By Christine Davis LAc, MSOM
At Pulling Down the Moon, we primarily treat women’s fertility concerns. Sure, we can treat just about everything: allergies, digestive problems, pain, stress … you name it. Mostly, though, we see women who want to get pregnant and have a baby. We help reduce the impact of stress on her life, we work on regulating her cycle or combating the side effects of IVF meds, and even women who are trying to conceive still have headaches and back pain and allergies. We help her body be in it’s very best condition to be able to grow new life in her belly. But there’s one thing we don’t see very often, a critical missing element, an equally important part of the equation to creating that new life: Men!
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is a 5,000 year old tradition. Embedded within this long history is a strong theory and framework for treatment of fertility concerns. We are fantastic at helping to resolve known fertility concerns for both men and women. So, why are only women coming in to see us? This problem goes deep and it’s one that may continue to grow based on recent assessment of global infertility rates. A recent study of sperm analysis from 1973-2011 showed 50-60% decline in male fertility rates suggesting that by 2060, most men in the US and Europe could be infertile. And here’s the scariest part: scientists don’t know why (or at least they can’t agree on it).
Much has been written about why there is such a dearth of information and focus on male infertility. Many men see even the suggestion that there may be something “wrong” with their side of the court as an attack on their manhood. They see it as an insinuation that they are somehow less virile, less capable, less manly. Just think of the language we use to describe a man who we consider manly: “He’s got big balls!” “Balls of Steel” or unmanly: “Don’t be a girl.” This isn’t just a generational thing. Historically, much of the research and treatment of infertility has focused squarely on the female.
So, what can we do? Let’s start talking about it! Ladies, bring research to your partners/husbands. Get evaluated by a Urologist who focuses on fertility or a Reproductive Endocrinologist. If there are identifiable issues, consider an appropriate course of action. If you are in the “unexplained” camp, there are other things you can do to support male fertility including taking CoQ10, a multi vitamin, and possibly additional selenium (ask your doctor first before beginning a new supplement). Come experience Fertility Enhancing Massage at Pulling Down the Moon.
Acupuncture has been shown to be more effective than Western medicine in improving sperm quality and quantity. Regular acupuncture treatment (once per week, generally), helps to reduce stress, eliminate pain throughout the body, and achieve wellness by balancing the body. It has been my experience that couples who both receive regular acupuncture see so much benefit and often achieve pregnancy sooner. The needles are teeny tiny and are placed mainly on the arms and legs, never in sensitive areas (none near the genitalia). The first visit takes about an hour or so because we go through a very thorough consultation of medical history and questions about symptoms. Follow ups can be performed in 45 min or less.
We have to open this conversation up if we are going to find a way to resolve it. Women are currently doing so much to become pregnant – thousands of shots, thousands of doctor visits, emotional stress, fielding the comments about why you’re not pregnant yet. Men, please get involved (if you are not already!). Talk with each other about your goals, fears, desires, and plans about growing your family. Seek the help if you need it. We must keep the doors open to conversation to finding solutions to this growing problem.
Learn more about Acupuncture and schedule your consultation today!
by Diana Zic RYT, RPYT
June marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. All things nature are in full swing of growth and the heat of summer starts blessing us for the first time since September last year. Frankly, it’s my favorite time of the year! For most the agendas at work start to slow down, schools are out of session and people begin to take vacations. It’s truly the perfect time to allow yourself time to pull back from the consistent go-go-go and take in nature’s beauty. Which can also means taking your yoga practice outside!
I find in the warmer months my yoga practice not only gets outside more, it changes as I find myself outside more doing outdoor activities (walking, biking, swimming, and gardening) and due to the summer heat, I find a vigorous practice/exercise is not what I need as it tends to exhaust me rather than my intent to feel nourished after my exercise, especially while trying to conceive. So if I’m limited on time or energy due to other summer activities my go-to pose is Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
I chose this pose because it’s a pose that’s a one stop shop, it stretches my shoulders, hamstrings, calves, feet and hands. It strengthens my arms, legs, wrists, belly and muscles along my spine. It energizes my body, mind and often my digestion if it’s stagnant.
