Categories > Fertility Health

Happy Lunar new year!

Beginning Anew

In Vietnamese, we say, ” Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! “

The lunar year begins anew bringing Water Rabbit energy (or Water Cat energy in the Vietnamese zodiac).

I love lunar new year activities & how they carry meaning & intention for beginning anew. We often look at the new year with hope, making resolutions & promises for improvement.

As the new year is an opportunity to begin anew – so is every moment. Each present moment is like none before & it’s an opportunity to start fresh.

The Seeds Within Us

Everything within us can be viewed as a seed. In this way, we can see that our inner seeds of joy, peace, happiness, as well as depression, anger & jealousy, etc… all arise through being nourished in some way.

With all of these seeds within us, we see that some are bigger than others. Most of them are watered more often by habit energies.

What seeds within us have we been habitually watering & what other seeds are available for us to water instead?

If we see that our physical body, thoughts & emotions all exist through nutriment, perhaps we have more choice in what we nourish & how.  

Everything that we take in can be viewed as either nourishing or depleting. The foods we eat, the sense impressions we take in (sounds, sights, sensations through touch, smells). Even our motivations can be either nourishing or depleting. Stopping to become aware of the underlying motivations to our speech & actions, which can also arise from habit energy creates space for us to water a new seed of motivation.

Watering Seeds for the Lunar New Year

Here’s a practice to help you intentionally water seeds for the new year:

  • Make a list of all of the things in your life that are currently nourishing to you.

  • Make a list of all of the things in your life that are depleting to you.

  • Make a concrete plan to remove the depleting activities & prioritize making time & space for that which is nourishing.

May we all begin anew beautifully in this new lunar year!

More Mindfulness

To learn more ways to bring mindfulness into your life & to support your fertility journey, check out @mindfulnessforfertility or mindfulnessforfertility.com

Our next online program begins Jan 30th, we hope to see you then!

Mindful Eating Is A Secret To Longevity

Mindful eating is an ancient Chinese medicine secret to optimal health & longevity. We believe that it’s a shame to eat healthy food if the body is unable to absorb nutrients properly.

Today’s scientists agree that if we’re able to slow down & be present with food, we can benefit more from what we eat.

Mindful eating is about appreciating food rather than restricting it. It involves being present with our food to decrease stress.

Mindful Eating Decreases Stress & Increases Absorption

Studies confirm that stress negatively affects our digestion by disrupting GI tract movement, absorption, inflammation & bacterial counts. Stress can also lead to many digestive disorders.

We live such fast-paced lives, eating becomes an auto-pilot activity. We tend to multi-task as we eat – while working or driving, surfing the internet, or checking for text messages. Our minds are busy doing one thing, while our bodies are doing another thing.

Research shows that avoiding distraction while eating increases the body’s absorptive capacity. Being present with the flavours & textures of our food rather than multi-tasking while eating allows the body to focus its attention on digesting.

Here are some mindful eating tips:  

  • Be intentional – try to choose a location that is meant for eating when you eat.
  • Simply eat. Avoid multi-tasking while you’re eating.
  • Chew thoroughly. Make sure each bite is well-chewed before swallowing it. Aim for 25-30 bites.
  • Place your fork or spoon down in between bites as you chew.
  • Pay attention to the colour, texture, aroma & flavours of the first 5 bites of a meal.
  • Try to feel grateful for your food. Studies have shown that feeling gratitude also decreases depression.
  • Please enjoy your food!

Mindfulness Programs

Did you know that research shows mindfulness-based programs for fertility decrease emotional distress & increase resilience? We know what a roller coaster it can be.

Join us for our next Online Mindfulness for Fertility program beginning January 30th  

Find more info and registration at mindfulnessforfertility.com

References

  • PMID: 28900385
  • PMID: 3582919
  • PMID: 27786519
  • PMID: 23809500

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

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

Endometriosis Awareness Month

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month.

Endometriosis affects an estimated 1 in 10 people around the world. Many people have received a delayed diagnosis due to a lack of awareness.

Often healthcare professionals can assume this pain is a normal part of menstruation. Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma surrounding people’s reproductive health and discussions surrounding period pain are looked at as taboo. It is not normal for pain to take control of your life, with appropriate pain management suffering can be controlled.

