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National Day Of Truth & Reconciliation

In honour of National Truth and Reconciliation Day, we will be donating 10% of our revenue on Sept 30th to Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society.


This indigenous organization has been serving indigenous children, youth and families in @yeg and area since 1994. 


The founders believe strongly that keeping culture at the center is crucial and that this important work is best done in partnership.  So they have developed strong partnerships with many and are proud to see that culture continues to play a central role in their practice. They also support many partners in elevating their capacity to serve the indigenous community in a culturally relevant, authentic and sincere way. 


Please join them for their virtual event today from 1-4pm MT. They will have a residential school survivor speak, discuss the importance of the day and have time for people on Facebook watching the live stream to ask questions. There will also be a craft for children as it is a child friendly event. 


Check out @bentarrow or bentarrow.ca for more info or to make your own donation.

Connie’s Fertility Journey

June is a month that gives me a mixture of feelings.  First, it’s a month when I finally feel that summer is here and ready to spend some good time with my family.  However, it’s also a month when my emotions get triggered more because of my past miscarriage history.  

I remember after a few years of trying to conceive, my husband and I began traveling down the frustrating road of doctor visits and infertility treatments.  Whenever doctors told us we would never get pregnant naturally, I felt like everything I had ever dreamed of was being taken away. 

I felt like I was being punished by not being able to conceive and felt like I was a failure for not being able to be a mom.  After three years of infertility treatments, heart-wrenching disappointments, and faith-filled prayers, I finally got pregnant and delivered a healthy sweet boy.  

However, since I successfully conceived the first child, I expected it would be easier to have a second child.   After my son turned two years old, I was able to get pregnant again without any fertility treatments.  Both my husband and I were very excited about the news. 

However, within just a couple of months the excitement turned to sorrow.  After three ultrasounds, the doctor told us that the baby’s heartbeat could no longer be detected, confirming it was no longer viable. It was a missed miscarriage.  He also informed us that the chances of getting pregnant again were slim.  

This miscarriage journey was dark, lonely and frustrating.  I remember questioning why I had to go through a miscarriage after I had already suffered a lot from infertility.  It felt like I had fallen into a very dark pit and could not climb out on my own. I felt hopeless and exhausted about the whole experience, and I kept all of the feelings inside. In the beginning, I did not seek any help.  

During this difficult time, I received comfort and support from my husband, friends, and my faith community.  They also encouraged me to seek professional help though.  I’m grateful that I was able to find a counselling therapist who helped guide me to share, express, and process my feelings. 

These counselling sessions gave me a safe space to reflect deeply within myself, allowing me to to be with difficult emotions and to work toward accepting and integrating them. 

I was able to recognize my fears and wounds and process feelings of guilt and shame that arose from infertility and pregnancy loss.

Counselling helped me to become aware of my limitations as well as my strengths. With counselling support, my infertility and miscarriage journey has become a huge transformational life experience.

I’m thankful that I was able to find light within the darkness of that time. I can see that in the face of that difficult situation, I had the love and support of my family and friends and I am also grateful to now have a deeper understanding of the suffering and pain associated with miscarriage and infertility. This understanding fuels my compassion to help others going through similar experiences.

Many of us may have had experiences that carry strong emotions or psychological impacts that can resurface when triggered by certain events, people or even calendar dates. Please reach out to people who love you and care about you so that you don’t have to carry the burden of the struggle on your own. It can be so therapeutic to simply share your thoughts and feelings with others who can offer you comfort and support.

Because it can often be challenging for loved ones who are also directly involved and intimate with your reproductive challenges – it can also be so beneficial to seek extra support from a professional therapist or counsellor who can help hold safe space and provide you with some tools for dealing with the challenges of infertility and pregnancy loss. It certainly helped me on my own journey!

Contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation with Connie about her fertility counselling sessions.

Image IG @nushu

Part 4: How Social Media Breaks Can Reduce Fertility Stress

Social Media Breaks 

When experiencing difficulties trying to conceive, it can be really hard on the psyche seeing pregnancy and baby announcements taking place on social media. It can cause more stress to an already stressful situation. 

That’s why I suggest taking breaks from social media from time to time. I know in this day and age, especially during a pandemic it might be hard to do this because this is a way that we stay connected to some people. Therefore, if you don’t want to take a break there are ways to navigate the system. 

Facebook has a setting where you can unfollow people (this will not notify that person that you have unfollowed them). This is a way to hide some people’s posts without unfriending them. This way, if you do want to see what is going on in their life you have the option to go to their page when you choose to.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image: @debbyillustration

Part 3: How Exercise Can Reduce Fertility Stress

Exercise 

Exercise is a great stress management tool. However, when trying to conceive there should be a healthy balance. This means that exercise should be done in moderation because on the flip side, too much exercise can actually hinder pregnancy attempts. 

