• I Never Thought Becoming a Mama Would Be Hard…  

    My parent’s were able to have my sister and I.  My husband, Daniel, has parents that went through infertility, and with the help of medication, were able to conceive him and his sister.  And sure, you learn things in sex ed class, but no one teaches you just what real life can bring when you find out you cannot have a baby on your own.

    Dan and I had gone back and forth for many years about wanting children and how many.  We both came from families in which there are two children, and although that seemed like the obvious choice, something was not settling right with me.  For example, we have one dog, Mr. Big, and we love him to pieces.  For nine years, he was our fur-baby, and I didn’t want another dog.  And although animals and humans are not the same, my heart was in the same place…if I could have a baby, I wanted to have one.  One in which I could set all my heart and efforts on.

    After over a year of trying to conceive, Dan and I were referred to a specialist to look into our fertility struggles.  After a surgery to clear a blocked tube, finding out about a cyst I had, and enduring many, many blood tests, it turned out that there were problems on both sides, and the odds of conceiving without medical assistance were less than 1%.  IVF would give us a chance of up to 75% success in conceiving, and not knowing what I would be in for, we decided privately that IVF would be our shot (no pun intended) to have a baby.  

    And so we informed our extended families of infertility and the journey of IVF we would be headed upon.  Our fertility doctor is one of the best in the Chicago land area, and we felt as positive as we possibly could in a situation of the unknown.  I had seven eggs retrieved, and all seven were successfully fertilized.  In the process of IVF, we ended up losing some of the embryos and were down to three to be sent for genetic testing.  One did not make it, and one came back positive for transfer.  There was one embryo that did not come back with a result, and I remember the doctor’s office asking me if I wanted to have the embryo retested.  Dan and I decided that we did, and while that embryo was sent out, I could have the embryo that came back positive transferred.  

    And so we did.

    A few days after a successful transfer, we were cautious and careful in everything I did.  I took off work the day I went for the blood test to find out whether or not I was pregnant.  I wanted to be alone.  

    And then I got the call…the transfer worked, and we were pregnant.

    I decided not to tell Dan until he got home, as I wanted the chance to surprise him like other women got to do when they took a successful at-home pregnancy test.  Except my way was through several blood tests at the doctor’s office.  I had baby Air Jordan’s and flame-less candles set up in what would be the future nursery.  When Dan came in, he went upstairs and was surprised with the good news.  He was so happy, and I was feeling things I couldn’t believe…I was finally pregnant.

    Right before the transfer it is important to note that we received information that the embryo that needed to be retested came back positive.  Stunned at this news, we decided to keep that embryo frozen and would think about the possibilities later.  

    It was time for some additional blood tests to see how the transfer was doing and the pregnancy progressing.  I remember getting the call telling me that the HCG numbers should have doubled but mine did not.  They would need me to come in again for another test.  Worried about what could happen, I did all I could to shield Dan for the heartache and pain of bad news.  The numbers were not rising, and I had a miscarriage.  

    We were devastated.  

    Making those calls to the family members was only part of the pain.  Knowing how excited Dan was about me being pregnant, and then telling him we had lost our baby, well, some moments truly make you stronger in life.  That pain is something I will never forget.

    Still…we still had one embryo left that could be transferred.  Soon my body healed and with continuous shots and medication, I was ready for the transfer of the final embryo we had; the “surprise” embryo that was retested and came back positive.  I remember that whole week acting completely different than I did with the first transfer.  I was doubtful and felt like I needed to prepare myself for disappointment again.  It would help me when something bad happens this time around if I already expected it.  But, Dan reminded me to stay focused on this fighter embryo.  

    And so I tried with all I had in me.

    We had the transfer, and I remember our nurse specifically telling us to do everything opposite we did with the first transfer.  “You’re not superstitious are you?,” she asked.  Being that I am not, we tried to be as normal as possible and not live in fear of the tiny embryo that was fighting to stick inside of me and become a positive pregnancy.  And even though my body was reacting completely different with this transfer than from the first one, I did all I could to remain calm.  Daniel was my greatest supporter and without him, I don’t know if I could have stayed true to my word on believing this time would be different.

