Celebrate Creativity & Community at the PDtM Gift Fair

Hey Pulling Down the Moon community,

Join Us In Celebrating Creativity and Community at the Pulling Down the Moon Gift Fair,  December 2, 2010.

Do you or any of your girlfriends knit, make jewelry, candles or other crafts? PDtM would love to have a Holiday Craft Sale to celebrate women’s creativity and community. If you or someone you know makes (or imports/sells) fun gift-y items, please let us know ASAP by emailing us at info@pullingdownthemoon.com.

Submission should include:
– Name
– Phone Number
– Email Address
– Images of your work or a link to your website
– Price range of work

Pulling Down the Moon strives to create an safe environment, free from stress and judgment. In order to ensure an enjoyable experience to all who participate in the fair, we will not accept work that expresses overtly religious or political views or contains discriminating messages about race, ethnicity or lifestyle.   There will be a $10 entrance fee for vendors who wish to share a table and $20 for those who would like their own table. It is non refundable within 2 weeks of the event.

Once we have reviewed all submissions, we will contact you with details about the event.

Thanks for sharing your creativity!

Reiki and Fertility

by Beth Heller, M.S.

I got reiki yesterday – and I liked it so much I woke up today determined to write about it.  In fact, I left the treatment thinking that this is a something I should probably do more often.  I’ve written about reiki and fertility previously – I received reiki sessions throughout my fertility journey – but I had forgotten how gosh-darn good it feels to lay down on a table and have someone move life energy into my body.   Okay – so I read that last sentence and admittedly it sounded kind of weird.  You had what channeled into your body?  And how , exactly, did that work?

I feel I should now attempt to answer these questions in a way that doesn’t sound too woo-woo.

Q:  What was channeled into your body????

A:  Life energy.  Reiki is an ancient Japanese form of Natural Healing.  Rei is the Japanese word for Universal (the Energy that is available for everyone) and Ki (chi in Chinese) is the Japanese word for energy. Reiki moves  the Ki that is abundantly available in the universe into the body for health and wellbeing.

Q:  And how exactly did does this happen?

A:  A reiki practitioner, in this case Ann Michaels at PDtM, has been attuned to reiki energy and can direct this energy through her hands.  During the treatment I was fully clothed and lay on a massage bed.  As I rested with my eyes closed, Ann would rest her hands very lightly on different parts of my body (head, shoulders, belly, feet, etc.).  Unlike massage there was no body manipulation, just a sort of gentle touch.  Often Ann would remain very still as she worked, other times I could feel her hands moving above the surface of my body, not touching at all.

Q:  How did you know that it “worked”?

A:  As I mentioned previously, unlike massage reiki does not involve rubbing, stretching or other manipulation.  However, in my own experience with reiki I have felt physical and mental release both during and after the session similar to (and often deeper than) the release I get from massage. I also find my “mind’s eye” is very active during reiki.  I see colors, flash back to memories, faces and my body will feel rushes, tingling and sensations of release, hot and cold.  I also experience waves of emotion.   Sometimes I fall asleep or slip into a deeply relaxed twilight space that I find to be incredibly enjoyable.

At the Moon we are lucky to have two wonderful reiki practitioners – Ann Michaels and Lisa Espinosa.  Ann and Lisa are two of only eleven practitioners in the US trained in Sacred Childbirth with Reiki (SCR) a reiki program aimed specifically at fertility, pregnancy and childbirth (stay tuned for an upcoming blog about SCR).  There is a body of clinical studies that  support the efficacy of reiki for different medical conditions and for stress reduction .  However, no specific studies to date look at reiki and infertility.

Now, to wrap up this blog I also wanted to share a bit about my experience with the practitioner, Ann.  She started my session by asking me to set a short term goal and a long term goal for the work; and these goals were something I could choose to share with her or not.  After the session Ann shared feedback from her perspective and related what she felt from my body during the session.   The setting of goals was very helpful.   For the fertility journey the answer of the long-term goal is usually pretty easy – a baby.  But the short-term goals (whether to do another cycle, to make it through the 2ww without a melt-down, to let go of needle phobia during the injection phase of an ART cycle, become less stressed, eat better) are also very valuable and can greatly improve day-to-day life.  The act of setting these intentions prompts self-study.  What is it that we want to create right now?  What do we want our lives to look like in six months?

As a yoga teacher I have a strong belief in life energy and its relationship to stress, fertility and disease.  Reiki really works for me – and I will often recommend it for women who, like me, experienced a lot of grief, failure and loss in the fertility arena.   If you are interested in reiki and would like to learn more about it, we are offering a free Patient Education seminar at PDtM in Chicago this Sunday, October 31 from 1-2:30.   You can click here to register.