Generally, it is best to exercise 3-5x/ week no longer than 1 hour each day.

If you would like to see more specific guidelines, please visit my recent blogs on exercise and conception and what types of exercise are safe when undergoing ART.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image: @chloealexisham

Part 2: How Mindfulness Can Decrease Fertility Stress

Mindfulness

Mindfulness supports the cultivation of awareness of difficult psychological states while normalizing and accepting them, thereby increasing the capacity to respond to stress with resilience.

A study published in Fertility and Sterility shows that Mindfulness-Based Programs for Infertility are an effective psychological intervention for those experiencing infertility, increasing resiliency and decreasing psychological distress (4).  

Whole Family Health and Elements of Health have teamed up to provide Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs for fertility. By taking part in a program geared towards fertility with people who might have a similar experience to yours, your experience is validated and your ability to cope increases, helping to navigate challenging circumstances.

For more information on Mindfulness for fertility and upcoming events click on this link: https://mindfulnessforfertility.com/

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Resources

PMID: 23809500

Image: @fieldandsea

Part 1: How Acupuncture Can Help Decrease Fertility Stress

Experiencing fertility issues can be extremely stressful. In fact, research published by the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the psychological symptoms of those having fertility issues were comparable to those who were diagnosed with cancer or a cardiac condition (1). 

The authors suggested that it is important for those experiencing fertility challenges to have psychosocial interventions. Therefore, it can be inferred that it is important to find ways to help cope with stress.

I’ve already shared in a recent blog about how healthy sleep can decrease stress and support fertility, in my upcoming blog series, I’ll be sharing my next top 4 choices to help you decrease stress while you are on your fertility journey.

Here’s my first recommendation and stay tuned for the rest!

1. Acupuncture 

Regular acupuncture treatments can help decrease stress and help with blood flow. Blood flow is usually restricted to certain body parts when we are stressed, and this impacts fertility. 

A study done using ultrasound to measure blood flow proved that after acupuncture, blood flow did increase blood flow in the arteries (2). 

Basically, when we’re stressed, the body increases Cortisol production. This encourages more blood flow to the brain, some organs and to the big muscles (in the past this was to help people run away from something dangerous). This also means that it diverts blood flow away from the reproductive organs. We want good blood flow to go to the reproductive organs to encourage conception. 

Another research indicated that acupuncture treatment not only activates distinct brain regions caused by imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic activities, but also modulates adaptive neurotransmitters in related brain regions to alleviate autonomic response which controls the fight-or-flight response (3).

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Resources

  1. PMID: 8142988
  2. PMID: 22778772
  3. PMID: 23762116

Image: @imangibson

Fertility: Nourishing the Soil & Planting Seeds

Planting Seeds

I am so excited to be getting a head start on my garden this year. I’ve started planting my seedlings indoors. Am I the only one who gets extremely excited seeing tiny little leaves poking through the soil?! When I look at the steps I’ve taken to help nurture and grow these seeds into healthy plants, it reminds me of our own fertility.

I wanted to be sure that the seeds had the proper environment to start their growth and thrive by using nutrient rich soil, plenty of sunlight, fresh water, and even little good music. Maybe I am the crazy plant lady after all… But these basic needs do affect how well and healthy these seedlings will grow. So how can we set the stage for our own seeds. Where do we begin?

Nourishing The Soil

In our busy schedules it’s so very easy to neglect our diets. You may find yourself rushing through your day to find it’s already dinner time, you haven’t had a chance to even plan a healthy meal and you turn to a quick option such a take out. 

To help avoid us getting caught in this cycle, I recommend starting your Sunday off by making it a family affair. Get your household involved and plan your meals for the week. Bonus points if you can meal prep! This will help take the stress out of what you are making for the week and allow you to choose healthy nutrient-dense meals. 

This will help you limit the consumption of refined sugar, carbs, dairy, which all can negatively affect our reproductive systems. Why should we do this? Because it affects how your cells function!

As seen in data collected from the Nurses Health Study II, the following were associated with enhanced fertility:

·         Higher intake of dietary sources of non-heme iron (green leafy vegetables and other plant foods relatively high in iron)

·         Higher intake of high-fiber, low glycemic carbohydrates.

