Categories > Women’s Health

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!

Top 5 Supplements for Endometriosis Symptom Relief

March is Endometriosis awareness month and I get a lot of questions about what supplements can help to relieve Endometriosis symptoms.  

The following are some of the symptoms and their causes that are often experienced by people who suffer from endometriosis: 

Symptom Cause 
Heavy periods Excess estrogen 
Ovarian cysts

Inflammation
Excess estrogen
Endometrial cells outside of the uterus 

Inter-menstrual pain (usually mid-month)


Inflammation due to presence of excess endometrial tissue

Menstrual cramps that increase in severity
Inflammation due to presence of excess endometrial tissue

Painful bowel movements and urination

Endometrial tissue adhering to bowel/uterine tissue (excess estrogen and inflammation) 

Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)

Endometrial tissue adhering to vaginal / cervical tissue

Pelvic pain that is all-encompassing
Increased inflammation 

Spotting between periods 
Excess estrogen / hormone imbalance


Supplements that could help with these symptoms and causes include:

1. DIM (diindolylmethane)

DIM is found in cruciferous vegetables (ie. cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, etc). DIM is anti-inflammatory in nature and is metabolized similarly to estrogen. This helps promote healthy estrogen breakdown and removal from the body. Women with endometriosis are estrogen dominant (meaning high levels of estrogen are present) and that is why proper estrogen metabolism is important. 

A 2018 study looked at the clinical effects of DIM supplementation, DNG (Dienegist-*a prescribed medication) alone, and a combination of DNG and DIM in women with endometriosis (1).

DNG and DIM both inhibited the growth of endometrial cells. Endometrial tissues from women with and without endometriosis were exposed to DIM, DNG, or both. Endometrial cell life was decreased with DIM supplementation alone (25%) significantly more than with DNG alone (9%) and had a more improved effect when used in combination (40%) (1). 

** NOTE: People who are trying to conceive should not use DNG because it inhibits ovulation. However, DIM on its own can be taken by people trying to conceive.

2. Curcumin (Turmeric)  

Curcumin is an active component in turmeric and has proven anti-inflammatory properties as well as other potentially health-promoting characteristics, such as hormone-regulating abilities.

Research on curcumin for the treatment of endometriosis is limited, however, a 2013 study found that it can help reduce endometriosis epithelial cells (these are the cells that adhere to parts of the body outside of the uterus) by reducing excess estrogen production (2)

A 2020 review published by the Journal of Molecular Science suggests that curcumin may provide relief from endometriosis-related inflammation and directly act on decreasing adhesion and invasion of new lesions, shrinking existing lesions and stimulating angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) to healthy cells (3). The authors do suggest that further research is needed to strengthen these findings.

3. Milk thistle

Milk thistle is a plant that contains silymarin, which decreases inflammation and supports healthy liver function.

The liver is important to help manage endometriosis, it’s responsible for filtering out toxins in the body, including excess hormones such as estrogen. As stated previously, endometriosis is an estrogen-dominant condition and endometrial lesions depend on estrogen for development and growth. 

** NOTE: Milk thistle should not be taken if you are on certain medications for depression, diabetes, blood clotting disorders or to help lower cholesterol. Please speak to a qualified practitioner before taking milk thistle. 

4. NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) 

NAC is an amino acid derivative. It is a precursor to glutathione production in the liver, which is one of the body’s most important antioxidants.

NAC restores cellular ability to fight damage from oxidative stress, reduces inflammation, improves cellular detox, and helps regulate the gene that produces pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.

In a 2013 study of 92 women in Italy, 47 took NAC and 45 took a placebo. The study showed that NAC decreased abnormal cell growth, decreased inflammation and reduced inflammatory genes. Also, 24 patients in the NAC group cancelled their scheduled laparoscopies, due to a decrease or disappearance of endometriosis, improved pain reduction or because they had become pregnant! In the other group, only one patient cancelled surgery (4). 

