• How Yoga Saved My Life (and Sanity)

    Hi! I’m Alison, Al, or Ali and I have been practicing yoga for 13 years. I still can’t do a handstand without my friend (the wall), but that doesn’t matter because the things yoga have done for me are immeasurable. Over the years, my love for yoga, and its many forms, have grown and changed, went silent, went over the top, and made me broke (thanks Lululemon), ALL THE THINGS…..

    I’ve used my yoga practice to maintain fitness or weight, sometimes to ease my mind, for naps in savasana, and at times for a home when my home was less than an ideal place for me. I’ve talked until I’ve been blue in the face to my friends and family about why they should do yoga too. I would say things to them like: “the music is so calming”, “you will build confidence”, “you will meet new people”, but with all this blabber if you are anything like me, you might find that yoga distinctly changes or even saves your life (if I’m being dramatic, as I tend to be :). Let me be clear: yoga can help you through any major life change, good or bad, and gives you the strength and self love that you need. Let me count the ways yoga can help:

    Confidence. Built from our work on the core. Discover that public speaking or meeting new people isn’t that scary.

    Courage. Try something new off or on the mat or maybe the strength to cope with a chronic illness, anxiety, or depression.

    Comfy Clothes. No more jeans because OUCH! How cute are yoga pants with a sweater and boots?

    More healthy choices. To relax, breathing techniques and/or mantras work better than booze or stressing eating. I still like to indulge in a glass of wine every once in a while, but I no longer drink to relieve anxiety.

    Trust. In the universe and your individual journey. A consistent yoga practice can help you let go of anger about the past and fears about the unknown future

    Friends, confidants, business connections. Yoga has introduced me to an entirely new network of friends and yoga is always more fun with a buddy. I have gotten jobs, had a lot of fun, and traveled the world with people I’ve met through yoga. Who would have known?!

    I could go on and on, but I’ll let you experience it for yourself and hopefully you will want to make your own list. Come check out a class with the yoga crew at Pulling Down the Moon (Cassie, Christina, Kellie, Diana, or Me).  Special Holiday Support Editions of Yoga for Fertility available for a limited time (Join me with Rolling Enrollment through January 7th on Mondays at 5:30pm in Chicago, start on Wednesday, November 28th at 5:45pm with a NEW series with Diana in Chicago, or join Christina starting December 2nd at 2pm in Highland Park!)

    We all have our individual styles of this ancient practice and we will help you keep your calm during whatever journey you may be on. Please join us for special Yoga for Fertility holiday support series, Prenatal Yoga After Infertility, and/or private yoga sessions. Register here. Questions? Call us today at: 312-321-0004! Save 20% off Yoga for Fertility this season as our gift to you with the promo code: GIFT20 today!

    Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT

  • Guest Blog: A Personal Journey

    Five years ago, after deciding to start a family, I became pregnant for the first time. Although my husband and I were nervous about a miscarriage in the first trimester, once we got to three months, we relaxed and started planning for the arrival of our son. I was staying active, eating healthily, doing everything I was told to do, and so it didn’t occur to us that our son wouldn’t be born in the summer of 2014. Then, in April 2014, our lives changed forever. At 25 weeks, I started having contractions. Within a few hours our son died in utero. I will never forget the look on the doctors faces as they desperately searched for a heartbeat but couldn’t find one.

    Later that night I was induced, and Luca Thomas Sturdy was born at 4 am on April 4th, 2014 weighing 1.7 lbs. There was no first cry, Luca was born into silence. Our midwife stayed with us, crying by our side, and encouraging us to hold him, of which I am so grateful to her. Luca was perfect, tiny, but perfect.

    The next few weeks and months were the hardest time of my life. I felt like everything I knew to be true was gone and I couldn’t understand how life could continue. It took months for the reality of what had happened to sink in. I would look in the mirror and think ‘thats not me, thats a women whose baby has died. No, it is me, that’s who I am now.” I had become one of the ‘other people’ that terrible things happen to. We got through it with the help of a wonderful counsellor and support from friends and family, but it fundamentally changed us both, and how we looked at life. We realised how unpredictable life can be and how naive we were to this previously.

    It also reinforced how much we wanted children, and so we started to try again. We were constantly told what had happened was ‘bad luck’, and that we’d have our ‘rainbow’ baby. We conceived quickly again, but this was the start of a series of loses, four more in total, all apparently unrelated and ‘bad luck’.

