• Guest Blog: It was my team who knocked me up!

    by Michele Weiss, LMFT

    Realistically, I imagine that there were many factors that lead to where I am now 30 weeks pregnant. While I endured over 100 shots in my abdomen and butt, 4 frozen embryo transfers, and countless failures and disappointments, I believe it was something more than the medication and the needles that got me to a healthy pregnancy- or at least kept me going.

    I want to share my story because after hearing the stories of many infertility warriors over the years in my private practice, I feel that we need to be open and honest about the real deal. I want to share my story not just so people who have no understanding (or misunderstanding) of infertility’s devastating reach can get a glimpse into our world, but so that those of us in this community of warriors can feel less alone, less damaged and less ashamed.

    My husband and I are carriers of a Jewish genetic disorder that lead us to terminate a pregnancy. This is a choice that, I know, evokes intense feelings and convictions in other people. As a woman who longed for, prayed for, and tried mightily for a healthy baby, the choice just felt like a heart string being ripped from my chest. We decided to pursue PGD and IVF after this loss as our route to building a family. However, trying for a child at 38 years old via PGD and IVF proved to be longer and more complicated than we expected.

    What helped me through it? There were the practical things like having a doctor and an acupuncturist whom I trusted implicitly and knew were 100% in the trenches with me (Thank you again and again Dr. Eve Feinberg at Northwestern and Kelly Lyons at Pulling Down the Moon). Acupuncture at PDtM was the only place I truly felt I could deeply and fully relax. In the midst of doctor appointments, my medication regimen, diet, meditation, etc., acupuncture helped me slow down and find my center. For me, the holistic approach to treatment helped me feel like I was doing everything within my power to get to a healthy baby.

    There were 3 touchstones that kept me going

    1. Stay away from Should’s

    2. Small Joys

    3. Hope

    It was a pretty simple formula, but enormously difficult to implement in the face of failure after failure.

    Stay away from Should’s. I decided to keep going until my doctor kicked me out of the clinic. It can feel like insanity to continue treatment in the face of unending loss and trauma. I reminded myself that I still had options if I could just expand the vision of how my journey to baby “should” go. These are not the idyllic narratives recorded in baby books. They are our valid, messy stories of bravery and passion, nonetheless.

    Small Joys. I decided that I would not let infertility rob me of all moments of joy that still existed- even when those moments of joy were teeny, tiny. I continued going to SoulCycle in between cycles because I felt happy on that bike. I cuddled in my dog’s fur. I went out with my girlfriends for water and wine (guess who drank what?). I spent way too much money on delicious teas. I went to see my favorite bands in concert, my needles in tow, and shot myself up with medication in First Aid bathroom stalls. I knew I needed to create joy where I could and to stay connected to the parts of my life that made me feel like “me” while living in the crazy world of infertility.

    Hope. I am deeply Jewish in my beliefs and spiritual practices. To my own surprise, during my infertility struggles I found hope in an Evangelical preacher. I would listen daily to “my Christian Rabbi”, as I affectionately referred to him. And minus the Jesus part which did not fit into my Jewish value system, this preacher’s message helped me tap into hope in the face of hopelessness and strength in the face of vulnerability. I think that God understands that when we are in the eye of the storm, we need to be a little radical.

    Then, there was the woman who checked me in for my daily blood work and ultrasound at the infertility clinic. I think she could tell that I was particularly beaten down one morning. After the standard registration procedure, she slipped me a small blue post-it note that read, “Thanks for always coming in with a warm smile. You make my day and I pray for your family to increase with a new baby. TRUST”. Her kindness touched me and reminded me to always cling to hope. I still carry her note with me in my wallet so that I can get a dose of hope if I ever need it.

    Even though I am a therapist who specializes in infertility and perinatal challenges, I do not really believe in advice when it comes to these matters. I have heard enough stories to know that each one of us has our own very unique heartache and very personal struggle. All I can share is what helped me. I was fierce and radical as a means to keep going. I expanded my vision of family-building when it wasn’t going the way I thought it would or should. I sought hope in trusted professionals and strangers, alike (even in unexpected places). As I sit here with my 7 month bump, I feel grateful that mine was the messy, painful, beautiful story that it turned out to be. And I will soon be proud and humbled to write that story in my daughter’s baby book.

