Laughing after Embryo Transfer Improves Your Chance of a BFP

I really just love that a bunch of researchers have made the effort and had the research funds approved to find out the answer to this question…does laughing after your embryo transfer improve your chance of falling pregnant?

Turns out the answer is yes!

So the researchers figured that IVF is stressful (we’re in agreeance here right?). They also found that stress can have negative effects on fertility (also in agreeance). He then discovered that laughing reduces stress (it’s a hat trick!). Therefore, why wouldn’t laughing improve your chance of falling pregnant?

The design of the study included a 15 min visit from a “professional medical clown” (fantastic occupation title!) just after the embryo transfer. While the women were still lying on the treatment table.

Each patient in the intervention group was visited by a professional medical clown immediately after their embryo transfer. “The routine included jokes, tricks, and magic and was performed on a one-to-one basis with the clown dressed as a ‘‘chef de cuisine.’’” (Friedler et al, 2010).

36.4% of these women fell pregnant as opposed to the group with no medical clown intervention, where only 20.2% of women fell pregnant. As far as statistics go, this is a significant finding!

We’ve all heard that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and all over the globe there are laughing classes designed to improve health. I also found you can participate in laughing yoga!

In research, laughing has been found to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenalin, reduce blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol. It has also been found to boost the immune system and improve blood circulation – similar benefits to regular exercise.

Laughing can also increase endorphins (happy hormones) which helps manage pain and helps create a positive frame of mine. All very much needed throughout your IVF experience.

“Laughter is a highly complex process. Joyous or mirthful laughter is considered a positive stress (eustress) that involves complicated brain activities leading to a positive effect on health.” (sciencedaily.com)

Research into laughter’s effect on the body started in 1978 when Norman Cousins (not a doctor), was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and treated himself into remission (with the guidance of medical professionals) with laughter.

His study is still reportedly one of the first into mind-body medicine.

All kidding aside…(see what I did there?)

Laughter can improve your chance of falling pregnant with IVF. Research says so. 

From a Chinese medicine point of view, laughing helps move blood and energy. Stress through the IVF experience can cause energy to stagnate which results in pain, emotional upset and unsmooth uterine blood flow.

In ancient Chinese texts, it is also mentioned that joy (and therefore laughter) is an emotion strongly linked to healthy heart energy. Your heart energy is connected to your uterus energy for the purpose of growing your baby with love.

I would think it’s important to encourage yourself to laugh throughout your entire IVF experience, not just after transfer. As we have just learned, it has so many other health benefits.

It also doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t take much time. Sounds like an ideal natural support for IVF to me!

So don’t forget to find ways to laugh throughout your IVF experience :)

References: Friedler, S et al., 2010 The effect of medical clowning on pregnancy rates after an in vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 95, no. 6, pp. 2127-2130

Getting More Sun Improves IVF Success

Vitamin D has long been linked to improved physical and mental health.

It is important for the production of hormones, bone health, a well working immune system, muscle function, heart health, respiration and brain development.

It has specifically been found to be a great predictor of success in IVF too with higher levels found to correlate with a higher chance of pregnancy success*.

In Chinese medicine, the sun’s warmth increases internal warmth and blood flow, which is ideal for improving medication delivery to your ovaries and blood delivery to your uterine lining.

Being outside is also a great way to feel relaxed.

So aim to get at least 30% of your skin (arms, legs and face) in the sun for 20-30 minutes per day for adequate amount of natural vitamin D absorption.

Of course, avoid the sun in the middle of the day to reduce excessive sweating, sunburn or heat stroke, especially after your embryo transfer.

Supplementation can of course help, but nothing beats the real thing!

 

Acupuncture to Prepare for IVF

You may have read or heard about the benefits of acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer.

Acupuncture has been found to improve blood flow to the ovaries and endometrium, settle uterine contractions, reduce stress on the nervous system and encourage relaxation.

For these reasons, research has found that having acupuncture immediately before and immediately after your embryo transfer can improve not just your chance of falling pregnant, but your chance of taking home a beautiful baby by up to 65%.

That’s great odds. Why isn’t everyone doing it? Or better yet, why isn’t everyone falling pregnant and taking home babies who have had acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer?

A closer look at the statistics shows that ten women need to be treated for just one woman to have this increased chance.

So basically, only 10% of women have a 65% chance of improving their IVF success when having acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer.

The difficulty we have, is that we don’t know which women are going to be more likely to get that 65% increased chance. It would be great to think that we might have a screening tool for this in the future, but it doesn’t look like that’s on the cards just yet.

What we do know though, is that your general health absolutely plays a role in your IVF outcome and perhaps more importantly, the health of your baby.

