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Period Pain: My Story

For those of you struggling with painful periods or other uncomfortable menstrual symptoms, have you ever imagined the possibility of a smooth and easy menstrual cycle – a regular cycle with no pain, no bloating and no premenstrual symptoms? 

One of my mentors used to say:

“A period should be polite, it should come and go with ease and cause no trouble.”

Some of you might find this concept incredulous, and you are not alone. 

I remember back when I first transformed into a woman at the age of fourteen.  I remember when my first periods were arriving, having to leave work because the cramps were so severe that my face was grey. I was unable to stand upright and I was nauseous. 

Thus began many years of missing school and work, waking up in the middle of the night dreaming that a shark was eating my uterus. All of this was accompanied by copious amounts of painkillers. 

Throughout my teens, I visited many doctors and gynaecologists who told me that this immense pain was perfectly normal and that birth control was my best option to control the pain. This was difficult for me, especially since I hadn’t even had an ultrasound or any diagnostic testing.

A study from 2012 reports a staggering prevalence of menstrual pain among young women.  Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) is reported by 84% of women, with 43% reporting that the pain is occurring every period.  55% of women need medication to control the pain, 32% of women experience the inability to function normally, and 25% of women need medication as well as absenteeism from daily activities such as work. (1)

It is no wonder, when faced with numbers such as 1 in 4 requiring both medication and absenteeism due to menstrual pain, that it is considered to be a ‘normal’ condition by our medical community. 

Fast forward through many years of awkward and uncomfortable symptoms from the birth control pill, to when I finally discontinued it in my later 20s.  The dysmenorrhea came back with a vengeance and continued to disrupt my life.

Again, this was something that I accepted as normal. Throughout all of my years with this traumatizing monthly condition, I never found anything that could alleviate my pain and was conditioned by society to accept this pain as ‘part of being a woman’.

Finally, I had the blessing to begin my studies at a Traditional Chinese Medicine school nestled in the heart of the Kootenays.  When we first started our gynaecology class, our instructor told us that a woman’s period should be painless. I literally had to excuse myself from the room because the incredulous laughter that was rolling out of my being was a disturbance to the rest of my classmates.  It took me a long time to believe that what has been passed off as ‘normal’ my entire life was unnecessary and indeed even treatable. 

The astonishing knowledge that there is a natural and effective treatment option for dysmenorrhea has the potential to improve many women’s lives.  Not only does Traditional Chinese Medicine have the potential to reduce the intensity and duration of menstrual cramps, but it also can help to regulate irregular cycles, heavy or scanty menstruation, absence of menstruation and any premenstrual symptoms.  

A meta analysis conducted in 2018 included randomized controlled trials comparing acupuncture to no treatment, placebo or medications while measuring menstrual pain intensity and associated symptoms in women with primary dysmenorrhea.  This review suggests that acupuncture has beneficial effects for significant improvement of dysmenorrhea and remains efficacious after a short term follow-up (2). Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine regulate the hormones, decrease stress, increase blood circulation, regulate the menstrual cycle, reduce pain and regulate inflammation. 

During an intake with a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, many questions will be asked, and every detail of your health will be taken into consideration.  An individualized treatment plan will be prescribed for you, usually including an acupuncture and herbal medicine protocol. Other lifestyle advice such as diet, exercise and mindfulness might also be incorporated.  Generally speaking, it takes about three months of treatment to affect the cycle of hormones in a lasting way. So while it takes some level of commitment to go through this process, it is well worth the dedication, especially as you watch all of the uncomfortable menstrual issues that you have been told your whole life are normal -resolve. 

Do you have menstrual pain? Join us for our Free Community Clinic Day to ‘Stop Period Poverty and Period Pain’. Receive free lifestyle tips on how to prevent dysmenorrhea and a free community acupuncture and massage treatment in exchange for a menstrual product donation for No Woman Without.

Contact us to register. Space is limited!

