Preparing For Labour and Birth

While every pregnancy is unique, the trimesters of pregnancy have a natural progression that can be both exciting and challenging. The first trimester is well known as the time of ‘morning sickness’ which for many women should really be called ‘all day sickness’! The second trimester, if you’re lucky, can be a wonderful time of renewed energy, continuing exercise, work and just getting on with it!

It’s not often until the third trimester that pregnant women begin to focus on getting set-up for the arrival of the baby, known as ‘nesting’, and reality sets in - this growing baby inside your swelling belly will need to come out!

These days, for many pregnant women there are several options for:

●      the type of birth you choose (or at least - plan for!)

●      location of labour and birth (home, conventional hospital, birth centre or water)

●      who supports you through your labour and birth (obstetrician, midwife, doula) and,

●      the many painkillers available, if needed.

In many ways, these options have supported women to have the right to choose how they plan for the birth of their child. On the other hand, the cascade of intervention has increased. Whatever your choices are around the many aspects of the coming labour and birth, it’s important to prepare so that you feel physically, emotionally and mentally strong. This way, you have the best chance of having the labour and birth you wish for.

Focus on grounding, earthing and opening

To bring your beautiful baby into this world requires a focus on lowering and opening your energy, and your body will follow suit. We often look at birth as the baby coming ‘out’, however it is more about the baby ‘moving down’ then out. This can be seen through the natural physiology of birth preparation. As you venture further into the third trimester, your baby’s head and body start to move lower down into your pelvis, this is known as ‘engaging’. It’s a sign that you and your baby are getting ready. Once you’re into the full swing of contractions, and you’re often fully dilated, you begin to feel ‘bearing down’ contractions which is an intense need to push down into your bottom to help the baby down and out.

This natural pull toward Mother Earth is why many women across the world give birth in a squatting, standing or kneeling position as these positions support the need to bear down and allow your body to best open up. Allowing your energy to lower, will also help you to calm your mind, rein in your emotions and balance your hormones - thus, the important phase of ‘nesting’. The key, therefore, is during your third trimester spend time grounding yourself by:

●      taking time out to calm your mind and emotions through activities that are relaxing (swimming, baths, gentle walks, reading, gardening, mindfulness - yes, go buy a colouring book, better yet - make something for the nursery!)

●      keeping an eye on your stress levels (this raises your energy up toward your head instead of lowering, and can knock out the balance of hormones)

●      spending time in a gentle and supported squatting position (prenatal yoga classes are wonderful for teaching this)

●      meditation and visualisation focusing on a smooth, safe and joyful labour and birth

●      practice breathing down into your body and sending your breath to where pain is so as to ease the sensation, and

●      sit and fold baby clothes and blankets!

Build your team

An integrative approach to your health and wellbeing throughout pregnancy is vital. By ‘integrative’, I mean accessing both the mainstream medicine field just as much as kinesiology, acupuncture, naturopathy, osteopathy and yoga. Many women who come for kinesiology report that the ease, success and recovery of labour and birth came down to how physically, emotionally and mentally fit they were.

Pregnancy is quite a ride; one full of wonder, awe, anxieties, fears, tears and joys. Be gentle on yourself with how you’re feeling and know that somewhere, around the world there’s another woman (if not, many more) feeling just like you. If you’re feeling worried or anxious about labour and birth, if you would like to check in on your body, hormones, emotions or mental strength for pain, if you would like to check in on your baby to see if s/he needs anything, or if you would like to learn cool tips and tricks then come along to Live Well for some kinesiology. It’s all about team work for you and your baby.

Endometriosis: From a Naturopathic Perspective

Endometriosis is a condition that really needs to be treated using the best that both the Medical and Complementary healthcare systems have to offer. That is to say, treatment for Endometriosis should be undertaken in a comprehensive and focused way to throw everything you can at it, and achieve an effective therapeutic outcome.

Medical treatment may seek to reduce or stop periods altogether, using hormonally active medications to induce a continual pregnancy-like hormonal state or produce a temporary menopausal state. It would also be concerned with medicating for pain management, mood swings and depression. Medical procedures can range from the less invasive, to the higher end of the “invasive” scale, and may involve:

•       Medication -for example, oestrogen-modulating (e.g. the oral contraceptive pill),  progestogens (e.g. Provera), and analgesic medicines

•       Laparoscopic investigation and surgery/ablation

•       Regular D and Cs (dilation and curettage)

•       Hysterectomy

Naturopathic treatment for Endometriosis is centred on supporting appropriate organs, systems, and pathways in the body through a comprehensive nutritional and herbal prescription to target the disease pathways; as well as beneficial dietary and lifestyle modifications in order to mitigate symptoms, improve reproductive health and fertility, and ultimately, to manage and reduce disease progression.

After proper assessment of the condition -that is, how active the Endometriosis is, severity of growth and symptoms, treatment goals (symptomatic improvement vs fertility, for example), and contributing factors; the main areas of focus in treating Endometriosis from a Naturopathic perspective involves the regulation and support of:

•       Hormones (especially oestrogen and cortisol)

•       Liver detoxification pathways to improve toxin and hormonal clearance

•       Gut health and function

•       Lymphatic and immune function

•       Inflammation pathways

•       Oxidative stress within the system

Naturopathic investigations may also include:

•       Assessment of goal for treatment e.g. symptom reduction, fertility or treatment of entire disease process

•       Hormonal and Pain tracking

•       Hormonal profile (salivary test)

•       2 and 16 (pathways) oestrogen metabolism testing

•       Adrenal hormone profile

•       Food igG and IgG profile

•       Coeliac profile

•       Complete Digestive Stool Analysis

•       Vitamin D status

•       Lipid profile

•       Gene screen

•       Liver function: capacity for detoxification/assessment of phase I and II of liver detoxification processes

•       Levels of oxidation, pro-oxidant factors in the diet and lifestyle (e.g. stress and poor nutrition), and antioxidant status

Nutrition

Nutritional and dietary measures are mainly focused on the repletion and boosting of key nutrients, as well as the avoidance of foods and substances necessary to impact Endometriosis pathways (outlined above). Basic principles of which, include:

•       Nutritional (and herbal) prescriptions to provide symptomatic support (including psychological and emotional stress), and target inflammation and other disease pathways

•       Limit pro-inflammatory substances and foods, such as: dairy, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, non-organic meats and farmed fish, processed/packaged foods, saturated fats and deep-fried foods, soy and other oestrogenic foods (including xeno-oestrogens, commonly ingested through use of plastics)

•       Include more: fresh, whole (natural, non-processed), and organic (this is actually really important, therapeutically) foods that are nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-packed!

•       Increase fibre to aid digestion, enhance the ecology of the gut, and clearance of oestrogen and toxic waste from the system

LifeStyle measures may include:

•       Meditation and relaxation techniques can be invaluable in helping deal with the psychological, emotional and physical impact of endometriosis

•       Moderate, daily physical activity like walking, stretching and yoga are beneficial

•       Losing weight (if necessary), as adipose (fat) tissue produces more oestrogen, and is very hormonally active

•       Refraining from sexual intercourse during menses (due to the link to possible retrograde blood flow)

•       Awareness around what’s in your environment, food and personal care products (e.g. moisturiser, make-up, deodorant, sanitary items); and making appropriate changes to avoid and decrease exposure to chemicals and toxins (for example, heavy metals, pesticides, parabens, phthalates, solvents, and moulds), is a must.

References:

Cook, K and Trickey, R. Endometriosis. Crows Nest, N.S.W: Allen and Unwin, 2002.Print.

Hechtman, Leah. Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Sydney, Australia: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier Australia, 2011.Print.

 

 

Shanna is a qualified Naturopath and EFT Practitioner, and member of the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA). 

Shanna's interest in natural medicine came about through her own health challenges. She has a special interest in helping people with natural fertility, hormone balance, stressanxietydepression, fatigue and general wellbeing. 

