I love my job and feel very fortunate to work with fertility. I talk about fertility all the time. I talk about it with my friends. I talk about it with my family. I even talk about it on dates and recall drawing the internal reproductive system on a bar napkin once. What really amazes me is that everyone seems to have an opinion on it. Pre-covid, two retired gentlemen at a restaurant even had questions and insights about infertility. Maybe it touches everyone’s lives now. (remember the Handmaid’s Tale). Regardless of where I am, it does seem to come up in conversation. So, if you ever get stuck next to me at the dinner table, and decided to ask about fertility here is some basic questions and advice I might share:
When trying to achieve pregnancy you’re the top things to ask yourself:
Do you ovulate? When?
Females only actually ovulate one day a month a normal cycle. If you’re having sex on the wrong days conception will not happen. This can be done by tracking your body temperature, using an ovulation predictor kit, or even a new ovulation tracking bracelet, called, Ava. I want to try it next.
Are you eating green stuff and drinking fresh spring water while avoiding pesticides?
Mother nature has the best plan for increasing fertility. Trust that the foods that we are given in nature are exactly what we need. Animals eat little buds off the branches because they are full of phytonutrients which our body’s cells need. Are we getting those same nutrients? They’re certainly not in this coffee I’m holding right now.
Are you using nutritional supplements actually bioavailable to your body?
The truth is we are probably not going to get everything we need in our diet in a short amount of time if we want to increase our fertility. Proper nutritional supplementation is the quickest, most proven way to do this. Choose whole food or liposomal products so you’re not wasting your dollars and pills you’re not even absorbing. You can even get your vitamin levels checked with lab testing if you’re concerned about what is lacking.
Are you enjoying caffeine, alcohol, and sugar you take in on a daily basis?
We all know these items are not really good for us. Over time, excess of these indulgences will definitely decrease your fertility. Everything in healthy moderation ladies. Enjoy these items in their more natural, organic, and pesticide free whenever you can.
Are you smoking cigarettes and marijuana?
The substances have a profound negative effect on female follicles and male sperm cells, particularly if one has been using these substances over a period of time. So if you just have a few, on the weekends, or after the bar but just with your friends I can guarantee it is not helping. Cutting back and quitting these will help give your cells the oxygen they so desperately need to create new life.
How much stress is actually in your life?
I didn’t ask how much stress you can handle. That’s a different question. When we have high amounts of stress we produce cortisol. When we produce the hormone cortisol it is absorbed by our sex cells instead of our proper sex hormones. This decreases fertility. So when push comes to shove, we have to take a good hard look at how much daily stress you really endure on a biochemical level, and how this is affecting your sex hormones. Counteracting the ill effects of stress is hugely important.
Is your life as balanced as you would like it to be? Are you happy the way it is?
Make sure your life is indeed balanced. In cultures where they make time to laugh, worship, relax, spend time outdoors, and get plenty of sleep fertility is not an issue. It is only a problem in our modern, industrialized society. Are you getting everything you need in your current life?
Are you getting all the right tests performed with your doctors?
There are more reasons you may not be getting pregnant than you may even be aware of. Of course it’s a good idea to check for possible blocked tubes or see if hormone levels that are in normal range. This is a standard in any physicians office. However, if you have unexplained infertility then it may be time to re-think that term. I believe there is no such thing as unexplained infertility. You just have not found the reason yet. There are many more tests to check for the hidden culprits of infertility.
Have you found the right doctor?
Does your Ob/Gyn doctor or nurse listen to you? Does your IVF doctor have optimism or enthusiasm? Do you fully trust them with your genetic material and future child? Have you met more than one IVF doctor? You test drive more than one car before you . You purchase it, right? You also went on more than one date before you married. IVFand IUI’s are expensive. Do your research before you buy. I havehad the luxury of meeting with many doctors over the years. Believe me, they are all unique and practice differently. I certainly did not choose the one I met in the beginning of my career.
Be patient with yourself, your partner, and nature.
If you spent 20 years training your body not to get pregnant then do not expect your body to get untrained overnight. Mother nature wants us to have children and for life to continue on this planet. Fertility is on your side. When the body is ready to conceive and bear a child it will do so. All we need to do is to get your body ready for what it naturally wants to do (procreate), and do it in a healthy manor.
Finally, Get an advocate or sounding board.
Throughout history women have always stuck together through onset of menses, pregnancy, fertility ceremonies, childbirth, and childrearing. Only recently have we decided to do it alone as an independent nuclear family unit. Women need and deserve support from other women. Not a “negative nelly” that perpetuates and complicates the problem. Look for positive, open minded, pro-active people to help you get you through this.
