Taking Charge of Your Fertility
This week is Infertility Awareness Week, so I thought it would be a good time to write a little bit about some guidelines that I tell my patients who are hoping to conceive, aside from just taking a pre-natal vitamin. I know that at times, couples can feel hopeless and powerless when they are having trouble conceiving, but there are things that can be done to increase ones chances.
For most of my fertility patients, it is quite a stressful and emotional time, so managing stress is a key component. Acupuncture can do wonders during this process for calming the sympathetic nervous system and lowering cortisol levels in the body. Acupuncture can also help to balance hormones, especially while undergoing fertility treatments, which can help with mood swings and other uncomfortable side-effect like bloating or hot flashes. Other helpful things include yoga, massage, tai chi, and even just sitting quietly and listening to some music. I often encourage my patients to begin a meditation routine, even if it is only a few minutes a day. Also keep in mind that if you are undergoing treatments such as IVF, it may not be the best time to change a job or buy a new house (or both!). Don't add more to your plate than is necessary.
This is also a great time to pay attention to the diet... the key here is using fresh, good quality ingredients free of chemicals and hormones. Yes, this means organic, so go organic as often as possible, especially with meats, dairy, eggs, and thin-skinned fruits and vegetables like grapes or cucumbers. Leafy green vegetables, beets, brussels sprouts, and broccoli can help cleanse the body of toxins and help balance hormones as well. Essential fatty acids (EFA's) are, well, *essential*... good sources are fish, fish oil, flaxseed oil, raw nuts and seeds, and those leafy greens. EFA's are important for ovulation, so I encourage my patients to take a fish oil supplement daily.
A couple things to stay away from: melatonin and triclosan. Many people take melatonin as a supplement to help with poor sleep, and of course, a lot of women trying to conceive are stressed out and can't sleep. However, there is some evidence that melatonin supplements (a natural hormone), can have a negative effect on fertility. The jury is still out on this one, but I tell women to stay on the safe side and try other supplements such as valerian root or kava-kava to help with sleep (and acupuncture!).
Triclosan is a chemical commonly added to soaps to make them "anti-bacterial." However, all that triclosan does is interfere with your fertility, when regular soap and water is enough to kill germs adequately. The FDA is still trying to determine if it is safe or not, but again, I encourage my patients to err on the side of caution here and avoid it whenever possible. Check the labels. Lastly, I think one of the most important things one can have when struggling with infertility, is having a good support system. It can be quite a strain on relationships, so having someone aside from your significant other that you can talk to about frustrations or concerns is important. Friends and family can be well-meaning and helpful, but might not always understanding of what you are going through. A support group, either online or in person, can help women to realize that they are not alone in their struggle. One great resource can be found at the RESOLVE website here: http://www.resolve.org/support-and-services/
If you or someone you know is having difficulty getting pregnant, I am always willing to give a free consultation to discuss the options available before trying fertility treatments such as IUI's and IVF. Or, if you're in the process of treatments, I can let you know how Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can help. I can be reached at email@example.com.