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fertility diet

Sitting the Month: 6 Tips to Help You Navigate Your Postpartum Time

Our 6 best tips to plan a restful and rejuvenating postpartum month!

There is a saying in Chinese, “zuo yue zi,” or “Sitting the Month” that refers to the idea that the  month following the birth of a baby is a sacred time reserved for rest, regeneration, and bonding with your new baby. After all, birth is an incredibly transformative event, it is rather silly to expect your body, mind, and soul to bounce back to normal activity in a short period of time. In fact, this rush to get back into action quickly is not healthy and can lead to a much longer recovery period.

 

Unfortunately, our society idolizes women for bouncing back and rushing back into work, life, exercise, and their pre-baby bodies. Celebrities, likely with extreme diet and exercise regimens put forth by their teams of professionals, often are the examples of this unattainable image.

 

If this isn’t your first child, you know how tough those first few weeks can be. Your newborn is dependent on you for everything and you are working so hard to figure out what each cry means, teaching yourself how to breastfeed or quickly make bottles while your baby gets more and more upset, and, all the while, expected to feed yourself and maybe sneak in a shower. The whole thing is exhausting and can be emotionally draining.

 

In China, women are encouraged to “sit the month” after birth and remain in bed with baby. Family, partners, and friends take care of the house, cook nourishing meals, and ensure the mother gets the rest she desperately needs. I think we should take a lesson from China and incorporate these theories into our postpartum plans.

 

During pregnancy, you likely found yourself researching, downloading, and revising your birth plan until it was a perfect vision of what you wanted for your birth. The time after baby comes is often ignored. We should, in fact, be putting at least as much effort into the weeks following baby’s arrival to allow for space for healing and recovery.

 

Aside from a much needed list of delegated tasks, desires, meal trains etc, a plan should be worked out to allow you to get the rest and recovery you need and the time you want to bond with your new baby.

 

So here are our tips for navigating your postpartum time:

1. Rest: Your body just went through one of the most single transformative times of your entire life. Give it a break! You nourished and grew a new person, birthed that person, and took on a new role as a mother. This is an amazing feat and it takes time to recover from and get acquainted to your transformed life.

  • For the month after birth, rest as much as possible. Lay in bed with your baby, sit on the couch with your baby, sit outside with your baby. Spend time staring at your baby and, of course, catching up on your favorite Netflix shows. If you feel like getting up and walking a little, by all means get off the couch, but listen intently to yourself. If you feel any soreness, increased perineal pressure, notice an increase in your lochia (the bleeding you will have postpartum), or have any discomfort back off and get back on the couch.
  • Spend time skin-to-skin with baby. Skin-to-skin was likely something you remember from your birth plan, but the benefits of this go well beyond the hour after birth. Skin-to-skin can help support good breastmilk supply, help baby regulate body temperature, and facilitate bonding. So, put on a robe or button up shirt, cuddle up, and enjoy!
  • Limit guests: I know everyone will want to come see the baby, but give yourself a few weeks without a stream of well-intending friends and family. Allow those who will take on a task, laundry, dishes, etc, and tell everyone else to come back later. Entertaining, or feeling like you have to entertain, cleaning your house, and preparing snacks is a lot of unnecessary pressure while you’re becoming familiar with your new role. Additionally, your new baby does not need the exposure to the coughs and sneezes your guests might bring.

 

2. Eat warm nourishing foods: One very big part of Sitting the Month is proper nutrition to replenish your body and support your recovery. The Chinese recommend a diet of warming foods and herbs. Some examples of things to add to your diet are:

  • Ginger: Use in soups or teas. Caution: Occasionally ginger can increase bleeding, so if this is the case for you, stop using it.
  • Wam spices: Use cinnamon, cardamom, chile, etc for cooking.
  • Bone broth (or vegetarian/vegan bone broth): with added warming spices or herbs.
  • Mushrooms: you can add these to your soups and broths for benefit to your immune system.
  • Eggs: These are a great source of protein and are great for pregnancy and postpartum support.
  • Red raspberry leaf tea: to help regulate hormones and reduce your uterine size back to normal.
  • Water, water, water! When your milk comes in you will find your thirst increases quite a bit. Combat that by increasing water consumption. This will also help reduce water retention and prevent headaches and muscle cramps.
  • Avoid cold foods: ice water, smoothies, ice cream, salads, raw veggies/fruits, etc.

 

3. Perineal Support: Whether you gave birth vaginally or not, you will notice some perineal soreness.. If you’ve had stitches or minor tearing you will definitely have some discomfort or even pain as your body heals.