If you’re new to yoga or this pose you can modify the pose by placing your hands at the wall until you build more strength in your body. Click on hyperlink link above for video instructions of the pose.
Lastly, when your body temperature is up from the summer heat or maybe your flushed with anxiety or anger and need some settling in your body and mind. Try out Sitali Breath (cooling breath) below.
How to practice Sitali:
- Start seated comfortably with a head, neck and spine in alignment;
- Close your eyes and take a few natural breaths in and out of the nose;
- Make an “O” space with your mouth;
- If you can curl the tongue into itself and stick it out of the mouth (no worries if you cannot, not everyone is able);
- Inhale deeply like drinking through a straw (bring in the cooler air through the tongue as your belly, ribs and chest fill up);
- Exhale completely through the nose, closing the mouth.
- You can practice this for 2-3 minutes. Come back to the natural breath and try again if needed.
I hope you’re able to enjoy your summer outside as much as possible. Yoga for Fertility and Prenatal Yoga After Infertility classes will still be held at the Moon this summer so don’t forget to visit us! Get outside with us for the Two Week Walk in Chicago in July and learn more at our Yoga for Fertility: Solution or Stretch? in August in Chicago and Highland Park as part of our FREE patient events!
Nutrients for Thyroid Support
By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
Did you know there a number of nutrients required for your thyroid to function properly? At Pulling Down the Moon, we’re interested in helping you ensure your thyroid is functioning optimally, because thyroid health is integral to fertility. Here are some of the key nutrients to focus on to support thyroid health:
Iodine is an essential mineral for thyroid hormone production, and 30% of women of childbearing age are iodine deficient. A recent study also noted that women with sub-optimal iodine levels had reduced fertility. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women who are pregnant take a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg iodine. To learn more about the impact of iodine on fertility, read this post . Food sources of iodine include seafood, seaweed, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, and iodized salt.
Selenium is another essential mineral required for the conversion of T4 to T3. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone. In addition, a few studies have shown that supplementation with selenium reduced the levels of antibodies in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune cause of hypothyroidism. Food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, meat, and seafood.
Iron is also essential for thyroid hormone production. Iron requirements for women of childbearing age are quite high at 18 mg and even higher at 27 mg during pregnancy. Given iron needs are so high, it’s not that difficult for iron stores to become depleted, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan, because iron isn’t as well-absorbed from plant sources as from animal sources. In addition, heavy periods can make it more likely that your iron stores become depleted. Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, fish, legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
It can be difficult to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis, thus it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive and during pregnanct that covers your bases. The Pulling Down the Moon prenatal vitamins ( Supplement Pack while trying to conceive and the Prenatal Pack once pregnant) contain 175 mcg iodine, 200 mcg selenium, and 30 mg of iron to help support your thyroid along with a healthy diet.
Looking for more ways to support your thyroid with nutrition? Make a nutrition appointment today!
By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
Did you know that there are a variety of vitamin and minerals that may impact your fertility? Our bodies require 27 vitamins and minerals to function properly. These vitamins and minerals are involved in a wide variety of processes in our bodies including breaking down our food for energy, allowing cells to communicate with each other, contracting our muscles, as well as bone and skin health. Specific nutrients may also impact fertility and pregnancy, including folate (important for DNA integrity), iodine (essential for thyroid hormone production), and vitamin D (thought to be involved in embryo implantation), just to name a few!
It can feel overwhelming to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis. Instead of trying to track how much you’re getting of each nutrient, it’s helpful to focus on eating a nutrient dense diet. Nutrient density refers to the concentration of vitamins and minerals per calorie of food. In order to maximize the nutrient density of your diet, start by focusing on these tips:
Eat whole, real, and minimally processed foods.
Limit refined grains and added sugars.
Maximize your vegetable intake by including at least 5 servings of vegetables per day. Work on including a variety of different vegetables. Does 5 servings per day seem too daunting? Start where you are, and set a goal of increasing your vegetable intake by 1 serving per day.
