Vitamin D for Fertility and Pregnancy: Are you Getting Enough?


Vitamin D Fertility Pregnancy Infertility If you’re thinking about having a baby it’s strongly recommended that you have your Vitamin D level checked, especially if you’ve been trying for a while or have a history of pregnancy loss.  Your doctor can order a simple blood test to ensure you have enough of this vitamin that is so important for fertility and healthy pregnancies – for both mothers and their children.  Vitamin D is typically low in the winter and spring months and in darker northern climates.  A Vitamin D deficiency puts pregnant women at risk of developing serious health complications.

Preconception & Infertility

If you’re having trouble conceiving, low Vitamin D could be contributing to your fertility issues.  A low level has been associated with Repeated Pregnancy Loss and Unexplained Infertility.  It’s been found to affect implantation which can cause bio-chemical pregnancies or miscarriages. [i]. Also more research is being done on PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) since these women often have Vitamin D deficiency and evidence is showing that supplementation may be beneficial for egg development and regulating menstruation. [iii]. One study found a healthier increased uterine lining in women with PCOS who were given Vitamin D during their IUI cycles. [ii].

A study (published in Fertility & Sterility in 2014) of 99 women undergoing IVF (in-vitro fertilization) at USC in Southern California looked at the impact of Vitamin D on IVF cycles. The percentage of women who became pregnant was 74% in those with sufficient vitamin D levels (above 30 ng/ml), 42% in women who were insufficient (20-30), and only 35% with deficiency (below 20).  Babies were born to 59% of the women with adequate D levels (above 30) and 31% of women whose levels were below 30.  [iv].

Vitamin D Fertility Pregnancy

If you’re thinking about having a baby it’s strongly recommended that you have your Vitamin D level checked, especially if you’ve been trying for a while or have a history of pregnancy loss.

Vitamin D in Pregnancy

Vitamin D is very important for brain development.  A recent study in the Netherlands of more than 8,000 women and their children showed a clear correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and autism.  Children whose mothers tested low in their 20th week of pregnancy were more likely to have autistic traits by the age of six. [v].  Other studies have seen an increased risk of schizophrenia with inadequate Vitamin D. [vi, vii].

When mom’s Vitamin D level is too low deficiency can be present at birth.  Babies receive this vitamin through the placenta, and after birth through breast milk or fortified formula.  Babies who are solely breastfed are more at risk of having deficient Vitamin D because human milk has a very low concentration, about 1.5-3% of the mother’s level.  So, exposure to sunlight is also recommended. [viii].  An Irish study found their dark winters produced more babies born in March and April with Vitamin D insufficiency, about 46% of births during that time.  You can read more about the importance of Vitamin D during pregnancy and while breastfeeding here.

Low Vitamin D during pregnancy has been linked to small-for-gestational-age births, increased susceptibility to infections and reduced bone density. [viii].  Kids whose moms did not have sufficient Vitamin D in their 3rd trimester had more broken bones than other children.  An Australian study published in 2016 tells us that children who have a lack of D in early childhood are more prone to developing allergic disorders like asthma and eczema. [ix].

Also, it’s very important to know that pregnant women with low D are more susceptible to developing preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy including high blood pressure and kidney problems which can have very serious consequences. [x]. Often an earlier birth by medical induction is necessary, which increases the odds of a cesarean delivery.   Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with developing gestational diabetes, so, you definitely want to make sure your level stays within optimum range. Continue reading

Placenta Encapsulation: Not so strange after all.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

placenta encapsulation

Let the experts help you encapsulate your placenta!

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.

Placenta Encapsulation portland

Amanda Englund of Placenta Power in Portland, Oregon.


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.

HypnoBirthing Portland: 5-week course at Blossom Clinic

HypnoBirthing Portland: 5-week course at Blossom Clinic. For latest schedule, click here. 

Classes include textbook, rainbow relaxation CD and a rewarding experience for you, your partner and your baby. Cost is $325 for 5 weeks. Class series begin regularly so give us a call! (503)287-0886

hypnobirthing portlandHypnoBirthing ® is a rewarding, relaxing, stress-free method of birthing that is based on the belief that all babies should come into the world in an atmosphere of gentility, calm and joy. When a mother is properly prepared for birthing physically, mentally, and spiritually, she can experience that sort of joy, birthing her baby is an easier, more comfortable and often, even pain-free manner. Through a well-thought-out program of deep relaxation, self-hypnosis, and education, HypnoBirthing ® returns to a woman the art of birthing in a way that allows her to summon her natural birthing instincts and to birth her baby in safety and with ease. In HypnoBirthing ® the birth companion is an integral part of the birthing process, enhancing the entire bonding experience. Continue reading

Enter to Win a 90 Minute Pregnancy Massage

We have these amazing body pillows that support pregnant women so that they can fully relax during their prenatal massage.  Here is a chance to win a 90 minute prenatal massage for you or a friend at Blossom Clinic in NE Portland.  Simply visit our facebook page, like our post and then share the post on facebook OR twitter.

Contest is for a 90 minute prenatal massage with Dalia, valued at $115.  Contest ends Nov 12th and midnight.  One entry per person.  Good luck!