5. Omega-3 

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). This combination can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines

A 2010 study published in Human Reproduction that took place over 12 years, showed that women who consume the highest amounts of omega -3 fatty acids were 22% less likely to be diagnosed with laparoscopically confirmed endometriosis when compared with women who had the lowest intake of Omega 3 fatty acids. Conversely, those that consumed high amounts of trans-unsaturated fat intake were 48% more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis (5) 

Furthermore, some small European studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce the symptoms of dysmenorrhea (painful periods). Researchers believe that prostaglandins (PGs) play a pathogenic part in both endometriosis and dysmenorrhea. Omega 3-fatty acids from fish act as anti-inflammatories in endometriosis and dysmenorrhea by reducing the pro-inflammatory PGs derived from omega-6 fatty acids (processed meat and red meat), and the associated symptoms of endometriosis and dysmenorrhea (6) 

In Summary

I know this list seems like a lot of pills to swallow (pardon my pun)!

Fortunately the first three supplements (DIM, Curcumin, and Milk Thistle) can be found in a single formulation. I recommend Estrovantage by BioClinic or EstroSmart by Lorna Vanderhaeghe.

NAC and Omega 3’s need to be taken separately. 

I do want to stress that supplement intake should not replace the care of a medical doctor and the importance of consulting with a qualified health practitioner before taking any dietary supplements. Not all supplements are safe to take and there is no one-size-fits-all plan. Practitioners at Whole Family Health look at everyone individually and make decisions based on each person’s needs. 

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

References 

  1. PMID: 30001982
  2. PMID: 24639774
  3. PMID: 32244563
  4. PMID: 23737821
  5. PMID: 20332166
  6. PMID: 23642910

Image: IG@theurbanharvest

How to Supplement Nutrient Depletion From Oral Contraceptives

What Are Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives (OC). The pill. Birth control. A method of contraception that has been available in Canada since the 1960’s and according to Stats Canada it is one of the most frequently used medications by Canadian women. These pills can contain a combination of both estrogen and progestin, as well as progestin only packs. 

The pill can be used to prevent pregnancy by stopping the body from ovulating. It is also used to manage side effects of the menstrual cycle like heavy, painful periods, irregular and unpredictable cycles, and skin concerns like acne that are menstrual cycle and hormone related. 

Oral Contraceptives & Micronutrients

But did you know that these hormonal contraceptives can also alter the metabolism of vitamins and micronutrients in your body and may leave some of these stores depleted or deficient in your body with long term use?

A 2012 study compared the blood serum levels of vitamin B12 in oral contraceptive (OC) users versus those without OC and noted a significant decrease in serum B12 levels during the first 6 months of OC use. Long term use without proper supplementation or dietary supply, as you could imagine, could result in a deficiency over time.

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that is used for DNA synthesis and supports the function of nerve cells. It is readily available in animal products, fortified or added to some foods.

A review of the literature found that OC tend to depress levels of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folacin (folic acid), vitamin B12, vitamin C, zinc and elevate levels of vitamin K, copper, and iron.

How to Supplement

Riboflavin and pyridoxine can both be obtained from animal products like meat and eggs.

Folacin or folic acid can be found in leafy green vegetables – think spinach, brussel sprouts, and asparagus.

Vitamin B12 is obtained through animal products like eggs, meat and dairy, as well as fortified cereals. Just be sure to check the labels of your food, especially if animal products are not a part of your diet. 

Food sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, seeds like hemp hearts or nuts, such as cashews and almonds.

Sources rich in vitamin C of course include oranges and surprisingly broccoli and brussel sprouts as well. 

It is important to discuss these effects of OC with your healthcare provider and ensure that you are able to maintain proper vitamin and mineral intake either through diet or the appropriate supplementation to maintain optimum health. 

For more information, contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

References

  1. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2015010/article/14222-eng.htm
  2. PMID: 22464408
  3. PMID: 7001015

Image: IG via @dearklaude

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

How to Remedy the Brain’s Negative Bias

OLIVE GUEST BLOG

I have the honour of guest blogging for Olive Fertility Centre this month.