“Acupuncture can play in big role in improving your general health.”

Before acupuncture was known for its help with IVF, it had been used for centuries and continues to be used to help millions of people around the world maintain wellness and restore health.

Just a few of the things it can help with include; improving the health of your uterine lining, reducing pain, reducing inflammation, calming the effect stress has on your body, improving egg quality, increasing sperm count and movement and improving digestion.

Acupuncture is also safe and mostly pain free, especially when practised by a qualified practitioner.

So, if you wanted to ensure you are in that 10% of women who get the best outcome with acupuncture and IVF, finds ways to become the healthiest you can be. Start your acupuncture treatments three months before you start your IVF.

You won’t regret feeling healthier and you may just get that positive you’ve been hoping for.

Registered Acupuncturist

Founder of The Point of Wellbeing, an acupuncture clinic on the Gold Coast focused on natural support for fertility, IVF and pregnancy.

MTHFR Gene Mutation and Natural IVF Support

Concerns about this gene have been popping up a bit over the last few weeks so thought I would share with you what this is all about and how acupuncture can help.

MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (mouthful I know!). Its name isn’t as important as its function though. It is an enzyme which helps B9 (folate) turn into its most active form for the body to use, named 5-MTHF.

Over the last few years, there’s been considerable interest in the mutation to the MTHFR gene. There are two main variations which can be found with a blood test.

Women who have been found to have either of these gene mutations, may have problems turning folate into 5-MTHF, halting the absorption of folate in the body.

Folate is crucial for brain function, the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material, and important for when cells grow rapidly like in infancy, adolescence and pregnancy. Folate also helps make red blood cells and helps with iron absorption.

Side note – folate is the natural form of folic acid. Folic acid is the synthetic form used in supplements and fortified foods. Folate exists in many nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables.

The rabbit hole of information available about these gene mutations online is overwhelming.  So in the interest of reducing anxiety around this topic, I want to point out a few things.

  1. Gene mutations are common. They can exist without expression, depending on your lifestyle
  2. Many people have the MTHFR gene variant and suffer no problems in their health, fertility or pregnancy
  3. Some women with the gene mutation have no problem processing folate

But, to put this back into perspective of ‘whole’ health, the chemical pathway of turning folate into 5-MTHF is part of a much bigger and more complex process in the body called methylation.

“Methylation is, essentially, the on/off switches of the body – where countless molecules and processes can be activated, or deactivated, to perform a function, or to allow a reaction to occur.” (https://www.mthfrsupport.com.au/what-is-methylation/)

Many body functions rely on a smooth methylation process and problems to this may result in chronic diseases like migraines, problems with blood clots, PCOS, chronic fatigue, frequent headaches, depression, infertility and frequent miscarriages.

However, there are some natural things you can do to improve your methylation:

  • Eat a healthy and varied diet – include lots of green, leafy vegetables as they have high amounts of natural folate to fuel your methylation
  • Switch your folic acid supplement to a brand that has just 5-MTHF – bypassing the steps where the body has trouble converting (Orthoplex, Thorne and Eagle all have 5-MTHF in their prenatals).
  • Avoid high dosing with folic acid
  • Supplements – taking magnesium and zinc can help support your methylation
  • Gut health – probiotics and healthy gut bacteria are important for more efficient methylation
  • Avoid certain medications (with the advice of your doctor) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which are shown to lower levels of B9
  • Reduce stress – stress, chemical toxins, smoking and increased alcohol consumption can all negative affect your methylation process
  • Get acupuncture (of course) – some small research trials have shown that acupuncture may benefit the methylation process, improving gene expression. I mean if lowering stress does, than acupuncture has to right?

If you would like to investigate your MTHFR status, I would talk to your GP about getting the gene tested and then find an experienced naturopath or integrative doctor to advise you on the best course of action, if any. And combine their advice with your regular acupuncture treatments and healthy lifestyle.

For women going through IVF or trying to fall pregnant, who have experienced unexplained infertility, recurrent implantation failure or recurrent miscarriages, I would advise getting this tested and talking to your specialist and other health care providers about an individualised action plan.

Avoiding Getting Sick with the Change of Seasons

A cool shift has already started as early as this morning. Summer is almost over.
The body is really great at adapting to seasonal changes when you feel healthy. However, if you feel run down, stressed, exhausted or feel like you’ve been fighting off a cold for the last couple of weeks, the change of seasons can really upset it’s ability to adapt.

In Chinese medicine, you have this incredible type of energy called Wei Qi, translated as Defensive Qi, that circulates in the outermost layer of your body. It’s kind of like the security guard to pathogens entering your body.

When you are really healthy, this energy is thought to extend further than the skin, kind of like a protective shield around your body.