Learn more about Shanna
Make an appointment to see Shanna

 

Castor Oil Packs for Reproductive Health

Castor oil is derived from the seeds of the Castor plant (Ricinus cammunis), also known as Palma Christi.  Castor oil’s healing properties have been utilised for many years, in ancient Egypt it was taken orally as a laxative (which is now known to be toxic). Traditional Chinese medicine, ayurvedic medicine and naturopathy recommend the use of castor oil packs because of their ability to promote circulation, healing and reduce inflammation.

A castor oil pack is a cloth soaked in castor oil, which is placed on the skin and warmed to enhance circulation and promote healing of the underlying tissues and organs.

Castor oil packs can be used to assist in cases of inflammation, pain, growths or when there is a need for increased circulation.  Castor oil packs work by supporting the liver, lymphatic and circulatory systems.  When it comes to fertility castor oil packs may be a great supportive therapy for:

  • Supporting ovarian health
  • Supporting fallopian tube health
  • Supporting uterine health
  • Supporting egg health
  • Detoxifying before conception

Stimulation of the lymphatic system occurs by applying the castor oil pack over the reproductive organs where many lymph nodes are located. This helps to cleanse the reproductive organs and promote healing of damaged tissues where the pack is applied.

The promotion of circulation by the castor oil pack will bring fresh, oxygenated, nutrient rich blood to the reproductive organs, including the uterus. Without proper circulation to the reproductive organs, the organs cannot function at their best which can leave them prone to disease, impede the healing of damaged areas and allow for the formation of scar tissue and adhesions.

To make a castor oil pack you will need:

  • A piece of soft, clean thick material like flannel, wool or cotton (organic is ideal)
  • Castor oil
  • A glass jar with lid
  • A hot water bottle or heating pad
  • A plastic bag
  • A large towel
  • Old comfortable clothes (castor oil stains fabric)
  • Baking soda

Instructions:

  • Put on your old clothes
  • Place your piece of cloth onto your jar and pour enough castor oil over it to soak it.  Make sure it is saturated, but it doesn’t need to be dripping with oil
  • Get your hot water bottle or heating pad ready
  • Place your towel on a flat surface (either a couch, your bed or the floor)
  • Lie down and place the saturated cloth over your lower abdomen
  • Cover with plastic bag
  • Place the hot water bottle/heating pad over the pack and let it sit for at least 20 mins (ideally 30-45 mins) during this time you can rest or read a book
  • When the time is up, remove the pack and clean the area with a dilute solution of water and baking soda

Store your cloth in the glass jar with the lid sealed in a cool place or in the fridge.  You can reuse the pack many times – just add a little more oil if the cloth feels dry.

Precautions: Castor oil should not be taken internally. Do not apply to broken skin. It should not be used during pregnancy, breastfeeding or during menstruation.  If you ae actively trying to conceive, discontinue use after ovulation has occurred.

 

Endometriosis: A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), when a woman is in a state of optimal health the menstrual period should be painless and accompanied by minimal, if any premenstrual signs and symptoms. 

In conditions such as endometriosis, the flow of qi (energy, vital life force) and blood has become impaired, resulting in stagnation.  This stagnation can manifest as pain, dark or clotted menstruation and premenstrual signs and symptoms such as emotional volatility, breast tenderness and digestive changes such as constipation or loose stools.  All of the symptoms associated with endometriosis reflect elements of blood and/or qi stagnation and as such, can be effectively managed with TCM treatment.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine restore the flow of blood and qi throughout the body in order to rectify any imbalance and return the body to a state of optimal health.

TCM treatment aims to:

·       Manage and treat stress, a major contributing factor in endometriosis.

·       Move stagnant qi and blood which causes pain and can contribute to fertility problems

·       Support the meridians involved in menstruation and the bodies detoxification pathways

·       Encourage lifestyle and dietary changes to strengthen vitality and minimise symptoms

Depending on the severity and stage of endometriosis, the length of treatment may be three to six full menstrual cycles. 

Many women will experience relief of symptoms within this timeframe, however it is recommended to undergo a full course of treatment so that the condition is fully addressed.

Sally has a special interest in working with couples to overcome fertility challenges as well as continuing to support women throughout pregnancy and beyond. 

Sally has a Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from the University of Technology Sydney and a Diploma of Health Science in Eastern Massage therapy (Shiatsu and Tuina) from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

To find out more about acupuncture and how it can help with infertilityendometriosisstressanxietyback pain and throughout pregnancy please click on the links. 

Learn more about Sally
Make an appointment with Sally

 

Miscarriage and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a long history of treating and preventing miscarriages.  While some miscarriages are inevitable, it is reassuring to know that there are treatment options available, especially in cases of threatened miscarriage.  According to TCM, one of the most common causes of miscarriage is a deficiency of Spleen and Kidney energy leading to deficiency of qi and blood.

These deficiencies result in the uterus not getting enough blood supply to support sufficient growth and nourishment of the foetus, resulting in miscarriage.  In order to prevent miscarriage, women should ensure that their body is balanced even before planning a pregnancy. This can take time, and in some instances some fairly drastic lifestyle changes are required.

Work and family commitments should be re-arranged where necessary to avoid overdoing it and depleting the qi.  Working long hours depletes the qi, there is no way around it.

Ask for help where necessary.  If you are looking after young children and are exhausted, ask your partner/family/friends for some help, be specific, chances are they have no idea how run down you are and would love to help if only they knew how.  Exercise should be kept to a minimum, and only at a low intensity, walking is perfect.

If you have a previous history of miscarriage, it is important to take some time to allow your body to recover and replenish qi and blood before attempting to fall pregnant again.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be of great benefit here. If you are currently pregnant, have a history of miscarriage and feel that you have not fully replenished your energy, don’t panic! Slow down, relax and make an appointment to see a local TCM practitioner. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs can be prescribed to prevent threatened miscarriage and are very effective. There is no effective conventional (Western) medical treatment for threatened miscarriage to date, however any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy should be reported to your doctor.

The following is a very popular congee (rice porridge) dish in China that has been used for many years as a preventive measure for miscarriage.  This dish can be eaten three times a week, before or during pregnancy.  Lotus seeds are a medicinal food in Chinese Medicine and can be used to strengthen the Spleen and Kidney energies to prevent miscarriage.  Red dates are nutrient rich, a good source of fibre and iron, and act to tonify the blood.  Red dates and lotus seeds are available from Asian grocers.

Red Date Lotus Seed Congee

1 Handful of white rice
15 Lotus seeds
10 Chinese red dates, rinsed
500ml-800ml (approx. 2-3 cups) of water
Soak Lotus Seeds for 2-3 hours before cooking
Cook rice and lotus seeds in 500ml-800ml water on simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice softens.
NB Do not eat Lotus seeds if suffering from a cold or flu or have a fever.

Sally has a special interest in working with couples to overcome fertility challenges as well as continuing to support women throughout pregnancy and beyond. 

Sally has a Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from the University of Technology Sydney and a Diploma of Health Science in Eastern Massage therapy (Shiatsu and Tuina) from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

To find out more about acupuncture and how it can help with infertilityendometriosisstressanxietyback pain and throughout pregnancy please click on the links. 

Learn more about Sally
Make an appointment with Sally

 

MALE FERTILITY AND NUTRITION

It takes two to tango…

When a couple wishes to conceive, naturally improving their fertility (the health and function of your body and reproductive system) is often the next step. And whilst it’s great that people are generally now more aware of the impact of their health history, diet and lifestyle habits when looking at making a baby; it is far too common to see (and hear) male fertility being overlooked in the equation. In fact, male fertility issues have been found to account for 40-50% of couples having difficulty conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy*.

Sperm + Egg = Baby

Taking the whole realm of fertility back to basics for a minute, it’s really important to consider that a healthy baby is made, when a healthy sperm and a healthy egg meet… This is fertility 101. So let’s get down to what we’re here to talk about today; the nitty gritty of making healthy sperm…

It all comes down to stress, digestion and quality nutrition

The business of making top-notch swimmers and being fertile essentially ties back to 3 things; the impact of “stress” (physical, mental/emotional, environmental) on our physiology; how well we can digest, absorb and utilise the nutrients in our food; and whether or not we are adequately nourished from the foods we eat…

You could almost say that above all else, the number one key to healthy sperm and reproductive health is good nutrition!