  • Say No to Padsicles:  We recommend against the ‘padsicles’ you might find on Pinterest. That much cold placed right on tender, healing skin can reduce blood flow, increasing overall healing time. Instead, if you’d like to use something cold to reduce swelling, wrap an ice pack in a towel, so the cold you feel is more cool. Combine with an herbal perineal bath and/or spray to speed healing.
  • Perineal sitz baths: A sitz bath made from healing herbs can increase healing time and soothe your sore perineum. You can also use these herbs in a bath with epsom salts for extra relaxation.
  • Perineal Spray: Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a fantastic herbal perineal spray that will quickly become your best friend. The combination of herbs in this spray is soothing, cooling, and can help promote healing. Use every time you use the bathroom or as needed. If you have any leftover after healing, it makes a great after-sun face toner!
  • Prevent Constipation: Your first bowel movements after baby can be really tough, especially if you’ve had any pain medication or dehydration causing constipation. Taking magnesium or a stool softener in the first week or so can really help make going to the bathroom much more comfortable. Also, make sure you are drinking enough water, as this, of course, will help.

 

4. Lactation Support: So many women wanting to breastfeed go into it assuming it is a natural and easy process. And, for some, this is absolutely true. For others, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is so important to have an ally for your breastfeeding journey. They can make sure you are getting accurate, up to date information. We recommend a prenatal breastfeeding class and a visit from an independent IBCLC in the days after birth to check for tongue/lip ties and check baby’s latch to help support breastfeeding. Check out our resources page for our favorite lactation consultants. Many will do home visits, so you don’t even have to leave your house.

 

5. Mother Warming Ritual: Moxa, made from the leaves of the mugwort plant, is used to gently warm points along the lower abdomen in mom’s who’ve given birth vagainally or through a Cesarean birth. This is typically done about 3-4 days after birth and promotes healing, milk production, and alleviates discomfort. It is used on an as-needed basis after the initial warming.

  • This is a great way for partners to help out with postpartum healing.

 

Acupuncture can help treat and prevent many postpartum issues.

6. Acupuncture: There are so many benefits to a course of postpartum acupuncture. We can begin work on restoring your body, support healing, and help treat any issues you might be having with breastfeeding, digestion, sleep, anxiety/depression, etc.

  • Our recommended postpartum protocol is just 3 weekly visits starting at 2-3 weeks postpartum and as needed after that.

 

 

We look forward to working with you during your pregnancy and into your postpartum time! Please give us a call at 865-31503845 or contact us via email with any questions!

 

Preconception Tips to Help Ensure Your Cycle is a Success: A 90 Day Plan

Help your cycle become a success with these preconception tips!

Many of our patients have been told they have poor egg quality or diminished ovarian reserve, or even poor embryo quality and this is the reason why they are having trouble conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term. While it is true that your egg health diminishes over time, it is not true that there is nothing that can be done to help support your egg health.

Even if you don’t have any specific ovarian or egg quality issues, helping support good egg health will help increase the chances your cycle will be a success!

The total time it takes for one egg to fully mature is about 90 days. It is during this window of time that we are able to have the biggest impact on egg health. So, we recommend that all of our patients looking to plan a treatment cycle take advantage of this time to prepare and consider acupuncture, supplements, diet, and lifestyle changes to help support their egg health.

Some of the main factors affecting egg health are:

  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Blood flow to the uterus and ovaries
  • Oxygenation of your blood
  • Stress
  • Hormone balance

Our three favorite ways to improve all of these factors affecting egg health are acupuncture (of course!), diet and exercise, and specific supplements.

1. Preconception Acupuncture:

Each of our treatment protocols (IUI, IVF, and medicated cycles) begins with the recommendation of preconception acupuncture. Preconception acupuncture is treatments given weekly in the 1-3 months prior to any fertility cycle specifically designed to support egg health and hormone balance.

By now, you probably know that acupuncture done alongside a fertility cycle can improve the chances of pregnancy for that cycle. What you may not know, is that acupuncture’s effect is cumulative, much like exercise. Each treatment and treatment cycle builds on the previous. Research done on fertility acupuncture supports this idea. Generally, the more acupuncture one receives, the better the pregnancy rates.

The reasons why acupuncture done in the months prior to a fertility cycle can have an impact on your egg health and the overall success of your cycle are:

  • Dramatically improved blood flow to the uterus and ovaries: This increases the   delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and facilities waste product removal, improving overall egg health.
  • Hormone regulation: Many women notice changes in their cycles during preconception acupuncture: less  pain, more regular ovulation, and normalization of menstrual flow.
  • Reduced stress: Help your body and mind get ready for the upcoming cycle.