    After the third loss, we started IVF and begun seriously researching adoption.

    IVF bought its own challenges and a great deal of resentment. I resented having to inject myself, and having to deal with daily phone calls to tell me if any of my eggs had survived and fertilised and then if any of the embryos had developed over night. I started to resent the idea of pregnancy – I didn’t want to deal with this anymore, I just wanted a child. IVF was a horrible reminder of how little control we had and it turned becoming parents into a numbers game.

    Luckily, we had talked about adoption in the past so looking into it wasn’t a huge leap for us. As we researched it more, we understood it wasn’t a simple ‘plan b’, but came with unique and serious challenges. It added to the isolation I already felt when I compared the decisions we were making to friends around us. We had to let go of all our preconceived ideas of what our children would be like, and what how our lives would unfold.

    We tried two rounds of IVF, both unsuccessful. Our lives had turned into a constant battle with fertility and grief. If we weren’t putting all our energy into trying to get pregnant we were recovering from another loss. I was embarrassed to contact friends as the only news I ever had was another loss, and I felt like people were running out of energy to support us. Suggesting we should have hope seemed farcical. I hated that this had taken over our lives so completely and felt so withdrawn from everyone around us who were seemingly breezing through life, now trying for their second or third child.

    Through counselling I realised that I was avoiding my biggest fear; that we would never have children, whether through conception or adoption. It was like a monster in my peripheral vision, lurking just out of sight, but close enough that I could feel its presence and it filled me with dread. I decided to face this fear. I thought alot about what our lives could be like if we didn’t have children. I wasn’t ready to chose this path, but in facing it as an option, it helped me to see that there were so many possibilities and I could let go of the fear of any one path not working out.

    And then an opportunity arose to move from London to Chicago. We realised how good it would be for us to be in a new place, and have a new focus, so in January 2017 we moved to the mid-west. After another loss, we decided to stop trying to conceive and focus on adoption – we had just been approved to adopt by the state of Illinois and were excited to start the matching process.

    Four days after making the decision to stop trying, I had a positive pregnancy test. I cried, not out of joy or happiness, but at the thought of the inevitable loss this represented, I was devastated and petrified of how this one would end. After four and half years I finally, genuinely, did not want to be pregnant. I had accepted that we would start our family a different way, and was excited about this. But we pulled all our energy, and started the process again. I had my first scan at five weeks, surgery at eight weeks for a transabdominal cerclage and began weekly progesterone injections. I had multiple emergency trips to the hospital believing the baby had died. I felt sick going into every scan, which I was having every two weeks. But, despite everything, in between all the anxiety and stress, there were amazing moments – feeling the baby move, my husband singing to him, imagining the moment we would meet him (when I could bring myself to have this fantasy). We decided at 36 weeks we had to tip the scale and focus more on excitement rather than fear and so we bought some baby clothes. Once I got over the initial anxiety I couldn’t stop smiling as I held these tiny clothes and thought about our baby. I used every tool available to me to get through those nine months – acupuncture with Kelly, yoga including Prenatal Yoga After Infertility with Kellie, meditation, massage with Christine S, mantras, group therapy, swimming, walking.

    I am writing this on Oct 16th, and our son Adam James Williams-Sturdy is three months old today, having been born on 16th July weighing 6lbs 8. He is an absolute joy and we still cannot believe he is here with us. Despite everything that has happened to us, we feel like the luckiest people in the world when we see his beautiful smile and his big bright eyes. He was born on Luca’s due date, four years on, and looked just like Luca when he was first born. One day we will tell him about his big brother.

    I hope that sharing my experience helps others to accept that there is only so much of life that we can plan and predict, and by letting go of the rest, you can find new paths forward and new ways to be happy. This is the legacy that Luca has left us.

  • Is it Time To Consider Egg Donation?

    You’ve done it all. Diet. Acupuncture. Yoga. Reiki. You name it. You can only do so much to improve the quality of your eggs, so how do you know when you are ready to move on and use an egg donor to build your family?

    Know your limits

    When you first started on this journey, you probably didn’t think it would take this long to get pregnant. Perhaps you gave yourself a limit as to how many fertility treatment cycles or how much time you would allow yourself to try naturally before considering alternatives. It’s important to create some sort of threshold of what you can handle; not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and financially as well. A crucial step in this process is feeling like you did everything you could to achieve a healthy pregnancy.

