Categories > Women’s Health

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

Book Event: Catalogue Baby

Dr. Alda Ngo is honoured to be invited to moderate a Virtual Book Event on Thursday, May 20th at 6pm MT.

Audreys Bookstore is hosting a book event with author, Myriam Steinberg, who has just published her deeply moving tragicomic graphic memoir, Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)fertility, about a single woman’s efforts to conceive in her forties. 

Myriam is a dear friend of Dr. Alda, who had the privilege of supporting Myriam along her journey toward motherhood. Myriam will be talking not only about her experience trying to birth her “rainbow” babies, but also about the process of writing such an emotionally charged memoir while still going through her fertility journey(!).

ABOUT THE BOOK


A few months after Myriam Steinberg turned forty, she decided she couldn’t wait any longer to become a mother. With her family and friends to support her, Myriam began her journey as a Single Mom by Choice that was far from straightforward.  

Whether it was choosing donors or opting for one medical procedure or another, she grappled with a wide variety of difficult decisions. She experienced not only the soaring highs and devastating lows of becoming pregnant and then losing her babies, but also the silences, loneliness, and taboos that often surround the loss of a pregnancy.

Although the lack of understanding and language around fetal loss and grief often made it very hard to navigate everyday life, Myriam nonetheless found solace in the community around her who rallied to sustain her. 

Beautifully illustrated by Christache, and told with humour, honesty, and courage, Catalogue Baby is one woman’s story of tragedy and beating the odds, and is a resource for all women and couples who are trying to conceive. This book is a compassionate portrait of fertility and infertility that hasn’t been seen before. 

EVENT INFO & REGISTRATION

Date: May 20, 2021
Time: 6 p.m. (MST)

Register for the event here:https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/myriam-steinberg-virtual-launch-for-catalogue-baby-tickets-153383398875

For additional info, please visit www.cataloguebabynovel.com and Instagram at @catalogue_baby

GET THE BOOK


If you would like to purchase and read the book ahead of the event, you can get your copy at Audreys Bookstore.*

The store is closed to browsing, but they are offering delivery or curbside pick-up at 10702 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, AB


Order on-line: www.audreys.ca

Order by phone: 780-423-2487

Order by email: audrey@audreys.ca

REVIEWS

This book should be required reading for anyone working in the fertility field, as they are unlikely to find a more potent psychological study of a persistent individual experiencing infertility and loss….I found Christache’s visuals sublime, Steinberg’s story gripping
– Women Write About Comics

Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)Fertility[is] an extraordinary feat of visual storytelling 
– Foreword Review

Steinberg’s solo-mother-by-choice perspective and accessible, well-paced graphic storytelling brings a fresh angle to the pregnancy memoir canon.
– Publisher’s Weekly

Warning: you’re going to need to set aside some uninterrupted time to savour Myriam Steinberg’s new graphic novel, Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)fertility because it is hard to put down.
– Ormsby Review

Graphic novels are well known for tackling a wide-range of topics and presenting them in ways that convey the subject’s emotional experience in image and script. Catalogue Baby certainly succeeds…. Christache’s capturing of the experiences… is perfect.
-Vancouver Sun

“A bracingly candid, fearless, and funny look at the misconceptions of conception and the emotional rollercoaster of fertility. Myriam Steinberg has turned her journey of heartbreak and healing into something wonderfully alive.” 
—Elan Mastai, writer/producer of THIS IS US and author of ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS.

Self-Care Abdominal Massage For Fertility

“I am feeling stressed, worried, and anxious… I know I need to relax, but I just don’t even know where to start anymore.” 

Does this feel like a familiar sentiment? The stress of trying to conceive can be high under normal circumstances, but add on what has been happening in our world the last year and that stress begins to amp up even higher. 

Abdominal Self-Massage

When I have people come to see me, one of my greatest take home recommendations for de-stressing and relaxation is actually abdominal self massage. I tend to incorporate abdominal Tui Na (Chinese massage) into my general practice to help with circulation to the reproductive organs, but it is also a great practice to help decrease stress. 

If you are looking for a different approach to bringing some calm into your life, check out the routine below! 

Mo-Fa Round Rubbing

This practice involves using the technique known as Mo Fa – Round Rubbing. This is a gentle technique that uses the palm of the hand to bring great care to a specific area of the body. 

Mo Fa is a technique that can have many benefits to the body. It can be used to regulate digestion, relieve abdominal tension, and support fertility and menstrual health as well as creating an overall sense of relaxation. 

