Advanced Maternal Age

IMG_0560I did not think I would be single and 41. I was pretty sure at 25, 27, 33, even 35 that kids were unconditionally on the horizon. I was not concerned that I would have kids later – after all I didn’t even graduate from medical school until I was 27. Then, I broke up with my long term love at 35. A quick trip to the fertility clinic at that time told me I was still good to go, and gave me info on my options.

I have been a lesbian for most of my adult life,  so assisted reproduction was  a necessary part of the planning. I  had considerable time to collect information on the legalities of sperm donors vs sperm bank options, and to become familiar with the insemination options that both gay and straight couples use in the quest for pregnancy. As a fertility specialist, I have supported many people through natural conception, IUI, and IVF. Now, well, lets say it could happen accidentally as I have switched teams. But, at my “advanced maternal age” natural conception is quite unlikely. So, after a second trip to the fertility clinic to confirm my continued fertile-ability, I am 3 days away from cryopreserving my eggs.

What this means, is I am doing the first half of an IVF cycle, and then instead of fertilizing  and transferring them, the eggs are put on ice for a later date. I am choosing to suspend the eggs instead of pre-made embryos, because  as referenced above, I am not in a relationship ready for babies. Its a logical choice for a single woman who is reaching the end of the #fertile years. It is also exciting to foil time, and have the possibility of a young family in the next few years. The miracles of modern medicine 🙂

Fortunately,  I decided around 33 to become an expert in #enhancingfertility and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) as an Integrative Medicine doctor. I studied  TCM/ acupuncture and fertility support from 2005-2011, and switched my focus to botanicals, endocrine function and anti-aging medicines in 2012. Read my published article about Integrative Medical support for the follicular phase of #IVF here.

I have quietly been preparing for this date in case I did not end up with a kid on my hip during my rather tumultuous 30’s. I will gracefully accept a child-free lifestyle if that is what is meant to be, as it has a freedom I value and I have wonderful children in my life. I may also choose to foster and adopt locally in Maine. The point of this cryopreservation is not only to end up with a child,  it is to preserve my choice to work towards conceiving within the next few years.

IMG_0672For those in the know, I am on day 8 of a stimulation cycle. I took 450 IU of Gonal-F for the first 6 days, and have ramped down to 300 for the next 2 days. I started 0.25 mg Cetrotide yesterday and will be continuing that for the next few days. Then, the trigger shot and retrieval Tues or Wed. My response is good and side effects minimal, which I am very grateful for. It really does pay to prepare for an event like this even years ahead. (PS. I had 21 eggs collected! 12 mature and 8 immature)

Here are my Top 5 steps for Fertility Preservation in Women over 35

1. CoQ10 preserves the quality of the eggs mitochondria  – essential for replication and good “egg energy” aka ATP for cell division. 100-400 mg daily prevention, 400 mg twice daily during a stimulation cycle.  ( The use of mitochondrial nutrients to improve the outcome of infertility treatment in older patients. Fertility and Sterility 2010; 93:272-5. )

2. DHEA is a lipid antioxidant and youth-reviving hormone precursor. I suggest 10 mg daily for prevention,  25 mg daily 6 weeks before stimulation cycle. Up to 75mg daily is evidenced to improve egg and embryo quality and enhance spontaneous conception. (Addition of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) for poor-responder patients before and during IVF treatment improves the pregnancy rate: a randomized prospective study. Hum Reprod.  2010; 25(10): 2496-500 Accessed September 13 2013)

3. This is your individualized medicine step – what do you need to tonify your specific reproductive patterns and enhance the chances of conception?

4. Fertility Massage is key for addressing muscular and ligament stress lodged deep in the pelvis that could mechanically impair the ability to maintain pregnancy. Concomitant castor oil packs clear debris from the ovaries and fallopian tubes, flushing lymphatic channels for a more balanced local immune response. The self massage/ hands on aspect maintains a connection between the cerebral, medicalized experience of ART and the physical sensations of the lower belly while reducing emotional stress. http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-massage.

5. Optimize your nutritional status with: extra leafy greens on a regular basis; superfoods especially in smoothies;daily  fresh vegetables; and choosing clean meat and dairy whenever possible. Reduce or eliminate sugar during high intensity hormone treatments including birth control pills.

It is the grit of everyday living that builds the pearl of one’s career. In the process of enhancing my own fertility, I have learned as much from the patients I have treated and supported as they learned from me. This primal biological drive has helped me to become a much better doctor in this field as I experience the nuances of treatment myself. I look forward to continuing to support all patients seeking conception, especially those of us above 35 that have lived full complicated lives and have had to balance the biological desire to have children with the real-life tensions of sex, gender, career, finance, and relationship.