·         Lower intake of animal protein and greater intake of Vegetable Protein

·         Lower intake of trans-fatty acids and greater intake of monounsaturated fats

·         Higher frequency of multivitamin use

·         Not smoking

·         Being physically active (30 minutes of more of vigorous activity per day)

·         BMI between 20 and 25

·         (This wasn’t in the study) but being kind to ourselves, having grace with ourselves. Fertility journeys can be full of ups and downs. We often are so hard on ourselves, but just as you love and nurture others, give the same to your own garden.

So, bring out your old school hard copy calendars and start prepping some healthy fertile foods. If this still feels overwhelming to you, we have an amazing nutritionist on our team, Kathryn Flynn, author of Cooking for Fertility and co-author of The Fertile Secret. She is located in the US, but offers online nutritional consultations and programs for fertility. She applies Eastern food cure principals, which are in alignment with our treatment plan. Here is a link to her website: https://fertilefoods.com.

Not only is it important to make healthy food choices, mealtimes also impact your overall health. In Chinese medicine the peak time for our stomach to digest is 7-9am. This is an important time to try to have your breakfast, to allow our bodies the optimal energy they require for processing our food properly. The same applies with dinnertime, we should be trying to get dinners in earlier than 7-9pm as this is the stomach’s rest period.

These are some lifestyle changes that you do have control over. Oftentimes with fertility, it can feel as though you don’t have control over anything. But you do! So whether you are preparing your body for TTC or have been on your fertility journey, I hope you are able to implement some of these suggestions. It’s good to reflect and ask yourself, have you been fuelling your body and cells with the proper nutrients? Have you been hydrating yourself? Have you taken the time to be present and fill up your own cup?

Ask yourself, what does your garden need today?

PMID: 17978119

Image: Rosegrown.com @rosegrown

Top 3 Books For Menstrual Health

Four years ago, I was sitting in my Traditional Chinese Medicine gynaecology class completely blown away by the criteria for a healthy period.

Details were shared about the consistency of the flow, the amount, the colour of the blood… the absence of pain. To me it seemed so strange.

Intense period cramps and low back ache aren’t…normal?

I grew up with five sisters, a decent sample size for one family, and it seemed fairly normal to have PMS and to be taking at least a few Advil during each cycle. 

I distinctly remember this moment. It opened my eyes to pieces of knowledge about menstrual health that I was missing and was surprised to be learning as a young woman. There wasn’t a huge conversation around these things for me growing up. Periods were something you dealt with and didn’t talk about. 

This was the beginning of what truly inspired my interest in menstrual health and all the ways that acupuncture and Chinese medicine could benefit menstruators.

I began to seek out all of the information I could, which has led me to these resources I frequently recommend to my patients, friends, and family now.

There is so much information about our total health that can be examined through the different phases of the menstrual cycle and I think it is important to share not only if you are trying to conceive, but for general health as well. 

These are my top three books that I routinely recommend to patients who are interested in learning a bit more about hormone health and menstrual cycles:

1.The Fifth Vital Sign: Master Your Cycles & Optimize Your Fertility by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack 

This book will help anyone understand how the menstrual cycle works and how to utilize that information to better understand the signs that your own body may exhibit throughout the phases of the cycle.

It is a well researched reference that can be used not only for those trying to conceive, but also for anyone who is looking for more information on understanding the menstrual cycle in the context of health. It is definitely something I have recommended my patients read, and something I wish I would have found sooner in regards to my own general health as well.

2. Period Power: Harness Your Hormones and Get Your Cycle Working for You by Maisie Hill

The author was able to lay out the cyclical nature of the menstrual cycle and how to recognize the different strengths of each of the different phases. Or as described in the book: the ‘seasons’ of the menstrual cycle.

There is definitely some colourful language in this book, and I found it read as if I was learning from a friend. A great educational read that doesn’t feel heavy or like a burden to get through.

3. Beyond the Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighten 

This was a book that really opened my eyes and was something I really would have benefitted from when I was younger.

It made me ask questions and helped me become a better advocate for myself. To be able to share information that can help other people have a better understanding of what affects the birth control pill can have on all aspects of your being is part of my passion for education and empowerment of my patients. 

Lately for me, there is nothing better than a nice solid book, but these resources do come in a variety of forms from audiobook to kindle. I highly encourage you to check these books out, and let me know your thoughts!

13 Ways To Prepare Your Body & Mind For Childbirth

When a pregnant person finally reaches the last months of pregnancy and birth is imminent, so many emotions can rush to the forefront.

Fear, anxiety and dread to name a few. Especially with a first baby, labour can seem like an insurmountable and terrifying task. One of my thoughts in my last month was, “Well, there’s no way to turn back and no other way out of this!”

So, how can the mind and body be prepared for something that is inevitable yet seems impossible?