The abdominal work can be done over top of clothing or directly on the skin with some oil. It is best to choose a fragrance-free oil. Consider an oil like coconut, jojoba, or sweet almond oil. 

These are general guidelines to follow and it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider to determine if these techniques are appropriate for you. 

Setting the Space 

Set yourself up in such a way that you can lay down comfortably and relax. Consider playing some soft music or use a heating pad under your back to make sure you are cozy.

Do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable. Prop a pillow under your knees and cover your legs with a blanket.

As you rest, close your eyes and take a few moments to observe your breath. Relax into the space and take about ten rounds of deep breaths. 

The Technique 

Place your left hand over your heart and your right palm below the belly button, over your womb, on the midline. Begin by slowly circling your right hand clockwise over the womb.

The pressure can be adjusted to your preference, but I usually recommend just the weight of the hand to start.

Circle the palm until you begin to feel warmth under the right hand. As you notice the warmth, start to spiral this circle larger until you begin to encompass the entire abdomen. Gliding under the edges of the ribs, the hip bones, and across the top of the pubic bone.

After about nine rounds, begin to spiral the circle smaller and smaller until your right palm ends up where it started, circling over the womb. 

Move through these circles very slowly. Keep your wrist relaxed and find a comfortable rhythm staying aware of your breath. 

Let your palm come to rest over the womb and become aware of the sensations underneath your palm. Is there warmth? Do you notice a subtle tingling sensation in the fingers? End the practice with a round of 3-5 deep breaths and again become aware of how you feel in your body at this moment. 

This can be practiced for about 5-10 minutes daily. 

For a live demo of this abdominal technique, you can tune into the video premiere on the Whole Family Health Facebook page on Wednesday, April 21st!

For more information on how we can support your fertility, book a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image @angiecouple

How to Support Fertility With Sleep

According to the APA (American Psychological Association) it is best to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. When people are not getting the appropriate amount or quality of sleep, their stress increases

A nationwide cohort study out of Taiwan found that people who suffer from insomnia were almost four times more likely to struggle with fertility compared to those who were well-rested (1).  

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is important in order to get good quality sleep. 

Here are some tips for improving your sleep: 

  • Keep sleep patterns regular and sleep between 10 pm and 7 am:
    Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Schedule permitting, aim to be in bed by 10pm and wake no later than 7am. 
    You’ll feel better if you are awake during sunlight hours. Once you get into a routine where you’re getting enough sleep each night (even on weekends) you won’t miss the weekend sleep-ins after awhile. 
  • Light/darkness support:
    If it’s not possible for you to sleep when it’s dark and rise when it’s light, you can try using blackout curtains and a sunrise/light alarm to simulate those conditions at off-times.
  • Stop caffeine intake by a certain time:
    When trying to conceive, you should already be limiting your caffeine intake. But in terms of improving sleep habits, caffeine consumption should stop at least 4-6 hours before going to sleep.
  • Turn off technology:
    Turning off backlit electronics at least 30 minutes before bed is essential. Devices like cell phones, tablets, readers, and computers emit short-wavelength enriched light, also known as blue light.

    Blue light has been shown to reduce or delay the natural production of melatonin in the evening and decrease feelings of sleepiness. Blue light can also reduce the amount of time you spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, two stages of the sleep cycle that are vital for cognitive functioning.
  • Relax your mind:
    You might be used to finishing up some last-minute tasks prior to bed. However, it’s best to skip things that might stay on your mind as you go to bed. Try doing relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing exercises instead.
  • Spend time outdoors:
    Spending an hour in sunlight each day can help with quality of sleep and the ability to fall asleep. This hour does not have to occur all at once, you can break it up into increments that fit into your schedule. For example, try to have lunch outside, take walks, and play with pets outside.
  • Short term melatonin intake:
    If you suffer from Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder (DSWPD) -a circadian rhythm disorder, I typically suggest taking a small dose of melatonin for 2-4 weeks to reset your circadian rhythm.

    It is best to stick to short durations with breaks in between, because there is a possibility of long-term use of melatonin negatively affecting your own natural production of melatonin.

    Please consult with a qualified practitioner for dosing and melatonin supplementation scheduling. 

To find out more about how we can help you reduce stress and support your fertility, book a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of our fertility specialists.

