When and How Should my Exercise Routine Change When Pregnant or Trying to Conceive?

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 jsteelfitness@yahoo.com

Misconceptions of Preconception

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

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.

Resources:
1. Taking Control of Your Fertility
https://www.tcoyf.com
2. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
http://www.resolve.org
3. American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
http://www.asrm.org
4.  American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM)
http://www.aborm.org
5. Clue: Menstrual/Fertility Tracker App
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id657189652

January is Thyroid Awareness Month

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

This little butterfly shaped gland in your neck has many functions, so when it is malfunctioning the body feels the consequences, as many as 12.5% of Americans suffer with a thyroid disorder, and many people are undiagnosed. Some causes of thyroid disorder include: Autoimmune disease, gluten intolerance, stress, toxins, adrenal fatigue, and iodine deficiency.

The thyroid gland drives the metabolic rate of every single cell in your body, which is 37 trillion cells, so you can imagine symptoms like weight gain, male and women’s infertility, hair loss, depression, and chronic fatigue are some symptoms of a low and hyper functioning thyroid.

At ilumina Healing Sanctuary, we bridge Eastern and Western medicine making it easy to check your thyroid, and get help with any imbalances of your hormones. It’s important to get your thyroid checked regularly. The thyroid plays an important role in getting pregnant and maintaining pregnancy. New research suggests that a slightly underactive thyroid may affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant even when the gland is functioning at the low end of the normal range, according to a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Chinese Medicine has come to the rescue, considering a study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which stated, “Cases of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and their immune function and thyroid function were observed. It was found that Chinese Medicine was able to reduce the thyroid antibodies in the peripheral blood of the patients with hypothyroidism and to recover their thyroid function”. Treating patients with Chinese Medicine can help lower anti-thyroid antibodies and regulate thyroid function

Check your thyroid frequently, maintain a healthy balanced gluten free diet, manage stress, and regular acupuncture treatments are important to keep the thyroid happy.

It is essential to keep the body balanced. Discussing these concerns with your Chinese Medicine practitioner may help you take control of your thyroid health.

Written by Charlene Hagner L.Ac., Dipl.OM

 

Benefits of Breastfeeding


In Chinese Medicine theory breast milk is an expression of Blood energy and Qi (vital energy).  It is understood that once a baby is born the Blood that was once nourishing the placenta is now transformed into breast milk. Breastfeeding has many benefits to the baby and mother, and is recommended by WHO (World Health Organization) to breastfeed the first six-months of your babies life for some of the reasons listed below.

  • Better healing post labor: Oxytocin is released when your baby is nursing. Oxytocin helps your uterus to contract and return to its normal size more quickly.

  • Baby Health: The incidence of pneumonia, colds, and viruses are reduced among breastfeed babies. Also, breastfeed babies are less likely to develop type1 diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, and Celiac Disease.  

  • Getting to Know Your Baby: You have to read your baby's 'satiety cues' a little better, because unlike with a bottle, you can't see how much he's eaten," Kelly says. "You have to rely on your own instincts and your baby's behavior to know when your baby is full."

  • Lower SID’s Risk: Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome by half.

  • Stronger Bones: Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis. When a woman is pregnant and lactating, her body absorbs calcium much more efficiently

  • Custom-Made Supply: Formula isn't able to change its constitution, but your breast milk changes to meet your baby's needs. Colostrum that comes in after you deliver is full of antibodies to protect your newborn baby. It's also higher in protein and lower in sugar than full milk, so even a small amount can hold off your baby's hunger

  • Calorie Incinerator: If you feed your baby 20 ounces a day, that's 400 calories, you've swept out of your body. Women lose their mommy tummy more quickly with breastfeeding.

Below is a great source for all breastfeeding questions:
http://kellymom.com/category/bf/

The Fourth Trimester: No Need to be "Wonder Woman"

The "Fourth Trimester” discussed here includes the weeks, months, and years after pregnancy, between pregnancies or following a woman's last pregnancy. Referred to elsewhere as “postnatal depletion”, this is not an illness or disease that requires treatment in most cases. Instead, it falls into a nebulous category with other periods of normal hormonal flux women experience throughout their lives, including PMS, pregnancy, & menopause. And, like these issues, a given woman may experience a range of symptoms on a continuum, similar to a bell-shaped curve, with some women experiencing little to no distress, most women experiencing moderate distress, and some women significant amounts of distress. Similar to the aforementioned hormonal issues, the severity of symptoms may meet clinical diagnostic criteria and even still women may feel like they have to "white-knuckle it" through this stage, not wanting to ask for help for fear of being discounted.

