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Infertility Holiday Stress Clinic

Is your fertility stress worse over the holiday season? Do holiday family gatherings, kid-centric activities and increased financial burden amplify the difficult emotions and loss that you are feeling?

Studies show that the stress associated with infertility is significant – comparable to the stress associated with illnesses like cancer and HIV.

We know the sting of having to deal with infertility is increased over the holiday season.

Join us for our special holiday event to help support you with your infertility holiday stress.

We are partnering with Edmonton’s newest IVF clinic, that is set to open its doors in the new year!

Register Here by email

Infertility Holiday Stress Clinic

We are teaming up with the following fertility specialists to offer you this event as part of our December Charitable Menstrual Pad Drive:

  • What:
    1. Community acupuncture treatment to relieve stress
    2. Information and tools on how to deal with your infertility stress
    3. Submit questions for an anonymous patient-led Q&A with:
    • Dr. Ariana Daniels, Reproductive Endocrinologist
    • Caroline Andersen, Fertility Psychologist
    • WFH Fertility Acupuncturists
  • When:Sunday, December 11
    1 – 2:30pm
  • Where:
    Kingspointe Medical (Alberta Associates of Obstetrics & Gynecology)
    11230 110 St NW
    Edmonton, AB
  • Cost:
    By donation!

    Please bring an unused menstrual product donation.

    All donations will go to No Period Without, a non-profit organization that advocates to end period poverty in Edmonton.

    Since 2017, No Period Without has provided over 40,000 menstrual hygiene products to those in need.
  • Registration:
    Contact us to register.
    Space is limited!

    *Please note that masks will be required.
    (Masks will be provided for participants, if they require one.)

Register Here by email

Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity

What is Neuroplasticity

90% of the Brain’s activity occurs beneath conscious awareness. Even though it may seem that we have control over how we think, feel & behave, we often get swept away by strong emotion & react in ways that automatically occur out of unconscious habit. 

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change & grow. The brain is continually reshaped by our life experiences & our thoughts. How we focus our awareness determines which networks in the brain become strong & which ones become weak & lost.

Mindfulness & Neuroplasticity

So the more we worry, the better we become at worrying. But if we practice being calm, clear & focused, then we increase our capacity to settle our mind & nervous system. This allows us to take information in with more clarity, accuracy & objectivity, enabling us to manage challenging situations more skilfully.

When we cultivate our mindfulness skills, we still experience negative feelings, but mindfulness actually rewires the brain and strengthens the neural pathways for resilience. It helps us to be less reactive to stressors, to manage and recover more quickly from stress, and to decrease the negative impacts of chronic stress on our bodies. 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

MBSR is an intensive 8-week, once weekly, group program developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and associates at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. It is now an internationally acclaimed program with a growing body of research supporting its psycho-physiological benefits. 

It is also used as a standard in studies researching the benefits of Mindfulness, including (but not limited to) reduction of inflammation and stress, and increase in immunity. 

Through practical training in mindfulness, cognitive behavioural and self-regulation skills, participants learn to cultivate a different relationship with stress and to develop skillful and healthy strategies in response to challenging situations. 

Upcoming Program

Monday evenings
Sep 12 – Nov 14

Join us for this fall’s 9-week program with Hannah Marsh and Dr. Alda Ngo, who are both Certified MBSR Facilitators with the Centre for Mindfulness Studies.

This will be a highly interactive web-based program using Zoom.

REGISTER HERE

WHEN

Mandatory Orientation:
Monday, September 12th
5:45 – 8:30pm PT | 6:45 – 9:30pm MT

8 weekly classes:
Mondays, Sep 19 – Nov 14 (No class October 31)
5:45 – 8:15pm PT | 6:45 – 9:15pm MT

Day of Mindfulness Retreat:
Sunday, Oct 30
8:30am – 1:30pm PT | 9:30am-2:30pm MT

WHO

This psycho-educational program is suitable for anyone looking for practical tools to deal with chronic stress and its negative impacts on the body as well as to improve their overall health and well-being.

COST 

Sliding Scale* $325 – $400 – 475 + GST

*Please pay more, if you can, to help support those less able to pay.

Accessibility is important to us, scholarships are also available to those for whom cost is a barrier.
Please contact us for more information: hannah@beinghere.ca

Cancellation policy

Cancellations received prior to the first session (Sep 19th) will be refunded minus a $100 processing fee. No refunds will be issued after that date. 

We reserve the right to cancel this program due to unforeseen circumstances; if this should occur, registrants will be granted full refunds.

REGISTER HERE

Registration Deadline: Monday, September 5th

National Breastfeeding Week

In honour of National Breastfeeding Week, we want to acknowledge the immense journey of breast & chest feeding mamas and parents.

