• 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

  • 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!  Schedule in October and save with an Initial Nutrition Consult for only $49!  Use promo code PCOS49 and book today!

     

  • 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 is available in a free webinar format on Tuesday, October 16th at 6pm CST, register here.

  • How PDtM’s Online YFF Works

    By Beth Heller MS RYT, co-founder of Pulling Down the Moon and Online YFF instructor

    Much more than a typical yoga class, this six-week Yoga for Fertility program, created by Pulling Down the Moon, helps students develop skills to manage the stress and anxiety of fertility treatment, as well as learn a yoga posture practice that promotes blood flow, supports hormonal balance through stress reduction and calms and relaxes the nervous system.  Two separate clinical studies have shown this study to reduce fertility patients’ anxiety by more than 20% over the course of six weeks, for both online and in-person groups!   We are also following our study groups to see whether yoga has impact on conception rates.

    Unlike heated, vigorous vinyasa and power yoga classes, Yoga for Fertility is safe during medicated fertility treatment.  Click here to register for class starting 9/23!

    Online Class Format

    Our online class uses a webinar format to replicate the group interaction and discussion portion of the class and uses Pulling Down the Moon’s Fully Fertile Yoga Companion videos to direct your individual home practice.  In addition, participants are provided with links to different practices, including our Moon Salutes, Hip and Heart Opening, Hormonal Regulation/Digestion Practice and Mood Elevating Practice.  The goal is practice 3-4 times per week on their own.

    While you may initially shy away from the discussion part of the class, it may be this point of connection (which in yoga we call sangha) that creates the greatest shift in our body and mind.  Research suggests that women have an additional defense against stressors, called the “tend and befriend” response.  What this means is that in addition to the fight, flight or response to stress, women who seek out female companionship during times of stress may activate another defense against stress that helps to physically induce relaxation.

    Why Yoga for Fertility?  

    *Yoga balances the nervous system. Unlike intense, high impact cardiovascular exercise, which places considerable strain on the body, yoga uses deep breathing, mindful movement and unique stretches to stimulate the body’s relaxation response.

    *Yoga massages and stimulates our internal organs, promoting blood flow and oxygenation. Unlike exercises like weight lifting, cycling and running, which direct blood into the large skeletal muscles and are largely two-dimensional, yoga uses subtle multi-dimensional movements like twists and folds, inversions and backbends. This gentle action stretches and massages internal tissues and organs, promoting not only blood flow but the movement of lymph.

    *Yoga trains your “letting go muscles.” Women in the thick of their fertility need tools to manage stress and anxiety in the here and now. Learning to hold a challenging standing pose or sensation-filled stretch, while staying calm and breathing deeply, is rehearsal for staying calm in stressful life situations.

    *Yoga for Fertility classes create “sangha,” the yoga word for a like-minded and supportive community. Everyone on the fertility journey needs a positive environment and a place they can go to feel safe and understood. Struggling to conceive can turn a woman’s social network upside down. With girlfriends on the mommy-track, family get-togethers feeling like minefields, and ordinary interactions can become excruciatingly painful, our Yoga for Fertility class creates a safe haven – and most women don’t realize how much they needed one until they join a group!

    Try Online YFF and another service to save in September with the You Pick Two promotion!  Call us if you have any questions about this class, promotion, or scheduling at: 312-321-0004 today!

     

  • The VAGUS nerve, the “Commander and Chief” of the autonomic nervous system–promotes your fertility, gut, and health!

    By Dr. Amie Shimmel Handa, D.C., L. Ac., Dipl. Ac.

    The Vagus nerve is the largest cranial nerve and one of the most powerful nerves in the body. It is a bundle of sensory and motor fibers that power the parasympathetic nervous system. It connects the brain to the heart, lungs, spleen and intestines. It also has branches that travels to the Female Fertility Organs (the uterus, cervix and vagina) besides to the neck, kidney and liver. This parasympathetic nervous system controls our unconscious body functions like breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc.

    Sometimes we “feel things” in our gut (good or bad) and it’s because of this vagus nerve–when it is sending messages from the brain to the gut!  This is why our “gut instincts” are good to follow. The gut is called the “second brain” because of the vagus nerve. The enteric nervous system (ENS) governs function of the G.I. tract. The ENS connects to the brain via the vagus nerve.

    How does the vagus nerve get damaged or stressed? There are a lot of reasons but the most common ones are injuries to the head or neck, accidents, stress,and even diet can interfere with firing of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve uses the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (chemical messenger), to communicate with the brain. Studies have shown acetylcholine can be negatively affected by stress and diet.

    One of the main purposes of the vagus nerve is to calm down the body. It also helps with the growth and repair of nervous system. Researchers at Oregon University report that daily meditation activates the vagus nerve to create a relaxation respond. Research also points out that auricular (ear) Acupuncture creates a relaxation response and stimulates the hypothalamic pituitary ovarian axis to help with balancing hormones for fertility. Once you know the importance of the vagus nerve below are some exercise and things you can do to keep your vague nerve healthy.

