thyroid function testing:
Typically we here at ilumina recommend the following tests:
- TSH – thyroid stimulating hormone:
- This is a hormone produced by the brain to stimulate the thyroid to produce its own hormones such that when thyroid hormones levels are low, TSH levels rise and when thyroid hormones levels are high, TSH levels drop.
- Free T3 and T4 – triiodothyronine and thyroxine
- These hormones are produced by the thyroid, T4 is viewed as a precursor to T3, which is more biologically active and potent, T4 is converted to T3 via an enzymatic reaction…some people have difficulty making this conversion, necessitating a combination of T3 + T4 for replacement.
- Thyroid antibodies:
- These immune cells represent a common cause of thyroid disease; produced by the body, they attack specific mechanisms in the production and function of the thyroid hormones such that activity is either increased (autoimmune hyperthyroidism) or decreased (autoimmune hypothyroidism). Research suggests that the presence of these antibodies may explain symptoms of thyroid disease despite normal thyroid function tests.
There are several other thyroid tests that may be done other practitioners, but in practice it is our experience these do not lend much more information.
Confused? You should be.
Basically, it is important to remember that, while your thyroid function testing may be within the normal range, it doesn’t mean you would not benefit from a trial of thyroid replacement. Some patients, like those with mood, weight and energy issues, will be monitoring symptoms to see if the replacement has a positive impact, others, like those with fertility issues, may not notice a day to day improvement in any symptoms, but the hope is that time to conception & risk of miscarriage will decrease. Replacement can be done safely in those with initially normal labs because repeat labs will detect over medication or if the dose needs to be increased. If thyroid antibodies are positive, anti-inflammatory supplement and diet measures may be helpful.
Thyroid function affects nearly all of our physical, psychological, and mental processes either directly or indirectly; talk to us today to review yours for a healthier tomorrow.
By Leigh Lewis ND, L.Ac, Naturopathic Doctor
Are you hoping for pregnancy in 2018? If so, keep reading for information that may help you reach you goals. You may be surprised to learn that the conception rate for any one act of intercourse at the right time of the month, when the stars are aligned and without any fertility issues, is only about 25%. Yet, even knowing this, many couples expect to be able to conceive easily without much forethought or planning. This may be in part because we, especially as women, have spent most of our lives trying NOT to get pregnant. As such, it is not surprising that many couples are blindsided if they are not pregnant within the first several months of trying. However, there are a few simple things you can do to increases your chance for a timely & healthy pregnancy.
Preparation is Key: General Recommendations for All
Prenatal lifestyle & supplements: As with many goals in life, the path to a successful conception and a healthy pregnancy is planning. Lifestyle factors, including cigarette, alcohol & caffeine consumption, and marijuana and other recreational or prescription drug use in either partner can increase time to conception and increase risk of miscarriage & chronic health issues in children. Current research suggests that even if you have very regular and normal cycles starting a prenatal vitamin with adequate methylfolate several months prior to intended conception has numerous benefits in decreasing the risk of nutritional deficiencies, decreasing time to conception, preventing birth defects and decreasing risk of miscarriage as well as decreasing the risk of future autism spectrum disorders and other learning disabilities. While a prenatal helps correct nutritional deficiencies, some women may need additional vitamin D, B12 and iron depending on lab levels. These nutrients, if low, can interfere with one’s ability to get and maintain a healthy pregnancy. The omega 3 fatty acid derived from fish oil, DHA, has been found to benefit brain development and should also be part of the pre-conception plan. Finally, finding prenatal supplements that are well-tolerated prior to pregnancy can help avoid problems with consistency if nausea and vomiting are an issue early in pregnancy. A well-rounded multivitamin and mineral can also improve many aspects of sperm health when taken for at least 3 months prior to planned conception. First pregnancy and want to improve chances? Be sure to seek help on tracking ovulation and cycle via basal body temps or apps combined with timing intercourse (see resources below).
Pre-conception weight: Another recommendation that can decrease time to conception and increase probability of a healthy pregnancy is a normal weight. Being overweight or underweight can interfere with fertility by decreasing ovulatory cycles. Being overweight can also predispose to gestational diabetes and hypertension that can increase the risk of both conditions for mother and baby later in life. Normal weight has also been found to improve the success of fertility treatments like IVF. In short, it stands to reason that taking 3-6 months to address any weight issues can go a long way to improving health parameters for both mother and baby. Special diets or intense exercise can also cause some deficiencies that can be ruled-out with simple blood tests.