References:

  1. Grandi, G., Ferrari, S., Xholli, A., Cannoletta, M., Palma, F., Romani, C., … Cagnacci, A. (2012). Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea?. Journal of pain research, 5, 169–174. doi:10.2147/JPR.S30602
  2. Woo, H. L., Ji, H. R., Pak, Y. K., Lee, H., Heo, S. J., Lee, J. M., & Park, K. S. (2018). The efficacy and safety of acupuncture in women with primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 97(23), e11007. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000011007

I am 1 in 4

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

1 in 4 experience pregnancy loss. Thousands of empty-armed parents grieve the loss of their child in pregnancy, at birth or in infancy per year in Canada.

They often grieve on their own, isolated in silence. Because the cultural & social infrastructure to support them is lost in the stigma of the death of their children. The stigma is rooted in our silence.

It wasn’t until I miscarried … twice … each time after trying to conceive for at least a few years.. words can’t describe the happiness & hope I felt with those + pregnancy tests! My love for baby grew each day & week & month along with my breasts, nausea & fatigue. It wasn’t until I lost both pregnancies in a row, that I learned that everyone I knew had either had a miscarriage or was close to someone who had had a miscarriage.

It wasn’t until I helped my dear friend birth her daughter still, and saw her daughter’s lovingly bathed and dressed still little body.. only for my friend to return home to an empty nursery with empty aching arms but heart full of love and nowhere physical to pour it into. Breasts full of milk & no body to nourish…

It wasn’t until I met my other dear friend on one of her first outings, months after she still-birthed her full term son. We went to her local coffee shop, only to be greeted by the young teenaged barista who had watched her belly grow to term, excitedly asking my friend where her baby was…

It wasn’t until these moments that I touched the immeasurability of this kind of grief. And my heart grows with understanding and love for all who ride these waves of grief & sadness & anger & love.. & more..

Is there a particular moment you remember that could help others to understand the depth of your experience? Maybe if we all feel it together – at least for a moment – we can help you to bear the weight of your heart’s sadness… so you don’t have to carry it all by yourself…

Please contact us if you or someone you know needs support with moving through the loss of still birth, infant loss, recurrent pregnancy loss or infertility.

5 Ways to Manage PCOS Naturally

WHAT IS PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS ) affects 1 in 10 people. It is a common endocrine disorder and one of the leading causes of infertility. It can present with a broad spectrum of possible symptoms, so the medical community formed a panel to come to a consensus.

According to this Rotterdam panel, a PCOS diagnosis is confirmed with the presentation of a minimum of 2 out of the 3 following criteria:

  • Ovulatory dysfunction (which can present as irregular cycles or no cycles at all)

  • Enlarged ovaries with at least 12 follicles each
  • Elevated androgens in your blood-work (which can manifest as excess hair growth on the chin and/or chest as well as acne)


Luckily, PCOS is treatable!

HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO MANAGE PCOS NATURALLY:

1.            DIET:

Insulin resistance, sugar metabolism and weight gain are commonly present with PCOS. A study shows that even 8 weeks of low-starch and low-dairy diet results in weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity and reduced testosterone in people with PCOS.

The following dietary principals help to stabilize blood sugar and decrease inflammation:

– Stick to a carbohydrate – restricted, low- glycemic index foods diet

– Eat regular protein-dense snacks

– Eat plenty of colourful veggies and dark leafy greens

– Combine your fruit with other foods, and avoid eating tropical fruits. Go for berries instead (they have a lower glycemic index)

– Avoid trans-fats and incorporate more healthy fats, like long chain Omega-3 fatty acids found in high quality fish oils or use coconut oil, avocado oil, or extra virgin olive oil

– eliminate inflammatory foods like sugar, dairy, wheat and flour products, processed/ pre-packaged foods and artificial sweeteners from your diet

2.            EXERCISE:

A study shows that structured exercise with three 30-minute stationary bike sessions per week regulates menstruation and improves insulin sensitivity, fertility and androgen levels in people with PCOS.  It has also been shown that exercise improves micro vascular function (blood flow) in the uterus, which is a known cause of implantation failure in those with PCOS.

High intensity interval training has also been shown to improve insulin resistance in women with PCOS, even in the absence of weight loss.

Weight gain is often a presentation of PCOS, but there’s no pressure to become a lean machine to reverse the condition. Even a 5-10% weight loss restores ovulation.