     

    Michele Weiss LMFT
    
    3166 N. Lincoln Avenue, Suite 202 Chicago, IL 60657
    
    312-213-4690
    
    mweisstherapy@gmail.com
    
    Monday, Wednesday and Friday appointments available
    
    www.mweisstherapy.com

  • The Stress Response, Gut, and Fertility: Why You NEED to Read This!

    by Amie Shimmel Handa, D.C., Dipl. Ac., L.Ac

    People talk about stress all the time, and we all know that it is bad for us, but most of us don’t realize the long term consequences of chronic stress. It can impact our fertility, our nervous and immune system and even our gut. But what does that really mean to us?!

    I am going to break down what happens during a stress response and hopefully the next time you start to feel stressed you can take some action before the stress starts to control you,When you experience any kind of stress, physical, emotional , or mental, your body processes it the same- through the adrenal glands. When you encounter a perceived threat, (could be a work deadline, something going wrong with your body or life, or even something your body ate that was detrimental, your hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain’s base, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

    Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure. Cortisol alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system (fertility) and growth processes. Did you know that 70 % of your immune system is in your gut so when cortisol affects the gut it’s also impacting the immune system? Cortisol, long term is highly inflammatory. When inflammation is chronic and it’s been around for a while, it can even trigger an autoimmune disease. As a result of this chronic stress your body continuously cycles through periods of high inflammation, which can damage the gut lining and make vulnerable to pathogens like bacteria, yeast, and parasites and a suppressed immune system.

    When the digestive system is compromised and harmful bacteria or yeast multiply and grows, the neurotransmitter “Serotonin “production is lowered and it is your “feel good, well being” hormones so your mood and happiness is reduced from this stress response. We know in holistic medicine the connection between cortisol (stress) and fertility. “We know now that stress hormones such as cortisol disrupt signaling between the brain and the ovaries, which can trip up ovulation,” says Sarah Berga, MD, an infertility specialist and vice chair of women’s health at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

    The good news is you don’t have to live with chronic stress. There are numerous actions you can start today to reduce your stress. One of the best ways is through regular acupuncture treatments. Each time you receive acupuncture, especially ear acupuncture, you are stimulating the parasympathetic system the “rest and relaxation” system. Other great action steps are massage, yoga and meditation. My best piece of advice for stress is being kind to yourself and knows you are doing a great job!

    Try an Initial Acupuncture Consultation in April and get a follow-up session for FREE ($95 value)! Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004 or book online today with the promo code BOGO19!

     

  • (Guest Blog) Celebrate National Infertility Awareness Month: My Personal Journey

    Infertility – it affects 7.3 million people…that’s as if infertility took over New York City.  That is how big it is!

    This is  a special post to honor to National Infertility Awareness Month.

    It is a time to dedicate a post to all those currently dealing with infertility and for those who have overcome their infertility to reflect back, and remember how that time has forever changed you.

    When you experience something powerful in your life, like infertility, it leaves a mark with you.  You aren’t the same person that you were before.

    And that can be a good thing.

    I’ll admit, sometimes I can be a bit stubborn, especially when it comes to goals and reaching them.  I truly believe that if you put your mind to something you can achieve it. Getting pregnant and the dream to be a mom however is different.  It is a goal that you can work at and work at and still never achieve [without needing help, or rewriting what the journey looks like to reach that goal].

    I thought I did everything right.  Got married, worked to feel stable in my career, lived a healthy lifestyle, and truly waited until I was “ready”.  I stopped taking the pill and we tried [and tried and waited and waited] and nothing happened, no period and no pregnancy.

    Things weren’t happening according to “plan”, which for me as type A person wasn’t ok.

    My husband and I  went to go meet with a reproductive endocrinologist to formulate a plan.  I had to get my period coming regularly before we could even discuss trying to get pregnant.

    Fast forward one year, FINALLY after every hormone drug you could think of, my stubborn period came.  It never stayed, I always had to be stimulated to get it, but once I finally got it we could start taking the next step in the plan, trying to get pregnant. At this point I was still strong, pushing forward trying to achieve “the goal”.

    Fast forward again several months, we had tried several IUI [that came with a cancelled cycle, a failed cycle, and a chemical pregnancy].

    After our IUI tries we were starting to feel defeated. I started making back-up plans to our alternative plans, it became obsessive. We decided to move forward with IVF.  IVF felt more serious, there were more drugs, more monitoring appointments, more everything.  

    I was starting to feel the effects of the two-year plus on this journey.  My body, my mind, everything, my body didn’t feel like me anymore, I was bloated all the time, stressed out, and frustrated.