    Don’t rush

    If age or egg quality have been factors for you on this journey then you probably have felt rushed to squeeze in treatment cycle after treatment cycle. The good news with egg donation is that age and egg quality are no longer a factor for you. You may need to grieve the loss of using your own eggs before you can consider collaborative reproduction. This takes time. Try not to rush through the grieving process. Once you’ve moved through those pivotal stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, you are more likely to allow yourself to accept that egg donation is a good option for you.

    Make a choice

    Egg donation might not be your first choice, but people choose to pursue this route because it is the best option for them. The first egg donation was a little over 30 years ago, so the process is still very new. It’s a personal choice and one that takes a lot of thoughtful care and planning. There is freedom in choice, but sometimes reviewing all of the options can be overwhelming. Try not to let others’ opinions influence your decision. They aren’t making this choice; it’s for you and your partner (if you have one). When you are ready, you may want to share the decision with a trusted friend or relative. Consider who may be a good person for you to confide in. Remember, once you tell you cannot “untell.” If you don’t feel like you have a good source of support, then you can choose not to tell anyone right now, and that is ok!

    Be proactive

    Fertility treatments are costly, time-consuming, painful, and stressful; doctors and nurses using terminology you barely understand don’t help either. But remember that you are your own best advocate. Ask questions if you don’t understand. Speak up. Take notes. Be the “annoying” patient. It’s better to know upfront than be surprised later. If you are educated and informed, it will give you the power to make decisions that are best for you. If your clinic has a mental health professional on staff, you may want to speak with them. Otherwise, you may want to get a referral to speak with someone privately. Sometimes it’s easier to speak with a complete stranger about what you are going through. There are communities of women just like you. Check out Resolve.org for local, peer-led support groups or nonprofits dedicated to supporting women through their family building journey.

    Stay present

    There is no time like the present moment. Worrying about the future likely won’t serve you right now. You have an important job to do, and that is making sure you are in the best space possible to carry a pregnancy. Take care of yourself. Do the things you love to do and try not to worry about what’s to come. When you find your mind wandering bring yourself back to your breathing. It is a constant cycle of energy you can focus on if you need to regroup. Remember, you’re in control. You’ve got this!

    Photographed by Juan Carlos | © 2018 TK Photography | www.tkphotographychicago.com

    Michelle Duchin began her career as a clinical social worker at one of New York City’s top-rated fertility clinics. For nearly a decade, Michelle provided supportive counseling to individuals and couples considering advanced reproductive technology to build their families. Michelle joined Treece and Associates Psychotherapy as a full-time clinician when she moved to Chicago and sees individuals and couples experiencing a range of issues including anxiety, grief, loss, academic/professional transitions, and more. She received a certificate in Yoga-Informed Psychotherapy, which allows her to incorporate mindfulness and breathing techniques in addition to traditional talk therapy. Michelle also conducts assessments for egg donors, sperm donors, gestational carriers, and intended parents who are pursuing third-party reproductive care. For more information about insurance accepted or services provided by Michelle Duchin, please visit her practice website: www.chicagotherapy.com

    Resources:

    https://resolve.org/ – support groups, resources
    https://www.sart.org/ – finding clinics, stats
    https://www.asrm.org/ – finding professionals
    https://progyny.com/ – infertility benefits

  • New hope for people being diagnosed with cancer before having children

    by Christina Livas

    According to the Illinois Department of Health, 5,800 Illinois residents between 14 and 45 will be diagnosed with cancer each year. Most of the effective treatments for cancer, sickle cell anemia, lupus, and other auto-immune diseases can leave people infertile. For people looking to still have children this leaves them with the difficult choice of having to choose between effective medical treatments and parenthood. Having to make that choice will no longer be necessary thanks to a new bill that was passed.

    On August 27th, Governor Rauner signed a bill that requires health insurance companies to provide medical coverage for standard fertility preservation when necessary medical treatment can cause infertility. Starting January 1st, 2019, health insurance will now cover the expenses of preserving sperm, eggs, or embryos for future pregnancies instead of patients being responsible for the cost themselves. This provides new hope for people facing a difficult diagnosis during their reproductive years.

