What is PCOS?
Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance condition found in women of childbearing age. PCOS is characterized by some or all of the following symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Fertility problems
- Difficulty losing weight with a distribution of weight around the middle
- Unwanted hair growth on the chin, jawline, chest or upper legs
- Loss of scalp hair
- Ovarian cysts (This is where the name poly cystic ovarian syndrome originated. However, since not all women have this sign, it is a bit of a misnomer)
It is typically diagnosed by the presence of any combination of these symptoms when other diagnoses are ruled out.
Twenty years ago PCOS was uncommon. Most doctors knew it as Stein-Leventhal syndrome and it was considered a very rare condition. Not so today. According to the Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services: “Between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age has PCOS. As many as 5 million women in the United States may be affected. It can occur in girls as young as 11 years old.” Continue reading
Liz Richards, L.Ac., MAcOM has been treating fertility patients with Traditional Chinese Medicine in Portland, OR since 2002. Here are ten IVF tips based on her clinical experience with patients receiving acupuncture at Blossom Clinic while undergoing IVF at Oregon Reproductive Medicine.
As a general rule, the way you treat your body three months prior to trying to conceive is more important than anything you can do right now to boost your fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant. This has been a clinical observation of mine for years, and I am lucky enough to have colleagues who are now documenting this statistically with clinical research.
Most of our patients visit us weekly, and as they reach their goals, the visits taper down. We recommend a minimum of three menstrual cycles of treatment for both women’s and men’s fertility support.
To find the practitioner that is right for you, here are some things to look for in a fertility acupuncturist: Continue reading
Acupuncture Reviews for Blossom Clinic
Just What we needed!!!. My wife and I had been trying for some time to get pregnant to no avail. We decided to look into the Acupuncture route for increased fertility, At a friends suggestion (who had enjoyed success using their service ) we went to Blossom. Today we heard our soon to be babies heartbeat for the first time!! Our experience at Blossom was professional , pleasant and informative , and most important of all SUCESSFUL!! Big Thanks to all the staff at Blossom! CM
Placenta Encapsulation by guest blogger Amanda Englund.
This morning I got an email from a woman who is terrified of postpartum depression. She wrote in her message that she is “willing to try anything not to experience what I did after my first baby.”
This is a common theme of clients who contact me; they are boldly crossing over into the realm of what some might consider witch-doctory—at least before. These days in the Portland mama-world, placenta encapsulation is becoming more commonplace, rubbing shoulders with practices like Holistic Pelvic Care, lactation cookies, hypnobirthing and sitz baths.
In the Portland Metro Area, more and more mothers are deciding to make their placenta into pills as a way to improve their chances of having a smooth postpartum experience.
The possible benefits from this practice range from a potential increase to lactation, prevention of the baby blues, helping the uterus return to its natural size, mood balancing, energy enhancement and greater ability to bond with baby. Mothers are sharing their experiences with other moms-to-be, midwives, doulas, naturopaths and Chinese medicine practitioners alike are spreading the word that placenta pills just might be what the doctor ordered–no pun intended.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, placenta is used as a medicinal herb, helping boost Qi, or vital life-essence, and is also tonifying and blood boosting. Placenta would also be given to postpartum women to increase lactation and alleviate symptoms of fatigue. Many naturopaths suggest placenta encapsulation to their pregnant clients, knowing that it is similar to liver, a highly nourishing food that aids the body in healing. Other cultures have used placenta to aid in postpartum healing, such as in Vietnam, Iran, Germany, Italy, Hungary, by Indigenous people in North America and Africa, to name a few. Around the globe, placenta has been used to benefit a postpartum woman in both her physical and emotional healing.
There is plenty of anecdotal testimonies and cultural evidence to support placenta ingestion as a postpartum recovery aid, but until recently there was little scientific research to support the claims that placenta encapsulation could be of benefit to postpartum women. A recent study conducted at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas analyzing the hormonal and nutritional content of fresh placenta versus encapsulated placenta (which has been steam-cooked, dehydrated and processed into a powder). The results of this study will be presented at the American Anthropological Association’s Annual Meeting in November 2013. Researchers leading this study, medical anthropologist Daniel Benyshek and graduate assistant Sharon Young, published the article “Human Maternal Placentophagy: A Survey of Self-Reported Motivations and Experiences Associated with Placenta Consumption” in the journal Ecology of Food and Nutrition in February 2013. The researchers analyzed the data collected from 189 mothers about their experiences ingesting placenta. 96% of the women expressed that they had a “positive” or “very positive” experience and 98% of women expressed interest to do it again in the future. Most of the women said they chose to ingest placenta to help with their moods and to increase lactation.