2.  Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle:

Diet: A healthy diet can dramatically affect one’s fertility (and overall health!). Taking the preconception time period to focus on eating a clean, whole-food, plant-based diet can help improve egg health. Our favorite general fertility diet comes from a Harvard Medical School research study, but many diagnoses related to infertility, such as endometriosis or PCOS, call for some specialized nutrition.

Overall, the basics of a healthy fertility diet include:

  • Low amounts of saturated fat: Choose plant based fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and healthy fats like those found in salmon and other fish.
  • Local, grass fed, organic meats whenever possible
  • Fresh fruits and veggies: We suggest eating foods from every color of the rainbow and making sure at least half of your plate is filled with veggies as an easy way to maximize your fruit and vegetable intake
  • Vegetable protein sources: Try to replace one serving of meat per day with a vegetarian protein source like beans or tofu.
  • Lots of fresh water: Try to avoid water bottled in plastic and stick to filtered when possible.
  • Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and pasta, etc instead of simple, white carbs,
  • Iron rich plants: spinach, pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, and beets.
  • Full fat dairy instead of low fat varieties.
  • Minimal (or no) sugar intake: be sure to watch added sugars and high fructose corn syrup as they can hide in many unsuspecting foods as well as sugary drinks and desserts.

For women who have endometriosis, we recommend following an anti-inflammatory diet. For those with PCOS, a low-glycemic index diet is best.

Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise improves the oxygenation of blood and increased blood flow throughout the body. It is also a great stress reliever and helps maintain a healthy BMI, which is associated with higher pregnancy rates. Yoga is also a great way to strengthen your core and help reduce stress.

The preconception time is perfect for implementing a consistent exercise routine as exercise is commonly limited by your doctor during a fertility treatment cycle.

Lifestyle: There are many lifestyle habits that can have an effect on egg health. Our top suggestions are the following:

  • Stop smoking
  • Allow personal ‘down-time’ to meditate, read, or just relax.
  • Listen to fertility meditations via Circle Bloom to help de-stress and foster a healthy body/mind connection
  • Work to reduce stress and overwork as much as possible
  • Seek counseling or a support group if you feel it is necessary.

3. Supplements and herbs: In addition to a good quality prenatal vitamin, there are some supplements that you can take that will help support egg quality and overall fertility. One supplement that has some evidence showing it’s efficacy is CoQ-10.

CoQ-10 is a vitamin-like substance (meaning our bodies can make some on their own) that functions within the energy production centers, called mitochondria, present in each cell. As we age, the efficiency of the mitochondria declines. The idea is that by supplementing CoQ-10, we can help support this energy production, which is especially needed for high-energy processes like the cellular division involved in egg production and embryo development. There is some preliminary research showing an egg-health benefit in mice and we await further research. CoQ-10 is generally regarded as very safe to take while trying to conceive and most experience no side effects. It also shows some promise in helping support male fertility as well.

Other supplements that we typically recommend are:

  • Fish Oil: high in omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation in the body
  • Probiotics: to support good digestion and absorption of nutrients.

There are also specific supplements and herbs available for other fertility related conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, luteal phase defect, male factor infertility, etc and will be recommended as needed.

Please call 865-315-3845 or contact us, we are more than happy to answer your questions or set you up for preconception acupuncture! Good luck with your cycle!

The One Year Anniversary of The Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture: Wisdom Teeth and Gratitude

Thank you, Knoxville, for a successful first year!

On March 1, 2016 the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture finally opened it’s doors to Knoxville and the surrounding areas. We are Knoxville’s first and only acupuncture practice specializing in fertility and prenatal wellness. It was my goal to provide East Tennessee with an integrative option for the treatment of infertility and help each of our patients navigate this complex journey. We have officially been open for our patients for one year (and counting) and I wanted to touch on my thoughts for this first year in practice here. 

It was my intention to post this retrospective on the 1 year anniversary of my practice, but I spent the morning driving my husband to and from his wisdom teeth removal appointment. Luckily, all went well, and I was able to fill my afternoon seeing the patents that are truly the heart and soul of TNCRA. Minus the wisdom teeth extraction (who wants to do that!?), I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the one year anniversary of my practice in any other way.

When I think back over the past year, I am completely overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. I have been humbled by the reception that Knoxville has given to TNCRA. Over the past year I have met many families struggling with infertility and had a chance to help many of them achieve their dream of pregnancy. I have also met many expectant mothers and had the honor of working with them as they prepare to become mothers for the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth (and more) time. I have also met so many others whose passion for working with families during infertility and pregnancy just bleeds through their work: doctors, doulas, midwives, nurses, massage therapists, craniosacral therapists, nutritionists, chiropractors, photographers, lab technicians, yoga teachers, other acupuncturists, counselors, reproductive endocrinologists, ultrasound technicians, OB/GYN’s, and I’m sure there are few I am forgetting.