Because, when the body has available to it all the raw materials it needs in order to establish and maintain cellular health and integrity, it means our entire physiology is then equipped with what it needs to keep good health, and function well. This includes the multitude of processes that are essential to our bodies on a daily basis, for example, in the regulation of the our organs and body systems, to produce energy, synthesise hormones, maintaining good brain chemistry, an effective immune response or acid/alkaline balance; as well as to bind and eliminate toxins adequately, and generally buffer our body against the impacts of stress, toxins and modern-day living…

These “raw materials” are the nutrients that come from our diet. That is, what we’re putting into our bodies on a daily basis. Which means our level of health, wellbeing, and fertility is directly related to the quality of food we eat, and the nutrients our body receives from our food -such as the vitamins, minerals, healthy fatty acids, amino acids, anti-oxidants and other health-boosting compounds (especially from plant-based food sources) that protect our cells (and DNA), organs and tissues from damage, keeping them in good health and working order.

However, all of this also relies upon good digestive function, and our body’s capacity to break down and metabolise the nutrients in our food to send to our tissues and cells.

A well-nourished body can protect against, and off-set the impact of stress, toxic load and other factors…

Did you know…

Nutritional and lifestyle interventions play a significant role in addressing the major causes of male infertility including*:

·         Low sperm count (when number of sperm produced is low),

·         Poor motility (sperm too unfit to swim),

·         Sperm agglutination (coagulating),

·         Impotence (unable to achieve or maintain an erection), and

·         Ejaculatory disorders (premature, delayed or absent ejaculation)

For good sperm health, there are some specific nutrient deficiencies to look out forincluding*:

·         B-complex vitamins (especially B12, which has been shown to improve sperm count and motility),

·         Omega 3 fatty acids (highly protective effect for sperm, and needed for integrity of sperm membrane and sperm motility),

·         Zinc (huge sperm-health nutrient, that has proven beneficial for male infertility, and is needed for optimum testosterone levels, sperm production and motility),

·         Vitamin C (is a potent antioxidant, which protects against oxidative DNA damage; helps prevent against sperm agglutination (sticking together or clumping), and has shown positive effects improving sperm viability and motility.

What’s “stressing” you…

It is equally important to address the impact “stress” has on our health, fertility and nutrient status; as stress rapidly uses up (and depletes!) nutrients in the system (that’s assuming we’re eating and digesting well to begin with, let alone if we’re not!).

Whether your stress registers in your awareness or is flying under the radar, some things to be mindful of, include:

·         Events, relationships, experiences, worries  and emotions;

·         How much stuff is “on your plate”?

·         How busy or rested you are; 

·         Your environment -what is (or has) your system being (or been) exposed to? For example, the quality of air in your home, or working environment;

·         Level of chemical exposure, from pesticides and additives in foods; toxins absorbed from personal products e.g. like your antiperspirant or body wash (our skin is our biggest organ of absorption);  

·         Exposure to heavy metals and common industrial chemicals found in seafood, petrol fumes, adhesives, paints and the like;

·         Radiation from mobile phones, flying, x-rays, digital televisions, wi-fi etc.

·         Lack of, or poor quality sleep;

·         Sedentary lifestyle;

·         Alcohol intake, smoking, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs (cigarette smoking has been implicated as a direct causative factor in poor sperm quality and quantity; alongside which, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, anti-depressants, antibiotics and steroids can also impact sperm health and quality)*.

·         Inflammation and infections;

·         Testicular temperature;

The biggest contributing factors to testosterone deficiency in men are: stress, lack of regular exercise, nutrient deficiencies, insulin resistance, obesity, smoking and toxicity. These factors contribute to low production of testosterone in the gonads, which is essential for sperm production**.

Testosterone deficiency: typically characterised by symptoms such as low libido; mood disturbances, depression; erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation; fatigue; Adropause (yes, that’s right; the male equivalent of menopause. Men experience this as their natural levels of testosterone decrease); insomnia; increased visceral fat (fat deposits stored in abdomen, around organs); decreased muscle mass, weakness; loss of bone density; loss of facial, underarm and pubic hair; heat flushes; signs of premature ageing; testicular shrinkage, anaemia; increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. When testosterone levels decrease, risk of inflammatory conditions, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance and hypertension all increase.

Oestrogen excess which may be characterised in men by the development of breast tissue (colloquially referred to as “man boobs”); an enlarged prostate (also known as, benign prostatic hyperplasia -BPH), including symptoms such as difficulty urinating, urgency, urinary incontinence or waking during the night to urinate, urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney stones; and prostate cancer.  Too much oestrogen in the system can occur through an over-abundance of oestrogenic influences that disrupt the endocrine system; for example, from regular beer intake, xeno-oestrogens from plastics (especially those that are heated and leeching into our foods/body systems), and those from fish, soy products and fast foods common in the standard Western diet.

When addressing fertility, it’s necessary to consider the impact all of these things (“stresses”) have on our physiology; and the potential influence they have in either protecting, promoting, or compromising our health (and fertility) to various degrees –whether it be contributing to nutrient depletion/deficiency; glandular and hormonal disturbances; immune dysfunction; acidity and inflammation; they all affect the body’s overall health and ability to function well.   

It’s worth noting that the improvements we make to our nutrition, digestive function, and stressing less (see list above for potential hidden stressors in your life) can absolutely turn reproductive health and fertility around... The science of epigenetics (the influence of external modifications, such as diet, nutrition and stress have on the ability to turn certain genes on or off), and the study of nutrigenomics (how nutrients in our diet directly affect our genes, and the potential nutrition has in preventing, mitigating and even treating disease) are a testament to this.

Finally, a minimum of 4 - 6 months of corrective treatment before trying to conceive is advised*.

I am happy to help.

Shanna

 

Read more about Shanna.

Make an appointment to see Shanna.

 

 

References:

*Osiecki, H 2006, The Physician’s Handbook of Clinical Nutrition 7th edn. Bio Concepts, QLD Australia.

**Metagenics, 2014, Female Hormonal Disorders, QLD Australia.

 

 

MALE IVF PREPARATION

Did you know that it is just as important for a man to prepare for IVF as it is for a woman?

Keep in mind that it is of the utmost importance to have healthy sperm, as this will be half of the genetic makeup of your child.  To some, this may seem obvious; of course half of the genetic makeup of a child comes from the male partner.  Why then, do we as natural healthcare practitioners see many more women for preparation for IVF than men?  

Let’s consider fertility assessments, semen analysis in particular. 

What does a semen analysis tell you? And what does a ‘normal’ sperm result mean?

The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2010) published reference values, to work out how an individual semen analysis compares to a population of fertile men.

Amount and thickness of semen.  The typical ejaculate is 2-6 mL of semen (about ½ to 1 teaspoon).   An ejaculate that is greater than 1.5 mL falls within the normal reference range* as defined by the WHO.  Semen should be thick to start with, and become thinner 10-15 minutes after ejaculation.

Sperm concentration.  Also known as sperm count. This is the number of sperm in millions per millilitre of semen. Fifteen million or more sperm per mL is considered normal.

Sperm motility. This is the percentage of sperm that are moving well as an assessment of movement. One hour after ejaculation, at least 40% of sperm should be moving forward in a straight line.

Morphology. This is an analysis of the sperm shape and appearance. The number of ideally shaped sperm (referred to as “normal”) compared to the number of imperfectly shaped sperm (abnormal) should be greater than 4%.

So, if you fall within the “normal” reference range there’s no need to do anything right? Wrong!  A semen analysis that falls within the normal reference range does not guarantee that an individual man is fertile, but gives a guide as to whether he is likely to be fertile. 

It is also worth noting that the “normal” reference range for sperm morphology allows for 96% of sperm to be abnormally shaped! And “normal” sperm motility allows for 60% of sperm to not be forward moving, definitely room for improvement.