 

 

 

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The Lost Art

I am sick in an invisible way that people cant really see, and I don’t really feel – much. I can take a pill and make it mostly unnoticeable. Except for the fact that my hair falls out in handfuls with a certain kind of stress…

I consider myself an expert in self-care. And yet, I can hardly find the time to do the “little” things that I know could help. Like, nettle hair rinses, getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night, taking my fish oil, and eating more protein. Instead, I keep myself too busy and dull myself with things that make me feel better for a few hours, but never in the long run. I have fallen into the mindlessness of  modern health care where I want a pill to do the work of healing for me. Dammit!

We all have levels of health maintenance we are willing to do on a regular basis. Vitamins, exercise, water, organics, therapy, whatever. We each have a certain degree of self care required to maintain the status quo of daily function. But, what happens when that balance is tipped and we need to actually recover from an illness, injury, or accident?

I offer you an invitation to step off the rat wheel of everyday living, and create a luminal space for healing. A luminal space is an anthropology term that refers to a period of time “outside of time” – a step out of everyday living. Some health crisis force this through body fluid effluvia that ties one to the bathroom, or physical disability that prevents mobility. Too often we are able to power through a cold, or anxiety attack or injury and do not engage in the art of self care to allow actual healing. This is what snowballs into chronic illness / disease or chronic pain.

I have been “sick” for at least 9 months, but I haven’t made more than a few half-hearted efforts to engage in deep self care. I have taken lots of prescriptions and had lots of blood tests, but is that truly healing medicine? I finally broke my baby toe last week, and have been suddenly forced to slow down by immobility. I am doing hydrotherapy, making castor oil packs, cooking and eating good food, meditating, saying no to social engagements I don’t deeply want to do, and getting sleep. These are some of the cornerstones of deep self care.

It is very difficult to give ones self approval to close the door on society and expectations and family, and friends, and chores, and domestic duties, and distractions, and choose to do something solely for the self instead. We are culturally programmed to take care of business, pleasure, family, kids, dogs, and our homes before we take care of the inner self. If you are sick, at any level, you will heal faster, and better if you take the time to practice deep medicine by taking the time to take care of your self.

I am here to help you do that. And, I give myself permission to offer that same wisdom and practice for my self. The pills and the maintenance are not enough. We must engage the luminal, lost art of deep self care for complete health and healing.

 

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Counter-Response to the Multivitamin Controversy

This post was originally written for Apothecary By Design in December 2013 http://www.apothecarybydesign.com/blog/

Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements! 5 medical doctors cried out in an editorial piece first released in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and then circulated through all major newspapers and social media outlets early this week.  The articles released in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and countless other newspapers pointed out that multivitamins have failed to show benefit in several large scale studies; however, the evidence reviewed was not as clear as we were led to believe. As with every evidence based study, it is important to look at the information behind the research, the studies cited, and the actual information the studies gathered.

The quality of multivitamins IS a true concern for consumers. The studies supporting multivitamins have been mixed, and we acknowledge this. If you are going to take a multivitamin it is not an effective use of money to buy a low quality product (like the one illustrated below) that is not well absorbed and/or is coated in toxic chemicals and fillers. A very good diet may reduce or eliminate the need for a daily dose of essential nutrients. Some multivitamins may be a waste of money, not because studies illustrate a lack of benefit, but because of the abysmal quality of the product itself. Choosing an appropriate multivitamin is another question – one that Apothecary by Design’s wellness specialists welcome.

The following studies were used to support the evidence that multivitamins are not worth taking:

fmgt4Yi09-XGE8j8WdSI0z2key4wGe5glRyJ-QC8wH2_S3x8dxi0mHnxUERU0zmV047v=s1001.     Multivitamins and cognitive decline in men 65 or older

For example, in the first study on cognition, the multivitamin assessed was a well-known  common multivitamin that provides low level nutrients in the cheapest, least bioavailable forms. These poor quality minerals generally include  oxides and sulphates. For example, magnesium sulfate is epsom salt, like you would use in a bath. Magnesium citrate is a better quality, more absorbable mineral. (See label) Check out the “other ingredients” as well – 3 artificial colors including the noxious FD&C Red #40.

Regardless of the supplement quality, cognition issues are not primarily related to vitamin/ mineral deficiencies, but are a long term response to heavy metal toxicity, poor cerebral perfusion (not enough blood to the brain), omega 3 deficiency, hormone deficiency, environmental contamination, stress and elevated cortisol levels, head trauma, prescription medication side effects and many more individual variants.