    Then the day came for the blood test to determine if I was pregnant. This time, I went to work and tried not to think about what the result would be.  When I got the phone call that afternoon, the nurse was happy and told me the transfer was successful, and we were pregnant.  Still, knowing that things could take a turn for the worse (the HCG number was still lower now than with the first transfer), I played my emotions cautiously.  A few days later, I took another blood test, and the HCG number grew more than expected.  I remember getting the call and this time things were dramatically different.  The pregnancy was healthy and successful and although anything can happen, we were further along than before!  I called Dan with the news, and I will never forget the tone in his voice or how he responded that day.  It was an amazing moment of complete joy.  

    Speed up nine unforgettable months, and on April 19, 2018, my water broke.  On April 20, 2018, after four hours of pushing, I gave birth to the most beautiful, healthy blessing in a baby boy.  His name is Ferris Jobs, and Dan and I love him so much our hearts hurt.  We chose not to find out the gender or tell anyone our name choice.  When the nurse handed him to me and said I had a son, Daniel and I looked at each other and cried.  It was the happiest moment of our lives.  

    In the story of Ferris, I wouldn’t change a thing.  

    He will grow up knowing that he was born to do great things, that he was wanted and loved by his parents more than anything in this universe, and that there is a guardian angel always looking out for him.  

    He is our rainbow baby, and the greatest love of my life.

    **Check out Tess’ book, I’m Very Ferris, in the tea room at Pulling Down the Moon in Chicago on your next visit and follow us on Instagram for an upcoming giveaway to win your own copy! Participate in the Candlelight Remembrance Yoga with the #waveoflight on Oct 15th and let us honor your little one lost too soon during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

     

     

     

    BIO:

    Entrepreneurship has always been Tess’ dream job, and after having her miracle baby boy, Ferris, she realized there was no better time than the present to follow this dream. Ferris is Tess’ last embryo and the answered prayer of faith, love, and science through IVF.

    Tess made the decision to become a professional children’s picture book author and compose the I’m Very Ferris series after leaving corporate America and, once-and-for-all, jumping into the risk of starting her own company. Reading holds a very special place in her heart, and this next stage of her career has Tess teaching something she is so passionate about in the lives of children through her picture books. Tess is also training to run the New York City marathon in November 2019.  She loves to host parties and celebrate life, no matter how small the occasion! 

    Tess earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Elmhurst College, which is also where she met her husband, Dan.  

    “I am a mother, first and foremost, and everything else comes second.  I believe you really can have anything you want…but you are going to have to work for it and expect nothing to be handed to you.  I am a do’er and believe in living the good life. Having my health, loving so hard it hurts, and remembering that life was meant to be lived  – that’s what is important to me.

    My husband often calls me his real-life Steve Jobs because I respect what Steve said and live my life and teach my son to believe in the following whole-hearted:  “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore     them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

    LINKS:

    https://tesskossow.com/

    https://www.facebook.com/imveryferris/?modal=admin_todo_tour

    https://www.instagram.com/tesskossow/

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/tess-kossow-100657178

  • Magnesium: An Essential Mineral for Fertility and Pregnancy

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Magnesium is an essential mineral in hundreds of reactions in the body involved in a variety of processes including deriving energy from food, DNA synthesis, and blood sugar regulation. In addition, magnesium is a mineral component of bone along with calcium and phosphorus. Along with these important functions, did you know that magnesium may play a role in fertility and pregnancy as well?

    Magnesium’s Role in Fertility and Pregnancy

    In a study of 33 women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), 23% of women did not meet their daily magnesium needs. (1) In another study comparing women with and without PCOS, women with PCOS consumed less magnesium than women without PCOS. In women with PCOS, lower magnesium intake was correlated with higher risk for insulin resistance and elevated testosterone, key hallmarks of PCOS. (2) There have been many studies investigating the impact of magnesium levels and magnesium supplementation on insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. These studies point to a significant role for magnesium for blood sugar regulation. (3)

    Magnesium supplementation may also help prevent muscle cramps in pregnancy, and may also be helpful for headache prevention. Research is ongoing around magnesium and its impact on risk for gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension.

    How much Magnesium do we need?

    According to NHANES data, the majority of Americans do not get enough magnesium in their diet. The daily requirement for magnesium is 310-320 mg for non-pregnant women. During pregnancy, magnesium requirements increase to 350-360 mg daily. 