Include especially nutrient dense foods like leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, berries, and nuts and seeds.
Would you like to dig deeper and make sure you’re meeting your daily nutrient needs? Are you a vegetarian or vegan, or do you have other food intolerances or allergies that mean you’ve had to eliminate foods or food groups? Schedule a nutrition appointment today to ensure that you’re meeting your daily vitamin and mineral needs to maximize your fertility. Try our FREE special event for National Infertility Awareness Spring Cleaning: Using Yoga and Nutrition to Cleanse !
by Meredith Nathan, LMT
In the United States alone, more than 5 million people of childbearing age have struggled or are struggling with infertility. That’s larger than the population of Los Angeles. In fact, it’s larger than the population of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Cincinnati combined. It also means that one in every ten couples of childbearing age is struggling or has struggled to conceive. That’s a LOT of people.
Of course we all have that friend that got pregnant on her honeymoon, or became pregnant with her second by the time her first was 6 months old, or has three kids under the age of five. Sure, there are those that can’t even flirt with their spouse without getting pregnant. But the group of people who have dealt with the frustration and sorrow of infertility is larger than you’d think.
As I first entered this field, I remember reading that the grief levels of couples struggling to conceive rivals the grief levels of cancer patients. So why does no one seem to talk about it? Because to most people it’s a private matter, only to be shared with their partner or perhaps their mother or a best friend. But this very privateness seems to compound the grief – because in addition to all the doubts, fears, marital stress, financial stress, questions of self worth and feelings of insecurity that often comes with the territory, it’s easy to feel so very, very alone.
In honor of infertility awareness month , I want everyone to know that you are most definitely NOT alone. That many people have shared in your struggles. And that their’s more information, resources, and solutions available now than ever before. That there is a community available now that decades ago wouldn’t have been. This is why centers like Pulling Down the Moon exist – to support our clients, to give them community if they are looking for it, and to encourage a successful outcome to their journey.
Please know that you are not alone. And that you don’t have to give in to doubt. There are literally millions that have come before you, many of whom had been through the ringer and were at the end of their hope, but ultimately found their happy ending. Some have even expressed how much they learned through the process, how they felt they grew and changed through the process, and how the prize was most definitely worth the wait. Nothing compares to the love a parent has for their child. And nothing can even touch the passion of a parent who has fought for that child.
Come by for a warm cup of tea, free yoga class , or one of our other complimentary special events for National Infertility Awareness . Whatever you may need, you are part of our community and we are here to help. We are also members of Resolve: The National Infertility Association where you can get help at any time of day at: 866.NOT.ALONE.
by Dr. Amie Shimmel
Here’s how it works:
Medical research shows that acupuncture can influence hormone secretion from the pituitary hypothalamus and ovaries, collectively called the (HPO) axis. One of the most recent studies was conducted at Georgetown University Medical Center, July 2015; they found that acupuncture balances this HPO axis.
When an acupuncture needle is inserted into a specific acupuncture point this triggers the release of prostaglandins and opioid peptides into the bloodstream which lead to the production of a substance that transmits messages to the hypothalamus and pituitary and then transmits to the ovaries.
The acupuncture normalizes the secretion of the hormones such as (GrRH), (FSH), and (LH). This improves ovarian function creating more follicles and better egg quality.
The (HPO) Hypothalamus pituitary ovarian axis can be disrupted by stress, poor diet, age, etc. However this (HPO) axis can be positively influenced by many things, especially acupuncture.
The bottom line; women’s follicles and egg development can be enhanced by the balance of the endocrine system. Acupuncture balances the endocrine system.
We, at PDtM, recommend weekly acupuncture sessions to get the hormones in better balance and to help get the body as relaxed as possible. Acupuncture is accumulative therefore regular sessions can help shift the body in the direction the patient is looking for.
Infertility is a trauma that impacts 1 in 10 people. Since it’s so prevalent, then it must be easy for friends and family to understand your feelings, right? Well, as you may have experienced, it’s not.