Ladies, we are changing history. For thousands of years we have been having children early in life and continuing until we are middle aged. Now, we are often waiting until we are a little older. This is ok. This is how evolution happens. So, if your body needs a little extra help through acupuncture, herbs, detoxes, supplements, hormone testing, medical intervention, massage, meditation, prayer, hypnosis…or whatever it may be, well…that’s okay with us. Use these basic tips to know that you are indeed doing the right actions to increase your fertility. Follow your gut intuition, and feel free to contact our office for a more in depth consultation.
lots of love,
Holy cow. Hot flashes are no joke.
Please don’t get me wrong. I have dealt with women and menopause symptoms since the beginning of my career in women’s health. I thought I had a great deal sympathy regarding all health issues-especially women’s. After all, being human is hard, being a woman is quite complicated. That’s my opinion anyway. However, in continuous pattern with my life the universe decided to send me a good strong message. Hot flashes are no joke.
I first noticed about 48 hours after treating a patient with hot flashes. She was responding quite well to acupuncture despite maintaining her lifestyle. She continued to drink delicious yet inflammatory red wine, jet set across the nation for her exciting career an impressive social calendar, not take the Chinese herbs I had suggested, yet her hot flashes consistently and quickly disappearing. Her symptoms sounded terrible. I was so happy not to go through that. Then, like a lightning bolt, it happened.
“What the hell is happening to me? Is this a hot flash?”
Sounds downright dumb. I know exactly what a hot flash is. I’ve read about them, heard about them and treated them for over a decade. However, I never had one. Within a week I was having hot flashes so severely that I was almost nonfunctional. It went something like this: warmth, extreme heat, burning sensation from every joint to the very top of my body, terror, sweating, chills, nausea with potential to vomit. It was horrifying. And, like any good science minded American I called my doctors immediately. This could not be normal.
Soooo…. let’s back up a minute. I’m a prime candidate for early menopause. History is like this: yin/yang deficiency (it’s mentioned below), high stress lifestyle, possible infertility, cancer, premature ovarian failure (right, my ovaries are not a failure) cancer again, one year of chemo-immunotherapy, some annoying complications and (drum-roll)…. and menopause!
I spent weeks chasing this diagnosis with my Western doctors. With my history there is always an onslaught of questions. Has the cancer returned? Is it staph infection? Is my heart failing? No. Thank God. However, my FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) was off the charts; meaning it was literally higher than any posted reference range even for women of postmenopausal age. Also, I barely had any estrogen or progesterone in my body. A man had more of these female sex hormones than me and so did a six-year-old girl. My doctors were baffled (can you picture them looking at the labs, then me, then the labs again…wide eyed?) They did not know what to do. They had never seen those numbers before. Neither did a Bristol Myers Squibb, the manufacturers of my chemo agent. In a true sweaty rampage my thoughts were like this, “How can any of you over-educated, overpaid medical professionals and scientists not know what to do”? (I however must give credit to my nurse practitioner who isolated the problem and wrote an Rx. She is truly a wonderful and compassionate woman. Her I am grateful for.)
As I sat in my car profusely perspiring on the leather seats it occurred to me that I’m a doctor of Oriental medicine with a fellowship in women’s health and reproduction. Duh. Can I not handle this? In honesty, we always make her own worst doctors. I realized I am my best resource. I also contacted a colleague in Sarasota that I admire greatly for a consult. In less than 36 hours I began to feel relief.
Here was my plan:
- I had to get this heat (yin deficiency) out of my body.
- I had to give my body a coolant (yin) to keep it from getting hot again.
- I had to give my body the resources (yang energy) to stay in a state of homeostasis.
- I had to learn to be patient because it did not happen overnight (years of work, lifestyle surgeries, and treatment led me down this thorny path).
To get the heat out of my body I decided to take the Chinese herbs I suggested to my patients. They really do work magic. I chose the first one for myself as a deemed itself most appropriate. As time progresses, I will switch with different supplement that’s coincides with my current symptoms.
Common herbal formulas for menopause and hot flashes in Chinese medicine:
Zhi bai di huang wan My herb of choice for hot flashes. It is considered a kidney yin tonic that clears fire from the kidneys. It is safe, gentle, and can work miracles if it matches well with the patient’s symptoms.
Other herbal formulas may include:
Da bu yin wan: This formula is for a pattern called ‘steaming bone syndrome’ in which the hot flashes feel as if they are penetrating into the bones.
Tian wan bu xin dan/Celestial Emperor’s Teapill: This formula will manifest with symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, irritability, thirst, and malar flush.
.Er Xian Tang: Symptoms may include feeling cold with recent onset of hot flashes, low libido, fatigue, and low back pain.
Jei Xiao Yao Wan/free and Easy Wanderer Plus: This formula would include symptoms such as irritability, high stress, red eyes and headaches. I basically should have been taking this for the past 20 years.
