Warm Your Womb to Improve Fertility

pregnant-woman-pic-blog

I’m sure all the lovely women I am treating are sick of me telling them to
keep warm! I feel like I say it hundreds of times a day, but for a very
good reason.

Cold in Chinese medicine is useful for very little when it comes to fertility
and women’s health.

A cold uterus is a huge problem for many women trying to fall pregnant.

Simply put, a cold uterus will not be able to grow and nurture a developing
baby.

But what can be done about it?

Lots!

Chinese medicine is all about balance, balance of the energy of the
body and its connection to the environment.

The balance of warmth in the body is really important for overall health and wellbeing.

Cold presents in the body similar to how it does in the environment,
it sinks, it is contracting, it tightens and it slows.

For women, this means cold moves downward to your pelvis and lower
abdominal areas including reproductive organs.

Cold tightens muscles and blood vessels and slows energy and blood
movement to your uterine lining and your ovaries.

You can present with symptoms of painful periods with clots where
warmth alleviates the pain, long menstrual cycles, small amount of
blood flow, severe headaches, low back pain, recurrent miscarriages, low
energy, low libido and many other symptoms.

These symptoms are often worse in winter as the body responds to the environment.

shivering-woman

There are two ways to look at treating cold in the uterus – either there is
an increase of cold energy and this needs to be removed or there is not
enough warm energy and this needs to be supplemented.

An increase of cold may have entered your pelvis during surgery in a cold
hospital room (something I see quite often after laparoscopic surgery),
too much swimming in cold weather, not being appropriately dressed in
winter or too much cold food.

Not enough warm energy is more of a chronic condition and may be due to
diet and poor lifestyle habits. It may also be due to chronic illness,
anxiety, stress or excessive amounts of antibiotics.

It’s important to know that progesterone, the hormone responsible for
maintaining lining in the second part of your menstrual cycle is the ‘warming’ hormone in Chinese medicine.

In women with low progesterone levels, it is particularly important to remove cold and increase warmth with acupuncture and moxibustion as well as adjust diet and lifestyle practices to improve the internal environment for conception and fetal growth.

Unfortunately, modern diets and lifestyle habits are contributing to this
cause of cold.

Many of my clients will know that I am not a fan of morning smoothies,
ice cream, acai bowls and juices, especially in winter and even more
especially during your period, in winter.

So a couple of tips

  • Eat warm foods
  • Avoid ice cold and raw foods, especially through winter
  • Keep your low back, abdomen and feet warm always
  • Hot water bottles, wheat heat bags and foots soaks are your new best friend
  • Find an acupuncturist to help warm your pelvis and low abdomen with acupuncture and warming moxa

Keeping your feet warm helps to warm all of your leg meridians which enter your pelvis.

If your feet are warm, your uterus will be warm and why wouldn’t a baby want to grow in a warm uterus?

warm-feet-pic

There are so many ways you can improve your fertility naturally to give
yourself the best chance of becoming pregnant.

Keeping your womb warm is just one of them :)

If you’d like to know more about how you can make these changes
to your lifestyle give me a call and book in for a private individualised
treatment plan.

(07) 5539 2362 / info@thepointofwellbeing.com.au

I’d love to help you achieve your fertility goals.

Warm regards,

Paige x

The Baby Business – My Thoughts

You may have watched or heard about ABC’s Four Corner’s program last week – The Baby Business. It was an entire 45 min dedicated to ‘blowing the lid’ on IVF, it’s processes, it’s side effects, the long term emotional and physical repercussions, the success rates and the fertility specialist’s role in looking after your best interests…and not those of the companies’ share holders.  I have just watched it. So many points of discussion. Here is the link to the show if you’re interested to watch it. I have summarised some thoughts and provided some suggestions below…

The concerns with IVF presented on the show:

  • Australia is generous with its medicare rebate to access IVF (in comparison to other countries)
  • There is no limit on cycles that are rebated my medicare
  • There is no age limit on cycles that are rebated on medicare
  • Women older than 40 who are accessing IVF has tripled in the last 10 years
  • Success rates for women older than 40 are potentially not being discussed openly and is much lower than we thought
  • There is a lack of transparency and information given for women or couples to make informed choices
  • Counseling is not offered during a cycle – only for assessment to access IVF
  • IVF companies are making incredible profits and have to work in the best interest of their share holders, not patients
  • Many patients are feeling like they are being sold false hope
  • There is fear around asking doctors the tough questions
  • Long term health implications of going through IVF

My comments in response to these concerns:

  • The show was really unbalanced in its view of IVF, although did point out some of the harsh truths that you may not have been told
  • One of the ladies interviewed has just published a book about her poor experience with IVF and I’m sure the program boosted sales
  • Keep in mind the doctors don’t own the IVF clinics – this wasn’t explained
  • Putting a more human spin on IVF, there may be many doctors and specialists out there to make a profit, but I have met many of the specialists on the Gold Coast and have heard so many warming stories of individual experiences of support and genuine concern that I definitely don’t think the show represented the majority of fertility specialists
  • The doctors are put in really difficult positions on many occasions – they see your hope, your desire, your life long dream of wanting children and they have all this medical information and equipment that could help you with that, why would they not try all they can within the boundaries of their medical knowledge?
  • We need to stop blaming clinics and doctors and start taking more responsibility – asking more questions, seeking help external to the clinic, seeking support

Suggestions for you:

  • Get informed, whether that be through the clinic or otherwise until you are happy with the amount of information you have to make an informed choice
  • Ask your doctor as many questions as possible – ask the hard questions like “what is the success rate of a live birth for someone of my age and health?” or “what is my risk of ovarian cancer”?
  • Listen to the answers – when living in hope, we often only hear what we want to hear
  • Do some research on the medication, the protocol, the side effects and if you have questions, ask them next appointment
  • If you don’t like the first fertility specialist you see, find another one, there are many to choose from
  • Take someone who is not as emotional invested as you to your specialist appointment – they can often give you a more balanced view of the appointment
  • Have a limit on your number of cycles – whether it be financial or number of cycles
  • Stop once you reach that limit – the further past your resources you go, the harder it is to stop because you have already invested so much. You need to be able to get off the ‘IVF Treadmill’ before you become so exhausted that you cannot continue
  • Plan a life without children – I know this sounds harsh. However, after years of focusing on IVF you may not notice the friends you’ve lost, the dreams relating to career, travel and sheer enjoyment you’ve lost, keep some of these things in focus will help keep your head space a little more grounded
  • Seek professional help. If your IVF clinic doesn’t offer a counselor or psychologist and you think you need one…make an appointment, don’t wait to blame the clinic for not organising it for you
  • But also, single stories are important…yours in particular. Try not to compare your stories to others
  • And remember, you are always doing the best you can with what you have available

One specialist on the show I found really interesting was a Professor who helped pioneer the technology for freezing eggs and embryos, Professor Rob Norman. He estimates that 40-50% of women going through IVF would fall pregnant naturally if they began to understand their fertility window (72% of women don’t know when they ovulate), tracked their cycle properly, lost weight and participated in an exercise regime or looked at ovulation induction before IVF. That’s a pretty big statement and confronting if true.

I would love to know your thoughts if you watched the show and if the program changed your direction about IVF. Send me an email at info@thepointofwellbeing.com.au.

Four corners

Aging and Environmental Factors Affect Embryo Growth

Recently, a comprehensive article was published in the respected journal, Fertility and Sterility detailing the effects of aging and environmental factors on egg, sperm and embryo growth and development. When you look at the statistics of IVF, the numbers aren’t great. Out of all eggs that are retrieved, only 7% of those will result in a full term delivery. So as you can imagine, there is a lot of research looking into how that number can be improved….not surprisingly many of the points relate to ways of being healthier in general but there was some interesting new findings. The article was technical and a bit tedious so I have done the hard work for you and summarised the important points below.