PMS, Prostaglandins and Essential Fatty Acids

by Breea Johnson, MS RD

About 70-90% of women report having uncomfortable symptoms before their period. Most women are very familiar with the symptoms of acne, anxiety, backache, bloating, breast tenderness, cramps, cravings, depression, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, joint pain, nervousness, mood swings, and personality changes. The list it seems includes most everything negative a woman feels on a monthly basis, although some women seem to have it much worse than others. Many women complain that these symptoms last for 2 weeks before menstruation – which equals up to about half of their lives!

Cramps, backaches, breast tenderness, and headaches are some of the common PMS symptoms that actually cause physical pain. What they have in common is the relation to prostaglandin production and balance. Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals derived from fatty acids that have a number of different roles in the body. They help promote smooth muscle contraction and blood vessel dilation – essential for a normal menstrual cycle. They also aid in inflammatory processes in the body – causing swelling, stiffness, warmth and pain.

Research has shown that anti-inflammatory prostaglandin production is lower in the luteal phase and higher in the follicular phase of women with PMS versus those without. The key with prostaglandins is for your body to produce more of the anti-inflammatory and less of the inflammatory prostaglandins to prevent PMS pain.  So, instead of popping a pain-killer why not try to balance your prostaglandins naturally? How, you ask? One strategy is to balance your intake of essential fatty acids – the precursors to prostaglandins.

Essential fatty acids are just that – fats that the human body cannot produce so must be taken in from the diet. There are only two essential fatty acids – alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid.  All other fatty acids can be synthesized in the body from other fats, making them non-essential. ALA is of such extreme importance because it is the substrate for the very important omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. DHA is, of course, most known for its role in neurological development and is found in most prenatal vitamins. EPA is lesser known but has become more popular for its anti-inflammatory properties for heart disease and diabetes prevention.

Balancing fatty acids is all about decreasing intake of the “inflammatory” omega-6 fatty acids versus “anti-inflammatory”omega-3 fatty acids in order to have a better omega-6:omega-3 ratio.

Of the two essential fatty acids, ALA is usually the one that is consumed in lower amounts than LA, because the typical American diet includes a lot of heavily processed and fried oils.  ALA is a plant-based fatty acid, so dietary sources of ALA include flaxseed oil, walnuts, hemp seeds, soybeans and some dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and chard. The body can convert a small amount (about 5-10%) of these fats into EPA and DHA but the conversion rate is low. EPA and DHA can also be found in cold-water fish such as wild salmon, tuna, halibut and herring.  DHA is also found in some algae, so vegetarians and vegans can eat algae-based products to get increased levels of DHA.

LA is also a plant-based fatty acid, and found primarily in oils – such as corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil and sunflower oil. These fats are consumed in abundance in the typical American diet as they are found in fried, fast and processed foods.  Ideally, the ratio between LA and ALA is 3:1, however, the standard American diet is much higher at about 15:1 which can contribute to inflammation and chronic disease.

By altering the kinds of fatty acids that you eat to more Alpha Linolenic Acid (omega-3) and less Linoleic Acid (omega-6), it may be possible to effectively produce more anti-inflammatory prostaglandins than inflammatory prostaglandins – thus decreasing some of the pain caused by PMS.  For more information about utilizing nutritional strategies to manage PMS, please call (312) 321-0004 or visit www.pullingdownthemoon.com for more info on booking a nutrition appointment. Or, consider our PMS Primer: Holistic Strategies for PMS seminar on November 3 taught by a nutritionist, acupuncturist and a yoga teacher:

Are you a craver or a crab? Headache-y or crampy? Chocolate or potato chips? Join PDtM Practitioners Breea Johnson MS RD, Anna Pyne LAc and Beth Heller, MS for an essential survival guide to PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome). At this seminar you will learn how to manage – and potentially even eradicate – the headaches, bloating, mood swings, anger, cravings and general foulness that many women experience just before menstruation. We explore our individual “PMS personality,” and create strategies using nutrition, Traditional Chinese Medicine and yoga to tame the PMS beast within. The class includes nutrition lecture, yoga and pranayama (breathing) practice and a 30 minute group acupuncture session. Please visit www.pullingdownthemoon.com or call (312)321-0004 to sign up.

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Infertility

Dr. Chris Sipe of Fertility Centers of Illinois gave a great talk on Infertility Prevention at last night’s STEP UP event.   He provided a “Top 10 List” of the best  ways to avoid infertility.  We thought we’d pass them along.

1.  Don’t wait

2. Don’t wait

3.  Don’t wait

4.  Don’t wait

5.  Practice safe sex

6.  Healthy lifestyle (normal weight, exercise, healthy diet)

7.  Yearly doctor visits (health maintenance, vaccines and disease treatment)

8.  Know your family medical history (see our blog on PCOS and your mom)

9.  Pick the right guy (unhealthy men have lower sperm counts!)

10.  Don’t wait…but if you’re going to wait, consider fertility preservation.

If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Sipe, you can click here.