    If you are going through current medical treatment for cancer or through a preservation cycle acupuncture can help. Acupuncture has been shown through numerous studies to be effective in the treatment of the side effects patients experience while undergoing cancer treatments. Not only will acupuncture help patients relax, it will help with symptoms such as pain, fatigue, dry mouth, breathlessness, hot flashes, nausea, vomiting, and many others. If you are a man or a woman looking to preserve sperm, eggs, or embryos, acupuncture can help. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in helping patients with improving sperm and egg quality and quantity.

    Learn more about how acupuncture can help you on your journey at:

    ACUPUNCTURE TCM

    For more information visit:
    https://resolve.org/get-involved/advocate-for-access/our-issues/covering-fertility-preservation/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2642987/

    Acupuncture and IVF

  • The Importance of Healthy Hormones

    by Diana Zic, RPYT

    I spent most of my life under the impression that my body contents all lived and operated on separate islands: Boy, was I mistaken! Let me explain, before my training in anatomy and hormone health with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) along with my yoga training programs I assumed if something was going on in my body it was isolated to that particular area in my body. For example, leading up to my menstrual cycle my breasts were almost always tender; therefore, I would assume there was something up with my breasts; when my digestion would fluctuate month-to-month, I would assume it was solely my gut to blame (which was partially the problem, that’s another blog); when I had pelvic pain during my menstrual cycle, I would assume it was isolated in my pelvis; and once I began trying to conceive a child, I assume it was solely my uterus to blame, but learned there was much more to it!  

    In other words, I had no understanding on how the body functioned and what can trigger these symptoms that I was having.  Many years later, I’ve learned how the endocrine system the glands that comprise it and produce the hormones in our bodies play an intricate role in how we feel.

    Quick anatomy lesson in case you were like me and unaware of the endocrine system: the endocrine system is a collection of glands and a few glandular organs (pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenal, pancreas, ovaries in women, testes in men and pineal – see picture – being a yogini I shared the picture where it shows our 7 main Chakras.  It’s said that these energy centers pair with an endocrine gland and govern it’s function) that produce hormones that control our metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep and mood. Woah! These hormones release messages via our bloodstream to carry to our organs and tissues to perform their job.

    Our hormones are not loners; instead they work together like the conductor and the orchestra to create a harmony in our bodies.  So, if one hormone is out of tune, it throws off your other hormones and even other body systems.

    Below I have shared the eight major hormones in the body and a very brief description of their roles:

    1. Estrogen – plays an important role in sexual reproductive health – there’s more than 15 forms of it that have been identified!;
    2. Progesterone – health of our nervous system, prepares the lining of the uterus for potential pregnancy, protects the brain from damage, breast health and cardiovascular health;
    3. Cortisol – mobilizing energy from the body, reduces inflammation and allergies, helps maintain mood and emotional stability to name a few;
    4. Thyroid hormones – T3 and T4 work together as a team, T3 is the active form. Together they help regulate metabolism, heart function, digestion, and brain development;
    5. Pregnenolone – known as the master hormone because it’s the precursor from which almost all other steroid hormones are made, including progesterone, testosterone, the estrogens, DHEA, and cortisol;
    6. Testosterone – known as the male hormone typically, but it plays a critical role in having a healthy libido in women, turns fat into muscle, keeps skin supple, increases bone density to name a few;
    7. DHEA – used in the body to make sex hormones; and
    8. Androstenedione – is a precursor of testosterone and other androgens, as well as estrogens in the body.

    So what’s a gal to do to be sure their hormones are in check so we can feel our best? First, I would recommend speaking with your doctor (a functional medical doctor, if possible) to get your hormones tested. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms I described above, or if you’re not feeling well in your body, which include: lack of energy, not sleeping well majority of the time, not maintaining a desired weight, poor digestion, PMS symptoms, dull hair, problematic skin, and a poor sex drive to name a few.  

    In the meantime, you can benefit from cleaning up your diet a bit. Poor nutrition is often a big culprit to our hormone imbalances which can be a great place for most of us to start. 

    Clean protein: grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, Non-GMO fed, organic, cage free free-range eggs (certified humane raised and handled is my preference), organic lentils and beans

    Healthy Fats: Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Grass-Fed Organic Ghee, Animal fats from grass-fed meats; Avocado, Nuts and Seeds

    Organic Fruit: Berries, Pomegranate, Pears and Melons

    Organic Vegetables: Greens of all kinds; Cruciferous vegetables , Beets and Carrots.

    Learn more at Yoga for Fertility and/or with an Initial Nutrition Consult today!