Contraception: It should be noted that it may take up to 12 months to re-establish normal ovulation and cycles after discontinuing hormonal contraception. That said, some women may be able to conceive the month after stopping contraception. The best course of action is to stop any hormonal contraception a year prior to intended conception, using non-hormonal forms (i.e. condoms) until conception is desired, to allow the body to re-set. This would also be a good time for both partners to start their respective supplements mentioned above. For those that are trying to avoid or delay pregnancy, remember prevention is the best medicine…there are several safe and effective forms of contraception to choose from. Finally, a word about lactation: While breastfeeding can help to space babies, it is not fool-proof and many women will return to fertility while breastfeeding, some even before regular menstruation resumes. For some women however, even breastfeeding infrequently can delay another conception. Please keep this in mind whether hoping for a pregnancy or to prevent one.
For those with fertility problems:
According to the CDC, American infertility statistics between 2011-2015 were as follows:
- 12.1% women aged 15-44 with impaired fertility
- 7.3 million women aged 15-44 who have ever used infertility services
While as many as 30% of couples never find the cause of their infertility, we do know several possible contributing factors that may play a role:
- Age: fertility rates within one year decrease & time to conception increases after 30 years of age
30s: 75% chance
At 40: 40% chance
By age 43: 1-2%
- Underweight, overweight and nutritional deficiencies (see above).
- Hormonal imbalances: thyroid disorders, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, low estrogen and/or progesterone.
- Stress, anxiety, & depression: evolution may have set us up to delay conception at times of emotional stress
- Structural issues: blocked tubes from prior infections, uterine fibroids/polyps, adhesions or scarring from endometriosis or previous pelvic surgery
- Chronic illness such as autoimmune conditions
Infertility is diagnosed as no conception within 12 months of trying if under 35 years and 6 months if over 35 years. It helps to recognize the importance of these definitions as further lab testing, semen analysis, pelvic imaging and consultation may be recommended at this time.
Couples with any of the above issues should consider when they ideally would like to conceive and give themselves at least 6-12 months to get healthy by following the above general recommendations and seek guidance from a practitioner who specializes in women’s health and fertility to address specific issues in particular. The same could be said for women in between pregnancies in order to prep selves for a future conception as pregnancy, breastfeeding and caring for a growing family can take a toll on the body and mind.
If ovulatory, menstrual, or hormonal irregularities are suspected, addressing them by ruling out underlying factors is key. Research shows that acupuncture and specific herbal formulas and supplements may help normalize hormones and cycles, facilitate conception and improve the health and wellbeing during pregnancy and increase the success of conventional fertility treatments.
Fertility issues can be stressful, especially when combined with pre-existing insomnia, depression, or anxiety, and this can interfere with fertility and exacerbate emotional issues; truly a vicious cycle. However, there are safe ways to address these issues through meditation, yoga, acupuncture, herbs and supplements. In some cases medications may be the safest option with several studies showing that medications are preferable to “white-knuckling it” through depression and anxiety.
We here at ilumina are here to help you at any stage: from pre-conception and prenatal to postpartum and beyond, we offer diet & lifestyle counseling, mental health support, acupuncture, western & oriental herbs and supplements, massage and medications to address these issues. Please feel free to contact us today to get started on your pre-conception health & wellness plan.
1. Taking Control of Your Fertility
2. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
3. American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
4. American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM)
5. Clue: Menstrual/Fertility Tracker App
Nearly 1.6% of all infants born in the United States every year are born using Assisted Reproductive Technology. Reproductive Endocrinologists are persistently looking for ways to increase couple’s success for pregnancy. Recently a two-year study was done in the Arizona Valley to determine the success of using acupuncture day of transfer. The total sample size was 396 patients with the minimum age of 23yo and the maximum age of 45yo, and an average age of 35yo. Those who did receive acupuncture before and after transfer improved their chances of pregnancy by 10%; compared to the group that didn’t receive acupuncture.
According to Manca di Villahermosa et al “failure of embryo implantation is considered the biggest challenge of reproductive medicine”.
IVF is a stressful process to the body and finding ways to relax and prepare the body for implantation are crucial. Acupuncture increases the blood flow to the uterus, increases endometrial-lining development, decreases spasms, and calms the patient. Many studies continually support the data that when ART is combined with Chinese Medicine the pregnancy rates are higher. Acupuncture not only improves the pregnancy rates, but also helps ease the anxiety of the patients. Wherever you are in your fertility journey acupuncture will be helpful, if you are thinking about onsite acupuncture day of transfers, we will go to most doctors in the valley to offer our services.
By Charlene Hagner M.Ac., Dipl. OM. L.Ac.
By Kristen Karchmer
Being fertile is so much more than just being able to get pregnant.
Whether you're trying to conceive or not, understanding your fertility can give you information about your reproductive health that you have the power to influence.
Fertility isn't black and white, fertile and infertile. Instead, your fertility potential exists on a continuum that is constantly swinging in one direction or the other. That movement is largely dependent on the choices you make.
How do you know if your choices are affecting your fertility? The internet is full of misinformation, and your friends or even your mom won't always be your best guides. Believe it or not, your body and your menstrual cycle are great barometers for your reproductive health — you just need to know how to read them.