3.            REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS

Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most common industrial endocrine disruptors found in common household products. It is a significant endocrine disruptor in PCOS and has been found in higher levels in people with PCOS.

BPA can be found in high levels in people with and without PCOS. However, in people with PCOS, BPA causes testosterone levels to increase unlike in those without the condition. The higher the levels of BPA in the blood, the higher the levels of testosterone there is too.

BPA can be found in:
Industrial packaging
Food cans
Plastic bottles
Plastic water pipes
Thermal paper (receipts)
Cosmetics
Healthcare equipment
Children’s toys and clothing

Try to avoid using the following:
Canned food, unless the label says that it’s BPA-free
Plastic, use glass or stainless steel containers instead
Receipts

4.            MINDFULNESS MEDITATION:

People with PCOS have a higher risk of anxiety and depression. This is related to the stressful symptoms of PCOS, associated inflammation in the body and hormone imbalance.

Research shows that a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program significantly reduces stress, depressive and anxiety symptoms, as well as salivary cortisol concentrations while increasing Life Satisfaction and Quality of Life scores in women with PCOS.

5.            ACUPUNCTURE

Acupuncture increases blood flow, regulates inflammation, balances hormones and decreases stress. One study shows that both acupuncture and exercise reduce high levels of testosterone and lead to more regular menstruation in PCOS patients.

Do you or someone you know need help with PCOS? Contact us for a free 15-minute Q & A to find out more about our PCOS Treatment Plan.


Read Kay’s Pregnancy Success story in the face of PCOS.

Exercise Guidelines For Pregnancy

By: Paige Wyatt

Living a health lifestyle has never been more important than while you’re pregnant. Not only are you now responsible for your overall health and well being, but also that of your unborn baby. What we eat, how much we sleep, how much water we drink, our mental and emotional stress, as well as how much we exercise need to be taken into consideration for a healthy pregnancy.

The new 2019 Canadian Guidelines for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy has shed a new light on recommendations for prenatal physical activity. Not only can we help to reduce complications during pregnancy but it can also optimize health and wellbeing for both mother and child.

Previous concerns over fetal health during pregnancy have long been a deterrent for prenatal physical activity. The thought of exerting ourselves and potentially increasing our chances of miscarriage, stunting gestational growth, inducing preterm labour, and harming the fetus has caused a lot of expecting mothers to reduce and stop their exercise program. Less than 15% of women are engaging in the recommended prenatal exercise.

But, here’s the truth; these concerns have never been proven by research. Instead we’ve seen a rise in pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension and large for date babies, which may be the cause of rising maternal obesity.
Physical activity is now being looked at as a preventative and therapeutic measure to reduce pregnancy complications.

WHAT DO THEY RECOMMEND?

• All women without contraindications should be physically active throughout pregnancy
• 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week
• Physical activity should be accumulated over a minimum of 3 days per week
• Aerobic and resistance training achieved greater benefits
• Pelvic floor muscle training (eg. Kegels) may be performed on a daily basis to prevent urinary incontinence
• Exercises should be modified to reduce supine position

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Women who exercise during pregnancy have a reduced chance of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, cesarean delivery and operative vaginal delivery. Exercising while pregnant can also help reduce post partum recovery time, decrease depression and stress levels, as well as overall weight gain.

IS EXERCISE FOR EVERYONE?

No. These guidelines are intended for women who do not have any pregnancy complications. Although exercise exhibits many health benefits there are certain conditions that are considered absolute contraindications. EVERYONE should be thoroughly evaluated by their OBGYN before beginning an exercise program to ensure there are no medical conditions.
Absolute contraindications are as follows:
• Ruptured membranes, premature labour
• Unexplained persistent vaginal bleeding
• Placenta previa after 28 weeks gestation
• Preeclampsia
• Incompetent cervix
• Intrauterine growth restriction
• High-order multiple pregnancy (eg., triplets)
• Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, or uncontrolled thyroid disease
• Other serious cardiovascular, respiratory or systemic disorder

HOW TO START BEING PHYSICALLY ACTIVE DURING PREGNANCY?