    Food sources of Magnesium

    The best food sources of magnesium include: nuts and seeds especially Brazil nuts, cashews, and almonds; seaweed, leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, and dairy products.

    Magnesium Supplements

    Adding a magnesium supplement can be a helpful way to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium on a daily basis. Magnesium glycinate is the preferred form of magnesium, as it’s very well-absorbed and unlikely to cause digestive issues or loose stools like other forms of magnesium that are less well-absorbed like magnesium oxide.

    Unsure if you’re meeting your daily magnesium needs? Schedule a nutrition consultation for a comprehensive review of your diet and supplement regimen.  Supplements are available in Chicago, Highland Park, and via our online shop for your convenience!

    References

    1. Szczuko M, et al. Quantitative assessment of nutrition in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2016;67(4):419-426.
    2. Cutler DA, et al. Low intakes of dietary fiber and magnesium are associated with insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism in polycystic ovarian syndrome: a cohort study. Food Sci Nutr. 2019;7(4):1426-1437.
    3. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Magnesium

     

     

  • Abdominal Massage During Stims…Is it Safe?

    by Meredith Nathan LMT

    Lately I’ve had an increasing number of clients raising a concern to me: is abdominal massage safe to receive during IVF?  Some have been warned by their doctors…others have seen precautions online.  And others may have intuitively wondered, as their own abdominal discomfort increased during stimulation.

    The concern is valid – during stimulation, the ovaries grow rapidly, sometimes even reaching the size of grapefruits.  With this increase in weight, ovarian torsion is more likely, and so any deep contact with the ovaries would be ill-advised.  Someone experiencing ovarian hyperstimulation, a condition whereby the ovaries over-produce follicles during stimulation, should be especially cautious.

    There isn’t a clear-cut yes or no answer to this question.  Certain types of abdominal massage should definitely be avoided: for instance, Mercier Therapy, which utilizes a deep raking technique to the uterus and direct massage to the ovaries, can be a wonderful modality in preparation for IVF, but should definitely NOT be received during stimulation.  Other forms of abdominal massage might be safe, but should probably be avoided if the Massage Practitioner isn’t an expert in the field of fertility (and especially in working with IVF clients).  Though their work *might* be helpful, without the proper levels of education and experience they might unknowingly put added stress on the reproductive organs during this delicate time.

    The FEM (Fertility Enhancing Massage) Protocol™ developed at Pulling Down the Moon, was actually created specifically to assist IVF patients as well as clients undergoing other forms of A.R.T.  Each abdominal technique was designed to decrease stress to the reproductive organs while simultaneously increasing circulation and lymph, and promoting organ oxygenation and alignment.  Direct pressure is never applied to the uterus or ovaries; rather, surrounding tendons, muscles, and ligaments are worked while the fascia and connective tissues surrounding these areas are warmed and stretched.  Additional techniques that don’t involve touching the abdomen are also used to boost blood flow to the reproductive organs.

    FEM Massage Practitioners are trained to stay in high communication with the client during any abdominal massage techniques, and to adjust their work if the client experiences any discomfort.  The work usually feels quite good (many clients fall asleep during it), and many clients report a decrease in bloating and abdominal discomfort after the work is done.  There has actually never been an incident of ovarian torsion or injury to the ovaries of any kind reported by a Pulling Down the Moon client after receiving a FEM massage.

    Clients who have a history of hyper-stimulating should only receive our Relax & Integrate session during stimulation, which is even gentler in its approach to working the abdomen (versus our Blood Builder sessions, which use more powerful techniques).

    When dealing with your fertility, the best approach is always to stay safe and do no harm.  If you have any questions or concerns, raise them with your FEM Practitioner, so you can create the most helpful and safest approach to your reproductive health.

    Learn more about FEM during our upcoming FREE webinar on Oct 16th at 6pm Finding the Silver Lining on Your Journey! then Book Your Appointment!

  • Acupuncture Explained

    Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM 

    The value of your practitioner
    Why do I need to come in to the office?

    One of the beautiful aspects of acupuncture is that your body is seen and understood as the complete instrument that it is. Your acupuncture point system is endlessly evolving. If you have graduated out of weekly or twice weekly acupuncture sessions, or have fallen out of the habit of coming in to the office, this post if for you.  It is also for those who are at the end of their fertility focus, may be on a break, or are wondering if they can use acupuncture for different reasons. 