Here’s this week’s blog:

Do you struggle with fear of unwanted outcomes on your fertility journey, yet you can’t stop the fearful thoughts?

Are you caught between not wanting to be negative or pessimistic & being too hopeful, because you want to protect yourself from disappointment?

Consider changing your relationship to the negative thoughts rather than trying to stop them.

Our brains are like velcro for negative experiences & teflon for positive ones

The brain has a negative bias, it actually preferentially scans for & hangs onto unpleasant experiences. Evolutionarily, it has been more critical for survival to become aware of danger to protect against it. So our neural pathways for the undesirable tend to be stronger.

Negative memories grow faster than positive ones & according to neurologists, our brains are like velcro for negative experiences & teflon for positive ones.

It’s easier to become fearful & pessimistic, especially when constantly faced with intense disappointment – like unsuccessful natural or medicated cycles, or pregnancy loss.

Stop & Savour Your Experiences

So be kind to yourself, your mind is designed to want to protect from disappointment. It takes conscious effort to integrate positive experiences & to heal negative ones.

The remedy is not to suppress unwanted events & associated thoughts, as we simply can’t control everything life hands to us.

It’s about cultivating space to be with the unpleasant & notice the pleasant at the same time.

Know that it’s important to stop & savour positive experiences, which stimulates more neurons to fire & wire together, creating stronger neural pathways for positive implicit memories that can define our habits & behaviours.

Here’s how:

  1. Consciously notice a pleasant event. It doesn’t have to be special, it can be ordinary like a sip of your favourite drink, curling up into bed, or snuggling with a loved one.
  2. Stop & stay with the experience for at least 5-20 seconds.
  3. Notice what sensations (smells, sights, tastes, touch), thoughts & emotions are present.

    This creates stronger healthy somatic experiences, memories & neural pathways.

For more info on Mindfulness & upcoming Mindfulness for Fertility & Pregnancy after Infertility & Loss programs go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

Mindful Breath Awareness

OLIVE GUEST BLOG

I have the honour of guest blogging for Olive Fertility Centre this month.

Here’s this week’s blog:

Are you feeling anxious or stressed?

According to Mental Health Research Canada, anxiety & depression levels have increased significantly since the pandemic. On top of the usual fertility stress, finding effective tools to support yourself is more needed than ever.

Try Mindful Breathing

The breath is like an anchor, often our mind & body are in 2 different places. We’re often doing one thing while thinking about something else. Bringing our attention to our breath unites the body & mind, actually re-wiring the brain. It’s like a brain workout: enlarging the frontal lobes to increase emotional regulation, while shrinking the amygdala, decreasing stress hormones.

Mindfulness helps you increase your capacity to concentrate & manage strong emotions, so that you can respond to stressful situations with more flexibility when you’re overwhelmed. It helps you to recover more effectively & sustainably from stress.

Here’s how:

  1. Find a comfortable upright posture, where you’re alert & at ease.
  2. Gently close your eyes.
  3. Try to adopt an attitude of open, gentle & kind curiosity.
  4. Now bring your attention to your breathing, wherever it’s easiest to feel. Usually at the belly, chest or nostrils.
  5. Focus your full attention on the sensations of breathing, with each inhalation & exhalation. There is no need to change your breathing, just notice it coming & going as it is.
  6. When you notice your mind has been pulled into thought, don’t’ worry – this is normal! As best as you can, notice that your attention has moved & simply notice the thought as a thought. Then kindly escort your attention back to your breathing.
  7. Continue focusing on breathing sensations & gently guiding your attention back to the breath whenever you notice it has been pulled elsewhere.

It’s all about noticing when your mind gets distracted & starting over & over again. Each time you do this, it’s like a bicep curl for the brain – strengthening healthy neural pathways!