*Reference ranges (modified) from WHO Laboratory Manual of the Examination and Processing of Human Semen (5th Ed. WHO, 2010)

When and how to improve the quality of your sperm.

The sperm regeneration cycle takes about 74 days. Most men produce millions of new sperm everyday, but it takes 2.5 – 3 months for them to fully mature (immature sperm lack the ability to swim forward and fertilise an egg).

Sperm are living cells within the body and are subject to whatever conditions the rest of the body is exposed to throughout their maturation cycle. Extreme temperatures, chemical exposure, smoking, drug and alcohol use and poor diet can all impact the quality of sperm. 

It is important to remember that healthy sperm will not be not be ready to fertilise an egg until the new batch of sperm, that has developed under healthier conditions, is mature.  This means that after making lifestyle changes it is recommended to wait about 3 months before trying to conceive or undergoing IVF. 

Acupuncture can help

  Some clinical trials have indicated that acupuncture can improve sperm motility (Dieterle 2009), increase sperm     count (Siterman 2009, Siterman 2001), and improve sperm quality (Pei 2005; Gurfinkle 2003). 

  Acupuncture may help in the treatment of male infertility (Stener-Victorin 2010) by:

  • Lowering scrotal temperature 
  • Enhancing local microcirculation, by increasing diameter and blood flow velocity of peripheral arterioles 
  • Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors 
  • By improving sperm maturation in the epididymis,
  • Increasing testosterone levels and reducing liquid peroxidation of sperm.  

Fertility is a journey for both partners and I am happy to help.

Sally

     

 

 

Sally has a special interest in working with couples to overcome fertility challenges as well as continuing to support women throughout pregnancy and beyond. 

Sally has a Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from the University of Technology Sydney and a Diploma of Health Science in Eastern Massage therapy (Shiatsu and Tuina) from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

To find out more about acupuncture and how it can help with infertilityendometriosisstressanxietyback pain and throughout pregnancy please click on the links. 

Learn more about Sally
Make an appointment with Sally

 

Natural Medicine for Pregnancy and Childbirth

Current statistics indicate that a growing proportion of couples, around one in six, find it difficult to conceive. The reasons for this are complex and varied, but a major factor includes chronic stress and tiredness, from people working harder and longer hours, and other stresses associated with modern living. Nutritional factors also play an important role. To fall pregnant and then sustain the pregnancy, you need to be relaxed!

infertility+treatment+canberra.jpg

One client who suffered debilitating anxiety, as she failed to fall pregnant one cycle after the next, was told by her GP “stop trying for three months while we run some tests”. Relieved, she fell pregnant that week.

Physiologically, the hypothalamus in the brain not only plays a role in regulating the endocrine (hormonal) system, it also forms part of our emotional response system. Natural medicine interventions can greatly assist couples to fall pregnant, and then safely support the pregnancy through its stages, from fruition to childbirth.

Areas where natural medicine can assist the fertility/ pregnancy/ childbirth cycle include, but are not limited to:

Infertility (= not yet pregnant ) – addressing causative factors and obstacles, whether:

Physical – for example insomnia, low sperm count, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome or other reproductive issues that interfere with fertility; or

Emotional, Mental – for example stress, anxiety, depression, tension, negative self-beliefs, poor body image.

Miscarriage – especially where there is a pattern of miscarriage and/or a history of miscarriage in the family;

Morning sickness – there a number of safe, effective herbal and homeopathic medicines that can assist when chosen according to the woman’s specific symptoms;

Health maintenance during pregnancy & preparation for labour – there are a number of herbs in particular (e.g. Raspberry Leaf) that can be safely used to enhance the health of the mother and foetus, and optimally prepare both mother and child for labour. Different herbs are indicated at different stages of the pregnancy.

A Story to Share with you

To help illustrate how natural medicine can help I wanted to share a case with you.

A woman who had recently conceived then miscarried fell into an intense, debilitating grief. Those around her did not understand, as it was their perception that it was “just a miscarriage”. To her, it felt like nothing less than the death of a child. She felt she could not conceive again until she resolved her grief, anxiety and depression.

A homeopathic medicine indicated in this particular scenario acted quickly and deeply, to help her to resolve her grief and move on. She fell pregnant within three months without further trouble.

She is now a mother of four young children (and that’s another story …).

Take Care.

Gerry 

 

Emotional Mental Health A Key to Fertility

Emotional and mental health can be a very real barrier to fertility. So often, we focus on our physical health and whether we are 'fertile in our body'. You and your partner may have had every blood test and scan under the sun.  You may have had some answers such as a genetic pattern issue, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries or low sperm count. Maybe you've found no answers, or have been given a fertility percentage.

Yet, what about emotional and mental health? Especially when there is a struggle with trying to conceive.

I often find women coming to me because

  • they're at a loss as to why they are yet to fall pregnant
  • they have stress in their lives they need to clear as they have a feeling that this is affecting their fertility, or
  • they have negative experiences related to reproductive health that they need to let go of.

Kinesiology is a fascinating and powerful tool for it has the ability to speak to the body, the conscious and the subconscious mind, and takes the guess work out of questioning 'why?' The very challenge to conceive can cause stress which in turn becomes the enemy to your fertility.

Healing From Miscarriage or Termination

A common example of the importance of emotional and mental health for fertility is healing from a miscarriage or termination; this is something that can take time. From the well recognised statistics, we know that this is a shared experience for many women, however we are all unique in the way that we hold onto or process grief, loss and change. Personal history and circumstance are also unique and it's for these reasons that each personal experience and response to this stress is valid. 

Once you begin to heal and feel ready to try again to conceive, it's good to check in and prepare on all levels to ensure that your body is not holding onto past hurt. Sometimes our fear of falling pregnant again or worry over the ability to carry a baby full term can be part of the picture that is preventing conception. Kinesiology can help you to understand and free your emotions and thoughts and to clear the body of trauma and pain.

The Energy Connection Between Emotions and Your Reproductive System

To further reiterate the message, from an energetic perspective the Sacral Chakra – which penetrates through the ovaries and gonads is the chakra most known for it's connection to emotions. When your emotions are in balance, meaning that you're understanding and expressing your emotional self, you have a balanced Sacral chakra and thus a balance within the energy system of your reproductive system and related hormones and structures. Your emotional state directly relates to your fertility and vise versa!

As I mentioned above, you can store your emotions and thought patterns in your body. They can be both recent and old experiences. By releasing these experiences and the effect they have on you, you are able to then make room for new experiences, have the ability to respond rather than react, and to create the family you desire.

A Fun Fertility Tip

Making a baby is the essence of creativity. Both the Traditional Chinese Medicine Kidney meridian and the yogic Sacral Chakra involved in the making of a baby are also the sources for creativity. These systems thrive on creative nourishment. Think beyond just physical conception to creative outlets such as cooking, gardening, art and craft, and problem solving – get those creative juices flowing!

For more information, check out an article I previously wrote called A Fertile Life: Why Mind-Body Medicine is Essential for Fertility 

Kate Pamphilon

 

 

Kate's passion is to educate and empower each client to understand their mind, body, and Spirit and how these aspects are all connected. Her integrative approach to health and healing is to explore and treat the whole person. Kate is the creator of Holistic by Nature and is also on the expert panel of I Quit Sugar.

To find out more about Kinesiology please click here.

Read more about Kate. 

 

The Journey of Fertility

Ensure your body is in optimal condition for trying to conceive.

Having a period is not much fun at the best of times, and while you are trying to conceive it can be downright heartbreaking.  I have had many clients explain to me how with each menstrual period they feel a sense of loss, hopelessness or despair.  These feelings are often further compounded with unpleasant symptoms such as emotional volatility, pain and fatigue, none of which help during this sometimes difficult time.

fert.jpg

Instead of seeing each menstrual period as a setback on your path to parenthood, consider it as a time to take special care of yourself and prepare for the next chance at conception.  Ancient Chinese physicians called menstruation Tian Gui or ‘Heavenly water’ because they believed that menstrual blood was different from the blood that circulates through and nourishes the body.  During the menstrual period there is a loss of blood or ‘Heavenly Water’, but this loss is not simply a monthly discharge of discarded material from the uterus, it is Qi, the vital energy that is required for life.