It is continuously fighting off pathogenic attacks but if it can’t match the strength of the pathogen, you unfortunately get sick.

The change of seasons is almost like the ‘shift change’ of one security guard to another. There’s a little gap of time where immunity is not as strong as the body adapts to changing environments.

However, you can strengthen this immunity by improving your general wellbeing. A balanced lifestyle and diet is the ideal way to improve your Wei Qi and protect your body against pathogens.

So over the next week or so, aim to do some of these things:

  • ensure you get 8-9 hours sleep each night and be asleep by 11pm (Wei Qi needs time to be nourished)
  • have a big glass of water first thing in the morning, before you doing anything else – with lemon if you can
  • ensure you are eating 5-7 serves of vegetables per day
  • avoid cold foods – especially for breakfast
  • drink peppermint tea and ginger tea – great for boosting immunity
  • enjoy low intensity aerobic exercise and yoga/tai chi or qi gong
  • practise mindfulness to help slow down your body, save energy for immunity instead of stress
  • keep with your regular acupuncture treatments – all acupuncture treatments strengthen qi, including Wei Qi. Many people notice they stop getting as many colds with their treatments, even if I’ve been treating their back pain!
Lastly, and most importantly, RUG UP – this is a big problem on the GC, going from summer to winter. Start getting out your closed in shoes, slippers, cardis, jackets and scarves. Start wearing singlets under your work shirts and keeping your slippers on around the house. Keep your neck, low back, low abdo and ankles warm as this is where pathogens enter your body. Let your clothes protect you first so your Wei Qi doesn’t have to work so hard.

If you do think you are starting to feel sick, pop in for a treatment. Acupuncture works so well in the very early stages of getting a cold. It actually supports your Wei Qi to push invading pathogens back out instead of just masking symptoms. Kind of like improving the strength and training of your ‘security guard’.

I can honestly say I do this. If I wake up with a sore throat, I make an appointment with my acupuncturist that day. This has happened twice in the last month as my exposure to people being sick is increasing. I haven’t taken a cold and flu tablet for at least 10 years now. They don’t help very much anyway.

Acupuncture, rest and nourishing foods is the best cure for a cold :)

Yin and Yang of the Menstrual Cycle Part 4 – Ovulation

Part 2 was focused on the Yin phase (or follicular phase), Part 3 was focused on the Yang Phase (or luteal phase) and now we can talk about how they interact…through ovulation.

Lara Briden recently said it perfectly…”ovulation is how women make hormones”. It is such a huge part of women’s health, yet so many women aren’t ovulating due to conditions such as PCOS, the most common anovulatory condition in women of reproductive age.

The pill also prevents women from ovulating as do many other chemicals, foods and medications.

In Chinese medicine, ovulation is the exact moment where Yin turns to Yang. The nourishing, blood moving, lining building, egg nourishing, feminine energetic state becomes the embryo growing, energy expanding, warming and masculine energetic state.

Without ovulation, you don’t get this perfect ebb and flow of hormone balance.

The primary energy that drives the balance between Yin and Yang is your Liver energy.

The easiest way to imagine how this works, is by understanding how night (Yin) turns into day (Yang)…through the movement of the earth.

The earth is in a constant state of energy movement. It is continuously and consistently moving at a pace that causes night to turn to day, over and over and over again. It barely wavers, at least not enough for us to notice.

If you imagine that something stops the earth from spinning in that consistent and constant pace (ie, the Liver energy becomes stuck), what effect we would have on the balance of day and night? We may get longer nights and shorter days or shorter nights and longer days. Or if it’s really bad…one really loooong night.

The same can happen with your menstrual cycle. Difficulty with ovulation can keep you in a very lengthy follicular phase.

Liver energy in Chinese medicine is responsible for keeping all the energy in your body moving freely, kind of like the energy that keeps the earth spinning.

Things that can cause Liver energy to ‘stick’ can be lack of exercise, constant stress, too much heating foods like alcohol and chocolate or not enough sleep.

If you have ‘stuck’ Liver energy, you may experience headaches, period pain, pain at ovulation, tight neck and shoulders, wake at 1 or 3am, irritability, easy to anger, red face, PMS symptoms or even digestive complaints.

When Liver energy is stuck, it cannot encourage the ebb and flow of a women’s menstrual cycle. Ovulation doesn’t occur or occurs very late or very early.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work to correct the Liver’s imbalances. We use points that keep the Liver moving smoothly so it can assist with making this transition as smooth as possible.

Things you can do at home
1. Exercise regularly – aerobics and stretching are ideal exercise options
2. Each clean foods
3. Drink plenty of water
4. Reduce stress

Of course, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help too.