For example, how many of the physicians studied were also taking statin drugs? These ubiquitous prescription medications are known to have memory impairment, loss of memory and amnesia as potential side effects.

When presenting strong statements like multivitamins are a waste of money, it is responsible to use evidence that considers a straighter line between cause and effect.

2.     Multivitamins failed to reduce cardiovascular events in men and women with previous myocardial infarction

The second study cited as proof that multivitamins are a waste of money was a 2012 study evaluating the effects of chelation therapy on men and women over 65 with history of a heart attack.

This study had significant setbacks.  Chief among them were the high drop-out rates due to the strenuous protocol of 30 weekly chemical chelation infusions followed by 10 maintenance infusions two to eight weeks apart.

It is difficult to assess the effect of a multivitamin on long term health with such invasive chemical and vitamin therapies being administered at the same time, and it certainly clouds what is presented as a black and white result.

Antioxidants, nutritional counseling and botanical therapies are also first line treatments in the Integrative health world to repair myocardial function. Once again, the true nature of the study being cited is obscured by the dramatic headlines.

2.     Multivitamins did not prevent the development of chronic disease or death.

If only a simple, cheap, low dose, poor quality multivitamins could save the world from chronic disease….

Quality matters in the food we eat, the medications we take and the supplements we buy. Chronic disease is a complex, multifactorial health concern whose cure cannot be reduced to oversimplified statements like these.

Finally – the original article states “….beta carotene, vitamin E and possible high dose vitamin A supplements increase mortality.” What they leave out, is that high dose beta-carotene increases risk of … lung cancer in smokers (only.) And alpha-tocopherol vitamin E increases the risk of heart disease …but full spectrum vitamin E with both tocopherols and tocotrienols reduce the risk.  Limiting the information sensationalizes the story, obscures the evidence and limits its relevance.

The great thing about this editorial is that it exposes the poor quality multivitamins out there for what they can be: a sense of false security. No one can eat fast food regularly, take a poor quality low dose multivitamin, not practice any preventative measures, and not develop chronic disease eventually. That much IS true.

A multivitamin needs to be able to be absorbed, with high quality minerals and therapeutic dosages of vitamins at the very least to offer prevention and protection. These remain a worthwhile investment for people wanting to maximize their nutritional value. Furthermore, high quality children’s multivitamins remain a good nutritional adjunct for picky eaters and kids with behavioral or health issues. Multivitamins are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle with good quality food choices, exercise, and stress reduction.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/medicalprofs/trial-to-assess-chelation-therapy-cvuv10n4.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10359235

http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/501471

http://www.nleducation.co.uk/resources/reviews/the-next-generation-vitamin-e-how-tocotrienols-benefit-the-heart-brain-and-liver/

Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements. Annals of Internal Medicine. Eliseo Guallar, MD, DrPH; Saverio Stranges, MD, PhD; Cynthia Mulrow, MD, MSc, Senior Deputy Editor; Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH; and Edgar R. Miller III, MD, Phd p. 850

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September 2013

IMG_1626Apples are in season again, so it must be time to go back to school. This year, I will be the one in front of the classroom! This is completely new for me, and I have been anxiously preparing mentally (and literally) for most of the summer. Academics are an important part of a doctors CV, and an area that I have studiously avoided in my career thus far. But when Corinne Martin at University of Southern Maine Nursing School contacted me about the program she has been developing as a holistic health minor for USM the fear was less than the excitement. I am honored to be teaching CON 284 Botanical Therapies for the fall semester. The course is an introductory level exploration some of the issues that surround medicinal plant use including historical dynamics, ecological effects and cultural perceptions of herbs. I will also be teaching practical clinical use of commonly used botanicals. We have guest speakers coming in, a practical how-to workshop on medicinal preparations, and a diverse reading list. Plant medicine has been foundational to my practice, and I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my own understanding and become more of a community resource!

I work primarily at the Age Management Center these days, with a strong focus on hormone health. I work with Dr. Michael Bedecs who is a Men’s Health expert, and is extremely experienced in hormone replacement. I am grateful to say he has taken me under his wing, and I have found a permanent place for my private practice here in Maine (and beyond.) It took almost two years to find the right work environment and business associate after owning my own clinic for 11 years in Toronto. Stay tuned for new articles on fertility,  perimenopause and transgender/transsexual health care. When working with hormones, it is impossible not to consider trans* health care, as this is a population often dependent on hormone use. Dr. Bedecs and I will continue to merge his extensive knowledge of hormone use with my specific integrative medicine training, community commitment, and health care activism to create a concierge style medical practice to serve all genders equally with cutting edge comprehensive treatment plans.