    What is important about coming to see your acupuncturist is that they will assess the current state of your health and choose point combinations that will tune your instrument, or all out repair it. It needs to be done in the office every now and then, even though we send you home more educated, with homework, or with goals accomplished.  

    There are ways to make this easier and less stressful. Pull out your calendar!  As you assess your healthcare plan for the next year, look at the entire year ahead. Break it down into quarters, seasons, and peak stress times. Book a sequence of appointments for at least 2 weeks before an event like a holiday, a change in season, or as the quarter winds down. Book 2 appointments the week before tax season or school starts.  It is great to touch base with your wellness team to be reminded of how to stay on track. This will help you be at your best.

    Women have the opportunity to use their menstrual cycle, also, for scheduling structure. The frequency of office visits depends on what is going on for you, and what your cycle or the year is like. Talk to your acupuncturist to find out what fits best for you. For some, it could be coming during your period, to help keeps things moving. For others, it could be better to come in before you ovulate.  Reach out and ask us how we can help recharge your wellness routine.  

    Come in and see us then have a great Fall!  Book and save in October with our BOO-GO special that includes a FREE follow-up session ($95 value)!

  • It’s Time for a Prana Party

    By Alece Demaray, RYT500 + CPYT

    I have a question and I want you to be honest (and not judge yourself for your answer)!  How do you feel at the end of the week? Do you feel exhilarated …exhausted…fulfilled…or like you could dive into a large pizza?  Forget about a week, what about in a day? Does the day leave you feeling happy and whole OR empty and broken (or somewhere in between)?

    Life has a pace to keep up with.  There are appointments to make, deadlines to meet and challenges to tackle.  The constant hustle can drain you of your vigor. The fertility journey can be especially depleting.  The stress can rob you of joy and the worry can overwhelm your sense of peace. Prolonged imbalance of your energy can lead to anxiety, depression, physical pain and even sickness.  Not ideal for anyone, especially those trying to conceive. 

    Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely eliminate stress from our lives.  That would be unnatural and out of balance. It is possible, however, to COUNTER the drain of energy OUT with replenishing energy IN.

    In demanding times, it’s easy to forget that you are in the driver’s seat of your life.  You control the speed and can pump the brakes as needed.  You have the personal power to enhance your vibration in the world and boost your PRANA.  Prana is a Sanskrit word that means your vital energy, a.k.a. your gas in the tank, the strength of your blood flow, the fullness of your breath, your will to thrive!  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, prana is the same concept as “chi” or “qi”.  

    Prana is ESPECIALLY important when on the path to conception.  Not only do you need enough energy to sustain yourself, but you also need enough energy to grow a human!  So how can you boost your prana?

    We gain prana by doing things that nourish us, both physically and spiritually.  For me, that means eating vegetables and lean proteins, to stabilize my blood sugar.  It means going to the lake to be by water, so I feel more balanced. It means taking a bath on a Thursday night with my favorite essential oil and meditating in the morning, before the activity of the day picks up.

    What boosts my prana is not necessarily what will enhance yours, as we are all unique individuals.  Here are some ideas that could help to nurture your vital essence. Which resonate with you? 

    • Being in nature
    • Eating well – lots of vitamin rich food
    • Moderate exercise that leaves you energized – NOT depleted
      • YOGA is WONDERFUL 😊
    • Deep Breathing
    • Journaling
    • A cup of tea with a good friend (grab a FREE cup of a caffeine-free blend for your journey while at our center!) 
    • A cup of tea by yourself 
    • Listening to music that soothes you
    • Taking a rest
    • Getting good sleep
    • Treat yourself to a massage
    • Meditating
    • ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU FEEL MORE WHOLE, REFILLED AND REPLENISHED WITH YOU.

    You can call it Self Care, you can call it a Prana Party…  they are the same wonderful thing: Taking time to slow down and take care of YOU.  Build your energy reserves so you are capable, creative and authentically you – radiating out in the world, with a sense of balance and ease.

    If you are inspired by this concept of Prana and harnessing it to support your fertility journey, inquire about the next Yoga for Fertility series at Pulling Down The Moon!

