fertility, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Speaking about fertility and post-partum care at The Woodford Folk Festival

woodford 2018-19 programHello! Happy new year! (Gosh, we’re almost a month in and next week I’ll be wishing you a happy Chinese new year!)

As some of you would know, this Christmas/New Year period I headed up to Queensland’s Woodford Folk Festival (an incredible festival which includes more than 2,000 local, national and international, artists, musicians and presenters and has an audience of an estimated 132,000 people.) If you’ve never been, put it (or it’s little cousin, The Planting) on your must do list.

Kathleen Murphy, (a great friend and colleague), and I were presenting at Woodford’s Blue Lotus stage. This is the place to be for health and wellness speakers from all over the world, as well as live music, yoga, workshops and cooking demonstrations.

View this post on Instagram

It has been an absolute pleasure to present at the @woodfordfolkfestival with @kath_murphy on The Fourth Trimester (postpartum care) and Your Fertility. We had such lovely people attend our talks. Thanks so much for coming up to say hi and asking questions too. It’s always lovely to be part of the @bluelotus_woodfordia. Thanks for having me! #woodfordfolkfestival #bluelotus #yourfertility #takingchargeofyourfertility #pcos #endometriosis #ivfjourney #fertilitysupport #chinesemedicine #acupuncturelaunceston #chinesemedicinelaunceston #acupuncturetasmania #chinesemedicinetasmania #sarahgeorgeacupuncture #aacma #endeavourcollegeofnaturalhealth #chinesedietarytherapy #chinesedietetics

A post shared by Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture) (@sarahgeorgeacupuncture) on

Our first presentation was a beautiful discussion about postpartum care (or the fourth trimester) led by Kathleen, who runs the fantastic house call service, MamaCare, in Sydney. We discussed topics including the physical and psychological needs of new mothers, some of Kathleen’s own findings regarding what mothers’ want in their fourth trimester, and how different cultures have some very similar themes on taking care of new mothers to benefit the mother, baby and whole family. As you may know, Chinese Medicine has a practice called zuo yue zi, which refers to a period of recovery for a new mother and includes support in the way of blood nourishing meals, warming therapies and rest. Ultimately, new mothers armed with modern and traditional knowledge can design their own fourth trimester (or Golden Month) to get the support they need to recover from, and thrive after, giving birth.

View this post on Instagram

It has been an absolute pleasure to present at the @woodfordfolkfestival with @kath_murphy on The Fourth Trimester (postpartum care) and Your Fertility. We had such lovely people attend our talks. Thanks so much for coming up to say hi and asking questions too. It’s always lovely to be part of the @bluelotus_woodfordia. Thanks for having me! #woodfordfolkfestival #bluelotus #yourfertility #takingchargeofyourfertility #pcos #endometriosis #ivfjourney #fertilitysupport #chinesemedicine #acupuncturelaunceston #chinesemedicinelaunceston #acupuncturetasmania #chinesemedicinetasmania #sarahgeorgeacupuncture #aacma #endeavourcollegeofnaturalhealth #chinesedietarytherapy #chinesedietetics

A post shared by Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture) (@sarahgeorgeacupuncture) on

Our second presentation was an information packed session on enhancing male and female fertility. It covered some of the basic Fertility 101 must knows (including anatomy and cycle timing for conception). The conversation tied some of the western anatomy and physiology with Chinese Medicine and naturopathy theory, which sometimes makes these concepts a little easier to understand. Topics such as preconception care (and why this is so important for both parents), barriers to conception (eg. endometriosis, PCOS and advanced parental age) were discussed. Lastly, some evidence based general fertility do’s and don’t’s were given with some additional Chinese Medicine and naturopathic tips. But the big message was, good fertility generally requires two people who are as healthy as they can be prior to conception (although babies can be made in many ways so adapt that as need be). Be informed about your own fertility and health. Seek help if you need it.

Both Kathleen and I love supporting people through pre-conception care, fertility treatment, pregnancy and in the post-partum period. It was a lovely opportunity to share some of our stories with the Woodfordians.

I couldn’t finish this blog without mentioning Lucy Peach, who brought My Greatest Period Ever to us. I can only describe her performance as the most educational and yet hilarious and heart-warming cabaret show you’ll ever go to. Lucy will guide you through what happens in a month long cycle and how you can best look after yourself at each of these times. Essential watching if you menstruate or you know someone who does! Plus she sings and her husband is a great illustrator! On her website you’ll find links to several videos of Lucy doing her thing including a TED talk.

To book an appointment at the Launceston clinics (House of Prana or In-Balance) or for further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is an AHPRA registered acupuncturist, Chinese medicine practitioner and massage therapist.

 

 

 

 

acupuncture, emotional health, fertility, mental health

What do you do when no one understands your fertility challenges (or other health conditions)?

I thought it was just meOne of the many books next to my bed at the moment is Brene Brown‘s I thought it was just me (but it isn’t): telling the truth about perfectionism, inadequacy and power.

It’s a summary of  ideas that Brene found through a series of interviews with a large cohort of women focusing on what causes shame and how to be resilient to it.  When pregnancies don’t happen easily or don’t go to plan many men and women experience shame. As an acupuncturist with a strong interest in fertility and pregnancy support, I hear about this phenomenon from my patients on a regular basis.  I hear about their reactions to the plethora of unsolicited advice that is freely given by friends, family and total strangers. The advice often only makes them feel worse.