"Is ours not a strange culture that focuses so much attention on childbirth--

virtually all of it based on anxiety and fear--

and so little on the crucial time after birth, when patterns are established that will

affect the individual and the family for decades?"

~Suzanne Arms

It is important to acknowledge that in the US we often put more kind focus on pregnant women and then switch this focus to the baby immediately after delivery when mother-focused support is virtually non-existent. We as a culture ignore the needs of new mothers and make many demands on them that are prevented in other cultures out of respect for the postpartum period, a time recognized & honored as distinct from other times in a woman's life. Curiously, these other cultures, which also incorporate social supports for menstruating and menopausal women, have virtually no post-partum disorders compared to 50-85% of new mothers in industrialized nations like the US. During this time, protective measures, so-called "mothering the mother", help support and care for new mothers.  Specifically, the practice of "lying in" relieves women of their normal workload and the implied duty to entertain visitors, allowing time for recuperation, rest, and family bonding.  Not only does our culture minimize the significance of this change & the support necessary to healthfully assimilate this change into the family's life, but there is often an unspoken belief that any woman who needs post-partum support has somehow failed when in reality we as a culture have failed her.

Of course, having a child & parenting is physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding and these effects are compounded with subsequent pregnancies & deliveries. Most women survive the transition relatively unscathed, but at what cost?  Few can honestly say they did not experience any of the symptoms listed below and, sadly, most did not seek any assistance either because they did not want to "bother" others or because they were simply too exhausted to focus on anything but mothering. However, by drawing attention to these issues, we can address these concerns sooner, rather than later, thereby avoiding a crisis. By caring for and prioritizing oneself, you can be healthier as an individual, mother, partner, colleague, & friend.

Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep dysfunction
  • Poor motivation, concentration, memory
  • Mood swings
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Urinary & vaginal issues
  • Low libido & sexual dysfunction
  • Hot flashes/night sweats

By assessing a woman's medical & reproductive history, diet, lifestyle and relevant test results, we can often identify the underlying contributing factors to the symptoms she is experiencing.  Special attention should focus on follow-up on any issues encountered in previous pregnancies, such as prenatal/post-partum mood issues, blood sugar & blood pressure abnormalities, and nutritional & thyroid deficiencies.  These problems can negatively impact a woman's health and well-being long after the pregnancy & post-partum stages and make these already challenging stages more so.

A holistic approach focusing on the mind & body by integrating Eastern & Western medical therapies can be selected based on the severity of symptoms, individual risk-factors, and patient preference and may include recommendations for the following:

  • Social engagement & support
  • Counseling
  • Meditation & quiet time
  • Acupuncture
  • Aerobic exercise & yoga
  • Hormone replacement
  • Pharmacological & non-pharmacological treatment options

Unfortunately, one of the hardest things for any mom to do is find time for herself for self-care, but you may be surprised by the number of resources available to you: friends, family, neighbors, and daycares at gyms/studios are resources that are available to most. Having in-home help for a couple hours per week may seem like a luxury, but if it provides you with the support needed to get out for a massage, a run, therapy, acupuncture, lunch with a friend or a yoga class, it is money well-spent.

For more information, if you have any questions, or to schedule an appointment, please feel free to contact us today.

 

Transfer Day Acupuncture helps to increase chance of pregnancy by 10%

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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.

 

Need a little help understanding Pre-eclampsia?

Hypertension in Pregnancy

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication defined by high blood pressure, 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher, and signs of damage to another organ systems, most often the liver and kidneys. Pre-eclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. Even a slight rise in blood pressure may be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

What factors increase risk of pre-eclampsia?

  • Previous history of pre-eclampsia
  • Multiple gestations
  • History of Chronic High Blood pressure, PCOS, Diabetes, Kidney disease, and organ transplant.
  • First Pregnancy
  • Obesity, BMI 30 or greater
  • Family History


How does pre-eclampsia affect pregnancy?

Hypertension can impair kidney and liver function, and cause blood clotting problems, pulmonary edema, seizures and severe edema. Pre-eclampsia affects the blood flow to the placenta, often leading to smaller or prematurely born babies.

What can help with pre-eclampsia?
 