Another study of note was conducted in 1954 in Austria. Their research focused on using placenta as a lactagagon (lactation aid). The 210 women they studied were expected to have a low milk-supply and after ingesting placenta over a course of weeks, 86% had a marked increase in their supply. (Soykova-Pachnerova E, et. al.(1954). Gynaecologia 138(6):617-627.)
Many of my clients turn to placenta encapsulation because they are concerned about developing postpartum depression. Most of them have a history of PMS and know that they get cranky when their hormones are out of balance. They are hearing tales of women ingesting placenta and having easier postpartum recoveries, and they want this for themselves as well. Who can blame them? For some, postpartum recovery can be like a mine field–you never know is about to blow up in your face. Could it be hemorrhoids? Could it be infant reflux? Night sweats? Anxiety? Involuntarily peeing when you sneeze? I’m not making the claim that placenta will prevent any of these common postpartum complaints, but what it has the potential to do is help a mother’s reaction to such events feel less severe. Many of my clients report that they feel their moods are more balanced, their emotions more serene and they feel better equipped cheerfully weather the storm of postpartum recovery.
Placenta Encapsulation is the method most new parents are turning to ingest placenta. It is the most user-friendly and also allows for the mama to take her placenta pills over a longer period of time. The placenta is dehydrated, ground to a powder and then put into capsules, making it look as harmless as a vitamin. Some folks learn how to do this process through the internet, or they hire someone to perform the process for them. Most practitioners will process the placenta in the client’s home and charge a range anywhere from $100-$250 dollars. The result is about 75-200 pills, dependent of course on the size of the placenta.
Women across America making placenta encapsulation a part of their postpartum plans for recovery. Science and society are catching up, as further research is exploring the possible benefits of placenta and celebrities like January Jones and Holly Madison are sending out Tweets about their plans to encapsulate. This seemingly unorthodox practice is gaining momentum in the natural childbirth world and as word spreads, mainstream society is taking notice as well.
Amanda Englund is a Placenta Encapsulation Specialist and postpartum doula with her business Placenta Power. She lives with her husband and son in Southeast Portland, co-owns Lion Heart Kombucha and loves helping families enjoy life with a new baby.
Indigenous to the Mediterranean countries and Asia, Chaste Tree Berry has been renown as both an aphrodisiac and an anaphodisiac.
It was known in the middle ages as Monk’s pepper because of its reputed ability to suppress sexual desire in celibate monks. Now in the 20th century it is being touted as the natural female “Viagra”. Chaste Tree Berry’s effects lie in its ability to stimulate and regulate anterior pituitary functions. In particular it can normalize the amount of progesterone in our bodies. German research has discovered that Chaste Tree Berry does this by binding to dopamine2 receptors in the anterior pituitary and decreasing secretion of prolactin. This decrease in prolactin leads to increased progesterone production in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Additionally, Chaste Tree Berry seems to increase luteinizing hormone and help to lengthen a women’s luteal phase. Luteinizing hormone is produced in the pituitary and it is what signals the female body to release an egg. Once the egg is released it is the empty follicle called the corpus lutetium that is responsible for manufacturing female’s monthly surges of progesterone.
Indigenous to the Mediterranean countries and Asia, Chaste Tree Berry has been renown as both an aphrodisiac and an anaphodisiac. Continue reading
Acupuncture on the Day of Embryo Transfer: I have been utilizing Traditional Chinese Medicine to support patients undergoing IVF since 2002 and I feel it is an honor to be a part of this very important time in a couple’s life. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine have been used for thousands of years to treat fertility related issues. Today, modern acupuncturists are successfully using the medicine in conjunction with Western medical techniques.
Typically, acupuncture treatment commences at least three months before injections begin. This three month period allows for more time to touch upon the other elements of Chinese Medicine, including nutrition therapy, stress reduction, relaxation techniques, and herbal therapy. Acupuncture can also improve sperm quality in men[i], so beginning treatment early allows for a complete cycle of spermatogenesis, which takes approximately 72 days.
Research supporting acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer:
Acupuncture in conjunction with IVF became popular after a research study in 2002 reported that receiving acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer increased the rate of pregnancy by 50%[ii]. This particular protocol consists of two acupuncture treatments, one immediately preceding the embryo transfer, and one upon completion of the transfer. This treatment stimulates the autonomic nervous system and from an energetic viewpoint, relaxes the muscles of the uterus, calms the mind, and increases the flow of Qi, or energy, in the uterus[iii]. Acupuncture can also help increase blood flow to the uterus and increases circulation in the pelvis[iv]. It can stimulate endorphins[v] to reduce stress, help to regulate hormones, as well as stimulate follicular development[vi].
What does acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer entail?