Fertility is not the only area where this unsolicited advice flows freely.  A friend of mine experienced the same thing with a skin condition she had on her face.  People with cancer and autoimmune diseases are often subjected with horror stories about their disease from people who ‘mean well’.  Anyone with a mental health condition could probably relate to similar experiences.  If it isn’t a horror story being shared, it is often a controversial drug protocol from a current affairs program or their cousin’s hairdresser’s pool cleaner’s nail technician’s home remedy.

A link to www.infertilityeducation.org is given in the chapter on speaking shame.  It includes a brochure titled what infertility feels like which was created for people with fertility challenges to give to friends and family to better express how they feel about their situation in the hope of creating more supportive relationships through open communication.  This idea could be applied to any situation in which you feel misunderstood.  It doesn’t have to be that you give the physical brochure out but just reading the content could give you some inspiration to structure your ideas to better communicate with the well wishers around you.  After all, most of them do want to help, they just don’t know how.  On the flip side, this sentiment also helps us to develop compassion in our relationships with the other people around us who are also facing life’s challenges, and that can only be a good thing.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, fertility, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Improving sperm quality with acupuncture

“Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great”, proclaimed the great Monty Python, but in the interest of fertilising a woman’s egg, are all sperm great and if not, should they be?

Firstly, no, not all sperm are great.  An increasing number of men are demonstrating sperm analysis results that indicate a natural conception with their partner is either unlikely or almost impossible.  Male infertility accounts for around 30% of infertility in couples, with around 50-60%  of infertile couples experiencing a degree of subfertility with both partners.

Male fertility cannot be ignored.  And, it is not limited to only sperm quality.  Varicocele, cysts, infections, hormone imbalance, genetic disorders and erectile problems can also play a part.  These can be investigated with a physical examination, sperm analysis and blood test.

But back to the sperm, which is the most common area for problems in male fertility.  Sperm need to be motile (their swimming power) to find and fertilise the egg, there needs to be enough of them to statistically survive the ‘hostile’ environment on the way to fertilising the egg (many also get lost along the way), they need to have healthy DNA in their heads and they need to be formed correctly in order to fertilise the egg and provide healthy genetic information for the formation of the new life.  Recurrent miscarriages, which used to be pinned solely on the female partner, are now known to often be due to DNA fragmentation in the sperm.

So, should all sperm be great?  No, again.  They just aren’t designed that way.  If a man is ejaculating every 1-3 days his semen analysis to achieve a natural conception, (providing his female partner is also in good fertility health), should look more like this:

  • Volume (ml): 3.7
  • Count (106/ml): 64
  • Total motility (%): 61
  • Morphology (%): 15

These figures are based on the semen analysis results from a WHO report averaging the results of over 1700 men whose female partners became pregnant within a 12 month period. This is a good indication of the minimum levels that any man wishing to conceive should be aiming for, after all, you want to conceive easily, have a viable pregnancy, with a live birth and a healthy baby.

Note: these values are higher than the standard reference ranges on a sperm analysis.  This is because we are interested in a healthy, natural conception. The reference ranges used for the sperm analysis refer to sperm parameters that show the sperm are suitable to be used for ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), an assisted reproductive technique where a sperm that looks healthy is taken from the ejaculate (usually with sperm of low quality and count) and injected into an egg rather than fertilisation occuring naturally.

So, if you are staring at your (or your partner’s) semen analysis and it doesn’t look up to scratch, what can be done?  See your general practitioner or fertility specialist, perhaps additional testing is needed (e.g. repeat semen analysis or blood testing).  If no cause is found, many men are encouraged to use ICSI (described earlier) to produce a pregnancy as no other medical option exists to address the health of the sperm.

Here’s the good news. There is another way. For unexplained male infertility and low sperm parameters, natural medicine has some modalities that may help.  Given spermatogenesis (the process of making sperm) occurs in a period of around 3 months, your minimum treatment time should be three months.

Firstly, your practitioner will recommend some lifestyle advice which should include:

  • Do not overheat the scrotum (this means no computers on the lap, phones in pockets, tight underwear, excessive overheating exercise or spa/sauna use and limiting the amount of hours spent consecutively on a bicycle – whether stationary, push or motor).
  • Maintain a healthy weight – studies have shown men with a body mass index that is either too high or too low affects their sperm.
  • Avoid or at least limit alcohol.  This may be hard, but the results will be worth it.
  • Don’t smoke. No butts about it.  And that goes for marijuana and other recreational drugs too).
  • Include walnuts (handful per day), oily fish (salmon and sardines), zinc rich foods (oysters, lean meat, nuts, greens and pumpkin seeds) and of course your vitamin C and antioxidant rich 5 serves of brightly coloured vegetables and 2 serves of fruit per day.  Plus get your two litres of water each day to keep your body hydrated and the water works working.

Through a consultation with you, your practitioner will also ascertain any other areas of your health that are under par that may be affecting your fertility and then make recommendations to resolve them.  This may include additional dietary and other lifestyle recommendations.

Acupuncture has been the focus of some male infertility studies in recent years and has shown promising results in the areas of sperm count, morphology, motility and fertilisation rate.  In practice, we often see significant changes to a man’s semen analysis following treatment.

And just because you are wondering (and I know that you are), we don’t stick any needles in the man’s bits.  So you can relax.  In fact, acupuncture treatment is relaxing.  To get optimal results, acupuncture treatment should be as frequent as 1-2 times per week, for three months.

Nutritional medicine and herbal medicine also have plenty to offer men with low sperm parameters.  These will often be selected to suit each man’s individual health profile to enhance the effect of their acupuncture.

A Danish study showed that a man’s sperm analysis was indicative of his overall health and longevity.  So, with acupuncture, natural medicine and some dietary/lifestyle tweaks, not only may your fertility get a boost but so too may your overall vitality.  Win, win!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.