    But we kept pushing forward, and thank god we did, our first IVF attempt was a success. The moment my doctor called to tell me we were pregnant will be a moment that I will remember forever [vividly, down to the very last detail].

    It made all the struggles, all the doubt, all the everything worth it.

    So if you are reading this, just starting out on your journey, know that the journey may be hard, it may be stressful on your mind and body, but you will get there, the path may take a couple different turns, but it will end, and you will be stronger than you ever thought possible before you started!

    By: Katie O’Connor, Founder of the non-profit Shine: A Light on Fertility: inspiring fertility empowerment by sharing the journey.  We provide free support, mentoring and advocacy for fertility health.

    Photo Credit: Alaina Bos Photography, Face of Infertility

    *Join Shine Fertility for in-person meet-ups in Chicago at Pulling Down the Moon the second Tuesday of every month!  The next Shine Together event will be on Tuesday, April 9th at 6pm!

    *Join Katie on Thurs, April 25th at 6:30pm for Shine Fertility’s NIAW Panel Event!

     

  • Choline: Are You Getting Enough?

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Are you getting enough choline in your diet? Most women are not, and most women may not have even heard of choline. Choline plays an important role in fetal development, including brain development. Most people have heard they need to get enough folic acid (or folate) before and during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects, but did you know that choline may also play a role in preventing neural tube defects, like spina bifida? Research has produced conflicting results in this area, but ensuring adequate choline intake makes sense while the research sorts itself out, especially given choline’s other benefits.

    In addition to a potential role in preventing neural tube defects, choline deficiency may also play a role in the development of fatty liver. Choline is also a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in muscle control and memory. In addition, choline is converted to betaine in your body, which assists in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine, thus preventing homocysteine levels from becoming elevated. Elevated homocysteine is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and miscarriage.

    Choline is not technically considered a vitamin, since our bodies make small amounts, but our bodies don’t make enough to meet our daily choline needs. Therefore, we need to get choline in our diet. Non-pregnant women need 425 mg choline daily, and this goes up to 450 mg during pregnancy, and 550 mg while breastfeeding. In the US, average choline intake is well below this recommended level with women on average only taking in 260 mg choline per day!

    The best food sources of choline include liver, eggs, meat, seafood, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. One egg provides almost 150 mg choline, which underscores how helpful eggs are in meeting your choline needs. Not only are eggs rich in choline, but they are also just a very nutrient dense food to support your overall health, fertility, and pregnancy. Because choline is most concentrated in animal foods, vegans or vegetarians who eat limited eggs and dairy products are at highest risk for choline deficiency. Since so many US women struggle with getting enough choline, it’s a good idea to take a prenatal vitamin that contains choline, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian with limited intake of eggs.

    Looking for more information about nutrition for fertility and pregnancy? Book a nutrition consult today!

    References:

    1. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Choline
    2. Caudill, et al. Pre- and Postnatal Health: Evidence of Increased Choline Needs. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2010; 110:1198-1206

     

  • Spring Cleaning – Pantry Edition

    By Elizabeth DeAvilla RD

    Now that that warmer weather is starting to roll in, (thankfully!) many of us will get the itch to start that good ‘ole spring cleaning! Here at Pulling Down the Moon’s nutrition department, we always suggest a great pantry clean out to help everyone with their nutrition goals for the year.

    Up to date?

    One of the first things I find myself looking for at the start of any clean out is that of expiration dates. May people still think that spices and other dry ingredients can last forever… not true! As a safety precaution, ensure that all your ingredients are not expired. Spices can tend to lose potency after as little as 6 months!

    Ditch the processed stuff

    You’ll hear this time and time again, the less processed the better, especially during the journey of fertility. The more processed the food is, the more likely it is to contain ingredients that may not be to enticing, especially to our bodies. Additives and preservatives can commonly cause negative effects like inflammation, as well as some intolerances within our systems, and best strategy to avoid? Ditch the processed stuff! This can commonly include things like canned meals, meats, and dried foods as well.

    Get it organized

    I’m not sure about you but I don’t always have hours upon hours to prepare meals. If I have to spend a large amount of time in the pantry looking for something, I’m almost more likely to run out and replace the item, thus why I always end up with multiple staples! Taking the time to organize, take things out of the boxes if possible, and creating a system can be so beneficial from not only a time perspective, but a food safety aspect as well. Storing whole grain cereals in Tupperware (BPA free of course!)  or rice in glass jars not only looks appealing, but is helpful for inventory!