However you feed your baby is best, and for National Breastfeeding Week we see you and acknowledge what an important job it is.

The journey of breast/chest feeding can be fraught with difficulties, especially in the beginning. One of the most common sentiments of new parents is that they wish they would have known how challenging this part of parenting can be.

Keeping your brand new family member fed for 24 hours of the day is more than a full time job. I usually tell my patients that during this time, their only job is to keep baby nourished while everyone else nourishes them.

I recommend that my patients get supremely comfy, get a good series of books on a Kindle or Kobo (think easy to hold with one hand), very large water bottles full of water and electrolytes, tons of one handed, nutritious snacks, and to simply surrender to the special slowness of this stage of life.

Another thing that I recommend to all of my patients is that they have an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant on their team. I also urge my patients that if something is feeling wrong – such as pain or lack of milk supply – to not wait to give their lactation consultant a call. IBCLC’s are experts on all things breastfeeding and have the knowledge to make a major impact on a family’s nursing journey.

Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture and Moxibustion can also be very helpful in the early days for the following issues:

♡ clogged ducts

♡ mastitis

♡ low supply

♡ candida infections

♡ Raynaud’s of the nipples

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you with your journey, contact us for a free 15 minute consultation.

photo: @joinpartum @kashafierceeee

How To Ease Post-Weaning Depression

Catherine’s Story

After 2 full years of nursing my daughter, I finally felt ready to let go of this intimate stage of our relationship. We prepared her for months and used the book Booby Moon by Yvette Reid (highly recommended!)

When the moment was right, we let the milk magic fly back up to grandmother moon, so that other babies can have milk. It was a beautiful process.

And then, about 3 days after our last milk, I felt uncontrollably weepy. I was happy about the transition and excited to have my bodily autonomy back, but I just couldn’t stop crying.

Luckily, I was expecting this – when I researched what to expect with weaning, I found something surprising that I have never heard of- post weaning depression.

What is Post-Weaning Depression

During the nursing relationship with our children, our body is awash with oxytocin – the love hormone.

Not only do we lose a piece of our identity and a special phase with our child when we wean, but we also lose the plethora of feel good oxytocin that has been rushing through our systems.

Typically, post weaning depression doesn’t last long, but it is very helpful to be prepared.

How to Ease Post-Weaning Depression

To help ease through this transition, anything that boosts oxytocin will help. (‘feel good’ sensation in your body)

Also, any time there is a transition, it helps to incorporate some kind of ceremony to mark the rite of passage to help bring closure to the spiritual / emotional aspect of the change.

Here are some things that I did that helped to ease the sadness of weaning:

♡ tons of extra cuddles with my toddler

♡ extra cuddles with my husband and my cats

♡ I offered some of my milk back to the earth in thanks for this amazing resource

♡ I took my expired freezer stash and had a beautiful milk bath with flowers and candles and let myself experience the full range of emotions

♡ I didn’t suppress any of the emotions and instead allowed myself to experience them fully

♡ gave everyone in my life a heads up that I am experiencing depression

♡ acupuncture -helps boost oxytocin and helps to rebalance and bring a sense of calm

Did you experience post weaning depression? What helped you through it?

Contact us for more information on how we can support you on your wellness journey through fertility, parenthood and beyond.

image: @ashleyrandlephotography

Whole Family on CBC Radio

Listen to Whole Family Health’s Dr. Alda Ngo and Dr. Caitlin Dunne from PCRM speaking to Canadian Infertility Awareness Week 2022.

From CBC RadioActive: This Saturday, a virtual event is taking place to help those struggling to have children. Dr. Caitlin Dunne is a Reproductive Endocrinologist, and Co-Director of the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine, and Dr. Alda Ngo is a Doctor of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. They will be bringing their expertise on infertility to the discussion and join us to tee up the event.

For more information on how we can support you on your fertility journey, please contact us for a free 15-minute Q&A Consultation.

Devonee’s Story

In honour of Canadian Infertility Awareness Week 2022, Whole Family Health friend and client shares her fertility story – 5 years in to her fertility journey she is still navigating with grace.

Thank you so much to Devonee, our sweet, courageous and generous #1in6 friend, for sharing your fertility journey and heart in honour of #CIAW2022.

Thank you for giving voice to the experience of infertility to help de-stigmatize and normalize the conversation around infertility.

Follow Devonee on her Instagram @ivfgotyou 💚💚💚

For more information on how we can support you on your fertility journey, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute Q&A Consultation!