Additionally, I have added 2000 mg of MACA to my regiment to reduce FSH and hot flashes. A brilliant tidbit I learned from my recent continuing education course.
To help my body cool off I am adapting lifestyle. I’m getting acupuncture and self-acupressure to help nourish my yin (the coolant). I’ve also omitted some things for my diet (such as red wines and sugars) while added others yin nourishing such as seafood, fresh fruits, and lots of liquids like water and broths.
To give my body the resources to stay healthy I began receiving moxibustion in addition to acupuncture. I also began incorporating small amounts of ginger in my water (to aid in digestion that will give me fuel to repair), a whole food supplement with vitamins and Chinese herbs to support my immune system (it’s called Tonic Alchemy and it’s delicious). I am beginning to take extra methyl B vitamins and a rhodiola and schisandra to stave off exhaustion and give my body strength.
Being patient. Okay, I’m a work in progress and comes to this. Like I would tell anyone else, I took years for my body to get this way. The final immune chemo treatment may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it wasn’t the actual cause that set my body fully ablaze. I am grateful to have the resources to help my body recover and am quite confident when I returned to my allopathic position in July that my FSH levels will have gone down considerably. Already my hot flashes are almost 100% gone (hours in the SE Florida sun or a large coffee and I body will still try have one-but just try.)
So, I must do my due diligence in state that I am not a medical physician. Always consult your physician if you have any symptoms. It is also good to have the actual blood test to see where your hormone levels are measuring. However, a good acupuncturist, herbalist or doctor of Oriental Medicine can guide you and tell you what supplements may best suit your body without you having to second-guess yourself. From my own personal experience, I pleased to tell you that your hot flashes and menopause symptoms are completely treatable under the right supervision. And seriously, hot flashes are no joke.
Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with a friend from college. She explained to me that last year she was attempting to have a child on her own. She was explaining this to her brother, when he replied, “In this day and age, why would you do that on your own?” Perhaps he had good intentions, however, I could not help feel insulted for her. My question is, “In this day and age, why would she not do that on her own?”
In recent years, as many of my girlfriends hover in their late 30s to late 40s, I’ve had a handful that have decided to do parenthood on their own. I commend them. No more waiting or wishing for Mr. Right, no more hoping for Prince Charming or a knight in shining armor, no more sacrificing what they really desire for the sake of making another happy. They became a parent on their own, alone, and consciously.
Don’t get me wrong. A fantastic partner would have been ideal. Nobody can deny the fact that it takes a village let alone another human being to help raise a child. However, that opportunity never presented itself to these women at the right place, time, or situation. So, like strong women do in many situations, they decided to go it alone.
Going It Alone.
Maybe you take vitamins. Maybe you do not. Or, perhaps, like myself, you diligently take your multivitamin regiment since you are fully aware you do not eat all the fresh veggies and protein you need daily. Maybe nutritional testing is a good idea.
But here is the question… are you absorbing those nutrients? Are those the right nutrients for your body, genetic make-up, or lifestyle? After all, we are all metabolically unique. How do we know if what is right for me is right for you?
My big shocker came the day I received my own nutrient test results. I had been spending top dollar on a legitimate all-encompassing liquid vitamin. (I should have been clued in when everyone else felt great on it but me. I still felt tired). My test results came back. I was still severely low in most of my B vitamins. The company isolated a genetic factor called MTHFR that explained why my body wasn’t utilizing the B vitamins I was taking. Lesson learned!!! I immediately switched to a form that was bioavailable for my body’s genetic constitution. My energy levels increased. I felt great.
Let’s fast forward two years. I am a cancer “survivor” (I still do not like this label). I know I should not be consuming dairy. But I am eating it; in all forms. I fantasize about yogurt, sour cream, and cheese. A few slices of goat cheese could constitute a meal. “Why?” I wondered. I was never a dairy lover before. Once again, I decided to contact Spectra Cell laboratories to find out what was going on. Were my new multivitamins paying off? Was I missing something?
Grief and loss are accepted in our society when it concerns the death of a loved one. In my opinion the loss of miscarriage is better understood and accepted than it ever was before. However, there is an undeniable grief that occurs when having a child does not happen naturally… or unnaturally for that matter.
I equate this feeling like telling a diabetic they can’t have sweet dessert or a smoker they must quit smoking cigarettes. However the pain is deeper, much deeper. It’s like having your heart set on something, and then having someone say, “just kidding” or “never mind.”
The difficult part of this is the grief is not observable to the laypersons eye. “How could you possibly miss something you never had?” others may ask. However, I disagree with this lack of sentiment. To have this kind of undeniable grief means this longing may have there all along. There comes a certain part in your life when it’s beyond the status quo. This point your life for you really want to show and give your love to something, anything, and hope that it will love you back. The most innate form of this would be a child.