The other work I have been doing is more personal, learning how to trust my gut. Who is good at this? Tips? Strategies? It is so hard in this mixed modern world for me to be able to sift through the messages that come from outside vs. those that come from inside. What I have learned, is that if the inner messages are not heeded, outside havoc will soon result. Or, an event will occur with a big “I Told You So” tag on it. This is part of my process as a human – what is your process? We all have evolutionary issues that we work though, each as unique as stars. Having good guides – as partners, therapists, teachers, doctors, friends – is key to actually learning from our process and not repeating the same mistakes. I am lucky to have all of the above right now – except a good Dr. That is next on my list!

Thank you for reading through, for listening. My health story is mirrored in my life, and I know all of yours are too. It is the details of life that illustrate the pathways of disease and also those of health. Find yourself a Dr that will listen for the details, and trace paths. Take a new course. Call someone you miss. Step outside your comfort zone and do something professionally that scares you! It is September 2013, the time is ripe!

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Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy

Naturopathic medicine is not a single kind of healing, but is an array of healing practices. I think of Naturopathic Medicine as a wheel, and what we do as the different spokes that make up the whole. These “spokes” are called modalities, and include acupuncture, counseling, herbal medicine, functional medicine, homeopathy, massage, minor surgery, nutrition and in some states/provinces, prescription medications and/or IV therapies. Naturopathic Medicine is diverse – each doctor chooses what areas to focus on.  Many N.D.’s choose one specific modality, like acupuncture, functional medicine, or homeopathy. Others, like myself, are eclectic and utilize many of the modalities, depending on the individual case.

Acupuncture, counseling and massage are not as applicable for self care; however, nutrition, herbal medicine, and homeopathy are very important ways that people can take care of themselves. There is only so much help that Dr. Google can offer. If general information basics are not resolving the issue, or you have complex health concerns with multiple medications involved, having a licensed ND assist you in recovery is going to be the most effective and safest utilization of natural medicines.

NUTRITION is the philosophy of using food as medicine. Nutrition can be used therapeutically to treat specific conditions – such as eating beets and dandelion leaves for liver cleansing, or cabbage juice for ulcers. The foods that we eat in 2013 are very different from what our grandparents were eating. The soils are stripped of minerals (or toxic like on Munjoy Hill, ) many foods are genetically modified, and the preparation and processing of foods radically alters nutritional values. Supplementation is generally included with nutrition as it is often necessary, given today’s food choices, to supplement some nutrients that are no longer found in food.

HERBAL MEDICINE is an excellent way to treat the whole family. In theory, it is similar to using pharmaceuticals – specific components within each herb cause specific actions in the mind, body and spirit. Herbs can have a powerful action or a gentle action. Generally, the best herbs for self care are simple, common and safe for everyone in the family. If there are any specific contraindications such as interactions with medication, I would be sure to mention those.  The general dose for herbal medicine for an adult is 1 teaspoon of tincture (alcohol extract) in a small amount of water, 3 times a day. Teas are drank hot 2-3 times a day or as needed. Children’s dosage can be determined as follows:

Patients weight in lb divided by 150 = percent of dose

ie) 70 lb child / 150 = 0.46 so child gets slightly less that ½ adult dose.

If is 1 tsp 3 x a day for adult, give ½ tsp 3 times a day to child.

Herbs are generally best taken on an empty stomach, to maximize absorption.

HOMEOPATHY is a very complex system of medicine that gently supports the body’s ability to heal itself through the use of “remedies” and the philosophy that “like treats (or cures) like.”  The specific remedy chosen is one, which, if given to a healthy person, would elicit the very symptoms of an illness. Therefore, the remedy is known to cure that illness. Homeopathic treatment can be a profound journey of self-discovery as old wounds are healed and our true potential is illuminated. Explaining the mechanism of homeopathic medicine is difficult as it operates on the quantum level rather than the commonly understood Newtonian mechanism of action.  Symptoms are seen as effective reflections of compensation on the  mental, physical, and emotional levels. For example, when a warning light comes on in your car,  we investigate what was wrong with the engine, not just disconnect the light! Seen as warning lights, symptoms are the body’s way of showing the outside world that something is wrong or not working properly. The constellation of symptoms points the Homeopathic Doctor to understand the bigger picture overall, and which remedy is indicated to effectively treat the underlying condition. A Naturopath practicing Homeopathy gives a homeopathic remedy to stimulate the body’s defense systems to complete the healing process. This is the concept of the vital force: the body is always trying to move towards health.  This medicine is an extremely safe and effective method of eliminating disease.