Here are a few fertility warning signs to look out for:
1. You're super-skinny.
Being in amazing shape is generally healthy, yes, but six-pack abs may not be your fertility's best friend. A healthy amount of body fat is essential for proper hormone function. If your body mass index (BMI) is too low, your hormone function may not be optimal for reproduction. Research shows that women with a BMI less than 18.5 took longer to conceive than women with a higher BMI (19 to 24.5 BMI). While we often associate thinness with good health, but there isn't necessarily a direct correlation. Listen to your body.
2. You get less than seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
You may feel like you need only six hours of sleep a night, but getting less than seven to eight has been associated with depressed leptin levels throughout the following day. Leptin is in charge of regulating the menstrual cycle. Also, disturbances in leptin concentrations have been linked with poor egg quality. Make sure you get sufficient rest every day to promote fertility in the future.
3. You enjoy more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
A few glasses of wine a week is unlikely to affect your fertility. But daily consumption of alcohol can significantly affect your ability to conceive. Remember, one serving of wine is only 4 ounces — not the 8-ounce pour that the cute guy at the wine bar gives you. Consumption of alcohol can have various effects on fertility including increased time to pregnancy and decreased probability of conception (by more than 50 percent).
A large-scale study in Stockholm, Sweden, found that women who consumed more than two alcoholic drinks per day were on average 60 percent more likely to be infertile than those who did not. That doesn't mean you can't have fun, just that moderation (as always) is the key.
4. You exercise more than five times per week at high intensity.
I love to rock a boot camp as much as the next girl, but high-intensity exercise seems to work against a fertile body. While moderate exercise has been correlated with an increase in fertility, overexercising has also been linked to infertility. Lean women who exercised at high intensity five or more days a week were shown to be 2.3 times more likely to develop fertility difficulties than those who did not. Exercise should always be about becoming a healthier you, not punishing yourself — love yourself with your exercise choices.
5. You have a short or long menstrual cycle (more or less than 28 days).
Most women have no idea how important having a 28- to 32-day cycle is for their fertility. A 28-day cycle allows plenty of time for the egg to mature properly and supports a healthy window for implantation. It also means that a fertilized egg will have plenty of time to implant before your next period starts. Both shorter and longer cycles have been associated with reduced fertility, in some cases decreasing the chance of delivery by up to 50 percent.
6. You have PMS and cramping.
PMS, pain, cramping, and clotting are more than just annoying: They often correlate with more serious issues like polyps, fibroids, endometriosis, or hormonal imbalances. In addition to being a drag, infertile women report these types of symptoms in much higher numbers than their fertile counterparts.
7. You have very light bleeding.
Women are always so happy when they have a short, light period. It may mean you don't have to deal with your cycle for as long, but it is not an indicator of a healthy body. The research shows that five days of bleeding resulted in the fastest time to conception. Why is the volume of blood so important? Healthy menstrual bleeding is the reflection of a healthy uterine lining. When the uterine lining is too thin, not only are bleeding times decreased, but embryo implantation is decreased as well.
What you can do about it:
When the choices we make aren't working for our bodies, it will show up in our menstrual cycles. These changes don't just reduce our fertility but can affect our overall quality of life. The good news is that if you make healthy lifestyle choices, many of these symptoms will improve, and so will your fertility.
Some of the risk factors I identified above are easy to fix. Not getting enough sleep? Commit yourself to getting some more shut-eye! Overdoing it at the gym? Aim for moderation.
But what about those things that are harder to control, something like short periods, for instance? Remember, your menstrual cycle is a reflection of your overall health. One of the best first steps to building a healthy, fertile menstrual cycle is to focus on diet — and a plant-based, whole foods diet is the best way to go. In fact, researchers found that women who substituted plant proteins for animal proteins for as little as 5 percent of their total daily calories had a 50 percent decrease in their risk of ovulatory infertility.
At Conceivable, we’ve researched hundreds of little ways to improve menstrual cycles for women to lead happier, healthier, and more fertile lives. Be sure to check out our blog for more information on how to realize your healthiest, most fertile self.
ilumina practitioners use Conceivable products as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Pregnancy symptoms differ from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy; however, one of the most significant pregnancy symptoms is a delayed or missed period. Understanding the signs and symptoms of pregnancy is important because each symptom may be related to something other than pregnancy. You may experience signs or symptoms of pregnancy within a week of conception. However, it is possible you may not experience any symptoms for a few weeks.
The Scottsdale Fertility Forum will be presented on June 15, from 8 to 11 am. Dana Price DOM, L.Ac., FABORM will be presenting as part of a panel of experts in the field. Follow this link for more information and to purchase your tickets. Scottsdale Fertility Forum Event
This is a rare opportunity to join the Valley's top doctors at an exclusive forum specifically about Fertility.