One thing I kept hearing in my first year of practice here is that it can be hard for people coming from outside of Tennessee to get a successful business going. I have found this completely and happily untrue. Knoxville has an incredibly welcoming atmosphere and a truly wonderful community to support families of all backgrounds on their journey from trying to conceive to becoming parents. I am honored to be a part of this community and look forward to many years of practice here.

So, thank you Knoxville for welcoming me with open arms. Thank you to the other practitioners who have taken time to learn about TNCRA and how we may be able to work together to help support our patients. But mostly, thank you to my patients. You have put your trust in my experience and training during the most sensitive of times and I am forever grateful to walk alongside you on this journey.

I am very excited for the years to come and hope to build upon the foundation that has been laid. I look forward to learning more each year and working with more families. Mostly, I look forward to pregnancy announcements, birth announcements, and holding space (or a hand) for those experiencing a loss or a failed cycle. These moments are truly what drives me to come to work each day. I love my job.

 

Case Study: IUI Success After 7 Years. Diagnosis: Endometriosis and Low Progesterone

IUI and acupuncture success after 7 years of infertility!
IUI and acupuncture success after 7 years of infertility!

A 33 year old woman came to our office after experiencing infertility for 7 years. She had a history of endometriosis and low progesterone. Her husband had a history of low motility. She had never been pregnant and was feeling very frustrated.

Her previous fertility treatment included multiple medicated cycles using both clomid and letrozole and two previous IUI cycles. She had undergone two laparoscopies to treat endometriosis. She began fertility treatment in another state before moving to Tennessee, where she began seeing Dr. Doody in Knoxville.

She came to the Tennessee Center for Reproductive Acupuncture for her third IUI cycle. She took 150mg of clomid to stimulate follicle development in preparation for the IUI. You can read more about our general treatment recommendations here.

We saw her a total of three times during her IUI cycle.

The first treatment was done on cycle day 6 to support follicle growth and reduce the side effects from the clomid. Supporting the first phase of the cycle and making it as healthy as possible sets up the rest of the cycle for optimal fertility and can help treat luteal phase defect.

The second treatment of the cycle was done the morning of the IUI itself. This treatment helped to facilitate ovulation. Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective means of ovulation induction and we like to use it along with the trigger shot.

The points used for the first and second treatments followed a modified Stener-Victorin protocol. This protocol has been specifically shown to increase blood flow to the uterus and is used successfully to improve IVF cycle success and regulate hormones.

The third treatment of the cycle was done 6 days following the IUI to support implantation, reduce uterine contractions, ease stress and support healthy progesterone levels. The points used for this treatment followed a modified Paulus protocol. The Paulus protocol is commonly used before and after embryo transfer during an IVF cycle and has been shown to improve pregnancy rates.

She received a positive pregnancy test about a week later. Her HCG levels rose an appropriate amount between her tests. The pregnancy was confirmed by ultrasound, and has been going well for mom and baby.

We are very excited for her success and hope the rest of her pregnancy goes well!

If you’d like to add acupuncture to your upcoming IUI cycle, call or contact us and we will find a protocol that is best for your cycle! 865-315-3845

Treating PCOS with Acupuncture, Inositol, and Diet

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common diagnosis that affects approximately 7 million women, although it is thought that less than half of all cases are properly diagnosed. Many women with PCOS will experience some degree of difficulty in getting pregnant and many will use fertility treatments to conceive.

Symptoms associated with PCOS are:

  • Irregular periods or having very long cycles
  • Weight gain (or having a hard time losing weight)
  • Unusual hair loss
  • Hair growth on face or body (hirsutism)
  • Acne
  • Dark Patches of Skin
  • Anovulation (not ovulating)

PCOS is a complex diagnosis and women will not necessarily have all of the above symptoms. Insulin resistance is a common factor in the disease and can lead to the development of type-2 diabetes. Other factors include the presence of multiple ovarian cysts, high testosterone levels, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides. A combination of these factors leads to reduced egg quality, irregular cycles, and infertility.

As you can see, the early detection and treatment of PCOS is extremely important! Luckily, PCOS is generally a treatable condition and responds well to many different types of treatment including fertility treatments. Many, many women with PCOS will go on to have healthy babies.

TREATING PCOS:

ACUPUNCTURE: Treatment with acupuncture has been shown to promote ovulation and, over time, regulate FSH/LH levels back to normal. In one study, a single acupuncture treatment was shown to work as well as an injection of HCG in inducing ovulation. Studies on longer courses of acupuncture treatment have shown a normalization of hormone levels, cycle length, and ovulation. These results could still be seen 3 months after finishing acupuncture treatment. In our clinic, we have seen great results in treating PCOS both for women trying naturally or using some form of fertility treatment.