 

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Reflections from the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference 2013

What a phenomenal catalyst for change. June 13-15 was the 12th annual Trans Health Conference in Philly. It was a massive collection of workshops on many different aspects of Transgender, Transsexual and differently gendered health and healing including medical, legal, spiritual, practical aspects, self-empowerment and so much more. I was honored to be a presenter this year on Naturopathic Medicine and Trans Health. It was my first time attending the conference, and I am so impressed by the caliber of the event. I primarily attended medical style workshops including presentations on the most recent research being done with the trans community.

My talk was a great learning process for me. Not only from the questions asked by the diverse and well informed crowd, but also as a reflection of self. I am very comfortable in the trans community, consider myself an ally, and am aware of the multidimensional and sometimes fragile nature of trans identities. And yet, twice during my presentation I wrongly identified someone as a woman and a man when calling on people for questions. Under pressure, my highly educated nervous system switched back to my reptilian brain of the binary He-She world – and this with all the *knowing* that I have of the great diversity of gender expression. I was disappointed in myself.  It is a lesson that in working with this community, it is especially important to be conscious of language. The old ways of thinking are simply not progressive enough to enter the dialogue. For example, when referencing  people, we as a society need to step outside of classifying people by sex (and race.) Instead of saying “the woman in the yellow shirt”, say “the person in the yellow shirt is ….” The majority of the time our binary classification may be right, but there is a significant proportion of times when our 2D classifiers are actually incorrect, and those can be very painful moments for the individual inhabiting the misread gender identity.

I also talked about adrenal health, and was pleased to learn of new research that evidences salivary cortisol levels are indeed raised higher in the transitioning trans population than in controls. Meaning – stress is huge. Everyone working with trans people of all identifications will need to do stress management and adrenal support. Adrenals are also a source of endogenous hormones including DHEA, which could be a resource for transmasculine and transfeminine people not taking hormones as it has the potential to shift to both testosterone and estrogen internally.  There were many questions about the use of botanicals that have been evidenced to have steroid-like action. This is an area I need much more clinical experience in.

I was heartened to meet 3 other Naturopathic Doctors and two herbalists working in this field at the conference, all of who gave presentations as well.  They reminded me of some of the important preventative medicine aspects of working with people on hormone therapies like hypertension, osteoporosis, calcium quality, high cholesterol and so much more. There were also acupuncturists, and ayruvedic practitioners offering other traditional perspectives. Next year I hope to cultivate a workshop where we all meet to share information! I know I was left with more questions than answers.

I learned important information about our trans youth, and ways to support them better from both a practical level in schools, around mental health, and medically. Dori Midnight, a Massachusettes healer and fairy witch did workshops in mental health, herbalism and ancestral trans magics. I also got to share a room with her, which was a delightful meeting of the minds with gluten-free snacks. There were many sessions on identity development and closed meetings for specific gendered health care needs that looked inspiring and transformational. There were many fantastic workshops I did not get a chance to attend, including a 2 day medical training stream which I will certainly do next year.

Overall, the experience was one that provoked intense introspection and profound leaps of knowledge. It was an event that is crucially important to modern medicine, to understand not only the vernacular but also the urgency of the need for competent health care providers AND self care within the transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming communities.

A few links and resources from the conference:

http://www.trans-health.org/

http://www.dorilandia.com/html/home.html

http://thirdroot.org/

http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/admin/contentEngine/contentDocuments/Gender_Independent_Children_final.pdf

www.riverstoneconsult.com

www.gendercreativekids.ca

www.fenwayhealth.org/transhealth

 

 

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#TTC – Safe Treatments for Fertility & First Trimester Anxiety

The work of becoming/being pregnant marks a time in a woman’s life when the game changes. Alcohol is no longer an option for stress management. Most herbs and even common teas are viewed with suspicion, and many medications are frowned on. Many of our crutches for managing the stresses of daily life are taken away, and the stress of in/fertility is added. However, there are natural treatments available for this time period to reduce stress, ease anxiety, and support a healthy first trimester.

Flower Essences are very safe for all expecting and #TTC moms, and are especially useful for women using multiple fertility and metabolic medications as they have no interactions or side effects! Flower remedies are literally essences of the particular flower in a brandy solution. Bach flower essences are the most commercially available. FES (Flower Essence Society,) Alaskan Essences, Perelandra and more are other well respected flower essence brands. Bach has 38 different flower remedies available; however the following are especially pertinent for fertility and first trimester. Dosage is 3-5 drops in water 2-4 times daily or as needed. The very small amount of alcohol in these medications will not cause any fetal problems as it is so minute a dose.

Aspen: For apprehension and vague fears

Gorse: Brightens perspective and increases optimism.

Holly: For envy or jealousy of others

Larch: Gets one out of the success/failure paradigm and increases self-confidence

Wild Rose: Restores interest and joy when feeling apathetic or resigned.