Ten Reasons to Meditate and practice Mindfulness (and how to do it)
1) Increases blood flow, lowers respiration rate, slows heart rate 2) Decreases heart rate 3) Reduces stress, anxiety and aggression 4) Enhances the immune system 5) Harmonizes the endocrine (hormonal) system 6) Relaxes the nervous system 7) Improves brain function and electrical activity 8) Reduces stress and balances hormones to stimulate ovulation 9) Improves learning ability and memory and increases productivity 10) Improves relationships with others
Mindfulness Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
This exercise is very simple, but the power, the result, can be very great. The exercise is simply to identify the in-breath as in-breath and the out-breath as the out-breath. When you breathe in, you know that this is your in-breath. When you breathe out, you are mindful that this is your out-breath. Just recognize: this is an in-breath, this is an out-breath. Very simple, very easy. In order to recognize your in-breath as in-breath, you have to bring your mind home to yourself. What is recognizing your in-breath is your mind, and the object of your mind—the object of your mindfulness—is the in-breath. Mindfulness is always mindful of something. When you drink your tea mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of drinking. When you walk mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of walking. And when you breathe mindfully, that is mindfulness of breathing. So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that, the mental discourse will stop. You don’t think anymore. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of the practice. You don’t think of the past anymore. You don’t think of the future. You don’t think of your projects, because you are focusing your attention, your mindfulness, on your breath. It gets even better. You can enjoy your in-breath. The practice can be pleasant, joyful. Someone who is dead cannot take any more in-breaths. But you are alive. You are breathing in, and while breathing in, you know that you are alive. The in-breath can be a celebration of the fact that you are alive, so it can be very joyful. When you are joyful and happy, you don’t feel that you have to make any effort at all. I am alive; I am breathing in. To be still alive is a miracle. The greatest of all miracles is to be alive, and when you breathe in, you touch that miracle. Therefore, your breathing can be a celebration of life. An in-breath may take three, four, five seconds, it depends. That’s time to be alive, time to enjoy your breath. You don’t have to interfere with your breathing. If your in-breath is short, allow it to be short. If your out-breath is long, let it to be long. Don’t try to force it. The practice is simple recognition of the in-breath and the out-breath. That is good enough. It will have a powerful effect.
This meditation instruction excerpted from the Shambhala Sun website. http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=3490
Did you know that acupuncture's positive effect on fertility is related to:1) influencing hypothalamic function and regulating hormones 2) increasing ovarian and uterine blood flow 3) improving the endometrial environment 4) inhibiting uterine contractitility 5) modulating immune factors 6) reducing stress
We are so fortunate to have a certified practitioner of Arvigo Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Massage TM. Audrey Blanchard, LMT has had extensive training in this specialized modality. This is an article recently published that http://alignmentmonkey.nurturance.net/2011/maya-abdominal-therapy-and-iui-ivf
This is one of the health issues that we have experience treating here at ilumina. Dr. Dana Price is incredibly well trained and experienced and brings a level of compassion true to real health care. http://acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=31821
Our Massage Therapist, Audrey Blanchard, has recently returned from Michigan where she completed her Certification in The Arvigo Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Therapy TM. Audrey has learned advanced techniques to enhance fertility, treat a retroverted uterus, as well as pelvic floor pain. Mayan Abdominal Therapy has been shown to improve symptoms associated with endometriosis, prolapsed uterus or bladder, ovarian cysts, low back pain and digestive disorders including IBS, GERD, chronic constipation. If you suffer from any of these conditions or have not tried Mayan Abdominal Therapy yet, now is the time to schedule your appointment.
ilumina Healing Sanctuary Lecture SeriesTopic: Enhance Fertility
Date: September 10, 2012 Time: 6:00 to 7:00 pm Location: ilumina on Camelback
Dr. Dana Price DOM, L.Ac., FABORM will be presenting information on Enhancing Fertility with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dana has been in practice since 1999 and has been sought after for her experience and expertise.
Please call 602-957-2602, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your space.
Mayan Abdominal Massage is an external, non-invasive massage modality that specifically addresses the uterine position and other internal organs to support the optimal flow of blood, lymph, and chi throughout the body.Some common symptoms/conditions this type of massage can benefit include displaced or prolapsed uterus or bladder, infertility, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids, as well as pelvic or abdominal pain from previous surgeries or scar tissue. Join us August 13, at 6:00 pm at ilumina to learn more about this modality and how it can be a benefit to you. Spaces will be limited so please call 602-957-2602 to reserve your spot.
We are very excited to have the lecture series back in action, we are currently putting together a schedule of topics that promise to be informative and promising.
Also heading your way is a Infant Massage Class taught by our amazing massage therapist Audrey Blanchard.