Perspective

Perspective is everything when approaching this sacred and selfless act.

At first glance, childbirth can seem like a violent apex to the process of pregnancy. However, the fury of nature itself can be perceived as violent at first glance too, and yet nature and childbirth are the very seat of life.

“Why does it have to be so painful?”

When I approached birth, I found myself asking, why does it have to be so painful? But then I remembered that pain has been used by countless cultures as a tool to reach altered states of consciousness. What if I used my birth experience as a tool to shift paradigms and heal my body, mind and soul?

Indeed, what I found is that as my body literally opened, as it shifted and blossomed – not just a baby was born but a parent was born too. I realized that it is one of the most powerful acts that my human body could make.

13 Ways to Prepare Your Body and Mind for Childbirth:

1. Acupuncture

Incorporate regular acupuncture treatments into your pre-birth routine to help prepare for childbirth or to help with any issues or discomfort that might be arising as you approach labour. 

Pre-birth acupuncture helps to prepare the cervix and the pelvis for labour and can also address any underlying issues such as heartburn, rib, back or pelvic pain, insomnia, breech presentation and stress.

Acupuncture also stimulates endorphins to release, which can help bring a sense of ease to the last few weeks of pregnancy. 

2. Therapeutic Touch

Have lots of cuddles and tender touch from your partner and go for a prenatal massage. Touch increases oxytocin and endorphins, which can help increase the body’s threshold for pain and discomfort.

These neurotransmitters can help encourage a person to follow their instincts and is the body’s natural mechanism that helps to protect the mind from the intensity of labour.

3. Birth Stories

Reach out to the people in your life and ask them to share their birth stories.

Take in helpful birth stories and feel free to filter out any stories that are overwhelming for you to hear. Keep in mind that some people have difficult or even traumatic birth stories, and know that it is ok to kindly ask them to save those stories for another time if you are uncomfortable hearing them.

Hearing birth stories can help open your mind and perspective to what is possible. It is helpful to engage with the people in your community to feel a sense of support. 

4. Prenatal Class

Take a prenatal class so that you know what to expect from the stages of labour. Adopt some coping mechanisms that resonate with you and practice them in the weeks leading up to birth. It can also be helpful to have a mindfulness practice at this time.

5. Therapy

Have a visit with a registered psychologist who specializes in birth preparation to work with any unresolved fears. This can make a huge difference and can help to unwind any social conditioning or deconstruct any preconceived notions you may have about childbirth (for example that labour has to be as traumatic as we see in the movies).

6. Diet & Nutrition

Try to be mindful of your meals as you get closer to labour. No-one wants to go into labour with nothing but a big bag of salt and vinegar chips in their belly!

Also consider avoiding pungent, spicy and greasy foods in the last few weeks of pregnancy.  In Chinese Medicine, we recognize that there can often be issues with excessive mucus production during the end of pregnancy. So staying away from ‘damp forming’ foods can help.  For example, avoid dairy products, rich meats, bananas and concentrated juices.

7. Rest

Get as much rest as possible while engaging in gentle physical activity such as walking, TaiChi or prenatal yoga. Make sure to rest to avoid becoming exhausted. Take lots of naps and take lots of moments just to rest. You don’t want to be tired going into labour!

8. Pelvic Floor Care

Visit a pelvic floor physiotherapist to get in touch with your pelvic floor and cultivate a relationship with these crucial muscles. 

9. Beauty

Surround yourself with beauty. Create a pleasant little bubble for yourself and make sure to take extra care in pampering yourself.

Surround yourself with flowers, wear jewelry, or do whatever helps you to feel beautiful. You are a beautiful and powerful person who is about to cross the threshold into parenthood.

Prepare yourself to dine with divinity and become a birth warrior! Spend time in nature. Let go of your inhibitions and feel yourself go with the flow. Take in the beauty that is all around you. Allow yourself to be moved by the expressions of life on this incredible planet.

10. Set An Intention

Take some time to set an intention for your birth. While your body is open and in the thralls of birthing, it is possible to heal and cultivate a new constitution. Birth can often somehow heal lifelong issues such as dysmenorrhea (period cramps) and vulvodynia (vaginal pain)!

Keep in mind that an intention does not mean having an attachment to any particular outcome, but rather an open-ended idea. For example, it could simply be to heal and cultivate self love.

This intention for healing is something that you can hold onto throughout the process. Entering birth as a ceremony and a rite of passage can bring so much meaning to this experience.

Try visualizing placing your intention into a stone that resonates with you. Then carry that stone into your birth as a focal point and reminder throughout the birthing process.

11. Invite Patience

Remember that babies have their own timeline.