Aging and the Environment for Egg, Sperm and Embryo Health

  • positive environmental factors include; androgen supplementation (testosterone), healthy diet, exercise, nutritional supplements and pyschological interventions
  • negative environment factors include; aging, reduced androgens, oxidative stress, obesity, smoking, alcohol, oxidative stress
  • CoQ10 – antioxidant found to be very important for cellular energy and energy for cell division, reducing CoQ10 was associated with a reduction in the number of follicles, the recommended daily dosage is 600mg per day for at least 2 months prior to IVF
  • Androgen (eg, testosterone) – adrenal DHEA and testosterone decline with age and are associated with reduced number of follicles, increased cell death and reduced egg competence
  • Antioxidants – reduced antioxidants reduce embryo quality, affects sperm DNA fragmentation and it’s recommended for all men over the age of 40 years old to be supplementing, vitamin C is the most cost effective antioxidant, increase pomegranate, berries, chocolate, espresso, fruits and vegetables, turmeric, cumin, ginger and oregano
  • Obesity – associated with high level of oxidative stress in follicular fluid, moderate exercise was associated with 3 fold increase in clinical pregnancy, weight loss is recommended as well as supplementation of omega 3 and antioxidants
  • Smoking – for the female smoker it can reduce IVF success by half and increase miscarriage rate by one fourth, a similar trend was found even with donor eggs so there is a uterine effect as well as ovarian, for the male partner smoking is associated with reduction in IVF success, results in severe oxidative stress, recommended to high does antioxidants and quit smoking 3-6 months before considering IVF
  • Alcohol – reduces IVF success and increases miscarriage rates, suggested to avoid throughout IVF cycle
  • Caffeine – conflicting research, advise to limit consumption
  • AGEs (advanced glycation end product) – toxic end products from high glucose diets and ingestion of food at high temperatures, suggested to boil, microwave or poach food to cook to avoid
  • BPA (bisphenol A) – a chemical found in plastic containers, canned food linings and credit card receipts, high levels found to show lower implantation rates, also associated with miscarriage and reduced sperm quality
  • Exercise – moderate exercise recommended, found to improve egg and sperm function and IVF outcomes, also reduces oxidative stress, vigorous exercise can however reduce IVF success although not in obese women, men cycle more than 5 hours per week was found to reduce semen quality, proposing increased heat as the reason
  • Diet – recommendations include less red meat, less saturated fats, more seafood, more fruit and vegetables – similar to a Mediterranean diet
  • Omega 3 fatty acids – exist in large quantities in sperm membranes, early research shows it improves IVF outcomes, suggested to supplement with 1800 mg per day for 6 months to increase total sperm, motility and morphology
  • Stress – stress of infertility has been compared to having a diagnosis of HIV, depression and anxiety are negative factors for pregnancy outcomes, negative life events 12 months before IVF cycle predicted failure and reduced number of eggs retrieved, suggested that stress shifts blood flow to the heart, brain and muscles and away from non essential organs like ovaries and uterus, decreases in anxiety were associated with the greatest improvement in pregnancy rates, suggested treatments included cognitive behavioural therapy and mind body sessions to work on relaxation, stress management, lifestyle recommendations and group support, also to deal with cycle failures

These are all factors you can include in your IVF cycle to maximise your pregnancy outcomes. Acupuncture works well to improve blood flow and reduce your stress response to improve your pregnancy outcome. I cannot stress the importance of a healthy diet and good quality supplements in really improving your cellular energy. Science can only take you so far. Never feel like there is nothing else you can do to improve your chances of having a family through natural fertility or IVF.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like further clarification about any of these points.

Paige :-)

sperm_and_egg__how_i_become_me_by_rjace1014-d5atupm

How to Support a Friend Through IVF

It can be really hard to know what to do to support a friend going through IVF. If you haven’t been through the process yourself, it’s difficult to understand what support a friend may need. I find many people avoid being too involved because they don’t want to upset their friend or put too much pressure on them. However, I often hear from women how upset they feel that none of their friends have offered any support and this can feel isolating.

Keep in mind, that if someone has told you they are going through IVF, they most likely consider you a valuable friend. Many people (couples, singles and families) go through IVF without telling anyone often due to fear of failure.

The most important thing to remember after someone has told you they are going through IVF is, doing or saying nothing can never be better than doing or saying the wrong thing with the right intentions.