According to the new guidelines there is never a better time to start exercising than the PRESENT. Even if you have never exercised before it is recommended to start. If you’ve never exercised, starting gradually and slowly increasing your intensity and frequency is recommended.
Although the more activity you do, the greater the benefit, even small amounts of physical activity have been proven to be beneficial. Exercise can be for everybody! Take a prenatal yoga class, go for a brisk walk, go for a swim, take an aerobics class or get your sweat on by stationary cycling.
Keep in mind that there may be periods of fatigue and discomfort as your body changes throughout pregnancy, and certain activities may need to be modified as pregnancy progresses. Remember, IT’S OKAY TO REST!

THINGS TO CONSIDER

  1. 1. Take it easy! A good indication that you are not overdoing your workouts is by using the “Talk Test.” If you are able to carry on a conversation while exercising it is likely that you are not overexerting yourself.
  2. 2. Always make sure you maintain adequate hydration- drink water before, during and after exercise.
  3. 3. Avoid physical activity in excessive heat and humidity (eg. hot yoga). A thermo-neutral environment is recommended.
  4. 4. Avoid activities that involve a risk of falling, or physical contact that may induce risk of fetal injury (eg. horse back riding, non-stationary cycling, extreme hiking)
  5. 5. No scuba diving.
  6. 6. No high altitudes.
  7. 7. Seek obstetric advice if considering exercising above the recommended guidelines.
  8. 8. Listen to your body and if you experience any symptoms while exercising such as persistent shortness of breath, severe chest pain, regular and painful uterine contractions, vaginal bleeding, persistent loss of fluid from the vagina, persistent dizziness, and faintness that does not resolve with rest STOP physical activity and consult a health care provider.

In summary the new 2019 Canadian Guidelines for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy has recommended moderate-intensity exercise during pregnancy to help reduce pregnancy complications and optimize health for both mother and baby.

https://els-jbs-prod-cdn.literatumonline.com/pb/assets/raw/Health%20Advance/journals/jogc/JOGC908_LR-1539864964137.pdf

https://sogc.org/news-items/index.html?id=229

https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Physical-Activity-and-Exercise-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period

My Favorite Resource For Pregnant Mothers To Be

By Christina Pistotnik

The time between that positive pregnancy test and holding your newborn in your hands can be filled with a mixture of emotions. On one hand you are so excited that you are going to be a mother but on the other hand you can’t help but feel anxious because it is hard to know what you can and cannot do. Some of you invested time, energy, and financial contributions in order to get to this place, and of course you want to do everything you can to safely maintain this pregnancy.

One of my favorite resources that I refer to and suggest to newly expectant mothers is called Motherisk. It is a Canadian site and program facilitated by the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children and they provide evidence-based information about what is and is not safe during pregnancy. I really enjoy it because it is easy to use and contains a vast array of information all on one site. Plus they have a toll free number (1-877-439-2744 ) that you can call and speak directly to a nurse that will help you out with any concerns you may have.

Having reliable resources and specialists to support you during pregnancy is important because it can help ease uncertainty surrounding an important time in your life.

What about acupuncture, is it safe during pregnancy?

Since the majority of my patients start seeing me while in the process of trying to conceive, I get this question quite a lot in my practice and the answer is; Yes, acupuncture is a safe and effective form of treatment in pregnancy. This is because it utilizes the body’s own healing process to help maintain pregnancy by keeping the uterus calm and stabilizing progesterone which keeps the lining secure until the placenta takes over. Plus it helps to minimize uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms which include; nausea and vomiting, aches/ pains, insomnia, and energy issues.
Plus, an added bonus when receiving acupuncture treatments is that it has a very calming affect on the body. Therefor, it can help with stress and anxiety that you may be experiencing during this time.

As an acupuncturist specializing in fertility and pregnancy, I am happy to safely treat you for any of your pregnancy concerns. Call Whole Family Health to book your appointment or learn more about our Fertility Services today!

Moving Forward From Pregnancy Loss: 4 Things That Help

October is Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Awareness Month, and in honor of heartbroken parents, blessed little lost ones, and all dear folk touched by this grief, we recognize this all too commonly shared experience.