The Research On Acupuncture For IVF

Acupuncture has become a commonly sought out resource for people going through IVF fertility treatment.

When you see a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner for fertility support, they take more into account than just your reproductive organs. Your practitioner looks at your whole body and how the interconnected systems may be out of balance to support your entire body and self. Treatments are specific to each person’s needs.

Whole system Traditional Chinese Medicine (WS-TCM) can include acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary support, advice on supplementation with nutraceuticals, and lifestyle support. 

Whole System Chinese Medicine Acupuncture and IVF Research

In a 2015 retrospective cohort study published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 1231 IVF patient records were reviewed to assess the effects of adjuvant WS-TCM on IVF outcomes compared among three groups:

  1. people who had Whole Systems TCM treatment with IVF (WS-TCM group)
  2. people who had 1 acupuncture treatment on the day of embryo transfer with IVF (acu-group)
  3. people who had no additional treatment with IVF (usual care group)

Among 1069 non-donor cycles reviewed, the WS-TCM group was associated with greater odds of live birth (61.3%) compared with the acu-group (50.8%) and the usual care group (48.2%).

There was also a lower rate of spontaneous miscarriages in the WS-TCM group compared with the other 2 groups. However there was no significant difference between the three groups in terms of biochemical or ectopic pregnancies.

Among 162 donor cycles, WS-TCM was associated with increased live births at 85.7%, compared with 59% in the acu-group and 62.5% in the usual care group.

This study shows a correlation between an increased number of acupuncture treatments (11-12 treatments) and greater odds of live birth. This suggests that a combined approach of WS-TCM treatment before starting IVF with the two treatments on the day of embryo transfer acupuncture may be an optimal intervention to improve IVF birth outcomes in addition to stress reduction.

Increased Acupuncture Dose Improves Effectiveness

Other studies also suggest that an increased acupuncture dose is consistent with the effectiveness of improved fertility outcomes: 

  • A 1996 study demonstrated that Uterine blood flow was improved with eight electro-acupuncture sessions (2). 

  • A 2009 prospective clinical trial consisting of 9 electro-acupuncture sessions plus embryo transfer day acupuncture were correlated with an increase in serum cortisol and prolactin and improved IVF outcomes (3). 

  • A 2011 Randomized Controlled Trial that consisted of 14 sessions of low-frequency electro-acupuncture significantly reduced androgens and improved menstrual frequency over physical exercise or no treatment in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). (4)

  • A 2013 Randomized Controlled Trial shows positively induced ovulation in people with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) with 24 visits over 3 months. (5) 

Acupuncture On Embryo Transfer Day

I would be remiss not to mention that in 2014 there was one randomized control trial finding live births were lower in the IVF plus acupuncture group compared with the control group that had IVF with no other intervention (8). 

Researchers suspect that the location of treatment offsite from the IVF centre may have contributed to this finding.

Furthermore, initial randomized controlled trials published in 2002 and 2006 found that acupuncture improved IVF pregnancy rates compared to IVF alone (9, 10). 

The 2002 study found that having 1 acupuncture treatment before embryo transfer and one acupuncture treatment after embryo transfer was associated with 42.5% pregnancies, whereas pregnancy rates in the control group (no acupuncture) only had a 26.3% pregnancy rate (9).

The 2006 study compared 3 groups (10):
1. people who received acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer (ACU 1 group)
2. people who received acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer and again two days later (ACU 2 group)
3. people who received no acupuncture (control group)

Clinical pregnancy rates were 13% and 10% higher in the ACU 1 and ACU 2 groups respectively compared to the control group (10). 

It’s also consistent with the previously mentioned studies cited above (1,2,3,4,5), that only having acupuncture surrounding the embryo transfer is not as effective in increasing live birth outcomes when compared to increased dose of acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture For Fertility Stress

Receiving acupuncture not only helps IVF outcomes but it has also been associated to help reduce stress and anxiety in patients undergoing IVF. This stress reduction was demonstrated in two randomized control trials published in 2009 and 2012 (6,7). Both studies showed that acupuncture on or around day of embryo transfer does significantly reduce stress in IVF patients. 

In Conclusion

In conclusion, there is evidence that having acupuncture surrounding an IVF cycle is beneficial but having a whole system Chinese medicine approach starting prior to an IVF cycle is more effective and associated with greater chances of achieving a pregnancy and live birth. 

For more information on how we can support your fertility journey, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute Q & A consultation.

References

  1. PMID: 25911598 
  2. PMID: 8671446 
  3. PMID: 19118825 
  4. PMID: 20943753
  5. PMID: 23482444 
  6. PMID: 18314118 
  7. PMID: 22499825  
  8. PMID: 24937975 
  9. PMID: 11937123 
  10. PMID: 16600232 

It Takes Two: Sperm-Related Infertility

When it comes to enhancing fertility, it is so important for both partners to be involved in the process of optimizing their overall health.