White Chestnut: Restores a peaceful mind when caught in repetitive thoughts

Botanical Medicine: Some herbs are appropriate for this time period, however most herbs are best set aside until the pregnancy is well established or beyond breastfeeding. One herb that is a #TTC and first trimester best friend is viburnum prunifolium otherwise known as black haw. This is different from viburnum opulus aka cramp bark – do not mix the two! Black haw quiets an “irritable” uterus, and prevents miscarriage. It is very safe and quite effective. I recommend 1/4 to 1/2 tsp daily for the first trimester as needed. For questions and concerns, refer to your local Naturopathic Doctor who can take your full history and prescribe according to your individual health care needs. Oatstraw or avena sativa is also a wonderful tonic that is nourishing to the body and calming to the mind. This herb is best taken as a tea. It is gluten free, hydrating with rich minerals (therefore great for morning sickness) and soothing to frazzled nerves. Valerian is perfect for nighttime anxiety. It is safe in pregnancy, breastfeeding, and for pediatrics. This is Mother Nature’s truly sedative herb. Used in doses of 5-30 drops before bed, this can help quiet the mind and improve the duration and quality of sleep. I like it as an alcohol free (glycerite) tincture as the taste is slightly sweeter than the alcohol based formula. Capsules are also an option although I prefer the smaller dosing options of the liquid form. (Valerian is very well researched, please contact me for a formal monograph if desired.)

imagesFinally, lavender essential oil has a time honored place in the treatment of anxiety.  For those whom lavender has a calming effect you can use lavender products liberally that have the real essential oil in them – avoid synthetic fragrance analogues. There are now lavender essential oil capsules that are quite effective for treating occasional or situational anxiety. These act quickly and safely to diminish feelings of panic, irritability and stress. Typically essential oils should not be used internally during pregnancy, so these lavender caps are best used only until the day of ovulation. There is a lavender glycerite tincture also available which can be used sparingly while pregnant in doses of 1-2 drops for anxiety and panic as needed. There is some (internet) controversy surrounding the use of lavender in pregnancy; however, it is not listed in any of the classic literature as a herb to avoid in first trimester.  My opinion is that if this botanical medicine is the one thing that works to soothe your fears, use it in moderation. If it increases your anxiety due to the multitudes of internet opinions, avoid it! Here is a link to a well researched blog post on the safety of lavender essential oil in pregnancy: http://roberttisserand.com/2011/07/lavender-oil-and-pregnancy/

Acupuncture and Registered Massage Therapy are also fabulous safe care therapies for anxiety and stress while #TTC. Acupuncture has a proven track record of efficacy when it comes to enhancing not only assisted reproduction but also all conception. Studies have shown that weekly acupuncture greatly reduces the rate of miscarriage during first trimester, especially for women with a previous miscarriage. This is in part due to its ability to support the expectant mom through the first 12 weeks. The therapeutic touch offered by massage therapy also has the ability to soothe anxiety, ease depression, and support the physical changes of pregnancy. The resulting relaxation offers an anxious expecting mom a few moments to quiet the mind, which can have great positive effects overall. It is important to see an acupuncturist or massage therapist trained in pregnancy massage as there are specific techniques and positions used for this treatment.

All in all, this is such a time of mystery, of waiting, and of trust that it can be overwhelming to have to “go with the flow.” Every couple experiences some level of anxiety, and some have a very hard time as #BFN’s happen again and again.  Flower essences, black haw, oatstraw and lavender glycerite are natural remedies that any couple can use to support their own mental and emotional wellness on the road to becoming a family. There are many more herbs, vitamins, and therapies available for #TTC and expectant moms that are based on the individualized medicine offered by a licensed Naturopathic Doctor.

Links and Resources:

http://www.gowonderworks.com/flower_essences

http://www.bachflower.com

http://www.fesflowers.com

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/12/20

http://www.fertilityfactor.com/infertility_acupuncture.html

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/prenatalmassage.html

 

 

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#TTC Obsession – Confessions

Getting pregnant is scary and exciting. The process of wanting to conceive and then waiting to find out…. not priceless. I am intimately aware of this as a Naturopathic Doctor with a focus on In/Fertility. I have also been privately preparing for this moment of my late 30’s when I am ready to conceive.  I have treated and supported many women through this process already. And here I am, alone with my OPK stick in the bathroom, discerning the workings of a secret universe. CONCEPTION.

I am amused at my complete immersion in the consuming nature of trying to predict my own ovulation. I cannot believe how often I think of the subject. I am constantly turning the information over in my mind. I read fertility forums online to gather information; I delve into friends’ personal experiences. Medicine looks so different when one is the patient! Suddenly there are a thousand things I do not know… Ovulation Predictor Kits are only the beginning.