    • Try a FREE Yoga for Fertility class in Chicago or Highland Park on Monday, October 21st at 7pm!
    • Interested in joining the series?  New sessions are starting: Thursday, October 10th at 6pm for Online Yoga for Fertility; in Chicago on Saturday, October 12th at 12:15pm and Wednesday, October 30th at 7pm (with me)!  For Highland Park, the new session will start on Monday, October 28th at 7pm!

     

  • Finding Calm

    by Christine Davis, LAc MSOM

    With each passing year, things seem to get busier. More appointments, more work requirements, more life events, more things to do. Then there’s the well meaning family members and friends: why aren’t you pregnant yet? My friend tried This Thing and it worked for her, so you you should try it, too! Then there’s social media and the internet: EVERYONE seems to be happier and more successful than you – here’s what you SHOULD be doing to do to be happy ALL THE TIME. It’s all a never ending stream of NOISE. Where does it stop? How can you simmer down and quiet the stream of mental debris that constantly stimulates worry, fear, anxiety, and frustration?

    Here are my suggestions. They aren’t a complete list, but these are the important ones. It may take time to incorporate them all: 

    1. Say it with me: “No.” “I’m sorry, I’m not available.” It’s ok to put yourself first and say “no” when what is being asked of you will compromise your wellness. Clear a path for your ability to think clearly, breathe, and do the things you need to do to feel balanced. Much like Marie Kondo’s method for clearing physical clutter, you need to decide what’s important in your life mentally and emotionally. Say YES to the things that create the life you want (even though they may be difficult, too, sometimes) and NO to the things that are holding you back from that life.
    2. Disconnect. Social media has been fun over the past couple of decades, right? There are some good and some (really) bad parts, but study after study emerges showing the negative impact that it can have on your mental and emotional state. If you are having trouble completely disconnecting – especially if work or other interests require you to connect with SM – limit your interactions with these apps/websites. Give yourself a specific time frame in which you allow yourself to use them in a positive, uplifting manner.
    3. Get help. There is no shame in reaching out to a professional if you need help with mental wellness. This could be a mental health professional, a religious guide, etc. Someone who you trust, who is impartial, who has training in helping to guide you is ideal. This doesn’t mean you are signing up forever – sometimes a few sessions can really help to clarify and ground you. I feel like the best therapists are the ones who hold a “mirror” up, so to speak, so that you can see things as they are, then help you to appreciate the beauty that you see.
    4. Center yourself. This could be with meditation, prayer, yoga, journaling, long walks by the lake – whatever helps you to focus on one, two, or ten things–instead of the thousands of thoughts that are constantly flooding in otherwise. I like to think of Georgia O’Keefe’s “Sky Above Clouds” painting – the thoughts are just clouds floating past. Try not to hang on to them and instead just observe them and let them float past. There are some amazing smartphone apps: FertiCalm and FertiStrong, Insight Timer, MindfulIVF, Headspace, etc. that have tons of guided meditations for everything from general anxiety to trouble sleeping to going through an IVF cycle.
    5. Find gratitude. Keeping a Gratitude Journal helps with this. Write just a line or two each day about something you are grateful for. It could be the delicious muffin you had for breakfast, the painless phlebotomist experience, your favorite song coming on the radio, the friend who went out of her way to give you the support you needed. Many studies have shown that focusing on the positive aspects of life actively literally rewires the brain to feel happier and more positive.
    6. Try Acupuncture. A modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is a therapy for the mind, body, and spirit. With regular (once or twice per week, usually) treatment, you will see many aspects of your physical, mental, and emotional self come into balance. Acupuncture is known to be helpful for everything from pain to allergies to digestive stuff to fertility, but it can also be helpful for balancing the mental state and emotions.

    Firstly, an acupuncture visit is usually very relaxing! Most who haven’t tried it don’t believe me when I say that, but when else do you take 30 min to just lie still, no phone, not going to sleep (although it’s ok if you do!), not talking or listening (except to quiet music)? This is a deeply restorative time to be quiet, soft, grounded.

    Acupuncture has mounting  scientific evidence showing that regular treatment can help with reducing anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders. In TCM, there is a strong connection between the physical state and the emotional state. By creating a state of harmony throughout the physical body, balanced mental/emotional wellness is the natural outcome. 

