• Lost that Lovin’ Feeling?

    Trying to make a baby? Sounds like fun! You start with the exciting decision that it’s time. You throw your previous precautions to the wind, pull the protection, and get down to business. First month no dice? No problem – that just means there’s more time to practice. Second month is still a no go? That’s alright – third time’s a charm!

    But after three months you’re still looking at a defeatist stick with a ‘Not Pregnant’ sign. Starting to get a bit frustrated, you decide to be more intentional. Cycle tracking apps on your phone, ovulation predictor kits, and basil body temperatures rule the day. But several months later, you’re still not pregnant.

    Your doctor tells you you’re well within the range of normal, and not to worry about it till you’ve been trying unsuccessfully for a year. You become obsessed with online chat rooms discussing the rare exotic fertility benefits of eating pineapple during a full moon. Sex is totally scheduled. And you’ve traded in post-coital cuddles for lying on your back with your legs in the air, even though thebump.com says this won’t actually help you get pregnant. It can’t hurt, right?

    The twelve months pass. Now you’re in a Reproductive Endocrinologist’s office with your partner receiving every test under the son. Various clinical approaches are being discussed that involve artificial hormones, daily injections, and reproduction involving petri dishes and insemination. Long gone are the fantasies that you might get pregnant on a romantic getaway somewhere in the Caribbean…

    Sound familiar? The good news is that for most couples there is a baby waiting at the end of this fertility rainbow (even if it comes in the way you least expected). The bad news is you never imagined that making a baby could be so utterly un-sexy.

    Going through fertility challenges is hard in many ways. It can be a source of feeling inadequate, depressed, and anxious. It can create money worries, and an obsession with the passing of time. And it can be hard on a marriage. What makes it even harder is losing the connection of physical intimacy through the process. Sex feeling like a chore, or worse yet a reminder of past disappointments, isn’t good for anyone.

    During your fertility journey, be proactive in finding ways to keep the romance alive! Cook together, go on dates, and send each other flirtatious emails (yes, even when you’re NOT ovulating!) Get a blood-building massage (these sessions in our FEM protocol help with follicle production and uterine lining, but as a perk they tend to boost the libido as well), a couples massage, or better yet, practice giving each other massages. Hold hands, gaze into each other eyes, and tell your partner the thing you love most about them.

    And know that weathering this storm together will ultimately make your relationship stronger, and your appreciation for the gift of family greater.

    Work on that spark with massages for both of you!

  • Qigong for Fertility

    Qigong (pron. “chee gawng”) is a 5,000 year old tradition of self-healing exercises that is used achieve wellness within the body, mind, and spirit. The word qigong means “energy work” or “life force work.” It is the practice of connecting with the energy around you and utilizing it to balance the internal functioning of the body.

    5 Qigong Exercises for Fertility:

    Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Try to find a space that you can consistently practice in each morning. Outside in nature is ideal, but if you are inside, try listening to nature sounds or putting nature imagery around you (even on TV!). You should have space to move around a bit, at least arms’ breadth. Barefoot is preferable, but if you are outside, wear comfortable shoes.

    Bring to mind a sense of purpose, clarity of vision, and sincerity of focus. Take a few minutes to do this. Try to focus on big picture hopes and dreams rather than specific details.

    Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Feet should be flat on the ground with a firm position, but not tight. Relax shoulders away from ears. Gently roll head side to side a few times to relax neck.

    Bring your attention to your breath. Breathe in through the nose and gently out through the mouth. Try to use deep, diaphragmatic breathing rather than keeping the breath all in the chest.

    1. Swing arms front to back, loosening the shoulders, relaxing the arms. Aim for 100x, stop or make smaller movements if you feel discomfort. You should feel the arms and upper body warming up. You may feel your heart beat a little faster. Now, shake your hands as if you had water on them. Start with small movements and progress to more vigorous movement for about 2-3 minutes. Your hands will begin to pulse and feel warm, perhaps even with a vibrating sensation.

    2. Take your hands and place them over your kidneys (about the middle of your back on each side). Kidneys have a special connection to reproductive function, growth and development, and aging in Chinese medicine theory. By warming this area, you are supporting that function.

    3. Bring the attention back to the breath. Imagine good energy coming in through your nose, down your front to your belly button and then between belly button and pelvic floor. Bend the knees and scoop upward with both hands the air around you. Then, rest the hands one over the other on the area just below your belly button for about 10-15 seconds. Do this 9 times.

    4. With the next breath, tighten the pelvic floor muscles (as you would when stopping the flow of urine). As you exhale, release the pelvic floor muscles. As you breathe, imagine energy going downward toward tailbone, then traveling back up through the spine, and finally through the head and into the nose. Do this 5 times. After the 5th time, begin to imagine your breath entering the other organs involved with reproduction: the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. Imagine them doing their jobs to regulate the hormones effectively. Repeat 5 more times.

    5. Gently bend the knees again. Bring your arms into a circle shape in front of you as if you were holding a large beach ball, about the height of your belly button. Fingers should just be touching at the tips. Close your eyes and take 9 slow, deep (but with very minimal effort) breaths. In through the nose, out the mouth. After the last exhale, bring the palms of the hands, one over the other, back to the area below the belly button and hold for 10-15 seconds.