Often we only see one partner at our clinic seeking specialized care in order to optimize their fertility. However, optimal fertility takes more than just one person. Statistically, sperm-related infertility contributes to upwards of 40% of infertility cases (1). 

Sperm Parameters On The Decline

The quality of sperm has been taking a downward trend for decades. For example, in 1992, the average amount of normal sperm morphology (shape) was at 15% (2). Today, The World Health Organization considers normal sperm morphology to be at 4% – implying that it is normal that 96% of sperm do not develop and mature optimally.

A meta-analysis study published in 2017 cites that among 43,000 people in North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia – sperm counts per mL of semen had declined by more than 50% between 1973 to 2011. Furthermore, total sperm counts were down by almost 60% (3).

Reasons for Worldwide Decline In Sperm Health

A recent 2020 review suggests that lifestyle changes, pollution, environmental/work factors, the increased use of electronic equipment, and dietary factors contribute to the quality of sperm (4). A high BMI, smoking, drugs, and STI’s can also contribute to the decline. Fortunately, studies show that regular acupuncture treatments, as well as lifestyle, and education changes can increase chances of conception. 

Acupuncture Improves Sperm Health

Fertility and Sterility published a comparative study (2005) with 40 participants with low sperm counts, poor motility (movement), and poor morphology (development)(5). 28 of the participants received acupuncture twice weekly, for five weeks. The data showed a significant increase in normal sperm morphology and total motility in the group receiving the acupuncture treatments. The study concluded that acupuncture could benefit one with infertility factors by improving sperm quality.

In a 2008 randomized controlled trial, 231 candidates with oligospermia (low sperm count) and asthenospermia (reduced motility) were divided into three groups (6): the first group received a 3+ point protocol with electroacupuncture, the second group was supplemented with Chinese herbs, while the third group received both electro acupuncture and herbal treatment. The outcome measures were semen density, vitality, and acrosomal enzyme activity. The effective rate of increase in these measures for groups one and two were 67.6% and 68.3% respectively. But with with the combination treatments in group three, there was a significant increase in effectiveness of 84.6%   

A 2003 prospective controlled and blind study researched the use of acupuncture as an adjunct to moxibustion therapies in patients with abnormal semen concentration, morphology, and motility (8). The patients were randomized into a test group that received the acupuncture and moxa treatments as well as a control group that didn’t receive the treatments. The results showed a significant increase in percentage in total functional sperm for the group who received acupuncture with moxibustion. 

How Does Acupuncture Benefit Sperm Health

Acupuncture has a cumulative effect, and in some cases depending on infertility factors, may need more time and consistent treatments to resolve. You wouldn’t expect to have a six-pack after one workout!

At Whole Family Health we base our treatment plan protocols on evidence-based fertility studies, tailored to your unique manifestations. 

Acupuncture is able to increase blood circulation and nerve conduction to the reproductive organs. The reproductive organs are then able to optimally produce and mature the sperm, regulate the temperature, and induce proper hormone signalling. 

Depending on your timeline, and if you are doing IVF treatment, our treatment protocols are based on research. We recommend treatments anywhere from once to twice weekly for 5 – 12 weeks, keeping in mind that it takes 72-90 days for sperm to fully mature. By working with you during this key preconception spermatogenesis period we can create the best conditions for the sperm to develop and grow to their peak potential. 

Lifestyle, environment, and what you put into your body can have great influence on sperm quality. Fertility specialized acupuncturists listen to your fertility journey to help provide lifestyle, diet, and supplement recommendations to optimize your sperm health. 

For more information on how we can support your fertility journey, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute Q & A consultation.

Image: https://www.instagram.com/ambarazcorra/

References

(1) PMID: 15049583
Male factor infertility: Evaluation and management
DOI: 10.1016/S0025-7125(03)00150-0

(2) PMID: 11387287
Semen parameters, including WHO and strict criteria morphology, in a fertile and subfertile population: an effort towards standardization of in-vivo thresholds
https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/16.6.1165

(3) PMID: 28981654
Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and met-regression analysis
https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmx022

(4) PMID: 32168194
Reasons for worldwide decline in male fertility
DOI: 10.1097/MOU.0000000000000745

(5) PMID: 16009169
Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility
DOI: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2004.12.056

(6) PMID: 19055284
Clinical observation on electroacupuncture and Chinese drug for treatment of oligospermia and asthenospermia of the male infertility patient]
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19055284/

(7) PMID: 14695986
Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14695986/

Support for Lining Thickness

I have been seeing a number of patients in the clinic recently that have had issues in the past with their Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) because their uterine (endometrial) lining has not been thick enough for embryo implantation. The optimal uterine lining is at least 8 mm in thickness and has a three-layer (trilaminar) appearance. 