On the day of the transfer I will meet my patient at the fertility clinic 45 minutes before the scheduled embryo transfer time. In Portland, Oregon, where I practice, the fertility clinics are very familiar with the protocol and are welcoming to acupuncturists. Sometimes when I attend a transfer, I will see one to two other acupuncturists there. It is no secret that having extra support on that day makes a difference.
The day of the embryo transfer during an IVF cycle is crucial. It is the culmination of many emotions and people are usually experiencing a mix of excitement and anxiety. If a woman has had a negative experience with a prior IVF cycle, or there are increased work demands and financial concerns around an IVF cycle, she may experience increased levels of fear, worry, and stress. Research shows a correlation between increased levels of stress and a lower number of fertilized eggs, successful pregnancies, and live births[vii] (just that fact alone is enough to cause severe stress). Acupuncture can help reduce stress, but I often refer patients out for psychological support and/or group therapy as part of the treatment plan. Group therapy, in particular, has been shown to decrease stress levels and improve pregnancy success rates in couple undergoing IVF[viii]. In addition, a treatment plan may include massage or the incorporation of relaxation techniques to facilitate stress reduction. This is a key reason why it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible before the transfer.
Adjunct therapy for IVF patients preparing for their embryo transfer:
Adjunct therapy also may include a session with a naturopath, especially if the woman’s Body Mass Index is too high or too low. Obesity has been associated with sub-fertility[ix] and decreased IVF success[x]. Being underweight can also decrease fertility, by being low in nutrients, such as healthy fats, iron, B-vitamins and zinc. The importance of nutritional therapy cannot be stressed enough. According to TCM practitioner & holistic nutritionist, Rylen Feeney, “Whole foods, rich in protein, fats, vitamins and minerals are essential to creating life. A woman’s body must be taking in adequate nutrient dense foods that not only sustain her own vitality but also create enough nutrients to make healthy viable eggs, to create healthy blood and tissues to nourish uterus for implantation, to sustain the pregnancy, and to contribute to rich milk following birth”.
Where do you find an acupuncturist skilled in acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer?
A simple conversation with a practitioner of Chinese Medicine will give you a good idea if they are the right fit for you. When looking for an acupuncturist, it is important to ask them the following questions:
- Are you licensed acupuncturist and certified in herbology? It is best to find someone who has had comprehensive training in Traditional Chinese Medicine, including herbology. Usually this practitioner is someone with at least a Masters degree in Oriental Medicine.
- Do you have experience working with women and men with fertility concerns? Have you attended embryo transfers before? Do you have a specialty? I would recommend finding someone who treats women’s health concerns as opposed to someone who, say, treats only musculoskeletal issues. You might want to ask your OB/Gyn, RE, or an acupuncturist in another specialty if they have any recommendations for an acupuncturist.
- Do you have access to other treatment modalities besides acupuncture? Often a place that provides massage therapy, group sessions, and nutrition consults will provide a more comprehensive treatment plan. But an acupuncturist with a good referral network is a great place to start.
Liz Richards, L.Ac. is an acupuncturist who has been seeing fertility patients in Portland, Oregon since 2002. She is owner of Blossom Clinic, an integrative health clinic with a focus on women’s health and well-being. She can be reached at email@example.com.
[i] Siterman S, Eltes F, Wolfson V, Zabludovsky N, Bartoov B. Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm quality. Arch Androl. 1997;39:155-161.
[ii] Paulus, WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K..Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. Fertil Steril. 2002 Apr;77(4):721-4.
[iii] Patton PE, Eaton D, Burry KA, Wolf DP. The use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist to regulate oocyte retrieval time. Fertil Steril. 1990; 54:652-655.
[iv] Stener-Victorin E, Waldenstrom U, Andersson SA, Wikland M. Reduction of blood flow impedance in the uterine arteries of infertile women with electro-acupuncture. Hum Reprod. 1996;11:1314-1317.
[v] Chang, R., Chung P.H., Rosenwaks Z. Fertil Steril. 2002 Dec; 78 (6): 1149-1153.
[vi] Emmons, S., Patton, P. Acupuncture treatment for infertile women undergoing intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Medical Acupuncture Journal. Spring/Summer 2000-Vol. 12 / Number 2.
[vii] Cohen Klonoff-Cohen H, Natarajan L. The concerns during assisted reproductive technologies (CART) scale and pregnancy outcomesFertil Steril. 2004 Apr;81(4):982-8.
[viii] The Domar Center at Boston. Oct. 19, 2009 study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s 65th Annual Meeting.
[ix] Van der Steeg JW, Steures P, et al. Obesity affects spontaneous pregnancy chances in subfertile, ovulatory women. Hum Reprod. 2008 Feb;23(2):324-8. Epub 2997 Dec 11.
The MediClear Cleanse is user friendly. In this cleanse, you eliminate foods that are commonly allergenic or inflammatory for 15 days. Continue reading