    Be well,

    Diana

     

  • Stocking Your Fertility Friendly Kitchen

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    When you’re working on making changes to your eating habits to support fertility, it’s important to set yourself up for success by making sure you’ve got healthy foods on hand. Often the best of intentions can awry, because we’re short on time or mental space or energy for planning. Stocking your kitchen with healthy nutrient dense foods helps ensure you have healthy options on hand. No need to overhaul everything at once, but pick your step to take to help you move forward. Here are some tips for getting started:

    1. Keep only fruits and vegetables out on the counter. Everything else should be put in the fridge, freezer, or cupboards. We tend to reach for what we see. Have you ever walked past a cookie sitting out and been tempted to eat it? Of course! We all have. Out of sight, at least helps to keep it out of mind. Conversely, when you see fruit and veggies out, you’re more likely to reach for them for snacks or when planning a meal.
    2. Buy versatile vegetables. If you have trouble with vegetables rotting in your fridge, you’re not alone. To combat this, focus on vegetables that you can use for a variety of recipes. For example, organic power greens are a combo of baby kale, chard, and spinach. These greens work for salads, adding to smoothies, and for cooking. For cooking, add to a veggie egg scramble, stirfry, chili, or sauté with mushrooms.
    3. Stock your freezer with organic frozen fruits and vegetables. Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are great, but we all get busy and frozen are super convenient and nutritious. Pick your favorite vegetable blends. Alternatively, broccoli and cauliflower rice are always good options when you need to add a quick veggie to a meal. Thaw out frozen fruit, and add to plain yogurt or to a smoothie for breakfast or a snack.
    4. Stock your freezer with high quality meats and fish, like wild salmon, grassfed beef, and organic chicken. A common barrier to preparing dinner is not having a protein source on hand. It’s so helpful to just be able to open the freezer and have something to cook.
    5. Keep nuts and seeds on hand for snack, smoothies, and salads. Choose raw or dry roasted nuts and seeds, but skip those roasted in oil. Great choices include walnuts, almonds, hemp hearts, and pumpkin seeds, but most nuts/seeds are nutrient dense and contain healthy fats, so you can’t go wrong.
    6. Keep eggs on hand. A veggie omelet/scramble works great for breakfast or for dinner on a busy night. Boil some eggs on the weekends that you can grab for snacks or breakfast during the week.
    7. Keep beans on hand for a nutrient dense protein source. Beans are packed with fiber, iron, and folate. In order to avoid BPA in canned beans, either buy beans in BPA free cans, glass jars, or cartons, or make your own from dried. You can freeze portions of cooked beans, so that you have them on hand when you need them.

    Now that you have gotten started, schedule a nutrition consult for the next steps!  Purchase a Wild Card in November and save with an Initial Nutrition Consult for only $75 (save $50)!  Must be scheduled before December 31st, 2018. No promo code needed to book today!

    Don’t forget Supplement Prenatal Packs are only $12 in November for a full month’s supply (save $56.50)!! Use promo code FALL12 to save online or in-center while supplies last!

     

  • The FEM SEM

    by Meredith Nathan, Director of Massage at Pulling Down the Moon, LMT
    Fertility massage is a cutting edge field, with far-reaching benefits that are still being explored.  At Pulling Down the Moon®, we’ve developed researched-informed and results-oriented techniques for working with the body after seeing thousands of fertility clients for over fifteen years. Our award winning, nationally recognized FEM Protocol™ is a five-part series using massage and related techniques to enhance the health and functioning of the pelvic and abdominal organs, and to promote the client’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
    The five parts of the protocol focus on cleansing and detoxification, enhancing reproductive circulation, oxygenating the pelvic organs, encouraging pelvic alignment and combating stress. Benefits may include:
    * promoting egg quality by improving the follicular environment and increasing it’s supply of oxygen-rich blood
    * lowering hormone disruption through stress management and clearing lymphatic congestion (a common storehouse for excess hormones and toxins)
    * supporting uterine lining and alignment through melting abdominal scar tissue, clearing circulatory pathways, and releasing structural tension patterns
    * encouraging relaxation and an overall sense of well-being during your fertility journey
    Learn more about why this protocol has caught the attention of the American Massage Therapy Association, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, and thousands of patients-turned-parents at The FEM SEM, a seminar geared towards helping you understand if The Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol could assist your fertility journey.  The replay of the free webinar is available here.

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