It is for this very reason that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views the menstrual period as a time when women need to take particular care of themselves.  As blood is discharged from the uterus during Heavenly Water, the body is in a state of qi and blood deficiency - as blood is lost so is qi. During this stage of the menstrual cycle, the body is more vulnerable to be influenced by external factors, such as cold.  In TCM theory, cold has the ability to obstruct qi and suppress healthy reproductive function.  This can result in cramping pain, irritability, bloating and cravings for sweet foods. Ingesting cold foods and drinks (this can mean food and drinks that are physically cold such as ice cream or chilled water, as well as salads, juices and raw foods) can allow cold to enter the body, as can standing on cold floors with bare feet, being under dressed for the weather and swimming during your period.

I wanted to share with you this egg soup recipe as it helps to increase circulation, nourish the body and keep it warm - enabling the smooth and free flow of qi and blood.  You can make this during your period to ease menstrual pain and to ensure your body is in optimal condition for trying to conceive. 

Egg Soup - Makes 1 serve                                                

1 cup water                                                                                                                                              

1 tablespoon raw sugar      

2 eggs                                                                                                                                                    

3 tablespoons rice wine (available from Asian grocers)

In a medium saucepan, add 1 cup of water and dissolve raw cane sugar. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Crack 2 eggs into the boiling water and stir as it returns to the boil.  Add rice wine and remove from heat. Serve hot.

Remember to like and care for yourself.

Sally

 

 

Sally has a special interest in working with couples to overcome fertility challenges as well as continuing to support women throughout pregnancy and beyond. 

Sally has a Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from the University of Technology Sydney and a Diploma of Health Science in Eastern Massage therapy (Shiatsu and Tuina) from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

To find out more about acupuncture and how it can help with infertilityendometriosisstressanxietyback pain and throughout pregnancy please click on the links. 

Learn more about Sally
Make an appointment with Sally

 

A Fertile Life Part I: Why Mind-Body Medicine is Essential for Fertility

In this two part series, I will be exploring how mind-body medicine supports women in creating the family and life they've always wanted. Mind-body medicine treats the whole person: your mind, body, spirit and energy system. This is essential, as the answer to fertility difficulties sometimes  lies beyond the physical body.

Part I Why Mind-Body Medicine is Essential for Fertility discusses the role emotions, thoughts and hormones play in fertility. Part II will explore the broader concept of a fertile life and how in turn this promotes fertility.

Imagine yourself as an intricate pattern of connecting lines, such as a web. Each silk thread is a different aspect – your thoughts, emotions, hormones, nutrients, neurons, organs, glands – the list goes on. Your energy system flows though each of these threads. Energy flows where intention goes so if there is stress or dis-harmony in one connection, then it affects the whole system. The web becomes weak. It is crucial then, to look at the whole person and not just the physical body!

Does it sometimes feel like you've tried everything to get pregnant? Or are you at the beginning of your fertility journey and wondering if all is in place for a healthy pregnancy? Perhaps you're pregnant and wanting to prepare for the birth and life after your baby arrives?
When planning for a baby, most women take into consideration key factors in their lifestyle such as: what they're eating, how much they're exercising and if they need to quit smoking or reduce their alcohol consumption. These areas are widely recognised as crucial to a healthy pregnancy and baby. However, the role of emotional and mental health in promoting fertility is often overlooked. Below are some examples of other aspects affecting fertility for your consideration:

Stress hormones are your fertility enemy. In 2009, researchers at the University of California discovered several damaging interactions between stress hormones and fertility hormones. When you are stressed, anxious or depressed, hormones are released into your body that disturb your ovulation, sperm count and desire for sex.

The yogic-Chakra system penetrates through your endocrine (hormonal) system. By checking in with each of the chakras you are able to gain insight into what areas of your life you need to pay attention to.

The Crown Chakra penetrates through your hypothalamus which is at the top of the chain of messages within the brain down to your endocrine glands. It is the spiritual aspect of your life and whether you and on your unique path.

Second in line is the pituitary gland which amongst others secretes oxytocin (intimacy and childbirth) and prolactin (breastfeeding) and penetrates through the Brow Chakra. What is your perception of your inner and outer worlds?

Within your energy system, a balanced Sacral Chakra is key to the successful making of a baby. The Sacral Chakra penetrates through the ovaries and gonads. Surprise, surprise – the Sacral Chakra is all about your emotional self. Questions to ask yourself and your partner are: Am I expressing my emotions? Am I accepting my emotions? Am I a victim to my emotions? Do I need to let go?

And remember, it takes two to make a baby, so successful fertility is both the responsibility of the female and the male!

Returning to the web metaphor; imagine being able to create well-being through healing your energy system. Your meridians and chakras hold the keys to your fertility. Mind-body medicine teaches you a lot about yourself and gives you the power to heal and create the life that's waiting for you.

Book in with Kate Pamphilon, our resident Kinesiologist, for help with any aspect of fertility, pregnancy, labour and birth.

FIBROIDS - WHAT ARE THEY AND HOW DO THEY AFFECT MY FERTILITY?

What are Fibroids?

Many people have heard of fibroids in passing, but what exactly are they? The simple answer is that they are non-cancerous growths in the muscular wall of the uterus, and are very common among women. In fact 30 to 50% of women over the age of 35 have one or more uterine fibroids, most without even knowing it.

 

How Do I Know If I Have Fibroids?

Most women do not even realise they have fibroids as there may be no obvious symptoms. The larger the fibroid the more likely there are to be symptoms, which can include:

  • Heavy periods and/or lengthy periods
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Spotting between periods
  • A sensation of heaviness or pressure in the back
  • Pain in the pelvic area or backache
  • More frequent passing of urine

 
Do Fibroids Affect Fertility

Uterine fibroids can be as small as a pea or larger than a grapefruit. It is their size and location that determines their impact on fertility.

A recent study has shown that fibroids (regardless of location) were associated with a 15% reduction in pregnancy rates, a 30% reduction in live birth rates and a 67% increase in miscarriage. The effects of fibroids were even more pronounced when they were submucosal (inside the uterus). Fibroids found outside the uterus (subserosal) did not seem to affect pregnancy rates.

Submucosal fibroids – are the most likely to interfere with fertility as they grow from the inner wall of the womb and can inhibit successful implantation of an embryo.

Intramural fibroids – which grow within the muscular wall of the womb are the most common type of fibroid. They are likely to cause fertility problems and can increase the likelihood of miscarriage.

Subserosal fibroids – grow from the outside wall of the womb in the pelvic cavity. These have the potential to become very large if left untreated

 

What Causes fibroids?

Fibroids are sensitive to oestrogen; it stimulates them to grow, especially if insufficient progesterone is produced in your body. Studies have shown fibroids contain a greater quantity of oestrogen receptors than surrounding healthy uterine tissue. When a woman reaches menopause, the lack of oestrogen causes them to shrink.

Fibroids are the result of years of oestrogen dominance. Synthetic hormones found in the contraceptive pill, implant and vaginal ring as well as the hormones in HRT also fuel their growth. Environmental oestrogens such as pesticides and plastic have a significantly detrimental effect on fibroids.

 

Diagnosis Of Fibroids

Fibroids can be detected during a physical examination performed by a gynaecologist or general practitioner. The diagnosis needs to be confirmed with an ultrasound.

Small fibroids that are not causing any symptoms are simply left alone. Larger or problematic fibroids are often treated by surgery, the most common being hysterectomy. Obviously that’s not an option for women who want to have children and even less drastic surgery can cause weakness in the uterine wall and are not recommended. It’s important to discuss the options thoroughly with your medical specialist or GP.

 

What Are The Natural Treatment Options?