Unless you are being induced or have a planned Cesarian birth, when past your estimated ‘due date’ (it’s really more of a guess date!), try to practice patience.  Remember that when ready, the baby will send the signal that begins the cascade of hormones that will precipitate labour.

Spend any extra time cultivating trust for your body, your baby and your outcome.  You and your baby are going to go through such a journey to be with one another. It can be a lovely practice to talk to your baby and communicate your intention. I remember saying to my baby, “Let’s be gentle with each other!”

12. Feel The Support Of Those Before You

Know that you are backed and held by the love of all of the mothers and parents who came before you. You wouldn’t exist without the love of every parent in your lineage. Everyone arrives on this planet through birth.

I love the description that in your most primal moment, your body becomes a Stargate – a portal between the ‘other side’ and this planet. Knowing that all of the mothers and grandmothers and parents and grandparents before you have brought you to this sacred moment.

13. Other Resources

Some of my favourite resources for preparing for birth are:

Some Final Words

While we have made tremendous and miraculous strides towards helping people and babies survive this primal act, often a birthing person can be perceived as a condition that needs to be fixed. However, it is important to remember that birth is a natural physiological process – to be supported and nurtured, not to be fixed.

Having someone with you, such as your partner or a doula, who can advocate for you during birth can be very helpful.

Depending on which turn birth takes, decisions can be thrust upon you very quickly. It is helpful to have a birth team that you trust and a clear birth plan that can also go with the flow with the situation presented. Once this is all sorted out, you can relax into your last moments before baby arrives and take it one day at a time.

Good luck and stay tuned for a future blog post on my own birth story experience!

Contact us if you would like to find out how the experienced practitioners at Whole Family Health can be a part of your pre-birth, birth and postpartum team.

photo: IG @katie_duarte

Exercise When Undergoing ART

It is best to maintain healthy exercise when trying to conceive, but what about if you are starting ovarian stimulating medications as in IVF, medicated assisted IUI cycles or other ART?

These medications stimulate follicle growth in the ovaries. Some of them are oral and others are in the form of injections.

Gonadotropins

Injected medications contain gonadotropins. Gonadotropins help the ovaries to develop more than one egg at a time (typically the ovaries only develop one egg per cycle). This can put a lot of strain on the ovaries and their supporting ligaments, because the size of the ovaries are a lot larger than they normally are.

Ovarian Torsion

The concern around exercise and larger ovaries due to medication lies in the rare, but real concern surrounding ovarian torsion.

Ovarian torsion is when the ovary twists on itself. The ovaries are supplied with blood running through the ligaments that suspend them, and these ligaments become cut off in the twisting process, which is extremely painful and also dangerous.  For this reason, many people are told to radically reduce exercise, especially if they are used to doing high intensity exercises. 

I want to differentiate ovarian torsion from the normal aches that can occur during the ovarian stimulation phase.

Ovarian torsion is rare, it occurs in 0.03% of IVF cycles (6). When torsion has occurred, it has been described as extreme pain that makes you want to double over and is accompanied by nausea or vomiting. It typically has a sudden onset in the setting of a moving or twisting motion.

Always consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Note

This does not typically apply to people taking oral ovarian stimulating medications such as Clomid or Letrozole, because these meds do not stimulate the ovaries in the same way that gonadotropin meds do. 

However, because the ovaries are larger than usual when stimulated by these oral meds too, you are still advised to be cautious with exercise when taking them.

Always consult with your primary care provider to make sure the exercise you are doing is safe.

So What Kind of Exercise is Typically Safe?

It is still important to do some light/low impact movements during ART because it can improve mood, sleep, and recovery.

So, what are safe movements that can be done? 

Exercises that are typically safe to do (always consult with your fertility clinic to make sure, advice can vary depending on individual cases):

  • Walking (but no quick twisting)
  • Light jogging (But not near the end of injections or close to retrieval time and again no quick twisting)
  • Swimming (but no twisting or flip turns at the end of the lane)
  • Yoga (but no twisting or inversions)
  • Light weightlifting (2-5 lbs)  (but no quick twisting)

Exercises to Avoid:

  • High impact exercise with quick changes in body position
  • Running 
  • Vigorous acrobatics (ie. trapeze, aerial silks, etc..) 
  • Pole dancing
  • Pilates
  • Barre Classes 

General tips

Exercise is good for you whether you are trying to conceive or not and if you are trying to conceive, you may want to modify your routine.

Always speak with your primary care provider about your personal situation to help find a routine that is right for you. 

For more advice on how to support your reproductive health and wellbeing, book a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Photo www.chloehphoto.com IG @chloealexisham via @yogateau

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