SUPPLEMENTS: Supplementation with inositol has been shown to promote menstrual regularity and normal ovarian function in women. Additionally, it will reduce insulin resistance, and improve hormone levels. Inositol is a nutrient found in fruits, beans, grains, and nuts. It is also produced by the body. There are a couple of different types of inositol commonly available: D-chiro inositol and myo-inositol. Recent research has shown the greatest benefit from supplements containing a 40:1 of myo to D-chiro inositol. We recommend a supplement with this ratio called Ovasitol by Theralogix for our PCOS patients. It is recommended to take this for at least three consecutive months to see an improvement in hormone levels and menstrual cycles. And continued use will ensure these results continue.

Ovasitol can help improve fertility in women with PCOS.
Ovasitol can help improve fertility in women with PCOS.

LIFESTYLE/DIET: For many women, diet and lifestyle changes are enough to promote regular cycles. Regular exercise combined with a low-glycemic index diet can help to reduce insulin resistance and regulate the menstrual cycle. Working to maintain a healthy BMI is also helpful with studies showing an improvement of insulin and testosterone levels with just a 5% reduction in body weight. Some women can eliminate any signs of PCOS by working to improve their diet and lifestyle.

A quick guide to low glycemic index diets
A quick guide to low glycemic index diets

So, as you can see, PCOS, while a very frustrating diagnosis, is usually very treatable with very good outcomes using integrative care. Most of our PCOS patients go on to have healthy, pregnancies and healthy babies.

Please call us with any questions. We are very happy to help!

Sources:

http://www.acam.org/blogpost/1092863/185770/Acupuncture-for-Ovulation-Disorders-and-PCOS

http://www.advancedfertility.com/pcos.htm

http://www.theralogix.com/sp/theralogix-ovasitol/

Pineapple and Implantation: Does it really work?

Can eating pineapple really help you get pregnant?
Can eating pineapple really help you get pregnant?

If you’ve been consulting with Dr. Google, reading fertility blogs, or participating in message boards you’ve undoubtedly heard of using pineapple to support embryo implantation. Maybe you’ve even tried it, after all, what could it hurt and pineapple is delicious!

 

While the research supporting pineapple’s use as an implantation aid is still out, there are a few possible mechanisms by which it might be helpful. It all starts with bromelain. Bromelain is the enzyme in pineapple that is thought to give pineapple its therapeutic effects. Specifically, bromelin:

 

Is an anti-inflammatory agent: Research suggests that bromelain encourages the immune system to move away from an inflammatory state. This could possibly help women with implantation issues caused by inflammation.

 

Acts as a blood-thinner and anti-coagulant: Blood thinners, like aspirin, are commonly recommended to women trying to conceive by their doctors to support blood flow to the uterus. The bromelain in pineapple can have a similar effect. The healthier the blood flow is to the uterus, the higher the chances of conception. Acupuncture treatment also improves blood flow to the uterus.

 

So, if you’d like to try using pineapple to support implantation there are a few guidelines:

  1. Don’t use canned pineapple: the canning process can destroy bromelain
  2. Make sure to eat the core: this is where the highest concentration of bromelain is located.
  3. Use only after ovulation! See guidelines for use below. Eating too much pineapple before ovulating might increase the acidity of your cervical mucus, making it inhospitable for sperm.
  4. Is is not recommended to use pineapple (with core) as a fertility aid while taking any other type of blood thinner (aspirin, lovenox, etc) without discussing with your doctor.
  5. Choose an organic pineapple whenever possible.
  6. Stop eating pineapple (with core) if you find out you are pregnant. Pineapple (without core) as a snack is ok.

 


Using Pineapple to Support Implantation:

First, cut the green top off and remove the outer peel of the pineapple with a knife. Then slice into 6-8 equal wedges (remember to not remove the core!). Eat 1 slice per day for 6-8 days.

 

  • Trying Naturally: Begin eating your wedges the day after ovulation.
  • IUI: Begin eating wedges the day after the IUI procedure.
  • IVF: Begin eating wedges the day of your embryo transfer

 

Hopefully you will soon be one of the many women who swears by the “pineapple trick.” Good luck!

 

 

 

References:

http://www.blossomclinic.net/2013/05/30/pineapple-and-ivf-embryo-implantation-ivf-success/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12107749?dopt=Abstract

http://natural-fertility-info.com/bromelain-pineapple-for-implantation.html