• Grief and Infertility

    Grief and Infertility

    by Meredith Nathan, LMT

    A colleague of mine heard this stat at a recent fertility conference: ‘One in ten people experiencing infertility is actively suicidal.’ Did she hear that right? One in ten? Not depressed…not has suicidal ideation. But is ACTIVELY suicidal?

    I remember reading early on in my career at Pulling Down the Moon that fertility patients have grief levels rivaling those of cancer patients. Should this surprise us? The drive to reproduce is wired into our biology. Many of us have fantasized about the joy of having children since we were children ourselves, and to be told we may not be able to fulfill this can threaten everything we thought we knew about our future. Add to this the pain of loss, for those who have had miscarriages or stillbirths, or those who are ‘circumstantially infertile’, due to divorce or not finding a partner to embark on this journey with…all of these people have had paradigms threatened and dreams shattered.

    But unlike cancer patients, people struggling with infertility tend to be very private with their grief. They typically don’t broadcast their struggle to the world, and as such bear the burden of it largely alone. And since men and women tend to experience grief very differently, even a loving partner doesn’t always provide the support you need.

    Grief can manifest in different ways, whether in the form of anger, guilt, insomnia, depression, loss of appetite, apathy, or over-achievement. Grief goes through many stages as it’s processed. And grief, when left unchecked, can create stress and disruption in the body as emotions are stored in the tissue, leading to imbalance, disease, and (ironically) even infertility.

    Having tools to address grief is vitally important. We live in a society that doesn’t often place a high premium on self-nurturing, but we need to. Taking time to show ourselves kindness, whether in the form of a walk through nature, a massage, or a bubblebath should be an absolute priority for someone dealing with infertility. Finding a place to communicate and share your struggles, losses, and dreams also makes a huge impact on your well-being. That’s why community is at the heart of Pulling Down the Moon. Whether through yoga classes, workshops, or working one on one with a practitioner, it is our mission to let our patients know that they aren’t alone. Our heart is to give them not to address their physical wellbeing, but to give them mental and emotional support throughout their journey.

    You are not alone, click here for Resolve’s help line

    Click here for Evolve Counseling and Wellness

  • Male Factor Infertility, The Needles Go Where?!

    Male Factor Infertility, The Needles Go Where?!

    by Meghan Gibson, L.Ac., MSOM

    I recently had the privilege of speaking at one of the workshops during the Midwest Reproductive Symposium International (MRSi), the topic was, “Acupuncture and IVF, Ways to Improve Patient Care”. During the first session a male attended, the only one among our female group. He listened quietly and as the topic of male factor infertility came up his interest seemed to peak. As we were discussing treatments for men and how effective acupuncture can be for motility, sperm count, and even morphology we quickly realized there was one question he really needed answered….

    “Where do the needles go?”, was his question. All of gals from the Pulling Down the Moon team quickly began chuckling as we realized, this may be a BIG question for men. Fellas, have NO fear! There are not any acupuncture points, there . Most of the points are similar to those that we would use on our female patients, including the lower abdomen, head, ears and your extremities. It certainly varies depending on your diagnosis, but you will be able to keep your shorts on.

    According to RESOLVE (the National Infertility Association) 30% of infertility is due to male factor, 30% female factor, 20% unexplained and 10% a combination of the two. Male factor infertility is just as prevalent as female factor. It’s true, women are way more complex than men when it comes to fertility, but men also need to seek treatment. I see it all the time in our office, when a couple receives the diagnosis “unexplained infertility” often it’s only the women who comes in for treatment.

    Over the years there have been several studies published suggesting a decline in the average man’s sperm count. Environmental toxins, pollution, hormones in our food supply, pesticides, and even tighter underwear are thought to be the problem. Men also typically carry their cell phones in their pockets and mobile cell phone radiation is thought to decrease sperm counts. Men are also more active than ever, staying active and leading a healthy life style is important, but like anything else in moderation. Heat decreases sperm count so also try to take it easy on your super intense workouts, avoid saunas, hot tubs, and resting your laptop in your lap. You may also want to trade in those tighty whities for some boxer shorts.

    With our ½ off initial consultations July 1 st -15 th this is the time to come in and get treatment. Our staff can address your specific issue and may also recommend supplements, or herbs that are helpful for male factor issues. And don’t worry, we don’t put any needles, there !

    Click here to schedule

  • Summer Produce

    Summer Produce and Fertility

    by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    The farmer’s markets are starting to be full of fresh fruits and vegetables. We all know that this produce is good for our overall health, but certain fruits and vegetables may also have specific fertility benefits. One of our central guiding principles at Pulling Down the Moon when it comes to nutrition for fertility is to promote a nutrient dense diet, in other words a diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Supplements can help fill in gaps our diet, but they are not a substitute for a nutrient dense diet. As we are starting to learn, certain beneficial compounds in foods work synergistically.

    For example, local kale is now available. Kale has been a nutritional powerhouse long before it became so trendy. Kale and other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and collard greens, contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol that may help reduce oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and balance estrogen levels. Balancing estrogen levels is especially important in conditions associated with estrogen dominance or estrogen excess such as endometriosis, PCOS, and fibroids. Leafy greens such as these are also rich in folate, potassium, and vitamin C.

    Berries are also starting to appear at the markets. Berries tend to be rich in antioxidants and nutrients while being lower in sugar than other fruits. Raspberries and blackberries are especially high in fiber. The extra fiber helps the body eliminate compounds like excess estrogen through the stool. The high antioxidant value may help neutralize free radicals.

    Zucchini will be more widely available soon, and can be cooked on its own as a side dish, or use zucchini “noodles” instead of regular pasta. These “zoodles” help increase daily vegetable intake and can help you reduce regular pasta, which tends to lack nutrients and be high in refined carbs, depending on the type. Even gluten free pastas, such as those made from rice tend to not be very nutrient-dense.

    Don’t forget the fresh herbs, like cilantro, parsley, basil, and mint just to name a few. These herbs not only add flavor, but also add extra antioxidants.

    When choosing your fruits and vegetable, it’s preferable to choose organic when possible. When making your decisions about where to spend the extra money on organic produce, it helps to consult the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list . Fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list are best to buy organic, since they have higher pesticide residues. Examples include strawberries, spinach, apples, and peaches. Produce on the Clean 15 list tends to be lower in pesticides residues. Examples include onions, avocado, and pineapple.

    Click here to book a nutriton consultation with Margaret

  • Start Fertility Yoga Now and Shift Your Season

    by Beth Heller, MS RYT

    Pulling Down the Moon Co-Founder

    There’s really no better time to start yoga than fall in Chicago. We all know that the summer and fall are the pay-off months: the long, warm days and amazing festivities make up for the chill wind, the snow and the salt stains that define Chicago living the rest of the year. Yet despite the upside, buzz-killing “fertility bombs” abound – barefoot babies, preggo’s in sundresses and family-filled block parties conspire to make carefree times care-full.

    Should we just chalk it up as a season lost? At Pulling Down the Moon we say absolutely not. We should use this beautiful time of year for everything it’s worth, down to the last life-affirming drop. And yoga is how it happens.

    I know this from experience. My first miscarriage (the first of the five pregnancies over seven years that it took to have my two kids) occurred in July of 2000, almost 17 years ago. In my mind, that July marks the loss of my innocence. If you’ve been on the infertility roller-coaster you know what I mean. That was the day when baby showers started to make me bite back tears and pregnant women started pissing me off.

    It also marks the start of my yoga journey. PM (prior to the miscarriage), I had been practicing yoga quietly in my home, with a book and a mat bought from Whole Foods. AM (after the miscarriage) I sought out my first regular group class. It was on Wednesday evenings at Moksha Yoga, from 6-7:30. I can still remember the scent of warm air and how good dinner would taste after class, my heart wo light for the first time in days. Chatting with the students and the teacher at the studio, I started to connect to people again.

    Almost 20 years later, these first transformative days of yoga still resonate. Why? Now that I’m a teacher, I have a few ideas. First, yoga is a rehearsal for dealing with stress. We hold tough poses, feel intense physical sensations and respond with peaceful awareness. These skills translate directly to the challenges of loss and infertility. Second, my yoga practice curbed my need for other “numbing” habits like wine, sweets, and television. When I sipped wine, I tasted it. When I ate, I enjoyed. What I watched, I saw. Yoga helped me become present.

    I also think yoga helped me become pregnant. It helped me cut back on running, make changes to my diet, better manage the stress of the fertility journey, and improve my sleep.

    Years later, the research we have conducted with Fertility Centers of Illinois provides structure to these hunches. In our last study, fertility specialist Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron and I found that Pulling Down the Moon’s Six Week Yoga for Fertility Program decreased both the immediate anxiety felt by fertility patients, but also lowered their overall perception of how anxious they were in general. In a preliminary analysis, we also found that an online version of the program is just as effective.

    In the six week program, we teach a class that is very different from a typical yoga studio class. Each week we practice a sequence of yoga poses that encourage blood flow to the belly, help manage the side-effects of fertility meds, and release anxiety and stress. Our teachers also use discussion and concepts from yoga philosophy that help empower our students to continue to connect with the world around them, and even grow and thrive. Beyond the yoga, this is a space for laughing and chat, and the start of many lasting friendships.

    So, the change in the air is calling you! See for yourself how yoga can shift your fall season…whether you are taking a break from a failed cycle or prepping for the next one!

    Click here to enroll in class!

    **Start in September and fall into savings with our You Pick Two special which includes a full Yoga for Fertility (in-center or online) and another service for only $199!

  • GET SOME SLEEP!

    by Stacy Dunn, ND, LAc, FABNO

    My patients are well accustomed to inquiries about their sleep – What time are you going to bed? Do you fall asleep easily? Do you wake frequently? What time do you wake in the morning? Do you feel rested? I ask about sleep at every appointment because good quality sleep has a profound impact on their overall health, helping to reduce their risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. But I am also asking about sleep because of its impact on fertility.

    A variety of hormones are regulated by our circadian and sleep-wake cycles, and poor quality sleep, keeping late hours, and irregular bedtimes can interfere with their production. These hormones include melatonin, leptin, cortisol, thyroid stimulating hormone, and prolactin, and changes in these hormone impact ovulation, menstrual regularity, and even egg quality. Lack of sleep also increases inflammatory processes which may further compromise fertility.

    It can be challenging in our fast-paced world to unwind and sleep. Added stress and exogenous hormones from fertility treatments don’t exactly help. But there are many ways to support healthy sleep; these are my favorite tips:

    • Get outside! Natural sunlight helps to regulate our internal clock, while artificial light may disrupt it.

    • Keep bedtime consistent – go to bed around the same time and wake up around the same time, ideally every night of the week.

    • Nutritional supplements such as Magnesium and Melatonin, herbs such as Chamomile and Passion Flower, and essential oils such as Lavender can be very supportive. Discuss with your health care provider which recommendations and dosages that would be most supportive for you.

    • Acupuncture is well known for supporting restful sleep – it is a side-benefit many realize after trying acupuncture for pain or fertility.

    • Yoga – research studies have shown yoga to markedly reduces stress and reduce insomnia. Our yoga students can attest to its benefits!

    • Sleep in a cool and dark environment. The National Sleep Foundation recommends bedroom temperatures around 65 degrees – and research backs this up. Lamps, televisions, and cell phones should all be turned off, and if you live in the city, blackout curtains can be a great investment. Electronics and digital devices should also be avoided before sleep.

  • PROBIOTICS AND PREBIOTICS

    by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    In our quest to eat healthier to promote fertility, we often think strictly about the food that we put into your body, but sometimes we forget about the importance of the digestive process and the beneficial bacteria that live our gut. These beneficial bacteria help support our immune system, help ward off infection from disease-causing bacteria, and help support good digestion and elimination.

    Probiotic supplements have been studied for their ability to prevent yeast infections and bacteria vaginosis, both of which are associated with poor IVF outcome. Probiotics also support good digestion and may help prevent constipation and diarrhea and can be a useful too for managing IBS and other digestive issues. It’s not only important what we eat, but also what we digest and absorb. If digestion is sub-optimal, we may not be absorbing all the nutrients from our food. In addition, did you know that your gut bacteria can even make nutrients that your body needs like vitamin B12, biotin, and vitamin K?

    In addition, early research points to probiotic supplementation as a way to improve blood sugar regulation to prevent or better manage gestational diabetes. Additional research suggests that gut bacteria may affect neurotransmitter production and thus mood. I suspect we will only learn more about the role of probiotics in health and fertility as time goes on.

    In addition to probiotic supplements, including fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented pickles, and other fermented vegetables is a great way to get more probiotics in. Kefir and yogurt also contain probiotics, if you eat dairy products.

    In addition to taking a probiotic supplement and eating foods that contain probiotics, it’s also important to eat foods that feed the beneficial bacteria you already have your body. These fibers, which feed your beneficial bacteria, are called prebiotics. Examples of prebiotics include:

    Garlic

    Onions

    Leeks

    Whole grains

    Avocado

    Peas

    Legumes

    Potato Skins

    Green bananas

    Jicama

    Dandelion greens

    Endive

    Berries

    The saying goes, “you are what you eat,” but a better saying might be “you are what you digest and absorb.” Including a probiotic supplement, probiotic foods, and prebiotics daily can be a great way to optimize digestion and absorption, and positively impact fertility.

  • AN EGG’S LIFE

    by Meredith Nathan, LMT

    Let’s face it – fertility can be frustrating. Depending on whether you’ve just started to dip your toe in the waters of fertility treatments or you’ve already dove head first into the deep end, women and couples can put a lot of time, energy, and resources into their cycles, hoping for success. But what happens when that cycle is a bust? Doesn’t it feel like all those efforts were for nought?

    Actually, the opposite is true. Though a single egg will release through ovulation every month, the actual lifespan of that egg is approximately 90 days. That means that everything you just did to boost your fertility and nurture your cycle will actually positively impact the follicles/ovums that are ‘on the docket’ for the next 2-3 cycles. Likewise the lifespan of sperm is about 60-70 days, and the same principle applies. Every supplement you took, acupuncture session you went to, or down-dog you did not only boosts your fertility for your current cycle, but for the ones that are next in line.

    This also means that intense nutritional detoxes should be avoided within 90 days of trying to conceive for a women, or within 70 days for a man. Though detox can be powerful for helping the body achieve a fertile state, overly-aggressive methods can cause toxins to leech into your body, affecting egg/sperm quality. During this window try gentle lymphatic massage instead to support the body’s natural cleansing, or see a nutritionist to learn what foods can help your body achieve balance without nasty side effects.

    Also, this 2-3 month window means that a couple looking for extra credit (assuming their doctor is in agreement!) can actually do a 90 day prep before officially trying to conceive. Acupuncture, massage, healthy eating, supplements, herbs, and core blood-building exercises like yoga are all powerful tools that can boost egg quality in the current month as well as the months to come. Over time, you can layer healthy month after healthy month, helping your body to reach it’s most vibrant, balanced, and fertile state!

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