    These exercises will bring warmth and movement all throughout the body. They are great to support fertility, but also to help with longevity for anyone! Teach them to your parents!

    Christine Davis, LAc is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the Director of Acupuncture at Pulling Down the Moon.

    Make an appointment with Christine or any of our therapists by calling 312-321-0004 or booking online at www.pullingdownthemoon.com.

    Schedule your appointment!

  • Nutrition for Fertility Is Not Just for Women

    by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Nutrition and lifestyle habits can have an important impact on male fertility. Did you know that carrying extra weight is associated with lower sperm quality? Diabetes also may impair sperm quality. Making changes to your diet like limiting added sugar and refined carbs and maximizing fruit and vegetable intake can not only support achieving a healthy weight but also may help improve sperm quality.

    In addition, there are specific nutrients that may be helpful for optimizing sperm quality.

    1. Omega-3 fatty acids : the outer covering or membrane around sperm is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which help maintain the membrane fluidity allowing for fertilization of the egg. Foods rich in EPA and DHA, include fatty fish like wild salmon and sardines. Egg yolks may also contain some DHA. Our body can convert small amounts of the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids, ALA or alpha-linolenic acid (found in flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds), to EPA and DHA, but only small amounts. The main health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids seem to be attributable to EPA and DHA.

    2. Folate: Folate is essential for DNA synthesis and repair and may play a role in ensuring the integrity of DNA within the sperm. Folate-rich foods include leafy greens, spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, oranges, and avocado.

    3. Antioxidants: Antioxidants include nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E and the pigments that make up fruits and vegetables. Carrots, winter squash, and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, while strawberries, oranges, broccoli, and red peppers are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin E-rich foods including almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts and peanut butter, and avocado.

    Pulling Down the Moon nutritionists are not only experts in fertility nutrition for women, but we also specialize in using nutrition to optimize male fertility. Appointments available in-center or via phone or video conference for your convenience.

    Get Started Today!

  • 30 Nutrition Tips for PCOS Awareness Month

    Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Pulling Down the Moon, Nutritionist

    1. Have your vitamin D tested. Women with PCOS are often vitamin D deficient, and correcting the deficiency can help restore more frequent menstrual cycles and promote improved blood sugar regulation.

    2. Eat low mercury fish like wild salmon, tilapia, and sardines. These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that may help reduce the inflammation associated with PCOS.

    3. Cut out all sugar-sweetened drinks like soda, sweetened teas, and sports drinks. These beverages can lead to insulin resistance, which only exacerbates the symptoms of PCOS. Instead, drink water with lemon or cucumber slices, or sparkling water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.

    4. Avoid artificial sweeteners. They usually serve only to exacerbate sugar cravings and may contribute to issues with blood sugar regulation.

    5. Make sure to eat a protein source at all your meals and snacks to help keep you full and satisfied and promote good blood sugar regulation. Moderate protein diets have been associated with better IVF success rates too! Protein sources include meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, or (limited) dairy.

    6. Eat only full-fat dairy instead of low-fat or non-fat. In the Nurse’s Health Study, intake of full-fat as opposed to reduced or non-fat dairy was associated with lower risk of ovulatory infertility.

    7. Eat cruciferous vegetables daily, as they are great for estrogen-dominant conditions like PCOS. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, kale, collard greens, and arugula.

    8. Avoid refined grains like white breads, pasta, cookies, cereals and crackers. They have no nutritional value. Instead eat whole grains like Ezekiel bread, brown or wild rice, quinoa, and millet.

    9. Take a fish oil supplement. Since it’s important to limit fish due to its mercury content, taking a fish oil supplement that has been purified to remove mercury is a great way to make sure you’re getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce the inflammation associated with PCOS.

    10. Lose the sugar! High blood sugar can be damaging to egg quality and promote inflammation in the body, besides the fact that it’s empty calories. Cutting out sugar is also an essential strategy if you’re trying to lose weight.

    11. Avoid corn, soybean, and cottonseed oils that are rich in inflammatory omega-6 rich fatty acids. These oils are often found in crackers, cookies, salad dressings, and pasta sauces.

    12. Eat vitamin D-rich foods like low mercury fish (salmon, tilapia, haddock, sardines) and egg yolks and get some sunshine.

    13. Eat fermented foods, which can help promote healthy digestion and balanced gut bacteria.

    14. Avoid foods with “soy protein isolate” and “texturized vegetable protein,” as they contain high levels of phytoestrogens that may be detrimental to fertility. You find these in meat replacement products, many protein bars, and in high protein cold cereals.

    15. Eat organic whenever possible, especially meat and dairy.

    16. Work towards a healthy weight. Whether you are overweight or underweight, a healthy weight is a really important way to help improve your chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy. If you need to lose weight, try our FirstLine Therapy for Fertility (FLTF) weight loss program!