References

  1. PMID: 29136234

Dr. Alda Ngo on She Found Motherhood Podcast: Mindfulness for Fertility & Pregnancy Loss

I had the honour and pleasure of chatting with Dr. Sarah from She Found Motherhood about our Mindfulness for Fertility & Pregnancy Loss programs.

Dr Sarah is an inspiring family, maternity and addiction physician based out of Victoria, BC.

We chatted about the ins and outs of becoming parents as healthcare professionals, and how this has informed our medical practices. We also chatted about the power of mindfulness, the research, how it works and how it can increase resilience through your fertility journey and through pregnancy after infertility or miscarriage.

Subscribe and listen to the She Found Motherhood Podcast here.

A little more about She Found Motherhood:

Drs. Sarah and Alicia answer common questions such as: I’m pregnant what do I do? are my symptoms in first trimester normal? What to expect for labour and delivery? How will I know about breastfeeding? How do I care for my newborn?

She Found Motherhood aims to help take the anxiety out of pregnancy and the journey through childbirth to parenthood. We discuss the fourth trimester and how to care for your newborn. We discuss mental health in pregnancy and the postpartum period and how to navigate changing relationships. We discuss newborn sleep, starting solids and even our tips and tricks for all topics given we have had 5 kiddos between the two of us.

Are you looking for evidence based, high quality information to help you make decisions through your pregnancy, labour & delivery and postpartum journey? If so you have come to the right spot! Make sure to subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out on any episodes!

Canadian Infertility Awareness: Infertility During A Pandemic

April 18 – 24 is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week.

Roughly 1 in 6 who are trying to conceive in Canada experience infertility & this number has doubled since the 1980’s.

Research shows that the psychological symptoms associated with infertility are similar to those associated with other serious medical conditions like heart disease, cancer and HIV.

Infertility is already unpredictable, but with the added stresses of the pandemic, fertility patients are having to not only grapple with economic and societal uncertainty, but also disruption to fertility treatments related to fertility clinic closures and limited elective in-office services.

Many patients who are already on tight biological timelines are finding themselves under even more pressure.

Surveys conducted since the onset of the pandemic have revealed that infertility remains a top stressor, despite the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

The stress of infertility remains significant & is comparable to the pandemic itself.

For fertility patients, when, why, how & where become whether, if, what if or even oh no.

There are already so many loaded decisions to be made in the face of uncertainty when dealing with infertility, and all of these are made extra difficult with hormonally influenced emotions. The pandemic only complicates the process.

Additional common questions that fertility patients are having to deal with are:

“ Is it safe for me to get bloodwork & ultrasound while exposing myself to potential COVID-19 in the office?”

“ I don’t want to wait any longer, but what are the implications of starting a potentially high risk pregnancy during a pandemic?”

“How will I grieve failed treatments or delays if I can’t even get together with my community.”

“ Will my partner be able to join me for this appointment or will I have to face it alone?”

“ What if I start a treatment cycle & we have to cancel midway through because there’s a lock down again? “

Infertility is Isolating

Infertility is already an isolating experience, which is also exacerbated by the isolation of the pandemic. As fertility specialists, and in honour of CIAW, we’d like to recognize those who are currently struggling to grow your families and the hardships that you endure, often alone and in silence.

That’s why we are teaming up with Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM) & 3 courageous women who have struggled with infertility, to offer a free virtual event on Sunday, April 25th from 2 – 3:30pm.

Together, we are taking the opportunity to educate, openly share stories, empower and change the conversation around infertility. We want you to know that you are not alone and offer you some hope and inspiration.

Join us online:

Infertility During a Pandemic

Sunday, April 25th from 2 – 3:30pm MDT

Three courageous women will share their personal fertility journeys & what has helped them most along the way.

Dr. Caitlin Dunne, Co-director of PCRM will speak to infertility & treatment options, as well as the impacts of COVID-19 on fertility & treatments.

With the increased stressors of dealing with infertility during the pandemic, WFH’s Dr. Alda Ngo will be offering some free evidence-based mindfulness tools to help you deal with fertility stress.

WFH natural fertility specialist, Christina Pistotnik will share some accessible lifestyle advice to empower you to support and optimize your fertility during this time.

Click here for more information

Or

Register:

Info@wholefamilyhealth.ca

780.756.7736

Stay tuned for more blogs throughout the month for more tips on how to support yourself on your fertility journey!

To find out more about how we can support you with your fertility, book a free 15-minute phone consultation with one our fertility specialists.

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!

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