    In TCM, fertility is associated with the element of Water. When water is too abundant or too scarce, the earth and all forms of life suffer, including our own bodies. The element of Water shows its emotional imbalance in the form of Fear/Anxiety. When we are in a constant state of stress (life, work, family, infertility, etc), we put ourselves into a constant state of “fight or flight.” This creates a situation in which our bodies focus only on staying alive for the moment rather than long cycles like those required for fertility. By using acupuncture, we are able to break that constant loop of stress, find grounding, and reconnect with our natural cycles which can lead to improved fertility.

    Choosing to find serenity in this life takes effort. Just think about when someone says, “Calm down!” or “Relax!” Has anyone ever calmed down or relaxed just by hearing that? I don’t think so. By regularly making the choice to build the space for quiet, for reflection, for balance, you are creating a foundation for the life you are searching for. 

    Learn more during our upcoming webinar “Acupuncture for a Medicated Cycle” on Tuesday, September 17th at 6pm! Click here to register to view it live or watch the replay at your convenience!

    Ready to get started? Book your appointment now and save with the You Pick Two special this month!

  • From Practitioner to Patient: A Different Kind of Journey

    by Jillian Thomas, LMT

    Never in a million years did I think I would be in the position I was a few months ago.  My In Laws met my husband, son and I at a diner near our house.  They had just come back from a cruise the day before.  My mother in law proceeded to tell us that the doctor had told her she needed to go on dialysis-that she was  in Stage 5 Kidney failure.  Instantly the idea popped into my head.  I knew my blood type was 0+ and while sitting in that diner, my gears were turning.  After we left the diner, I told my husband my thoughts.  I wanted to get tested to see if I could donate to his mother.  Over the next two weeks I nervously thought of how to offer my kidney to her.  We invited my In-laws over for dinner one night, and while chatting in our family room, I told her.  We had been trying to conceive for about 9 months for our second child- to no avail.  I shared with her that I believed that there was a reason why we weren’t getting pregnant and that was so I was able to give this gift to her. She was speechless.  It took her two days to be able to come up with the words to thank me for offering.  We scheduled our initial appointments at University of Illinois at Chicago to get onto the registry.  After several vials of blood and several meetings with various health care professionals, we were sent on our way. Two weeks later, I received a call from the nurse coordinator to tell me that I was a perfect match. My mother-in-law and I both laughed in disbelief at the news.  This was really happening. Here we are now, with the transplant planning process started, still in disbelief that this had come together so fast.  It is amazing to me how there had to be an incredible amount of situations that had to line up in order for this to become a reality.  How could this be incidental? Our desires for a second child must be put on hold for a while, but this means that our child and future children can have their Nana around a while longer. No good plan survives its first encounter with a harsh reality.  Maybe sharing my story might be able to resonate with others going through difficult times and having to make difficult decisions.  

    As I am preparing for the next steps, I scheduled my Cleanse Massage and my Therapeutic Nutrition Consultation with the team at Pulling Down the Moon to support my wellness during this process.  I am grateful to have found ‘The Moon’ and joined the Massage Team to support women on their journeys with fertility, pregnancy, postpartum care, and all the stressors life brings.  I will go on leave for this journey after my mother-in-law’s clearance is finalized and looking forward to supporting your journey before, as well as, after my recovery!

    Let us take care of you on your journey and book your massage today!

    (Pictured: Jillian Thomas and her Mother-in-Law Joan)

  • PCOS and Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation

    By Robin Miller, RDN

    Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of infertility in women, affecting up to 10% of women of childbearing age. Despite what the name suggests, it is actually a disorder of the endocrine system–think hormones! You can even be diagnosed with PCOS even without having ovarian cysts. 

    PCOS is characterized by high levels of androgens (“male” hormones), including testosterone, androstenedione, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), dehydroepiandrosteron (DHEA) and DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S). Higher than normal levels of insulin are also common due to to insulin resistance (much like that seen in type 2 diabetes) over time. When you have insulin resistance, your insulin isn’t working as well as it should to signal for glucose to be transported out of the blood and into the cells of the body to be used for energy. To compensate, the pancreas produces more insulin leading to high insulin levels, which seem to drive the higher testosterone levels in PCOS.