    17. Eat berries. Berries are rich in antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and prevent free radical damage to eggs.

    18. Eat healthy fats – dry roasted or raw nuts and seeds, avocados, low mercury fish, and olive oil.

    19. Learn the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website to learn more. The Dirty Dozen are the top 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues. These are the items to buy organic. The Clean 15 have the lowest pesticide residues so buying conventional versions is a good money-saving option.

    20. Avoid Bisphenol A (BPA) by using a BPA-free water bottle and limiting your intake of canned foods. Higher BPA levels in the body have been linked to PCOS.

    21. Lose the sugar! High blood sugar can be damaging to egg quality and promote inflammation in the body, besides the fact that it’s empty calories. Cutting out sugar can also be a really helpful strategy if you’re trying to lose weight and manage your PCOS.

    22. Try cutting out gluten, especially if you have any digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, or frequent bloating. If you have poor digestion, you likely are not absorbing nutrients from your food well.

    23. Support good digestion with probiotics, fiber from fruits and vegetables, and plenty of fluids. Limit refined grains and sugars.

    24. Eat beans and lentils. These nutritional powerhouses are great for PCOS as they are loaded with protein, fiber, iron, folate, and calcium – all very beneficial nutrients when trying to conceive.

    25. Avoid trans fats, which are a component of hydrogenated oils. Don’t buy any foods with “hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list as these unhealthy fats may increase inflammation and are linked to decreased fertility.

    26. Take a prenatal vitamin that contains all of your B-vitamins. B-vitamins are vital to the ovulation process and especially important for women with PCOS. If you aren’t eating a balanced diet, you may not be getting enough of these important vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, B6 and B12 among others.

    27. Eat low glycemic carbohydrates. Low glycemic carbs keep your blood sugar steadier and provide more sustained energy throughout the day. Blood sugar balance can help keep insulin levels lower, which is important because higher insulin levels seem to be a driving force in PCOS.

    28. Eat foods with folate. You should definitely be taking a folic acid supplement while trying to conceive, but eating foods with folate is also beneficial. Include leafy green vegetables, beans, lentils, green peas, strawberries, and avocados.

    29. Eat slowly and mindfully. These practices can enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients and satisfaction with eating and prevent overeating and digestive issues like gas and bloating.

    30. Get plenty of antioxidants in your diet, especially if you’re doing ART. One study suggests that IVF increases free radicals, but increasing your intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals was able to neutralize the free radicals. Think lots of different colored fruits and vegetables!

    Consult with a nutritionist today!

  • Insights of Fifteen Years of Yoga Wisdom

    Insights of Fifteen Years of Yoga Wisdom

    by Beth Heller, M.S.

    Fifteen years ago, Tami and I offered our first, six-week Yoga for Fertility class in Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago. Much to our surprise, we had a large and eager group of students show up for class. It was a surprise, because yoga was just hitting the general consciousness and, while were both experienced teachers, we really didn’t know whether anyone besides us would see the benefits of this practice for enhancing odds of conception. I had recently used yoga to jump start periods that had been absent for the previous four years, and Tami’s journey raising fertility twins led her to yoga. But it’s not always easy to translate personal success into an effective group experience.

    That first class? TBH, it was meh.

    Yes, meh. The class format, which included a brief period of group chat followed by a fertility-friendly posture practice, kept students’ attention and approached what we were seeking to create. But while everyone walked away happy and relaxed, from Tami and my perspective it was missing something.

    So, we got back to work.

    We both had a clear vision of the practice we wanted to teach. More than a “doing practice,” our program would be a (to use a really geeky term) capacity-building practice , meaning a process of learning and developing skills, instincts and abilities from yoga and building the confidence to apply them outside of yoga class to the infertility journey and beyond.

    The program we developed over the next 15 years is just that – a “deep dive” into yoga philosophy and practice in a condensed period of time. Through the use of our five-body model, discussion, and specific physical and mental practices, we do way more than open tight hips and improve blood flow over the course of six weeks. We reignite hope and open windows where doors have slammed. Each week we go a bit deeper, and we have fun doing so. The physical practice is challenging at times because we don’t rush, we breathe deep and we rein in our collective desire to keep running on the treadmill of infertility stress.

    Fifteen years later our class, which we teach both in-person and online, has lived up to our goal. In two separate research studies, we have seen how this class impacts the toxic anxiety of the infertility journey in two distinct ways. The first is what we would have predicted – that this six week yoga program lowered the immediate feelings of anxiety in women experiencing infertility. The second is what we were hoping for – a significant decrease in what is called Trait Anxiety, or how anxious a person believes themselves to be at their core.

    Some gals shy away from Yoga for Fertility because they are uncomfortable with the discussion element, others feel their weekly hot or power yoga classes are getting them to the same place. We hope that some of you will reconsider these beliefs and give our class a try. Research shows it can lower anxiety by 20% over six weeks, and make measurable changes on a deeper level of self-awareness.

    Still not sure it would work for you? There’s only one way to find out. Join us to learn how our yoga practice can shift the flow of your life towards creating the life you want to live.

    Classes starting now!

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