We all process this kind of loss in our own way, and in our own time. One of life’s humbling mysteries – sometimes there is an explanation, and other times there is not. Either way, we are left to grapple with that which we don’t have control over, and to practice with somehow making peace with it, while sorting out how to move forward.

Often losses can be isolating, held close and private, locked in the silent hope of the first trimester. Hopefully to be spoken of later, perhaps when a little less emotionally raw.

While later term losses or stillbirths may be collectively grieved; empty-armed parents, navigating how to move forward at the mercy of often unpredictable waves of emotion. Moving through a life unchanged and yet forever changed – buoyed or sunken by the community’s varying depth of understanding and expectation.

It is said that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage by age 35, and once we start talking about it, we realize that everyone knows at least one person who has suffered a loss- if they haven’t experienced one themselves.

What does life after loss look like? There is no right or wrong way to grieve, we all do it in our own way and in our own time. Some of us are de-railed for a short time, and others of us never quite ‘get over it.’ Some of us need potato chips, while some of us need long walks, or both. Whatever it may be, allow the time and space to be with it in whatever way works best.

Here are some things that will help in the wake of pregnancy loss:

1. Breathe. Studies show that Mindful breathing exercises shift us out of fight or flight and activate our pre-frontal cortex- which is responsible for higher executive functioning. This supports our recovery from traumatic events and helps us to be present with and to integrate these experiences in a healthy way.

Mindfulness allows us to have the perspective we need to see our way through difficult times, without avoiding or being completely high-jacked by the negative impacts of the associated stress. Accessing resources like a Mindfulness class or a Mindfulness App like Headspace have far-reaching benefits.

2. Nourish and renew. Pregnancy loss and stillbirth can be draining both physically and emotionally. Eat replenishing foods, that are nutrient-rich and tonifying. Try to stay away from refined and processed foods, while gravitating toward a whole foods diet.

Stick to warm and cooked meals, especially in the colder seasons. These are more easily digested, and your body doesn’t have to work as hard to metabolize them. Bone broths, which are rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals are easily absorbed, rehydrating, and fortifying.

3. Follow up. Follow up with your doctor. Especially if bleeding or pain persists or if your energy levels are slow to recover. Your doctor can run standard blood-work to check on hormone and iron levels after a loss. He or she can also determine if there is any indication for ultrasound imaging to ensure that no pregnancy products remain and/or that healing from any procedure is going smoothly.

If you have had more than one loss, your doctor will likely want to run a Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Panel, to rule out any potential contributing physiological factors.

4. Acupuncture. Acupuncture promotes blood flow, regulates inflammation, supports hormone balance, and decreases stress. It helps with recovery from both spontaneous miscarriage, procedures and stillbirths, as well as supports regulation of your cycle after loss.

Treatment plans are individualized, based on factors relevant to your particular case, and can include regular acupuncture, customized Chinese herbs, and a review of recommended supplements, diet and exercise.

If a Western diagnosis has been identified, and/or Western Medical treatment is necessary, we make modifications to support this process. The primary aim is to help your body re-set. Should you plan to create and carry another healthy pregnancy, then we also help to prepare for this, while supporting the mental-emotional process and doing what we can to prevent another loss.

Pregnancy and infancy loss is not uncommon, and the more we speak to it, the better
we are able to understand and support one another. Bless the hearts of those who know
this kind of loss first-hand and bless the hearts of those who love and support them.

 

Dr. Alda Ngo

For more information on how we can support recovery and prevention of pregnancy
loss, please feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Morning Sickness and Acupuncture

Morning sickness is one of the hallmark signs of pregnancy but for some women, it can be extremely debilitating.  (more…)

Mitigating the Harmful Effects of Stress

There are times when stress is completely unavoidable, such as a high demanding job, training for a competitive sport event, dispute with your partner or friends, or caring for a sick parent, etc. (more…)

4 Board Certified Fellows of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine at Whole Family Health

Congratulations to Christina Pistotnik RAc, DAc, HHP, FABORM and Monica Patt RAc, HHP, FABORM on your recent certification with ABORM! (more…)

Integrative Fertility Symposium 2016 Highlights

Our team just got home from the 2016 Integrative Fertility Symposium and wanted to share some highlights. (more…)

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