Endometriosis is an overlooked condition affecting thousands of people a year, and awareness must be spread.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition where endometrial-like tissue, similar to the lining in the uterus, is found outside the uterine cavity invading the pelvic and abdominal areas. As hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the month, this triggers the endometrial-like tissue to become reactive and inflamed.

Symptoms of Endometriosis

Symptoms of endometriosis can include pain during periods, ovulation, during/after intercourse, when urinating or while passing bowel movements. It can also cause heavy bleeding during menses, chronic pelvic pain or abdominal pain, extreme fatigue, and infertility.

Endometriosis can place a huge negative impact on one’s lifestyle and social well-being. If you have any of these symptoms, please consult with your general practitioner. There, they can offer an ultrasound scan, further testing (eg. blood work/ MRI scan /biopsy), and/or a referral to see an ObGyn specializing in endometriosis. Hormone contraceptives, or hormone therapy and surgery may become options for treatment.

Diagnosis of Endometriosis

There is no usable set of symptoms that can accurately predict a diagnosis of endometriosis. Surgery is a definitive way to determine a diagnosis for endometriosis. However, a study performed by the University of Aberdeen analyzed primary care records and found that pain and menstrual symptoms occurring within the same year accompanied by lower gastrointestinal symptoms occurring within 90 days of gynaecological pain was a good predictor for endometriosis (1).

  • Specialized ultrasound technology has been improving for detection of endometriosis, but a normal ultrasound cannot rule out endometriosis. Endometriosis takes many appearances, making it difficult to differentiate from other conditions, without sampling the tissue itself.
  • Laparoscopy (a surgery to examine the pelvic and abdominal area) can be performed to cut or burn out any lesions or fibroids to be taken for further diagnostic testing. While this surgery is the only reliable way for a diagnosis and can take away some of the pain, it is invasive and follow-up studies have shown it may not be curative (1). 20-28% of patients did not feel a reduction in pain post-operation and 40-50% required another surgery after 5 years. Given that surgery may only fix endometriosis temporarily, what are solutions that will help cope with endometriosis pain?

Acupuncture For Endometriosis

This chronic condition can take its toll on someone’s mental and physical well-being.

Chronic pain is inconsistent – there are good days and bad days. It is important to have resources and a toolkit that can help alleviate life hindering symptoms.

Acupuncture can help with controlling endometrial pain. Acupuncture works to increase blood circulation, decrease inflammation, and balance hormones.

A Cochrane study enrolled 67 endometriosis patients suffering from dysmenorrhea (painful periods) to receive a 15-point acupuncture prescription and auricular (ear) acupuncture to help relieve their symptoms (2). The study’s primary outcome measure was decrease in pain and the secondary outcome measures were improved quality of life, pregnancy rates, and reduced recurrence of endometriosis. The auricular therapy group came out with a 91.9% success rate and dysmenorrhea pain scores were lower with the group receiving the 15-point acupuncture prescription.

Another study performed in China at Guangzhou University (Department of Gynaecology) shows abdominal acupuncture for 3 months to be effective in treating dysmenorrhea in patients with endometriosis (3).

Diet

Endometriosis is hormone-dependent and susceptible to foods that leave inflammatory markers.

Trans-unsaturated fatty acids, red meat and ham, as well as alcohol are found to potentially exacerbate the risk of developing endometriosis (4).

A Nurses’ Health study followed approximately 81 thousand participants’ diets from 1991 to 2013 (1). They found people consuming more than two servings of red meat per day had a 56% higher risk of endometriosis compared to those consuming one or less red meat products per week.

Being mindful of the amount of refined sugars and grains consumed is also optimal for decreasing inflammation.

Consuming colourful vegetables (rich in antioxidants and vitamins), as well as supplementing with B-group vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, and fish oils including Omega-3 may decrease the prevalence of endometriosis and pain associated with it (4).

Moving Forward

Let’s end the negative stigma by being open to discussing endometriosis and people’s reproductive health. If you feel like there’s something wrong with your reproductive system, don’t be afraid to advocate for your health by seeking a diagnosis and treatment.

Acupuncturists don’t want to see you in constant physical and mental pain, even if you don’t have a diagnosis, we can help bring balance back to your system to repair any ailments and provide lifestyle support.

For more information on how we can support you with endometriosis symptoms, feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute Q&A consult.

Image from fieldandsea.com

References

  1. PMID: 32089831
  2. PMID: 21901713
  3. PMID: 21442808
  4. PMID: 29944729
  5. PMID: 28326519
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