Postpartum Acupuncture

postpartum acupunctureAcupuncture and Oriental Medicine have considerable value in helping a woman nourish herself after pregnancy and child birth.  Treating a new mom in the partpartum time is important for the whole family. In Chinese Medicine theory we employ a five phase model where we use the mother to treat the child. This takes on whole new meaning when applied to real women and their children. Women who feel better are more present for themselves and their newborn.

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Hormones and Fertility

fertility dietThere are multiple factors that influence physiology and culminate in ovulation and conception.  Not only internal factors, like healthy blood and vitality, but also external factors like the seasons and the amount of light in our bedrooms at night.  Reproduction is truly an amazing and complicated process.  All contributors being equal though- what ultimately decides whether a woman will produce an egg and conceive is … drum roll please… our hormones.

Hormones and Fertility

Hormones are the chemical messengers of the body.  They literally communicate information to cells. Without hormones, or when our hormones aren’t working optimally, these messages can be missed, leading to all sorts of “miscommunications”.  For example, if the hormone insulin isn’t communicating with cells, diabetes is the result.  When thyroid hormones don’t communicate there can be fatigue, dry skin, slowing of the metabolism.  When sex hormones aren’t communicating the results can be missed periods, lack of libido, or infertility.

Hormones Really are in Charge

But what affects hormones and their ability to communicate?  Well that is a long list, let’s start with just a few:

1.      Other hormones –

thyroid, insulin, pituitary hormones, testosterone, adrenal hormones like DHEA and cortisol. When one hormone is out of balance (too high or too low) the other hormones have to make up for that, by filling in the gap or overcompensating.  Hormones prefer to coexist in harmony.  They help each other to do their best jobs.  When one fails, the others compensate temporarily, but  eventually those hormones get over used as well and the result is a whole lot of  miscommunication  and disharmony – hormone imbalance.

2.      Vitamin or mineral deficiencies 

vitamins and minerals (like B vitamins, iron or iodine) act as cofactors in the body in certain metabolic processes and some hormones rely on vitamins and minerals to be produced .  As an example, iodine is needed for thyroid hormone production.

3.      Toxicity –

can affect hormone communication. Actually, it’s the body’s ability to rid itself of these toxins that affects hormone communication. These chemicals do not have any nutritious or useful qualities, so the body needs to process them out or “detox”. With increased exposure, the detox burden can become too big and excess toxins circulating through the system can affect normal physiology. The result – conditions like endometriosis, fibroids, infertility, anovulation , nutritional deficiencies, depression, anxiety, fatigue, body aches, and more.  Here is a short list of some toxins that we exposed to regularly: pesticides, hormone like preservatives in bath and body products, chemicals in gasoline and exhaust fumes, chemicals in our carpets, furniture, plastics and paint. There are other factors that can affect hormone health.  Stress, sleep, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D and immune system health, other health condition like PCOS or diabetes, to name a few.

The take home message here: For optimal hormone function and fertility, get your body in  tip top shape- address your nutritional needs, lifestyle needs and any underlying conditions that might be affecting your vitality.  

Contributed by Dr. Elise Schroeder.  For Part I of this article, click here.  Please address questions for Dr. Schroeder to .

Pre Conception Health- Prepping Your Body For A Healthy Pregnancy

pre conception health Pre Conception Health: Prepping Your Body for a Healthy Pregnancy

There is a lot of information out there about what to do with our diet and what vitamins to take once we are pregnant.  But what about before pregnancy? Does that time matter?

Some say yes, indeed it does.  Continue reading

Summer MediClear Cleanse

The MediClear Cleanse is user friendly.  In this cleanse, you eliminate foods that are commonly allergenic or inflammatory for 15 days. Continue reading

Acupressure and Acupuncture for Labor Preparation

acupressure acupuncture labor I often refer my pregnant patients to the website of Debra Betts, an acupuncturist in New Zealand who is an expert in Chinese Medicine during pregnancy and labor.  She has an amazing PDF of Acupressure for Natural Pain Relief which I give patients for labor preparation.

Not only do we utilize acupressure for labor preparation, but we use acupuncture too. Usually, my patients have acupuncture treatments beginning at around 34 weeks to prepare for their labor. I find that the patients who come in weekly leading up to labor have less interventions during labor if that is what they desire.

If there is a breech baby, they begin treatment ideally at 34 weeks so that we can attempt to turn the baby before it descends into the pelvic cavity.  We do this treatment in combination with Optimal Fetal Position exercises.  If you are in your third trimester, I encourage you to visit her website.

Many Blessings,
Liz Richards, L.Ac.


First Trimester Nausea and Fatigue: Tips and Remedies

pregnancy nausea

Q: I have been experiencing first trimester nausea and fatigue the last few days. I’m not throwing up but I am hungry and nauseous at the same time. No food seems appetizing and nothing seems to satisfy me.  My mom is sending me one of those sea sickness bands that sends little electric pulses.  Do you know if they are any good?  Any other tips?  I’m having trouble just getting myself going.  Did I mention I’m exhausted too?

A: Congratulations on your pregnancy! We know how uncomfortable nausea can be and we are happy to help you with some pregnancy nausea remedies.

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