  • Continue to follow a healthy diet and regular exercise (low sodium diet)
  • Magnesium is an excellent supplement safely used in pregnancy. Magnesium citrate, at doses of 400-600 per day, is often used in both preventing and treating hypertension. Hospitals use IV magnesium for hypertensive episodes and pre-eclampsia to reduce blood pressure.
  • Acupuncture helps to smooth the flow of blood and increase the tone of the vascular system, and returns the body to parasympathetic state.
  • Vitamin D levels should be checked, because Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to hypertension.
  • Coenzyme Q10 was studied for prevention of pre-eclampsia at 200mg per day from 20 weeks to delivery. This should be taken under the supervision of a physician.
  • Medications to lower blood pressure. Medications, called anti-hypertensives, are used to lower your blood pressure if it's dangerously high.

 

The Baby Box

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SIDS: How to Reduce the Risk

At ilumina we work very hard helping women and couple conceive and have a healthy baby. We have been focusing on educating women on the benefits of acupuncture & Chinese medicine during postpartum for fatigue, breast milk production, and anxiety/depression. So I started thinking to myself what can we do for the babies?

My answer came while driving to work one day when I heard about Baby Boxes and how Finland has the lowest infant mortality rate due in part to the government handing out baby boxes to expectant mothers on their prenatal visits.

A riff of the Finnish model is being incorporated here in the United States with Alabama and Ohio joining New Jersey in providing expectant mothers with a baby box. Arizona is not on board yet but hopefully soon.

If you would like to learn more about Baby Boxes and how to get one on your own you can see the Baby Box University's website.   Also see the American Academy of Pediatrics sleep guidelines website.
You can also see NPR's original story on Baby Boxes

Achieve Optimal Fetal Positioning with Spinning Babies

   To enhance her Prenatal Massage offering at ilumina, our highly experienced massage therapist, Audrey Blanchard has recently completedadvanced training in the Spinning Babies method for optimal fetal positioning and body balancing during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. These self care and specific bodywork techniques can be utilized starting at 25 weeks to help bring balance to the muscles, ligaments and fascia in the pelvis and to release some discomforts such as low back and groin pain, rib pain, round ligament pain and discomfort above the pubic bone. If baby is presenting in a breech, transverse or occiput posterior (sunny-side up) position these techniques can be incorporated to help baby ease into a left occiput anterior position which is optimal for easier labor and delivery.
    Spinning Babies uses the three principles of balance, gravity and movement, emphasizing balance first.The muscles, ligaments and fascia of the pelvis must be balanced in order for gravity and movement to help open the pelvis for better fetal positioning. Gravity includes maternal positioning with gravity friendly postures during rest, but particularly during sitting activities to help baby move into a head down position. Using movement with yoga, walking and stretching help to keep the pelvis balanced and ensure comfort for both mom and baby.
    Belly mapping is a fun and interactive waymom and partner can identify fetal positioning by feeling the bumps, kicks and wiggles starting at 34 weeks. This information is used to identify which techniques and self care activities will best help baby turn or “spin” if they are presenting breech, transverse or occiput posterior.
    A Spinning Babies session can be added on to your Prenatal massage or used as an adjunct treatment along with Acupuncture to help turn a malpositioned baby.

Acupuncture Throughout Your Pregnancy

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Acupuncture’s positive effects on regulating menses and improving fertility have been known for many years, but acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet and massage can also have many benefits throughout the pregnancy and beyond.

First Trimester
As early as the first positive home pregnancy test, acupuncture can help decrease risk of miscarriage and alleviate several of the well-known early symptoms of pregnancy, though while encouraging, can have a negative impact on a woman’s quality of life and ability to carry out daily tasks at work and home.

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disturbance

Second Trimester
The second trimester is often entered with a sigh of relief as the risk of early miscarriage and intensity of morning sickness decreases at week 12. However, as your baby grows in size, this increases demand on blood supply and pressure on surrounding organs leading to several new symptoms.  Some are diagnosed with blood sugar or blood pressure issues, and we can provide nutrition advice and acupuncture for this as well.

  • Back pain
  • Congestion and nose bleeds
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Weight gain
  • Increased susceptibility to infections

Third Trimester
As weight gain continues with the increased size of your baby, the same symptoms that can cause problems in the second trimester increase in intensity with additional issues that can significantly interfere with your quality of life and well-being.  Also, keep in mind that while acupuncture can help decrease these symptoms, it can also be helpful for breech presentation and labor preparation in the final weeks before delivery.

  • Fatigue
  • Leg pain
  • Swelling of hands/wrists and feet and ankles
  • Shortness of breath
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“Fourth” Trimester
Here at ilumina, we like to be conscientious of the months after delivery and the issues that can creep up after you are back at home with your newborn.  Sleep deprivation and the resultant fatigue and moodiness is expected, but knowing when to ask for help and making time for yourself in key in helping you care for your baby.  It may also be time to have labs to check for thyroid dysfunction and nutritional deficiencies that are common in post-partum.  Finally, in addition to helping with energy and mood, acupuncture can help with lactation, muscle aches, and menstrual issues as your cycle starts up again.