A few ways you can support a friend during IVF

  • get informed – find out what your friend will be going through and what dates are important. Websites for the fertility groups are helpful – Queensland Fertility Group, Monash or City Fertility
  • be curiously interested
  • ask how they’re feeling
  • ask about important dates
  • offer to be there for them to just listen
  • send an encouraging text message on important dates like egg pick up, transfer day and the day of the blood test
  • ask your friend what support they need if you’re unsure
  • be the reasoning voice when they tell you they read on an online forum that said eating 5 pineapple cores after transfer improves implantation (talking to your specialist about baby aspirin would be a better idea)

In the instance of your friend receiving bad news through their IVF cycle, including a lower number of eggs collected than expected, the delay of transfer due to over stimulation, a reduced number of fertilised eggs, embryos not growing or the final result of a negative blood test, offer them your support. Just give them a giant hug and listen.

I often find the offer of food very helpful too ;-)

It’s a really tough journey and they’ll be so grateful to have you apart it!

Female Friends

Healthy Coffee Consumption

I can absolutely understand why you could be confused about coffee and whether it is good for you or not. Almost weekly I see new articles looking into the health benefits or problems associated with coffee consumption.

As with most foods, adverse effects coffee consumption can have on your body is more to do with the amount you consume and how you consume it than any problems with the coffee itself.

From a Chinese medicine point of view, coffee can be good for the Liver in moderate amounts. The Liver loves bitter flavours so the bitterness in coffee can be tonifying for the Liver. Coffee can help the body detox from a diet that is reach and heavy and can assist in purging the bowels. However, too much coffee can heat the Liver and Stomach, drying up body fluids and draining the Kidneys of energy. This can result in dry mouth, coughing, tiredness, stomach ulcers, insomnia, hormone imbalance, constant headaches, digestive upset and emotional irritability. If you suffer from these symptoms already, reducing coffee may help.

Coffee is also a diuretic so you need to replace the water you lose with your morning cup of coffee. For every cup, you need to drink 2 cups of water to replace it (this is on top of your normal water consumption).

From a fertility and women’s health aspect, coffee increases cortisol and cortisol (the stress hormone) reduces progesterone in the body. So if you are trying to fall pregnant and have low progesterone levels, you should look at reducing coffee intake. Caffeine can also lower your iron absorption so try to avoid having a cup of coffee while eating red meat or iron supplementation especially if you already have low iron.

So my suggestions for healthy coffee consumption are these:

  • Have something in your stomach first, including water, try not to have coffee the first thing to hit your stomach for the day
  • Have it black or with a small amount of full cream milk, all other milk substitutes have too much sugar and nasty additives
  • Have no more than one per day
  • Avoid coffee after 12pm
  • Drink plenty of water all day

And lastly…enjoy it! However you drink it, enjoy it. If you don’t, don’t drink it, have a cup of herbal tea instead.

 

Black Coffee

Moxibustion…what, why, how?

It’s a really common question in clinic…what is moxa, closely followed by ‘what does it do?’

Moxa is a herb and moxibustion is an ancient technique which involves the burning of mugwort to promote healing and wellbeing. It is found underneath the leaves of the mugwort plant. In its natural form it is a small spongy herb. Like all other herbs, moxa has specific healing properties which include blood moving, warming, removal of cold stagnation, pain reduction and strengthening the energy of your internal organs.

The Chinese symbol for acupuncture literally translates as ‘acupuncture and moxibustion’, identifying the importance of these two therapies used together. They are a Yin and Yang pair. Acupuncture can only redirect energy which already exists in your body. It can move excess energy, remove heat, redistribute fluid, relax muscle, alleviate pain and settle ‘hyperactive’ energy. However, it can’t build energy. Building energy requires adding something extra to the system. Similar to food and breath, moxibustion adds energy but in the form of warmth to stimulate digestion, build blood and endometrium lining, build organ energy, eliminate cold and warm meridians. Used together, they both build energy and redistribute it to heal and promote wellbeing.

The best thing about moxibustion is how incredibly relaxing you feel. It warms your body and dilates blood vessels to help you feel an overall calmness.

Woman's back with burning moxa on acupuncture needles, close-up