    Restock your shelves with the essentials.

    If you were to go into your pantry today, could you put together a healthy meal that people would enjoy? This was always a struggle for me in my own pantry, until I started stocking the essentials. Things like dried beans, sauces, spices/seasoning, healthy rice, and usually have the potential to save the day when I just don’t have it in me to venture out to the store…. one more time! Keeping things such as heart healthy (and fertility friendly!) oils such as olive and avocado oil, whole grains such as wild rice and whole grain bread, as well as beans such as Lentils are not only meal staples, but are all supportive to our fertility journey.

    The staples to keep/include:

    Grains/breads: Whole grains! We can’t stress this enough, adequate fiber is so beneficial to both men and women in health, especially in fertility. Complex carbohydrates will always take more time to digest and won’t spike your blood sugar. Whole grains have also been shown to curb hunger and balance some hormones. Choosing whole grain pastas, breads, cereals, and flour whenever possible is really the goal!

    Oils: Healthy fats are your friend, and cooking oils are a great place to start when adding them into your diet. Heart healthy oils such as olive, avocado, as well as coconut oils are great sources of omega 3’s. These oils will have great anti-inflammatory effects, as well as work as absorb all those important nutrients. Decreasing the amount of hydrogenated oils such as canola or palm, will always be beneficial, as they can have the reverse effect, causing inflammation, as well as containing high amounts of saturated fat.

    Canned goods: Overall, fresh or frozen foods are always my go-to grabs when it comes to vegetables, however especially during the winter months, I like to have a few cans of vegetables just in case. Always look for reduced sodium, as well as, single ingredients. Many have added preservatives to increase shelf life, avoid those!

    Want to learn more?  Schedule your nutrition consultation today!  Book online via Mind Body Online or call us at: 312-321-0004!

  • Awaken your Yoga Practice this Spring

    by Alison Lautz RYT

    Is it over! Winter? Have we made it out of the trenches or is it going to snow again in May? One will never know in this city! Flowers and vegetation will start to grow (we hope), the birds MAY sing, and Chicagoans will start to strip off their boots and puffy coats. Spring is in the air! Now how can we bring spring and a new vibe into our yoga practice? I love spring…. it signifies a time of letting go of our old tired way to make room for the new and another chance to re-start, like a second chance on new year’s resolutions or intentions that we made four months ago.  The spring energy is all around us, and these four tips will help you awaken the spirit of spring in your yoga practice.

    Awaken new vibrations

    Spring is full of spiritual energy and more energy vibrations than any other season. This may be because the earth is working to shed the drab of winter and cultivate a more lively state of being. You may find that this is contagious, like when you see a coworker putting some colors into their outfit, you may want to do the same. Open up your energy to the season by having an open mind to any positive changes or the opportunity to try something new outside of your comfort zone.  Try Journaling for the Journey!

    Practice outside

    Let’s celebrate the fact that we can roll our mats outside of the four walls that we spend most of our days within. It does not matter if it’s in your backyard, on a roof deck, or on a small balcony in a city high rise. Any of these options presents a great chance to connect to nature. Breathe in the fresh air and celebrate the ability to get out of the house. My favorite pose to do outside is Vrkasana (Tree Pose). I truly feel how rooted I am to the earth in this pose from my feet to the crown of my head. Learn more about how to use your breath to reduce stress with this FREE Prana webinar!

    Detox your gut

    April and May are the perfect time for some big spring cleaning. Most of us hold our old habits, negative emotions, and holiday/winter vacation indulgences in our gut. Try some twists in your yoga practice. Change your diet around a little bit. Drink more water with lemon, try some kombucha…and as always EAT MORE GREENS.

    Be playful

    During spring, joy and fun are all around as new life begins. Watch the birds above or lay with your dog or cat in the grass! New life inspires a sense of playfulness that we can embrace in yoga practice as well. Embody playfulness in your practice by going for poses you normally skip and try some laughing instead of cringing whenever you fall out of a pose. Take everything even the TTC journey a little less seriously because we will all get through this. Come check out Yoga for Fertility at Pulling Down the Moon to work on some serious spring awakening. Meet new friends and a whole community of other women working on conceiving! Join the next Yoga for Fertility series on Wednesday, April 24th at 7pm or online starting on Monday, April 29th at 6pm! During National Infertility Awareness in April, try Yoga for Fertility and get 50% off!