In most cases smaller fibroids will respond very well to natural treatments.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine can rebalance your system and naturally reduce the incidence or size of fibroids. (In Chinese medicine the term fibroids are an example of ‘blood stagnation’)

A naturopathic approach to treating fibroids will look at addressing oestrogen dominance through diet, herbal medicine and nutritional supplements. One common used herb, chasteberry has been shown to shrink and prevent the return of fibroids. It reduces excess oestrogen, balances hormones and reduces inflammation. However, it is important to have a professional herbalist or naturopath thoroughly assess your particular needs. 

Diet wise, make sure you don’t have high blood insulin levels. Insulin is produced when you eat sugar, flour, grains and cereals therefore it’s important to limit the intake of these foods.

Environmentally it’s important to reduce your exposure to environmental oestrogens. Plastic, pesticides, dioxins and other chemicals all promote fibroid growth.

Remember to always consult a healthcare professional before embarking on any new treatment.

HOW TO COMBAT STRESS AND BOOST FERTILITY

Stress can interfere with fertility but it is a complex relationship. One aspect which makes it more complicated is that having a hard time conceiving can be a considerable stress in itself. People often say: “Just relax, and it will happen” and, though this can be insulting and extremely frustrating, there is a grain of truth to it.

 

Stress Effects Your Hormone Balance

That’s because stress can affect the functioning of the hypothalamus. This is the gland in the brain that regulates appetite and emotions, as well as the hormones required to stimulate ovulation in women and produce testosterone in men.

If the effect of stress on your normal hormone levels is severe then it could result in you ovulating later in your cycle than usual, or not at all. This is a recognised condition, which is sometimes called “stress-induced ovulation”.

 

Stress Impacts Our Lifestyle Choices

If you or your partner are feeling stressed, you may also feel less interested in having sex and may not have sex as often, which obviously does not help the chance of conception.  Some people also find themselves more likely to binge drink, smoke or eat a poor quality diet when they are stressed, all of which have been found to have a negative impact upon fertility.

Other research indicates that stress may have an impact on other aspects of fertility beyond ovulation, including problems with fertilization and implantation in the uterus. One study from the University of California San Diego found that the most stressed women undergoing IVF had less success every step of the way (fewer eggs retrieved and fewer eggs successfully implanted) compared to women who were not as tense. Another study from Israeli researchers tested whether helping women de-stress while undergoing IVF could impact the success rate. They found that women who were entertained by a clown after they received the treatment (laughter is a known stress-soother) were more likely to conceive than those who were not.

 

Finding Ways to De-Stress

This is why it is so important to recognise that that taking time out to relax is not only important for your mental health, but for your reproductive health also.  While it is easy enough to say “just relax…” many people find that stress is an unavoidable part of life, and have got used to living with constant low levels of stress.  This can be avoided, or at least minimised by taking measures to combat stress. 

Depending on your stress levels most people find a combination of de-stress tools used together has the most impact. Some options to consider are:

 

Acupuncture 

Sally - Acupuncture Fertility Specialist
As many of you already know, acupuncture is profoundly relaxing. This might seem counter-intuitive to those who have never experienced it but its true! Acupuncture has the added benefit of helping to regulate and balance your body so not only do you feel relaxed and refreshed you also know you are helping to prepare your body for conception.

 

Naturopathy

Shanna - Naturopath
Chronic stress will deplete your body of essential nutrients, put essential organ systems under immense strain as well as affect hormone balance. Giving your body the right nutritional and herbal support can repair the damage that stress has taken on the body as well as build resilience and strength to enable you to cope better with stresses that you can't eliminate or avoid.

 

Counselling and Mindfulness

Katrina - Counselling and Mindfulness
Studies have shown that 'talking therapies' can reverse the effect of stress and boost a woman's chances of becoming pregnant. Women and men with hectic jobs are those most at risk, and are often most in denial about the stress in their lives, say researchers.

Being able to share the cause of your stress and have expert support in designing strategies to moderate the stresses in your life can make a huge impact. Also learning simple relaxation techniques such as mindfulness is an essential component to preventing stress form spiraling out of control and impacting on you fertility.

 

Massage and Pampering

As we know, so much of the stresses and tension we experience ends up being held in the tissues of our body. Massage literally stretches and releases the chronic build-up of tension allowing for deeper breathing, better organ function and a can transport the body and mind into a state of deep bliss.

Whether you love massage or prefer a body scrub or a pampering facial there is no doubt that hands on therapies have a big role to play in countering the effects of stress.


Exercise

Whether you enjoying running, swimming, a walk around the lake or a Yoga class, movement and exercise is a fantastic way to clear away the tensions of the day and release feel good hormones like endorphin's which boost mood and resilience to stress. The key is finding something you enjoy doing and aiming to do something active every day even if it’s for 10 minutes.

 

We are Here to Help

If you would like to contact any of the Live Well team to discuss how a therapy or approach could work for you please call us on (02) 62950400. Best wishes from all of us.

FOODS THAT MAY BE HARMING YOUR FERTILITY

What you eat can either significantly boost or reduce your fertility. The good news is, when you make healthier choices, the benefits can be large. A recent Harvard University study showed a decrease of 80% in infertility levels when coupes switched to a healthier diet. In part one of this series, Live Well Naturopath Shanna Choudhary outlines the foods to avoid. Follow her advice and you’ll be giving your body the best preparation to conceive.

 

Think outside the box

If there were just one thing you could do that would have a huge impact on your fertility (as well as your health), removing processed and packaged foods from your diet would be it!

If what you are eating comes out of box or a packet it’s likely to be both nutrient poor and chemically laden. ‘Food’ like this places stress on the body by adding to its toxic load as well as depriving it of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals required for health and fertility.

 

Sweet Poison

You know how sugar gives you that sweet sugar “high”, which temporarily boosts your mood and energy levels but quickly gives way to the “crash” that follows, leaving you feeling moody, irritable and not so crash-hot anymore…

You may not know that the rollercoaster of sugar highs and lows disrupts delicate hormonal balance in your body which makes falling pregnant much more difficult. Diets high in sugar affect the pancreas and can lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. Sugar also triggers a stress response in the body; depleting your adrenals, messing with your thyroid and depressing immune function.

It is still possible to have some sweetness in your life, but choose unrefined and more natural sources like maple syrup and raw honey and be sure to avoid the fake sugar substitutes which are very toxic to your health and fertility.

 

Caffeine Hit

Caffeine seems like our friend at first; as a good caffeine hit boosts our alertness and concentration levels, and can seem like a great pick-me-up when we need one in the morning or when we hit that afternoon slump.

However, caffeine consumption is associated with increased conception time; and has been shown to affect hormonal balance, prevent ovulation and even increase chances of miscarriage.

Even just 2 coffees a day has been shown to exert negative effects on ovulation and can actually increase risk of miscarriage by up to 2x.

Caffeine has also been shown to reduce muscular activity in the fallopian tubes, decreasing follicle function so the ovum may not reach the uterus. This could also be a possible implication in ectopic pregnancies.

 

Soy Trouble

Soy pops up in many different forms, and is found in a large variety of foods and food products, such as soy milk, tofu and soya sauce.

Soy has an oestrogen-mimicking effect on the body, which can disrupt your hormonal balance and therefore fertility in both females and males.

A number of studies have shown that soy has a negative impact on reproductive health and fertility; demonstrating significant changes in reproductive organs and the menstrual cycle, such as the development of endometriosis or heavy menstrual bleeding.  

Men are also adversely affected by soy, as it has been linked to lowering libido, erectile dysfunction, reduced sperm count, breast enlargement and mood swings.

 

Genetic Engineering

Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) contain an in-built pesticide in the form of a bacteria: Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). However, Bt is believed to be causing widespread health and fertility issues in populations that have GMOs in the diet.

In Australia we have 43 varieties of GMO canola, corn, potato, rice, soybean and sugarbeet approved for human consumption. GMO ingredients can be found in margarine-type spreads, dairy blends, tinned, processed/packaged, snack and fried foods such as bread, pastries, chocolates, potato chips, cakes and confectionery; they are also widely used in stockfeed, used to feed the animals that are bred for the meat and dairy industries.