Often the people you love most, say just the wrong thing. Those who have experienced the pain of infertility often hear things like, “Just relax. Then it’ll happen;” “You should enjoy your time without kids. I’ve got kids and I can’t tell you the last time I got to sleep in or go out to dinner.”
Not only are these types of responses angering, they can be painful. These comments often lead to not sharing feelings in the future. Thus, feeling more and more isolated. Going through infertility is traumatic and just the kind of situation where one needs the most support and care possible. Learning to communicate your feelings with those you trust is an essential skill for surviving infertility.
Here are 8 Keys to Communication During Infertility:
Build awareness of your feelings . This is the very first step to open, productive communication. Understanding oneself and one’s feelings allows for communicating those feelings and needs.
Practice breathing skills. It may sound simple, yet it’s crucial. When communication breaks down it’s often due to at least one person being flooded with emotion. We’ve all been there! Something a person says strikes a nerve and we fire back with a harsh or passive aggressive statement. When we can bring our focus to our breath even for a few seconds, we have a better chance of responding vs. reacting. This leads to a more productive conversation. Try meditation, practice mindfulness , or try Yoga for Fertility to get started.
Talk with someone you trust about your feelings. Perhaps it’s a friend who has always been there for you and is sensitive to your feelings. It can be a parent or a therapist. Just make sure it’s a person that you feel safe talking to. Find your community.
It’s ok to acknowledge hurtful comments. Using simple language like, “When I hear ‘just relax and it’ll happen,’” I feel hurt and frustrated. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.”
Use “I” statements & avoid critical labels. Instead of “You can be so insensitive” try something like, “This is a very painful time for me and I want nothing more than to have a child. So, hearing that I should just enjoy the time feels like a minimization of how important having a family is to me.”
Tell people what you need. A good friend wants to be there for you. She just may not know how. The friend might think that bringing up the topic will make you sad. And maybe you desperately want to talk about it, but expect the friend to ask if she cares. Whether you need her to ask how you’re feeling or to not bring up the topic of kids, let her know.
Vent your feelings to a confidant. Or if you prefer to write your feelings, get a journal and let loose! As you know, it’s important to express your feelings because feelings seep out either directly or indirectly. When we understand our feelings we can respond in a direct way vs. letting our feelings control us.
Know that you can always revisit a conversation. If a conversation didn’t go how you wanted, go back to it. None of us are perfect! There are bound to be miscommunications, hurt feelings, and things left unsaid. Know that you can always try again with a fresh perspective.
If you’d like to work on these skills more or have a particularly challenging dynamic with a friend or family member, feel free to contact me. You are going through one of the most painful experiences in life and are growing stronger through it.
Alison Moran, MA, LCPC
Founder & Psychotherapist
Evolve Counseling & Wellness, Inc.
53 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1119, Chicago, IL 60604
825 W. State St., Suite 214, Geneva, IL 60134
It’s that time of year again, when amidst the tinsel and egg nog, I encourage you to create moments that add up to the YOU that you know– and may be missing. Here’s how…
1. BE GOOD TO YOU
The holidays are a time of giving. It seems simple, yet it can be surprisingly difficult to give to ourselves when the gifts under the Christmas tree are designated for everyone else. Take a minimum of 10 minutes daily to do something kind for yourself. Take a walk. Dance. Soak in a bubble bath. Buy yourself a treat. Put a gift under the Christmas tree labelled To: Me. Do something that makes you connect to your heart and to yourself. Every. Day.
2. TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT
Why wait to reflect on those New Year’s resolutions? Ask yourself now– “How am I doing?” and “What do I need to get through the holidays this year?” Take an emotional barometer reading often, and don’t be afraid to change course depending on what answers you discover along the way.
3. FIND YOUR KRYPTONITE
What makes you feel powerful? Brave? Strong? Holiday stress offers many opportunities to draw upon your own personal power source. That fire within that makes you feel like the bad-ass you are. Own your kryptonite and use it as needed.