    1. *Singing Loudly
    2. *Gargling
    3. *Laughing
    4. *Cold showers
    5. *Massage
    6. *Yoga
    7. *Meditation, such as, this Heart-Opening Meditation
    8. *Acupuncture (especially ear acupuncture)

  • Prenatal Vitamins: What to Look For

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Choosing a prenatal vitamin can be daunting, as there are a wide variety of brands and types of prenatal vitamins out there. It can be hard to know exactly what nutrients are the most important to focus on when evaluating vitamins. Prenatal vitamins can really run the gamut from bare bones to very comprehensive. The foundation should be a healthy nutrient dense diet, but most people have gaps in their diet at times and fertility and pregnancy often require additional nutrients. Here are some of the most important attributes to look for when shopping for a prenatal vitamin:

    • Contains 150 mcg iodine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg of iodine, as iodine is important for thyroid function, which affects baby’s brain development. A full one-third of women of pregnant women don’t get enough iodine.
    • Contains at least 27 mg iron to support red blood cell production and prevent anemia.
    • Has vitamins A, C, and E, which are antioxidants and may support egg quality.
    • Rich in B-vitamins that support ovulation.
    • Purity-tested EPA/DHA (fish oil) to support egg quality, reduce inflammation, and support baby’s brain development and vision.
    • Contains 1000-2000 IU Vitamin D to support bone health and IVF success.
    • Contains choline, which may prevent neural tube defects along with folate/folic acid.
    • Contains at least 600-1000 mcg folic acid or methylfolate (the active form of folate) to prevent neural tube defects.
    • Free of colorants, unnecessary allergens, additives, and preservatives.

    At Pulling Down the Moon, we carry 2 different prenatal vitamins that have all of the attributes above, but some key differences from each other. The Prenatal Vitamin Packet is a really comprehensive prenatal vitamin to take during pregnancy. The Supplement Packet with Prenatal Vitamin provides extra support for fertility patients with 100 mg CoQ10 and 2000 IU vitamin D and is designed to be taken while trying to conceive.

    Save in September with our Supplement Pack sale! Learn more here and stock-up while supplies last!

     

  • The Other Half: Male Factor Infertility

    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!

  • Summer Produce to Help Maximize Your Fertility

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Now that late summer is here, the local produce is abundant. Visit your local farmer’s market for the best tomatoes of the year, and stock up on some raspberries and zucchini. These summer fruits and vegetables can help support your overall health and fertility. Check out some specific items to emphasize below:

    Summer Fruit: Berries pack a strong antioxidant punch and tend to be high on the priority list of farmer’s market shoppers. Watermelon, cherries, and peaches also grow here in the Midwest, and the juicy summer sweetness makes for great desserts without the added sugar.

    Broccoli and Kale: These cruciferous vegetables may help balance estrogen levels and contain important nutrients like calcium, folate, and vitamin C.

    Zucchini: Zucchini tends to be abundant and cheap at the farmer’s market. Use a spiralizer to make zoodles (zucchini “noodles”) and top with chicken or white beans, pesto, fresh tomatoes, and sautéed kale for a nutrient-rich summer meal.

    Herbs: Don’t forget the herbs like chives, cilantro, oregano, basil, and dill. Herbs are antioxidant-rich and thus may help to prevent free radical damage to eggs and sperm. Add any of these herbs to salads, salad dressings, or eggs for extra flavor. Use basil to make pesto or in Thai dishes with cilantro. Use cilantro in tacos or other Mexican dishes.

    Eggs: You can get some of the best eggs at the farmer’s market – the kind of eggs that come from chickens that have been running around eating bugs and vegetable scraps. These eggs have a deep orange yolk, due to higher levels of beta-carotene. Eggs are a healthy and nutrient-rich protein source and are great way to ensure you get enough protein at breakfast.

    Learn more about healthy exercise and nutrition while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and beyond at the FREE Essential Fertility Fitness Tips on August 29th at 6pm and/or Lifestyle Hacks for PCOS on September 18th at 6pm! 

  • Keeping Your Fertility Friendly Eating Going During the Summer Months

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    It’s both easier and harder to eat healthy during the summer. Local fruits and vegetables are abundant, especially leafy and greens and berries, which are nutritional powerhouses. On the other hand, there are also lots of opportunities for less healthy options due to eating more meals out on vacations and attending more parties and barbecues.

    The key is not to take the enjoyment of these events, but to make choices that are consistent with your goals with the knowledge that there is no such thing as the perfect diet, and that it’s perfectly fine and normal to indulge sometimes. That being said, what’s the best way to handle events during the summer? Follow these tips, and see what you can apply to your life:

    Have a plan in mind for events or meals out. Often when we’ve decided ahead of time what we plan to eat, it goes better than when we make decisions in the moment. When eating out at restaurant, check the menu online ahead of time. At  other events, try to load up your half your plate with vegetables.

    Bring a healthy dish. Potlucks tend to be light on the veggies, so bring a veggie dish if you can. Alternatively, bring fruit or a healthy protein.

    Manage your appetite. Make sure you don’t arrive to restaurants, parties, or events ravenously hungry. When we’re overly hungry, it’s SO much harder to make healthier food choices, and it’s much easier to overeat.

    When you’re on vacation, rent a place with a kitchen. That way, you can prepare some of your own meals. Seek out a local farmers market for fruits and vegetables, and pick up some local fresh fish if you’re somewhere on the water. Make a point of prepping 1-2 meals per day where you’re staying, so that you can have healthier options and feel your best.

    On road trips, you use apps to find restaurants nearby. Using the signs on the freeway pretty much ensures you’ll be eating at fast food restaurants. Apps like Yelp will show you what restaurants are nearby, and you can even peruse menu from the car (not while you’re driving, of course) and get directions.

    Remember to keep it all in perspective. What you eat most of the time is what matters the most to your health and fertility. Eating also shouldn’t be a source of stress in our already stressful lives, so do your best and let the rest go. It’s ok and totally normal to indulge and eat more meals at restaurants on vacation. Choose healthier options most of the time, indulge sometimes, and eat until your satisfied, but not overly full, and make peace with your decisions without guilt.

     

    Looking for more ways to use your diet to positively impact your fertility or to fit healthy eating into your busy life, book a nutrition appointment today!

     

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