Am I Fertile? 7 Signs to Look For

By Kristen Karchmer

Article Published originally on MindBodyGreen

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.

How Do I Choose An Acupuncturist?

You’ve been reading testimonials about acupuncture in the press and online. Your sister in Idaho is raving about her acupuncture treatments and thinks you should try it too.  You have decided to give this different kind of medicine a try. Now, you wonder, how do I find the right person? Are all acupuncturists the same? My physical therapist offers dry needling, is this acupuncture?  You honestly do not know what to expect or where to begin.

One factor to keep in mind is that no two acupuncturists are alike. There are acupuncturists that are generalist and those that specialize. There are also acupuncturists that are warm and interactive and those that are cold and direct.   This is not unlike physicians. Some acupuncturists have a specialty with advanced training and years of experience. When searching for a provider, it is important for you to ask about the level of training and education and if they are trained in Oriental Medicine. Licensed Acupuncturists are required to have a minimum of 1800-2400 hours of education and clinical training. In most states they must be certified by the NCCAOM and state licensed. Online you can search for a trained acupuncturist at the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) at http://www.nccaom.org

Catherine Travis, M.Ac., Dipl.Ac., L.Ac.

Catherine Travis, M.Ac., Dipl.Ac., L.Ac.

When searching for an acupuncturist we also encourage people to ask about the style of needling technique used. Acupuncture can hurt. There are many styles of acupuncture techniques. Often when a new patient  experiences acupuncture here at ilumina, they often assume this is how acupuncture treatments feel in all clinics. Our style is extremely gentle and mindful.  There are actually many different approaches to needling. Traditional Chinese acupuncture believes in needling to get “De Qi” (strong stimulation). The French and Korean styles also have a stronger needling technique. Here in the U.S., there is a needling technique used to release trigger points and is a very strong needling.  We can provide these stronger needling treatment as well. Then there is  Japanese style acupuncture which can be very gentle and almost without any sensation.

Dana Price, DOM, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM

Dana Price, DOM, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM

Here at ilumina, we are happy to answer new patient’s questions about who we are and the kinds of treatment we provide. We want to understand your needs and help match you with one of our experienced practitioners. We also offer a free 15 minute consultation. If the idea of needles is stressful, we can provide treatment with gentle needling or without needles. Your comfort is our priority.

Also, when searching for an acupuncturist, keep in mind the atmosphere of the clinic.  It is a medical practice but it doesn’t have to feel cold and sterile.  Our owner, Dana Price, aimed from the beginning to create an atmosphere that is truly healing in itself.  Our mission is for ilumina to be a healing sanctuary.  It is a peaceful space with compassionate staff that sees our vision with every interaction, ensuring that you have a safe, comfortable, and healing experience.

Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy

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.

http://americanpregnancy.org/gettingpregnant/earlypregnancysymptoms.html

Ten Reasons to Meditate and Practice Mindfulness (and how to do it)

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

Acupuncture in Pregnancy

Acupuncture and its parent medical system, Traditional Chinese Medicine, have a long and rich history in the treatment of women during pregnancy. There is explanation of the treatment of infertility with herbs as early as the Warring States Period (476-221 BC). Many early obstetrical texts have been lost but there is evidence that many existed before the Han dynasty (206 BC-221 AD) one being ‘Series of Herbs for Obstetrics’. Later during the Tang dynasty (618-907) the famous doctor Sun Si Miao wrote the ‘Thousand Golden Ducat Prescription’ which included three volumes dedicated to obstetrics and gynecology. More recently the integration of Western and Chinese medicine has been taking place since 1949 and many innovative treatments in obstetrics have been devised for example, the treatment of pain and nausea and vomiting with acupuncture, and the use of Chinese herbs for postpartum depression. Years of working as a Chinese medicine doctor has proved to me that acupuncture can not only promote the health of the mother and baby, but can effectively treat most of pregnancy aliments as well. Common disorders of pregnancy that we see at ilumina are: nausea & vomiting, fatigue, constipation, digestive disorders, insomnia, anxiety, depression, back pain, rib pain, edema, carpel tunnel syndrome, allergies, sinusitis, elevated blood pressure, gestational diabetes, varicose veins, headaches and migraines.

Sometimes I have patients ask if acupuncture is safe during pregnancy. When performed by a properly educated and experienced Chinese medicine doctor, I strongly believe that it is one of the safest and most effective medical treatments to utilize during pregnancy.