4. REHEARSE YOUR SCRIPT
With your holiday calendar full of social events, you may be confronted with those uncomfortable or inappropriate “kids” questions. These questions may not be something that you want to discuss over Chanukah latkes, so practice what you want to say. If you feel comfortable with the person asking, you may receive support by sharing a little about what is going on. However, it is possible that your great Aunt or husband’s colleague will corner you at the party. In these cases, you can deflect and say, “Great question!” or “We’ll make sure to keep you posted.” And move onto the next topic. You can also be more direct and say, “I’ll let you know if I want to talk about having kids.” Or “We’ve got this. No need to discuss.” Feel free to excuse yourself from the conversation, or make it an early night if you are better off being cozy in your bed at home.
5. SEEK LOVE
Plan a date night or a special trip just for you and your partner. Create new holiday rituals with your family or friends. Cuddle with your dog. Tell your best friends that you need a girls’ night out. You will feel a whole lot better finding strength in the connections that nourish your spirit right now.
6. SAY “NO”
There is a tendency to over-schedule during the holidays. Remember that your time is valuable. And your well-being is even more valuable. I encourage you to decline invitations to holiday celebrations that may be too stressful—especially if there will be a lot of children or pregnant women. Be mindful of engaging in activities that re-charge you—and saying “No” to those that don’t.
7. WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL…LIKE YOU??
It may seem like an odd question. But, I have found that infertility is one of those things that can make you lose track of what makes you feel most like yourself. With so many rules about taking medications, having sex and exercising, many people just plain don’t feel like themselves. Ask yourself what you can do this holiday season that will help you connect with something important about who you are or that will make the holidays feel special. Even if you can’t do it fully (ie: travel abroad or hop on that SoulCycle bike), maybe you can incorporate a different version into your life (ie: plan a weekend getaway or do a yoga class).
8. FEEL YOUR FEELINGS WITHOUT JUDGMENT
Perhaps this year you give yourself a Free Pass to not rejoice or be in the holiday spirit, if that is not how you are feeling. Remind yourself that the infertility landscape is a complicated buffet of sadness, worry, disappointment, hope, hopelessness–and everything in between–even during the holidays. You are already working so hard. Accept what you are feeling rather than adding more struggle to the mix.
9. TAKE A BREAK
Give yourself a break–a real break. Not the kind where you are in a spin class running through your To Do List. Maybe skip the gym. Take time alone. Chill out in front of a funny TV show. Read that book that’s been sitting on your dresser for a year. Some people even choose to give themselves a break from infertility treatments during the holidays. You may find it has never felt so good to do nothing for awhile.
Even though the holidays pose a unique set of challenges, try to count your blessings. Express appreciation to family and friends who have loved and supported you through the high’s and the low’s. And back to “#1 BE GOOD TO YOU”–The holidays are exactly the right time to express gratitude toward yourself. For all that you have faced head-on this year. For being a positive influence in someone else’s life. For things big and small that you do every day. Take a moment to give yourself the holiday gift of gratitude.
By Diana Zic
As I write this, it’s the start of the holiday season. Some would say it’s the most wonderful time of the year and I would agree, except for the encouragement to do everything in excess. It starts with early commercials from car dealerships and jewelry stores, leading people to believe it’s necessary to buy extravagant gifts, in order to have a joyous holiday (I’m still waiting for my Lexus with a red bow). Then come the food and liquor companies’ ads, promoting their views on how holiday cheer should look and feel. Generally, that picture looks like a cocktail in hand, and a huge table of food nearby, to accompany it. Before I go any further, I want to state that I’m not trying to be the Grinch who stole Christmas, but I find that now, more than at other times of the year, drinking becomes much more prevalent, and acceptable. For example, I received a text from my neighbor: “Feel free to swing by for a glass of wine! We’re drinking all day!” If you’re curious, I didn’t go, as that certainly didn’t sound like a “glass of wine” type of invitation.
