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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!

Light Canada Green!

Wednesday, April 27th
830pm

The Whole Family Health Team will be joining the Fertility Matters Canada Lighting Canada Green initiative.

On Wednesday, April 27th, 30+ landmarks across Canada will be lighting GREEN to honour the journeys of the #1in6 Canadians who are faced with infertility struggles and who may need to access fertility care.

In Canada, we wear green to raise fertility awareness, to show our support to the fertility community, and to start important conversations about fertility, pregnancy and infant loss, and family-building.

To mark this momentous occasion (the first time for this in Canada!) we will wear green and meet on April 27th at 8:30pm at Kinsmen park in the football fields east of the high level bridge and adjacent to the kinsmen aquatic centre.

Please join us!

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/

Canadian Infertility Awareness: FREE ONLINE EVENT

SATURDAY, APRIL 30
2 – 4PM MDT

FREE ONLINE EVENT:

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH PCRM

Are you Trying To Conceive?

#1in6 people struggle with fertility in Canada.

April 24 – 30 is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week – an opportunity to honour and empower those struggling with infertility.

Join us for this free online event to de-stigmatize infertility and to support you as you navigate your fertility journey.

Join the Whole Family Health Fertility Wellness Specialist Team, in collaboration with Dr. Caitlin Dunne from Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM) for this informative and empowering online event.

This event is open to anyone who would like to attend.

Saturday, April 30th
2 – 4pm MDT

To Register:
info@wholefamilyhealth.ca
780-756-7736

EVENT PRESENTERS:

NAVIGATING INFERTILITY TREATMENTS & BUSTING COMMON MYTHS ABOUT IVF

Dr. Caitlin Dunne
Co-Clinical Director of PCRM, Reproductive Endocrinologist

Dr. Dunne will speak to fertility treatment options and help to debunk common myths about IVF. She will also be available for a Q&A to answer your questions about fertility treatment.

INFERTILITY & STRESS

Dr. Alda Ngo
WFH Co-owner, Registered Dr of TCM & Acupuncturist, Fellow of the ABORMCo-Director of MindfulnessForFertility.com

Dr. Alda will discuss infertility stress and share some accessible tools and resources that will help to decrease stress and cortisol to increase resilience on your fertility journey.

NATURAL LIFESTYLE FACTORS

Christina Pistotnik
WFH Co-owner, Registered Acupuncturist, Fellow of the ABORM

Christina will share some natural and simple lifestyle factors that you can incorporate to support your overall wellness and fertility health.

ACUPRESSURE FOR FERTILITY

Catherine Woodlock
WFH Registered Acupuncturist

Catherine will share some acupressure points you can use at home to help improve circulation, manage hormonal symptoms and support your fertility.

MASSAGE FOR REPRODUCTIVE WELLNESS

Candice Cole
WFH Registered Massage Therapist

Candice will share self-massage techniques you can use at home to help you relax and alleviate tension build-up.

FERTILE FOODS – 5 NUTRITIONAL TIPS FOR FERTILITY

Kathryn Simmons Flynn
WFH Certified Nutrition Consultant, Founder of FertileFoods.com, Author of Cooking For Fertility and Co-author of The Fertile Secret

Kathryn will share her 5 top nutritional tips for nourishing fertility.

To Register:
info@wholefamilyhealth.ca
780-756-7736

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

WFH on Real Talk with Ryan Jespersen!

Dr. Alda Ngo had the pleasure of joining a roundtable on Real Talk With Ryan Jespersen, one of Canada’s most popular live talk show/ podcasts.

Dr. Alda was joined by 3 other people intimate with the infertility journey, Ryan Jespersen himself sharing about his own experience.

A wonderful and meaningful conversation on infertility from the inside, the thoughts, emotions, the logistics, finances and a little bit of science.

Here’s the write-up:

It’s Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, so we check in with Dr. Alda Ngo, Kristina Melia, and Linda Hoang. What new options exist for Canadians hoping to start a family, what are some of the most significant barriers they’ll face, and what proactive steps can people take to improve their chances?

Join us for our free virtual CIAW event: Infertility During A Pandemic. Sunday, April 25th 2-330pm MT as we team up with Dr. Caitlin Dunne from PCRM and 3 courageous fertility patients who share their stories. Contact us for more info and to register.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can support you on your fertility journey, book a Free 15-minute Phone Consultation with one of our fertility specialists.

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