    A recent study suggests that supplementation of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), has beneficial effects on glucose metabolism as well as serum total and LDL cholesterol levels in people with PCOS. In this study subjects took 100 mg of CoQ10 daily for a 12-week period at the conclusion of the study a notable improvement in overall fasting glucose, insulin resistance, and total and LDL cholesterol was observed in subjects. 

    So, what is Coezyme Q10?  Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a nutrient that occurs naturally in the body. CoQ10 is also in many foods we eat. CoQ10 is involved in energy production and acts as an antioxidant, which protects cells from damage and plays an important part in the metabolism.  

    Unfortunately, as we age, naturally occurring levels of CoQ10 in our body decline. Evidence suggests that supplementing CoQ10 may help many different conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure and most recently PCOS. 

    Want to learn more about how supplements can help you? Schedule a  nutrition consult and work with one of our Registered Dietitians to develop an individualized supplement and treatment plan specifically designed for you!

  • Folate vs. Folic Acid for Male Fertility

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Many women thinking of getting pregnant have heard of folic acid or folate, as we know that adequate amounts help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida when taken in early pregnancy. Folate is vital for DNA synthesis and for DNA methylation. Folic acid generally refers to a synthetic form of folate that is found in many prenatal vitamins and supplements and fortified foods. Folate refers to the natural form found in food. Some supplements include folate instead of or in addition to folic acid. 

    While the impact of folate on pregnancy in women gets a lot of press, the impact of folate on male fertility doesn’t get much attention. Ensuring adequate folate intake in men may have a beneficial impact on sperm quality and pregnancy. Folate is thought to be vital for sperm production due to its role in DNA synthesis and methylation. For example, in one study, men with the highest folate intake from both food and supplements had lower frequencies of aneuploidy (DNA abnormalities) in their sperm compared to men with lower folate intake.

    An additional factor that may impact folate status in men is MTHFR polymorphisms. A MTHFR polymorphism is a change to the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase enzyme rendering it less effective at producing the active form of folate called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). In men with MTHFR polymorphisms, supplying 5-MTHF directly may be more effective for improving sperm parameters and pregnancy rates based on some interesting new case series.

    The impact of 5-MTHF is demonstrated in a case series of 30 couples each with a 4-year history of fertility issues with at least one partner in the couple having a MTHFR polymorphism. Most of the women were treated with high dose folic acid without success. The couples were then treated for 4 months with 600 mcg 5-MTHF, and 13 couples were able to conceive spontaneously without IUI or IVF. 

    In another case report, a couple had a history of 6 failed IVF cycles. The woman was found to have an MTHFR polymorphism, and the couple underwent egg donation and had a successful pregnancy and birth. In trying to conceive a 2nd child, she started a series of failed donor egg cycles. She was then started on 5-MTHF (400 mcg) and did another donor egg cycle, which ended in miscarriage at 8.5 weeks. Her husband had normal sperm parameters, but tested positive for 2 copies of the MTHFR polymorphism and was started on 400 mcg 5-MTHF. The couple conceived spontaneously 8 weeks later and gave birth to a baby girl at 38 weeks. The authors conclude that his really underscores the importance of methylation in egg development and sperm production, and that when either the male or female has a MTHFR polymorphism, 5-MTHF if required as high dose folic acid will not allow the embryo to develop properly.

    It is often the case that men don’t know if they have a MTHFR polymorphism, and if testing is unavailable, it makes sense to take a 5-MTHF supplement to ensure adequate folate in the active form is available for DNA synthesis and methylation to promote conception and a healthy pregnancy.  Learn more about how nutrition and supplements can support male fertility by meeting with our Nutrition Team and book your consult today!

    References:

    • Young SS, et al. The association of folate, zinc, and antioxidant intake with sperm aneuploidy in healthy non-smoking men. Human Reproduction. 2008;23(5): 1014-1022. 
    • Servy EJ, et al. MTHFR isoform carriers. 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) vs folic acid: a key to pregnancy outcome: a case series. J Assist Reprod Genetic. 2018;35(8): 1431-1435.
    • Jacquesson-Fournols L, et al. A paternal effect of MTHFR SNPs on gametes and embryos should not be overlook: case reports. J Assist Reprod Genetic. 2019;36(7):1351-1353.