What is Birth Planning?

Kristen Ethier, Kaleidoscope Doula

The birth of a child ranks at the top of transformative milestones in life such as a graduation, your wedding day and for many Pulling Down the Moon clients, becoming pregnant. Creating a plan for birth is as helpful and important as planning for your wedding. Sure, not everything will go as you expect but being educated and prepared certainly helps to reduce some of the built in stress that comes with these big life events.

To that end, there are lots of misconceptions about birth planning, including that a birth plan is a list of defiant demands that women choosing natural childbirth put together for their doctor or care provider. This assumption calls to mind a quote,

“Birth is like the sea: One can swim in it, be swept away by it, float, but Heaven help the fool who thinks she can control it.” – Tia, an Israeli Midwife

With this quote in mind, we know that a list of demands would not be very helpful. Also, a birth plan is helpful for any woman or family who wants one and for all types of birth, all the way from a natural homebirth to a planned cesarean birth and everything in between! A birth plan simply includes your ideas, expectations and preferences for welcoming your baby into the world.  Creating your birth plan helps you to get to know your doctor or midwife on a deeper level and allows you to ask questions about hospital procedures, interventions and emergency care. On a spiritual level, a birth plan encourages you to think about coping techniques, comfort measures, laboring positions and the all sweet parts about welcoming your baby.

Energy Balance and Fertility – A Holistic View

Beth Heller M.S.

A   recent study examined the prevalence of eating disorders in women preparing for their first IUI at a private fertility clinic and found that an astounding 21% met the criteria for a past or present eating disorder.    The researchers who conducted this study recommend that the infertility screening process include an eating disorder assessment as part of the overall intake.

When I read this study I was thrilled that the medical community is moving toward an active assessment of not only what a woman is eating, but also the psychological factors that play in to many women’s relationship with food, exercise and body image.   At the Moon we see a lot of women who do not have a full-fledged eating disorder but who work quite hard to maintain a fashionably thin figure.  It’s not uncommon for a normal weight/svelte woman to struggle to remain five pounds below her ideal body weight.  It’s so common that we even have a name for it:  the “final five syndrome” (or FFS) and I’ve long wondered about the role FFS may play in a woman’s ability to conceive.

From a nutrition standpoint, the concept of  Energy Balance is critical for fertility.  When Energy In (the food we eat) is greater than Energy Out (our metabolism + activity) we gain weight, which can be a problem for fertility.  Excess fat tissue can disrupt estrogen metabolism and too many calories-in can impair blood sugar regulation, with the result that overweight and obese women have a harder time getting/staying pregnant than women at a healthy body weight. On the flip side, when Energy In is less than Energy Out , women also struggle to conceive.  The body has a very precise, evolutionarily defined priority for the way it uses its calories (energy).  First “served” are the functions that are absolutely essential for life – nerve transmission, cellular metabolism, respiration/circulation.  Once these processes are secured, energy is diverted to less-critical but still essential body functions including locomotion, immune function and growth.  Last served are non-essential functions like reproduction, which can essentially be “turned off” during lean times without harming the individual.   Reproductive function doesn’t necessarily shut off all at once, either.  Cycles can lengthen,  the luteal phase can shorten and menstruation can become scant prior to complete loss of periods.  Clearly, none of these conditions is optimal for conception.

When Energy In = Energy Out there is balance, healthy body weight and healthy appetite.  Yet for many women energy balance can be a difficult, and at times scary, place to find.  Our society promotes a version of athletic thin-ness that is nearly impossible to emulate.  This unattainable image means that women who are naturally svelte are still spending hours at the gym, counting calories and worrying that they will become fat if they release this state of constant vigilance.  While not a full-fledged eating disorder, it wouldn’t be surprising, at least from the holistic perspective of Pulling Down the Moon, if reproductive function suffered in women struggling for the perfect figure.

So how do we address the FFS at the Moon?  Well, one of the amazing things we’ve found over the years is that techniques that work with the body, mind and spirit – like yoga, acupuncture and psychotherapy – can be very effective in healing the FFS.  As women begin to “fill up” their body with life energy, it becomes harder to deplete and deny themselves.  The fear of “letting themselves go” transmutes into a desire to simply “let themselves be.”  Exercise doesn’t go away – it simply becomes less grueling and more fun.  Including more nourishing foods and fats in the diet leaves women feeling more satisfied and stronger.  Interestingly, for most women these changes take place without any change in actual physical weight.

If you are interested in learning more about the ways the good nutrition, stress reduction and other holistic techniques can support fertility, visit www.pullingdownthemoon.com.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Connecting with Your Internal Cycle

By Breea Johnson, MS RD

PMS is not something that any woman wishes for – as it can be extremely uncomfortable to experience the common symptoms of backache, bloating, cramps, fatigue, headaches, joint pain and insomnia. Not to mention the psychological symptoms such as mood swings, depression, personality changes and nervousness that plague many women. But, can PMS actually be a good thing? It’s true, listening to these symptoms and your body and re-connecting to your internal cycle can put you on a path to greater health affecting everything from your mood to your fertility!

The first thing to understand is that PMS symptoms are a result of your body being out of balance – it’s not a “disease” that can only be treated with medications, rather it’s a sign that your body needs nurturing – on P hysical, M ental and S piritual levels.

Nourishing the Physical: We all know that a great diet is important for great health. But when we focus on calories instead of nutrients we can leave our bodies devoid of essential nutrients for optimal hormone health and balance. Fill your body with greens, whole grains and clean sources of protein and you’ll likely notice a difference in how you feel prior to menstruation.

Conquering the Mental: The most annoying aspect of PMS for many women (and their roommates or partners) are the mood changes. Many women turn to anti-depression or anti-anxiety medications thinking that it must be a problem in their mind rather than in their bodies. Feeling down in the dumps becomes the normal. Remember, the mind-body connection is crucial, when we are properly nourishing our body through good nutrition, exercise and sunshine, our mind benefits. We feel better and think more clearly. So don’t forget to feed your body to nourish your mind.

Soaking up the Spiritual :  Experiencing PMS symptoms gives you the chance to sit and listen to your body. Maybe you are feeling out of balance because you’re not listening to your inner self and following your life’s dreams and passions. Maybe you are not letting yourself rest and relax as much as you need to decompress from your busy life. Maybe you aren’t nurturing yourself and demand a lot out of yourself. Maybe your life isn’t as fulfilling as you wish it was. Take the time to turn inwards, listen to your body and examine your life in a spiritual manner and it may help bring you into further balance.

If you are interested in learning more about PMS and how to bring your body into balance naturally, please join us at our exciting event PMS Primer: Holistic Survival Strategies. This 2-hour class will be taught by a nutritionist, an acupuncturist and a yoga teacher and provide you with the tools to manage – and potentially even eradicate – the headaches, bloating, mood swings, anger, cravings and general foulness that many women experience just before menstruation. To register please call (312) 321-0004 or visit www.pullingdownthemoon.com . Class cost is $25.

Dealing with Negative Thoughts

The orientation session of our Fully Fertile book group met last Sunday.  As part of the overview, I discussed the framework of the book – the Kriya Yoga tenets of tapas (purification), svadyaya (self-study) and ishvara pranidhana (surrender to a greater fabric).  One of the women present asked an important question.  ”How do I separate self-study from the blame, second-guessing and self-doubt I feel is central to my experience?”

The answer is both simple and challenging.  At the Moon we ask women to consider a different way of thinking.  It is one that embraces the present moment, that does not place blame on any actions that may have brought us to this point and that views the journey toward parenthood as just that.  A journey.

Now, as to the question of how to make that happen?  There are really three important steps.  First, forgive yourself for your choices.  You did the best you could with the information you had every step of the way.  Second, embrace this new philosophy of welcoming the moment as it arises and exploring the gifts of the present.  In each new moment there is the potential for joy, growth and even miracles.  Finally, practice.   It’s not easy to embrace an entirely new way of thinking – especially one that flies in the face of the world in which we live where blame and the desire to control are everywhere.  Practice your yoga, your meditation and surround yourself with like-minded people who will help you welcome and experience your life as it arises – fresh and filled with potential in every moment.

Anna’s News: How Soon is Too Soon to Try for #2?

Anna Pyne LAc MSOM FABORM

This question comes up quite a bit in my practice.  According to my knowledge and experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) I recommend our patients wait at least one year after the arrival of the first baby, in order for the body to be healthy and ready to conceive again. Strengthening the body during this period will consist of enriching the “jing” (essence), “yin” (nourishing fluids), and “blood”, according to TCM medical theory, all of which had been greatly depleted at the time of labor and delivery.  These are the three primary substances which nourish the follicles in order to produce better quality eggs, and in the end another healthy baby.  The patient should start acupuncture again (with herbal therapy if they are not going through a medicated fertility treatment cycle) to nourish the jing, yin, and blood.

I had a recent conversation with Dr. Brian Kaplan, a reproductive endocrinologist we greatly respect and work very closely with, about this subject.  His recommendation to his patients was similar to mine, which was to wait at least 8 months to a year before trying to conceive again.

Ultimately we work with the patient’s comfort level and the doctor’s recommendation as to how soon after a patient waits to try to conceive a second baby. Combing Western and Eastern medicine for our patient’s benefit is the ideal way to practice and it’s how we practice at Pulling Down the Moon.  My philosophy has always been integrating both medical theories and practices to arrive at a superior medical treatment plan.

To book an initial consultation with Anna, click here!

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