For more information on Mindfulness & upcoming Mindfulness for Fertility and Mindfulness for Pregnancy after Infertility & Loss programs go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

Image: IG @worldwide.art.sharing

Exercise When Trying To Conceive With PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can present along a spectrum of numerous signs and symptoms that some people exhibit, while others may not.

The symptoms can include irregular menstrual cycles, high levels of male hormones (androgens/testosterone), acne, excessive hair growth on the body, head hair loss, insulin resistance, difficulty losing weight, and infertility.

However, the biggest component that contributes to infertility in people with PCOS is anovulation (lack of ovulation), due to insulin resistance. This is when cells do not respond efficiently to insulin, making it more difficult for the body to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. This in turn leads to anovulation because higher blood glucose levels cause the ovaries to produce too much testosterone, which interferes with the development of the follicles and prevents normal ovulation.

The relationship between physical activity, higher BMI, and insulin resistance associated with PCOS has been studied extensively, and one review showed improved ovulation, weight loss, and insulin resistance with moderate exercise for 12- to 24-week exercise programs (1).

General Guidelines: 

  • If you are of average BMI or higher, and are sedentary (not exercising):
    • You should be doing light to moderate exercise at least 3x/week but no more than 5x/week.
  • If you are exercising at least 3-5x/week:
    • Maintain this and do not exceed 5x/week of exercise, especially if it is higher intensity exercise.

Types of Exercises Best Suited to PCOS (do one or the other, not both in the same week):

  • Resistance exercise 3x/week for 45 minutes per session. 
  • Vigorous exercise 75 minutes/week, which can include high intensity interval training (HIIT) but for no longer than 20 minutes each time.

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

References

PMID: 20833639

Image:
Stephanie Deangelis
www.stephaniedeangelis.com
IG @steph_angelis

How To Navigate Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss

OLIVE GUEST BLOG

I have the honour of guest blogging for Olive Fertility Centre this month.

Here’s this week’s blog:

Pregnancy Is Not A Cure For Infertility or Miscarriage Stress

I had expected to feel nothing but joy and exhilaration when I finally got that positive pregnancy test after a difficult 7+ year fertility journey.

But what I found was that the effects from the grief, loss and shock of infertility and pregnancy loss were not simply cured by the positive pregnancy test. After all the worst-case scenarios that I had experienced, I was wired to expect and wait for the other shoe to drop.

PTSD In Pregnancy

In fact, some researchers argue that infertility and pregnancy loss can be a form of complex trauma that replays even once pregnancy has been achieved. (1,2) For some women, the anxiety and worry they experienced during their fertility journey persists throughout the pregnancy. In addition, once they “graduate” from their fertility clinic they may feel cut adrift from sources of support they had relied on.

If you are continuing to experience anxiety during your pregnancy, it is important to seek out support like counselling or a support group.

Mindfulness Reduces Stress and Increases Resilience

Another resource is a Mindfulness-Based program. Mindfulness has been shown to help decrease stress and anxiety, while increasing resilience and well being. Research shows that when practised throughout pregnancy, not only can Mindfulness help to promote mental health, it can also make childbirth easier, improve partner relationships and enhance parenting sensitivity as well as child well-being. (3)

When I finally became pregnant with my son, a home pregnancy test revealed that I was pregnant during a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I was trapped there, with all of the thoughts and feelings, excited, elated and terrified. Yet I was forced to sit and be with it all, without uttering a word about it to anyone. I anchored myself in the steadiness of my breath, as I practiced watching the storm of thoughts and emotions bubble through my mind, trying not to judge them, or let them take over me.

Mindfulness allowed me to make peace with the unknown of the future, by helping me to accept and find ease in the present moment.

My mindfulness practice gave me the inner space and calm to recognize and take good care of what I did have control over, while cultivating openness and deep acceptance of whatever outcome I did not have control over. It allowed me to make peace with the unknown of the future, by helping me to accept and find ease in the present moment.

Mindfulness for Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss Program

To learn more Mindfulness tools, join us for a Mindfulness program dedicated to those who are currently Pregnant after Infertility and/or Pregnancy loss.