  • Guest Blog: The Stress of It All

    by Kellie Stryker MSW LCSW

    According to reproductivefacts.org, “Infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises that a couple has ever experienced together. The long term inability to conceive a child can evoke significant feelings of loss. Coping with the multitude of medical decisions and the uncertainties that infertility brings can create great emotional upheaval for most couples.” 

    Kristin L. Rooney, BA and Alice D. Domar, PhD with Boston IVF wrote: “Infertility is often a silent struggle. Patients who are struggling to conceive report feelings of depression, anxiety, isolation, and loss of control. Depression levels in patients with infertility have been compared with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.1 It is estimated that 1 in 8 couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Despite the prevalence of infertility, the majority of infertile women do not share their story with family or friends, thus increasing their psychological vulnerability. The inability to reproduce naturally can cause feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. These negative feelings may lead to varying degrees of depression, anxiety, distress, and a poor quality of life.”

    It’s normal to experience times of stress throughout the infertility process. However, it becomes a cause of concern when the feelings become persistent or prolonged. 

    According to reproductivefacts.org, if you experience the following symptoms for a prolonged of time, you may benefit from meeting with a mental health professional. 

    • Loss of interest in usual activities
    • Depression that doesn’t lift
    • Strained relationships
    • Social isolation 
    • Thoughts that are consumed by infertility
    • High levels of anxiety
    • Diminished ability to concentrate or accomplish tasks
    • Change in your sleep patterns, appetite or weight 
    • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
    • Persistent feelings of pessimism, guilt, bitterness, anger or worthlessness
    • Thoughts about death or suicide

    Help Is Out There 

    The following resources are dedicated to helping you improve your Reproductive Mental Health: 

    • RESOLVE: The National Infertility AssociationRESOLVE provides free support groups in more than 200 communities; is the leading patient advocacy voice; and serves as the go-to organization for anyone challenged in their family building. 
    • ASRM : American Society for Reproductive MedicineASRM is a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the advancement of the science and practice of reproductive medicine. The Society accomplishes its mission through the pursuit of excellence in education and research and through advocacy on behalf of patients, physicians, and affiliated health care providers. The Society is committed to facilitating and sponsoring educational activities for the lay public and continuing medical education activities for professionals who are engaged in the practice of and research in reproductive medicine.
    • Pulling Down The MoonHolistic care for family health and fertility should be highly personal, compassionate, and customized to meet the unique needs and complex challenges of each patient. Founded in 2002, Pulling Down the Moon recognizes the stress and emotional turmoil and fatigue that can come with infertility as well as your day to day health. 
    • Shine Fertility Shine supports women through mentorship, community and education. We empower women by encouraging a proactive approach to fertility health and fertility preservation.

    Taking Care of You

    It’s ok to be sad, frustrated, angry, resentful, bitter and whatever emotions you may be feeling at this very moment. You are allowed to feel all of the above and more. Sit with it. Don’t force yourself to put on a brave face when you are going through unimaginable pain. However, when you are ready, allow yourself to work through the emotions you are experiencing. 

    Georgia Witkin, Ph.D with Progyny wrote: “You may not have control over the physical effects of fertility treatment, but you can take control over many of the psychological effects. What you think and what you do shapes what you feel, so choose thoughts and behaviors that reinforce your sense of control.”

     

     

     

    Kellie Stryker is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owner of Rain to Rainbow Counseling. Kellie has over 10 years of experience in the mental health field. Kellie currently lives in Crystal Lake, IL with her husband and 1 yr old daughter who was conceived through infertility treatments. Kellie’s mission as a Reproductive Mental Health Counselor is to provide support to others as they navigate through their infertility journey. 

    Rain to Rainbow Counseling offers supportive services which are focused on all aspects of Reproductive Mental Health which include infertility, grief, loss, miscarriage, stress management, adoption and pregnancy counseling. Rain to Rainbow Counseling is currently in network with Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL and Optum United Health Care. In Person and Online Telehealth Sessions are available.


    Benefits of Online Telehealth: 

    • Confidential: Rain to Rainbow Counseling uses Simple Practice, a secure and HIPAA compliant program.
    • Online Client Portal: No software to download. Private login and password for each client. 
    • Same benefits and techniques: Only difference is we see each other on screen instead of in person.
    • Convenience: Can literally be done from when and wherever you are comfortable.

    References: