Preparing Your Body for Fertility

Sadie Minkoff

Sadie Minkoff L.Ac., FABORM

If you are reading this post, it is probably because you are preparing to grow your family in your thirties or early forties. In spite of what you may have heard, this is a great time in life to become a parent and more and more people are choosing to do so. In fact there is some evidence that, although it may not be as easy to conceive as for our younger counterparts, women of advanced maternal age may have more success than was originally thought. So how can you optimize your chances? Chinese Medicine is one of the best ways to support fertility.

Often women hear about positive experiences with Chinese Medicine from their friends and family, from a support group, or from their doctors.

Treatment with Chinese Medicine involves a combination of receiving acupuncture, shifting lifestyle habits, and learning what you can do to optimize the potential to conceive and carry a healthy baby.

Why Acupuncture?

Acupuncture techniques have been proven to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. This may improve the health of ovaries and their hormone production, a concern for women of advanced maternal age. It may stimulate blood flow to the uterus (by inhibiting uterine central sympathetic nerve activity), increase serotonin, and decrease stress. Often your practitioner will also prescribe medicinal herbs to facilitate this process. The combination of acupuncture and herbs has a synergistic effect.

The idea of changing our habits may seem daunting, but things can shift in a remarkable way with some relatively simple changes. Everyone knows that eating better makes us healthier, but there are some specific things that we can do to optimize our health and fertility. Focusing on changing one’s diet is part of the equation.

Chinese Medicine focuses on paying attention to the entire mind, body and spirit as a whole. Consider the following:

  • What makes you happy?
  • What is fun for you to do?
  • Tap into your creativity.
  • Take walks in nature.
  • Move your body. Exercise releases endorphins which help to keep a more positive focus when life gets difficult.
  • Do something regularly to take care of yourself and give yourself the attention that you deserve. That could mean receiving a massage, going dancing, journaling, or painting. Meditation, yoga, and/or tai qi are avenues for stress and anxiety reduction, as well as for the simple act of being with oneself.

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5 Suggestions for Fighting Fatigue

Better Late Than Never BabySerena Kirby, a professional writer and AMA mom from Western Australia contacted us recently. Her new book called Better Late than Never Baby includes information and suggestions not found in other sources for expectant moms over age 35. We’ll share excerpts from her book with our audience and letyou how you can get your own copy.

Serena Kirby

Serena Kirby, Writer and AMA Mom

5 Suggestions for Fighting Fatigue (Part 1, a condensed excerpt from Better Late Than Never Baby by Serena Kirby ©2013) 

#1: Get Support

Countless experts state that support is essential in beating tiredness and fatigue.  But as the issue of fatigue is often downplayed and overlooked, the support a new mother receives (from her partner and others) may not actually be as adequate or as long lasting as may be required.

As today’s family unit has become increasingly smaller, more isolated (physically and socially) from extended family and more self-sufficient, the ready-made support network found in many other countries is lacking.  The result is that many older mothers have little or no support base on which to draw and she is left to primarily fend for herself.

This is a far cry from the support available in many Eastern and European countries where there is a tight extended family and a cultural understanding and expectation of pitching in and helping when a new baby arrives. The old African proverb that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is still alive and well in many countries.

In China, for example, there is a support practice known as zuo yuzi, which involves a month of confinement after the baby is born. During this highly protective period the new mother is cloistered at home and given high levels of support from relatives. The mother is not allowed to work and is discouraged from getting out of bed (now you’re talking!) as any energy-sapping activity, other than looking after herself and her baby, is considered bad for her health and could in fact do her unthinkable harm in future years. A form of zuo yuzi is adopted in many other Asian countries and while experts say[i] our western culture would make it difficult to emulate, they agree the idea holds definite merit and benefits.

In the absence of zuo yuzi, good advice comes from Australian researcher Carol McVeigh who has argued that women really do need to address the issue of support, where and how to get it before the baby is born, and that support should be considered part of the childbirth education process.[ii] She goes further to suggest that ‘actively enlisting’ help is a skill women should be taught while pregnant.

As such, why not develop a list (then double it) of the support you think you may need and who is available to help. Talk to each person about the issue of fatigue, and the importance of support, and come to an agreement on how and when they can provide assistance. Be specific (write it down if you have to) otherwise all your planning is likely to go out the window (quickly followed by your energy) when the baby arrives. Don’t forget to think past the first six weeks post birth – remember fatigue has a nasty habit of increasing, rather than reducing, over time.

#2 Offers of Help

Change the way you think about accepting help and even practice saying ‘yes’ in front of the mirror. Make it a personal goal to say ‘yes’ whenever the word help is mentioned.

#3 Put ‘Self Care’ on the list

Being a mother is a relentless job and many days during the early months will feel like Groundhog Day. The repetition of feeding, changing, holding and soothing your baby dulls your senses and numbs your mind – all of which fosters fatigue.   Finding time for yourself is so rare that it’s no wonder you lose track of who you are – let alone remember what day it is.

It is also a mother’s instinct to put the care of her baby and family before her own, but many studies show that this is often to her own detriment. Taking regular time out and time away from your baby is important. It may be coffee with a friend, a walk, reading a book, enjoying some pampering or simply resting and doing nothing at all. Being off duty helps relieve stress, breaks the repetition of Groundhog Day and gives you a sense of self. It lets your body and mind rejuvenate and rest.

Remember to think of ‘self-care’ as being an essential item, not as something you’ll do if and when you have time.  And, by making a standing booking to take time for self care (at least two to three times a week even if you’re working outside the home) you won’t have to repeatedly ask your partner, or someone else, to care for the baby. Everyone will know that there are set times on certain days when you are not available to be with the baby.

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Podcast: Our Interview with Mamas on Bedrest and Beyond

By Sharon Munroe

What a great chance to be featured on Mamas on Bedrest and Beyond in their Podcast.

From their website:

  • Mamas on Bedrest, are you 35 or older? When you started your prenatal visits, did your OB/midwife office slap a big “AMA” or “Advanced Maternal Age” stamp or sticker on you chart?

 

They did on Sharon Munroe’s chart and that one stamp set an uncomfortable tone on her entire pregnancy. Sharon felt inundated with negativity and statistics about why her pregnancy was at risk because she was an older mama. But Sharon wasn’t daunted. She went on to have a completely normal healthy pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

  • This experience prompted her to make changes for her next pregnancy 3 years later.
  • Sharon now shares her experience, resources and pearls of wisdom with older mamas as the owner and editor of Advanced Maternal Age. Sharon’s mission is to get rid of the label “advanced maternal age” and for obstetrical professionals to view each woman’s pregnancy as a unique entity, while also supporting, informing and empowering older mamas to strive for the pregnancy of their dreams.

Hear the Podcast: http://www.mamasonbedrest.com/2012/09/mamas-on-bedrest-presenting-advanced-maternal-age/