Whilst there is not a large body of long-term studies on the fertility effects of GMO foods, one study showed that mice who over a period 20 weeks were fed GMO corn, had greatly impaired fertility when compared with the mice who were fed non GMO corn. Moreover, the offspring of the mice fed a GMO corn diet also suffered from lower fertility rates/were found to be sterile.

Until GMO foods can be proven to be safe for consumption, many countries (particularly in Europe), have banned its use altogether. 

 

Good Fat, Bad Fat

Some fats deserve their bad reputation, however there are good fats out there that are really important to include in your diet to support fertility.

‘Bad’ fats to avoid include hydrogenated fats found in margarines and spreads, biscuits, potato chips, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods.

When good fats turn bad: Fats oxidise easily (become rancid) in which case they become toxic. To avoid this, try to make sure the oils, nuts and seeds that you eat have been packaged in a way that keeps them from exposure to light (dark packaging), air (air tight, and not already ground) and heat (some fats/oils become damaged by heat).

‘Bad’ fats harm fertility by causing inflammation, damaging cell membranes and altering the balance of hormones in the body.

‘Good’ fats on the other hand, are especially important when wanting to conceive, as they are essential for the production of hormones. Keep eating them once you do get pregnant, as they are integral to foetal brain and nervous system development.

Look out for reduced fat or fat free foods, as they are generally highly processed and high in sugar, and can impair the body’s absorption of essential fat-soluble nutrients such as: Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Vitamin E. All of which are important fertility nutrients.

FERTILITY BOOSTING RECIPE – PINTO BEAN SOUP WITH RED CHILLIES

As we start heading into the colder months of the year it is important to keep warm with delicious, nourishing meals. Beans are considered one of the healthiest foods to eat when trying to fall pregnant. The rich fibre content is at the centre of the fantastic nutritional support provided by this soup recipe.


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 2 tsp oregano, dried
  • 2 tsp cumin, ground
  • ½ tsp coriander, ground
  • 3 dried red chillies, cleaned (all seeds and veins removed)
  • Salt to taste (sea salt or Himalayan pink salt are best)
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbls sliced spring onions
  • 3 tbls chopped cilantro
  • Sour cream to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse beans and pick out any rocks or debris
  2. Pour oil in a pressure cooker and heat
  3. Add garlic, onions, cumin, coriander, red chillies and oregano to oil
  4. Stir well then add pinto beans
  5. Pour 12 cups water and salt into the pressure cooker.
  6. Place lid on pressure cooker and seal
  7. Heat pressure cooker to high and allow to cook for 30 minutes.
  8. Release pressure from the pot
  9. Remove two cups of the pinto beans and puree
  10. Remove red chillies and puree until smooth
  11. Return puree to pot and whisk in
  12. Cook for 10 additional minutes to thicken
  13. Season as needed before serving over brown rice topped with cheese

Recipe from http://www.babymed.com/recipes/healthy-recipes-fertility

 

DID YOU KNOW BLOOD SUGAR CAN EFFECT YOUR FERTILITY?

Did you know that blood sugar imbalances can have a negative effect on your fertility? Poor blood sugar control has been proven to lead to more serious conditions such as insulin resistance, diabetes and PCOS all of which are conditions that can impact your fertility.

 

What Is Blood Sugar?

The sugar present in our blood is called glucose and our bodies use this for everything from simple things like talking, breathing and thinking to more complex activities of walking, exercising and cleaning the house.

Any food that we eat has an effect on our blood sugar levels. These levels can change depending on what we feed our body. After a meal, our blood sugar levels rise and then fall again as our body either uses or stores away the energy. Blood sugar levels that are imbalances (either too low or too high) can be quite dangerous, which is obviously not ideal when you want to be in tip top shape to get pregnant and create a healthy baby.

 

Why Is Diet So Important To My Fertility?

To maintain optimum blood sugar levels it is important to base your meals on non-starchy vegetables and quality protein. This ensures that your body is getting the nutrients it needs in order to do both simple and complex tasks, and prevents your blood sugar levels from getting too out of whack. Experts recommend having a serve of protein about the size and thickness of your palm – however, don’t include your fingers! – for meat and chicken, or the size of your whole hand for fish. Using this sizing of protein for every meal and combining it with fresh vegetables (steamed or raw is best) makes for the perfect, balanced meal.

There are some foods that are best avoided as well, particularly if you do have current blood sugar problems. Caution is advised for simple sugars such as table sugar, and refined carbohydrates such as white flour as both of these are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. This causes spikes in blood sugar levels and produces a sudden release of insulin. This is then followed by a quick fall as the glucose stashed away.

 

Understanding The Glycaemic Index and Low GI

The glycaemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0-100 according to how much they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are hastily broken down and absorbed. This results in significant fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. On the other hand, low GI foods are digested and absorbed slowly. This produces a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels, which has been proven to be of benefit to general health and fertility. Low GI foods are those that are 55 and under on the scale; medium is 56 to 69; and high GI foods are 70 and above.

There are many benefits of incorporating a low GI diet into your life including:

  • Improved fertility
  • Weight loss
  • Improved management of PCOS
  • Improved diabetes control
  • Decreased risk of gestational diabetes – for when you do fall pregnant
  • Reduced hunger and feeling satisfied for longer
  • Increased physical endurance
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced blood cholesterol levels

As you can see blood sugar plays an important part in your fertility, so for improved success at falling pregnant why not try a change in your diet to low GI; you may be surprised by just how good you feel.

ARE BELLY RINGS PIERCING YOUR CHANCE AT FERTILITY?

Do you have a belly ring and are trying to fall pregnant? Fertility Acupuncture Specialist Sally Nourse explains how belly rings can interfere with you vital energy and hinder your fertility.

 

Keeping The Balance

The human body has a network of meridians (or energy channels) that run through the body. In order for the body to maintain balance, the energy must flow uninterrupted through the meridians.

Acupuncturists work on these meridians to help balance your body’s energy systems resulting in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

 

Conception Meridian

The meridian that runs through your belly button is known as the Conception Vessel. This is where everything involving reproductive healing, hormone regulation, ovulation, menstruation, implantation and the quality of your eggs occurs.

This is where the belly ring poses a couple of issues. Firstly, it creates a permanent obstruction to one of the acupuncture points that lies on this meridian. Acupuncturists NEVER needle this point in a clinical situation. In fact, it is forbidden to do so in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Secondly as mentioned above the Conception meridian that runs through your belly button is the most important meridian influencing fertility. When a piercing is placed at this point it creates a physical blockage; meaning that the energy cannot pass freely through the channel a bit like a dam blocking a river. Even though the Chinese Medicine theory that describes meridians is ancient, modern research has confirmed that they do exist.

 

Maximise Your Chances of Pregnancy

This doesn’t mean that you can’t fall pregnant if you have a belly ring, however it means that if you want to maximise your chances of falling pregnant then it’s a good idea to remove the ring and also to seek out an acupuncturist who can restore the flow to the Conception Vessel meridian and prepare your body to become pregnant.

ENDOMETRIOSIS & FERTILITY

Endometriosis is a condition present in 30% of infertility cases. How and why it affects fertility and what treatment options there are the topics we’re exploring today.

 

What Is Endometriosis?

The uterus is lined with a layer of tissue called the endometrium. Endometrial tissue normally grows only inside the uterus. However, when the tissue grows outside the uterus – for example in the reproductive organs, intestines, rectum or bladder, it is called endometriosis. It is a benign (non-cancerous) but potentially very painful condition. 

 

What Are The Causes?

The causes of endometriosis are still not known and there is no simple cure. Estimates of how common it is range from 1-15% of women of reproductive age. As yet there is no single theory explaining why some women develop the condition. Some experts suggest that during menstruation, endometrial tissue "backs up" through the fallopian tubes and then settles and grows in the abdomen. However, there others that believe that all women experience menstrual tissue back-up. In most cases, the immune system automatically destroys abnormal tissue before it attaches in the abdomen. But if the immune system is unable to get rid of the misplaced tissue, endometriosis may develop.

 

What Are The Symptoms?