This program follows the famous 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and associates at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It is the most well-established mindfulness program to date and has become a standard in scientific research.

It will give you the tools you need to support you through your pregnancy, so that you may feel more at ease and enjoy this very special time.

Program details:

Online Mindfulness For Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss
Apr 26 – Jun 21, 2021
By donation at the end of the program

For more program information and to register, go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

References:

  1. Farren J, Jalmbrant M, Falconieri N, et al. Posttraumatic stress, anxiety and depression following miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy: a multicenter, prospective, cohort study. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2020;222:367.e1-22
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2019.10.102
  2. Kami L. Schwerdtfeger & Karina M. Shreffler (2009) Trauma of Pregnancy Loss and Infertility Among Mothers and Involuntarily Childless Women in the United States, Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14:3, 211-227
    DOI: 10.1080/15325020802537468
  3. Duncan LG, Shaddix C. Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP): Innovation in Birth Preparation to Support Healthy, Happy Families. International Journal of Birth and Parent Education. 2015 Jan;2(2):30-33.
    PMID: 29051821

Exercise When Trying To Conceive Naturally

It’s another New Year and starting a new exercise regimen is usually high on the list of healthy changes people make at the start of the New Year. But what if you are trying to conceive, is it ok to exercise then?

There can be a lot of conflicting advice out there and it can be quite confusing to know what is right when it comes to exercise and trying to conceive. It is completely understandable, because there are different guidelines as to what is safe and healthy, depending on what your current situation is.

For example, recommendations depend on your current level of fitness, Body Mass Index (BMI), whether or not you’re going through IVF or using ovarian stimulating medications, if you have PCOS or if you have suffered from miscarriages in the past.

Therefore, I will try to break it down as best as I can over the coming weeks for different scenarios, starting with exercise when trying to conceive naturally.

Exercise When Trying to Conceive Naturally

As I mentioned, it does depend on your current fitness level. When I am talking to my patients about exercise, I always assess what their current fitness level and regime is.

There is a fine line between too much exercise and too little exercise. Too much high-impact and vigorous exercise has been shown to negatively impact fertility, as it can cause menstrual and ovulation dysfunction (meaning no menstrual/ovulation cycles or irregular cycles in both). 

This is mainly because people who are too lean affect their hormones in a way that can stop/delay ovulation and menstruation and this can negatively impact conception (1).

That said, studies have also shown that people who are of average weight (within a healthy BMI) but lead sedentary lifestyles also have lower fertility rates (2).

For those who have a higher BMI and live a sedentary lifestyle, this can negatively impact ovulation as well. This in turn, can decrease chances of conception (3).

I also want to mention that it is more about living a healthier lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and being physically active that will positively affect fertility rates rather than an arbitrary number going down on the scale (4).

So where does this leave you and how much should you exercise? 

General Guidelines: 

  • If you are exercising 7 days a week, working out longer than 1 hour each day, or are below your BMI:
    • You need to cut down your workouts by at least 2 days a week and/or decrease the intensity/amount of time of your workouts and eat higher calories. 
    • A good gauge for an appropriate level of intensity is that you should be able to talk through workouts.
    • Do not push yourself to a point of endorphin release (aka the runner’s high).
    • Refrain from going from high-impact to low-impact or no exercise, based on the menstrual cycles (for example pushing yourself to exhaustion with excess exercise before ovulation and then becoming sedentary after ovulation, until taking a pregnancy test). This can also add to the emotional roller coaster of trying to conceive.
  • If you are of average or higher BMI and are sedentary (not exercising): 
    • You should be doing light to moderate exercise at least 3x/week but no more than 5x/week.
  • If you are exercising at least 3-5x/week:
    • Maintain this and do not exceed 5x/week of exercise, especially if it is higher intensity exercise.

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

References: 

  1. PMID: 11431132
  2.  PMID: 23963750
  3. PMID: 26097395
  4. PMID: 31304974 

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IG @mre.cloe

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