And, in the obsession of pregnancy, it becomes everywhere. Books and television remind me that women have been torturing themselves about the ability to get pregnant forever! First, it was conceiving a boy, and whether or not the First Son would be born.  With rampant infertility, the collective obsession has turned to the BFP and away from gender preference.

We want to be able to control this event with every ounce of heart and mind. We are so used to be able to create what we need, if we only put enough effort into the act! It is maddening to have to develop techniques like trust and patience to achieve our highest goal…. and yet that is what it comes down to in the end. Do we hold the ultimate responsibility of whether or not life occurs in our very body?  It is appears to be the hugest responsibility, and yet it is one we cannot. create. on. our. own.  As my friend said yesterday, “We are accomplished and often privileged women! Powerful creations, and yet…” we cannot read what should be the simplest signs of all from our flesh. Are we ovulating today? Are we pregnant? It’s a huge pressure.

For same sex couples and single folks, there is the additional stress of genetic material to procure. The art of conception (often) looks very different for lesbian and gay couples. Not only will the inseminations need to be precisely timed, but the acquisition of said tools of conception must also be arranged. The cost of becoming pregnant begins with the very first try, an additional ingredient in the pressure-cooker of preparation. (In a call-out to women with biologically male partners, I do understand that when women hit the fertility clinics, we are all in the same machine.  The sex or gender of our partner becomes much less relevant although issues of accessibility to and cost of genetic material remains an additional stress.) It’s a wonder any of us become pregnant at all! But we do, in every increasing numbers.

The minute details, test results, and potential scenarios become an endless gerbil wheel of anxiety. It is important to step back from your own fertility and restore some normalcy to your daily routine. I was wound up over the timing of what was only a pre-cycle. Imagine how physically stressed out I could be for the real thing! One of my friends advised me after her first birth – make it fun. Try to relax around it. And she laughed knowing how hard that would be. I suggest distracting yourself as much as possible from thinking the same old anxious thoughts.  HOW? Listen to music that makes you sing. Watch a movie that engages you. Make time for friends or family who you like talking to and who are interesting. Write in a journal so you can get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper. The less time that is spent obsessing about the timing or prediction of said events will be in your best interest overall!

There is no conclusion to the story. The (new brand of) OPK kits wait for next cycle in my bathroom cupboard. I am going to pray for myself, light candles of hope, and continue to make the daily small offerings I do towards pregnancy – high quality prenatal vitamins, DHA essential fats, green tea, and other things appropriate for my personal care. My sweetheart and I also have a plan B, and C in place to rely on. When I get in the hamster mind of prediction anxiety again, please remind me of this post. Stress inhibits Ovulation!

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Improving Libido with Naturopathic Medicine

Sex, sex drive and inherent libido are all very complex subjects in modern culture, affected by our extremely long TO DO lists tagged onto the ends of busy days. Here is an article I wrote for QueeriesMag.com February 2013 on Naturopathic Medicine to increase sex drive.Let me know what you think!

http://queeriesmag.com/index.php/2013/02/14/on-the-kitchen-table/

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How to Survive Influenza

Herbal medicine is wonderful for any kind of cold and flu. The key to successful use of herbs is to take them early and often. I began with Gaia Respiratory Defense capsules 2 caps every 3-4 hours with lots of watered down juice. I also drank an entire bottle of Apitherapy Wild Cherry Cough Syrup at 1 tbsp every 2-3 hours for the first 36 hours – this is a New England centric product but any herbal wild-cherry or horehound based product would do. If you live in a bigger city Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa is an awesome Chinese cough syrup available at many health food stores. Mix 1 tbsp of the Nin Jiom thick syrup with hot water for a soothing tea/cough syrup 3-4 times daily.With these two products I was successful in clearing the lungs, and ended up with only some minor sniffles.

“Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever” is an old saying. When you have a fever, your body does not have energy or attention to pay to the digestive system. Most people do not have an appetite anyways, so it its Best Practice to focus on fresh fruit, juice, water, and soup broth. Apple sauce, popsicles and crackers are also good choices. Follow your intuition when it comes to food. Herbal tea with fresh lemon and honey is also healing and soothing. Echinacea tea, or any “throat tea” or “cold tea” will be beneficial. Don’t be afraid to *not* eat if you are not hungry; however make sure you maintain some caloric intake so your body has fuel to fight (unless it is a stomach flu.) Your appetite returning will be a sign of health.