In the “pre-pregnant” stage of life, it’s hard to say no when you’re not yet pregnant. Or, you may be in the two-week wait, and don’t want to disclose to your grandmother that you may be pregnant soon. If you are new to pre-pregnant terminology, as referred to in the book, “ It Starts with the Egg ,” this means “protecting your eggs the way you would protect a growing baby if you were pregnant.” So, what’s a hopeful mom to do?
Let’s start with what moderate, and excessive drinking looks like. According to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] , moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day, for men. Excessive, or heavy drinking, is defined as eight drinks or more per week for women, and 15 drinks or more per week, for men. The CDC also recommends that women who are, or may be pregnant, not drink alcohol at all. Oddly, there is no mention that men should not drink while trying to father a child, even though studies indicate that alcohol consumption decreases sperm count, sperm motility, and fertilization rates. Not to mention the oxidative stress alcohol causes throughout the body.
And of course there’s the issue of size, in our oversized culture. If you’re like the pre-research me, you may not have a clear understanding of what one drink actually looked like , because the glass typically given at a restaurant or bar is huge, so let me describe. A standard drink is defined as12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content); 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content); 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content); or 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey). Now that we understand what moderate and excessive drinking looks like, and what a drink size actually looks like, I was curious if it was okay to have drinks in moderation on my pre-pregnant journey. What I found was quite clear to me. See what you think about these five different studies:
- First up, during an 18-year period, 252 women underwent infertility examinations and what it revealed was high alcohol consumption increased risk of infertility and fewer first and second trimester pregnancies in those women compared to moderate or low consumers of alcohol.
- Next up was a bit different, it’s a study done with 430 Danish couples trying to conceive for the first time. They found that women consuming five or fewer drinks per week led to decreased fecundability. That would mean moderate drinking would not be recommended, although they do say further corroboration is needed.
- Another study done in Denmark, was conducted to determine if alcohol use is a predictor for infertility. It’s finding was interesting as researchers found more problems among women in the later reproductive age group above 30 years of age who were drinking seven or more drinks per week.
- This study researched whether alcohol consumption affects female fecundability. It indicated that “consumption of 14 or more servings of alcohol a week was slightly associated with reduced fecundability, but consumption of lower amounts seemed to have no discernible effect on fertility. Nonetheless, because the fetus may be particularly vulnerable to alcohol during the first few weeks after conception, it would seem prudent for women who are actively trying to become pregnant to abstain from alcohol during their fertile window until a pregnancy has been ruled out.”
- Last but not least, there’s data indicating that alcohol has a negative effect on IVF success rates . This study determined that as few as four alcoholic drinks per week are associated with a decrease in IVF live birth rate.
In my personal research on hormonal health, and its connection with the gut, I’ve found that alcohol is an inflammation-causing agent . This means that alcohol can inflame the intestinal track, and hinder nutrients from being absorbed properly. So, if you’re trying to conceive it may be best not to interrupt this process whenever possibly, as being deficient in nutrients can negatively impact upon pregnancy, and pregnancy potential.
After researching the issue, it’s become quite clear to me that steering clear of excessive drinking is important while trying to conceive, whether it’s with assisted reproductive treatment or not, and of course, giving it up while pregnant. Unfortunately, because of the social pressures of the holiday season, avoiding it may be more difficult.
So here’s my trick. It works every time! Have sparkling water in a glass with a lemon or lime wedge. Most people will think you’re drinking a cocktail.
I wish you the best of luck on your journey, and happy holidays!
Diana Zic is a Health and Wellness Coach specializing in fertility health, Yoga Instructor (RYT) and Prenatal Yoga Instructor (RPYT) in Chicago, Illinois. Struggling to start her own family, she has devoted herself to learning how our lifestyles can affect our fertility health. She has made it her mission to help individuals with fertility challenges get balanced in their bodies so they can be in the most healthful place while trying to conceive.
Pregnancy Loss Journey invited our amazing Acupuncture Director, Christine Davis to participate in their podcast. Hear this feature at: ” Episode 45: Acupuncture and Pregnancy Loss ” and learn more about the benefits of Acpuncture/Traditional Chinese Medicine when coping with loss.
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