To help support the growth of your endometrial lining, I tend to advise on supplements, diet, acupuncture treatments, and of course following the advice of your Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). Your RE follows a protocol that they deem will yield the highest success and therefore it is important to trust and follow their advice. 

Supplements and Medication 

When it comes to medications and supplements to help support the growth of the endometrium, I tend to site a pilot study that was published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility (1). This study compares Vitamin E, L-Arginine, and Sildenafil Citrate (Viagra) in 61 women with thin endometrial lining (less than 8mm) and a high radial artery-resistance index (RA-RI) . Radial artery-resistance is associated with lower pregnancy outcomes. 

The study found that vitamin E improved endometrial thickness in 52% and RA-RI in 72% of participants. L-arginine improved endometrial thickness in 67% and RA-RI in 89% of participants. Sildenafil citrate (Viagra) improved thickness and RA-RI in 92% of participants. The control group (no medication) improved in both parameters in 10% of participants.  

It is important to speak to a practitioner about dosages of Vitamin E and L-arginine. If Sildenafil citrate is something that you wanted to explore you would have to talk to your RE about this, because they would need to write a prescription. 

Diet

I know it might seem like a no-brainer to eat a healthy and balanced diet to help with good blood flow and overall health, but did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also places importance on eating warm foods?

This includes eating foods that are cooked and not raw. The thought behind this is that a warming diet builds the body’s energy and blood to have the strength to conceive and carry a pregnancy full term. It also helps focus energy and blood circulation on the lower abdomen where reproductive organs reside.

With this in mind, I suggest making a big batch of bone broth and drinking 1 cup of this warm liquid every day for 2-4 weeks leading up to your transfer. Bone broth is high in nutrients, minerals, and collagen that can support the body on a blood level.

Another suggestion that is completely anecdotal but also yummy is drinking 1 cup of pure pomegranate juice per day for 2-4 weeks.  

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has the potential to support the uterine lining because it increases blood flow to the reproductive organs, and it can help to reduce central sympathetic tone and this may lower uterine contractions at the time of embryo transfer. When the uterus is calmer at the time of embryo transfer this has the possibility of a better embryo placement. 

A small study done on central sympathetic tone showed that electroacupuncture did reduce the pulsatility index of those who had greater than 3 (2). Having a pulsatility index of 3 or higher at the time of transfer tends to have a less likely chance of a live birth (3). 

Another small pilot study published in Fertility and Sterility evaluating combining electro acupuncture and Sildenafil on the endometrial lining thickness showed positive results (4). This study provided evidence that combining these two treatments resulted in endometrial lining thickness of greater than 9 mm in all participants who could not reach greater than 8 mm in previous cycles and these positive results included one patient whose lining did not exceed 5 mm previously.

Contact us to find out more about how we can support you with acupuncture and lifestyle support for uterine lining assistance and/or to book an appointment with our wonderful practitioners!

Image http://basiabanda.pl/

References

  1. PMID: 19200982
  2. PMID: 8671446
  3. PMID: 9363232
  4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.01.203

Massage Therapy For Stress & Headaches

Did you know that massage therapy is about so much more than relaxing muscles?

How Massage Therapy Works

Massage activates arterial and venous blood flow in the lymphatic system and in the connective tissue and muscles.

It also increases circulation and helps to correct postural stress from long periods of sitting. This can be especially important and beneficial for those who have sedentary desk jobs. 

A registered massage therapist works on these systems and the nervous system, to relieve sore and tight muscles from over-stimulated nerve pathways between muscle fibres and the brain.

We all intuitively know that human touch is therapeutic, here is a little research to support this:

Massage Therapy Decreases Stress

Research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience shows that massage therapy leads to decreased cortisol and increased serotonin & dopamine levels.

Basically, massage therapy leads to the biochemical signature for decreased stress and increased relaxation in the body.

Massage Therapy For Headaches.

The American Journal of Public Health published a study suggesting that muscle-specific massage therapy techniques significantly reduced headache frequency while the duration of headaches tended to decrease during the massage treatment period as well. 

Massage therapy is a functional, non-pharmacological intervention for reducing the incidence of chronic tension headache.

Contact us to find out more about how we can support you with massage therapy and/or to book an appointment with our wonderful registered massage therapist!

References:

Image: @lindbloomfloral

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