Some women have no symptoms and others may experience one or more warning signs that can range from mild to severe. The type and severity of the symptoms can depend on where the endometriosis has implanted, how deeply, and how long a woman has had it. Common symptoms may include:

  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Very painful periods
  • Deep pain during sexual intercourse
  • Difficulty becoming pregnant
  • Pain during ovulation
  • Heavy or abnormal menstrual flow, such as premenstrual spotting 
  • Painful bowel movements, diarrhoea, constipation or other intestinal upsets during menstruation
  • Painful or frequent urination during menstruation
  • Exhaustion

 

How Does it Affect Fertility?

Endometriosis is found in 30% of women who suffer infertility and can cause infertility in different ways.

If the endometriosis damages the tubes and ovaries then this will significantly reduce your ability to conceive, as it will alter the movement of the egg and sperm.

Even if the tubes and ovaries are not damaged then the endometriosis can affect the movement of sperm, egg pick-up by the tube, egg fertilisation, embryo growth and implantation.

Endometriosis can cause the fallopian tubes to become blocked and can damage the ovaries. It is estimated to be the cause of infertility in 3% of couples, and is one of the factors behind tubal problems that cause infertility for about 17% of couples.

However, evidence suggests even if your endometriosis is severe, you may still have a chance of falling pregnant naturally; it depends on how the disease has affected your reproductive organs. If you know you have endometriosis and you are having problems falling pregnant it is vital to consult a healthcare professional sooner rather than later. 

 

What Treatment Options are Available?

There are many treatment options available to those who suffer from endometriosis. The goal is to provide pain relief, to restrict progression of the process, and to restore or preserve fertility where needed.

Depending on the severity of the condition, a simple dietary change may be all that is required or in the more severe cases, surgery or hormone drugs are often prescribed. There are however, a number of viable natural treatment options that you may consider that aim to treat the cause as well as control the symptoms

 

Acupuncture 

This ancient practice involves the insertion of thin needles at various points in the skin. This is said to bring relief by restoring the balance and “energy flow” of our bodies.

Research has shown acupuncture to be an effect treatment for the pain of endometriosis.  Whilst more studies are needed to show its effectiveness as a cure, acupuncture always looks at treating the cause, rather than just the symptoms alone.

 

Naturopathy 

Naturopaths use a combination of diet and nutrition, herbal remedies and vitamin/mineral supplements to target the cause and re-balancing the body to reduce, if not remove symptoms. 

Dietary changes may be advised such as: 

  • Reducing animal fats, especially high-fat dairy, red meat and fish. These animal fats contain dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's) which have been associated with endometriosis.
  • There is also evidence that certain diets promoting anti-inflammatory foods can promote hormonal balance and reduce symptoms.  

 

Herbal Medicine 

Excess levels of oestrogen have been linked with endometriosis. Herbs said to be helpful in relieving endometriosis include blue cohosh, cranberry, plantain, St. John's wort, peppermint, valerian, dong quai, false unicorn, evening primrose oil, vitex, black cohosh, uva ursi, couchgrass, red raspberry, yam, and white willow.

 

Aromatherapy Massage 

Aromatherapy Massage utilises essential oils extracted from plants. Some oils have been found to have anti-viral, anti-fungal and even anti-bacterial properties. Effective oils for endometriosis include sage, cypress, fennel, bergamot and geranium. 

 

Osteopathy/Chiropractic

Areas concentrated on include primarily the lumbar spine and the thoracic spine area, which also has beneficial effects on the immune system, long thought to be involved in the basis of endometriosis.

Here at Live Well we have a variety of practitioners that will be able to offer you support and advise to help you gain control of endometriosis. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us for more information.

FOLIC ACID - WHY IT CAN IMPROVE YOUR FERTILITY

Why all the fuss about folic acid? Well, recent research shows folic acid is a crucial safeguard to the health of an unborn baby as well as boosting fertility for both men and women.

 

What Is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a water-soluble B vitamin. The human body does not store folic acid, which is why it is important we consume it daily in order to get adequate amounts. Folic acid’s main job in the body is to help produce and maintain new cells, and it is especially important during cell division. Without folic acid, our bodies could not produce DNA (essential for making babies) and red blood cells.

 

What The Research Shows

For Women
A study of more than 18,000 women showed that women regularly taking a supplement containing folic acid had a 40% lower risk of suffering problems producing eggs – which is the second biggest cause of female infertility.

For Men
Men who consume high levels of folic acid (over 700 mcg/day) lower their risk of sperm abnormalities by 20-30%. The higher the quality of a man’s sperm, the lower the chances of chromosomal abnormalities that can lead to birth defects such as Down syndrome in babies.

For Babies
Folic acid decreases the risk of neural tube defects (NTD) like spina bifida as well as other congenital conditions such as congenital heart defects.

Because congenital conditions like NTDs occur in the first three to four weeks following fertilisation, it is crucial to start boosting your folic acid levels BEFORE falling pregnant as it takes a month for your body to reach adequate levels.

 

Is A Good Diet Enough?

Whilst folic acid is present in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale; most fruits, including avocado; bean; beetroot; chickpeas; and fortified cereals and breads it is very hard to get enough through diet alone. Therefore to make sure you are getting the levels your body requires its best to take a high quality supplement.

 

DOES AN IRREGULAR CYCLE AFFECT MY FERTILITY?

30% of women in their reproductive life experience irregular menstrual cycles. Many women may also experience irregular menstrual cycles in the form of a missed period, continuous periods or periods that occur twice in one menstrual cycle. Whilst an irregular cycle does not necessarily mean you are not able to become pregnant – it can be a sign of hormonal imbalances which are linked to fertility issues.

The well-known average for a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days, however, “normal” is considered anywhere between 21 to 35 days. So of its only if your cycle is shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days, or you miss cycles all together, that you would be considered to have an irregular cycle.

There are many different reasons why your cycle may fluctuate including illness, travel, stress, exercise levels (too much or too little) and significant weight loss or gain. Also women who recently stop the birth control pill may experience irregular periods for anywhere up until around 1 year.

Many women worry that by having irregular cycles, they will not fall pregnant. This is not necessarily true. Fertility depends on ovulation, rather than on menstruation. As long as you are ovulating normally and can determine when ovulation occurs, your chances of getting pregnant won’t be affected by irregular periods. However, if your cycles are very long, you will ovulate fewer times per year and therefore have fewer opportunities to become pregnant.

There are many factors that affect the regularity of cycles including:

  • Stress
  • Diet
  • Excessive exercise
  • Menopause
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Recent childbirth or miscarriage

There are also some medical conditions that may result in irregular cycles:

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Thyroid function

 

What You Can Do

Track you ovulation
If you have an irregular cycle it can be quite difficult if not impossible to guess when ovulation will occur. Thankfully, there are reliable methods that can be used to help you determine when you are ovulating such as ovulation predictor kits, cervical mucus exams and taking your daily basal body temperature (click here to read more about these methods).

Check you exercise levels
If you exercise a lot – i.e. working out for several hours each day, or training for a marathon – you should speak with your healthcare professional to determine whether you need to cut back. As women need a certain level of body fat to ovulate normally, and too much exercise can delay this (click here for more information).

Weight loss
For obese or overweight women, it is best to lose weight gradually as losing it too fast may also not change or increase irregular periods. Obesity has shown to affect hormonal signals to the ovaries and therefore interfere with ovulation. In addition, increased weight can cause insulin levels to climb, which causes the ovaries to overproduce male hormones and stop releasing eggs.

De-Stress
Meditation, gentle exercises such as yoga and other relaxation techniques can help to keep stress levels down. This helps to ensure that your hormone levels are more balanced, which may lead to more normalised cycle times. Relaxation therapies such as massage and meditation can assist in lowering stress levels can have an impact on cycle regularity.

Re-balance
Natural therapies such as Acupuncture and Naturopathy can assist in balancing hormones which help to regulate your cycle.

To find out the best options for you, feel free to consult one of our natural fertility specialists. To make an enquiry or to book an appointment please call us on 02 6295 0400 or email info@livewellnaturally.com.au.