Other things that help fight off influenza – elderberry syrup has tasty evidence based antiviral capabilities. Taking a minimum of  5,000IU of vitamin D and 2000 mg of old fashioned vitamin C will both speed recovery as well. This years flu is highly contagious – please don’t “be brave” and work/shop/be out and about unless you absolutely need to. Ask a friend to pick you up something and drop it off, take time off work, and REST! Everyone else will thank you for it, and you will recover faster in the end, with less complications than if you have suffered through it publicly.

I haven’t had the flu…. ever before. And I had not had a fever since I was a child. Boy, together they make an awful combination! I spent most of the week between Christmas and New Years Eve lying in bed with a face-headache, sweating, chilled, sniffley, and unable to do much more than lay with my eyes closed.However, I did recover rather quickly, without losing more than a couple days of work and a few pounds. During my fever induced vacation, I had time to consider fever medicine, and to mull over how many people have actually died from influenza over the course of history.

Curious as to how this self-limiting virus induced illness could literally wipe out generations, I took to Medscape to better understand why the flu can have such devastating effects.  From the article “Christmas 2009: Years Like This: The Spanish Influenza Pandemic Seen Through the BMJ’s Eyes: Observations and Unanswered Questions” by Tom Jefferson, Eliana Ferron BMJ. 2009;339:b5313 it is clear that it was not a simple case of influenza that killed so many people, but rather a combination of factors including environment, hygiene, medical practices of the times, and a lack of immunity to the European microbial ferment that wiped out staggering numbers of  people. The article states:

” The causes of the high case fatality rate are still unclear, but modern research suggests that the pandemic was a lot more than just a “one germ-one disease” affair. [19] … Agents other than the influenza virus probably played a part. Above all, the environmental explanations of the high [Samoan and Lapp] mortality rates indicate the peril of generalizing across contexts and simplifying causation models. “

In other words, early pandemics were about more than just a flu virus. They were complicated environmental scenarios where subsequent (fatal)  infections developed. Therefore, most of us in modern times are highly unlikely to die from influenza. This is of course, a more serious condition for people who have a defective immune system and for individuals on either end of the age spectrum who are more fragile. So, knowing that one is unlikely to die from the flu or fever, are you more willing to suffer through the symptoms if you knew it would be over sooner?

I was raised with the belief that a fever is an opportunity for “cleansing” on a spiritual and physical level. Fevers up to 102.5 are still considered safe and effective for a healthy person. The heat in the body serves as a natural autoclave, killing bacteria and viruses quickly and effectively. In my upbringing, it was also “burning karma” and an opportunity to cleanse oneself from spiritual burdens. This is what I focused on as my fever climbed from 101.5-102.5. I felt awful and was miserable and in pain. But, I kept telling myself I was in the process of transformation! It seemed to justify the misery in a way. There is of course, a limit to pain and suffering and modern medicine has much to offer. Therefore, I would return to my 400mg of Ibuprofin at night to help me sleep and reduce my pain and fever for the night. After all, sleep is as important in recovery as anything else is. Thus, I do suggest when you or a loved one has influenza, to allow a fever to burn within a safe range up to 102.5 F (Technically a fever is safe up to 104.5F) . Fever reducing medications can always be used as needed when the tolerance level of suffering is reached. Belladonna 30CH is a homeopathic fever reducing medication that can be used safely in children and adults as needed. It acts as a trigger to the body to reduce its thermostat, without actually suppressing the fever like NSAIDS do. This is a great medication to have in your home first aid kit. I was happy to dig mine out at 2:30 am on my second night sick – anything for relief in those sick midnight hours!

A final thought on cold medications – allergy pills, Dayquil, and other daytime cold and flu medications are most likely going to fail in the face of influenza. You are better off lying in bed and letting your fever burn while you try and watch some tv. However, night time is  when I believe some medication can be necessary as most people worsen in the night. No natural cough syrup is going to be as effective a pharmacy brand one. If I am hacking in the night with a cough, I use a pediatric cough suppressant as they contain less alcohol and chemicals than adult ones. Using Nyquil, or Ibuprofen/Tylenol at night to sleep is perfectly reasonable if it actually works for you. (If it doesn’t work, stop taking it and call your Naturopathic Dr for more treatment support.)

In summary – Rest, liquids, soups, belladonna 30ch, wild cherry cough syrup, vitamin C, vitamin D, elderberry, and a herbal formula that treats your constellation of symptoms are all components of successfully navigating a bout of influenza. Allow the fever to burn, whether you view it as a natural autoclave or a spiritual cleansing (or both) is up to you. A cough that lasts more than 7 days, fever above 102.5, or consistent vomiting for more than 36 hours are all good reasons to call your primary care provider and check in.

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