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.

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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 #launcestonladies #launcestonmothers #launcestonmums

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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.

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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 #launcestonladies #launcestonmothers #launcestonmums

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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, fertility, herbal medicine, pregnancy

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): can natural medicine help?

Here’s a little summary (from my Masters literature review) of what Traditional Chinese and natural medicine has to offer women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

For those wondering what PCOS is, it’s a female reproductive condition which is diagnosed by excluding other diseases, hence it’s known as a syndrome.  To be diagnosed with PCOS according to the Rotterdam criteria, a woman needs to have any two of the following:

  1. Polycystic ovaries (that’s right, ovaries with many cysts on them).  The jury is out on how many cysts constitute PCOS, but they may be arranged in a classic black pearl necklace formation identified by ultrasound.
  2. Androgen excess.  Basically, we are talking about too much free testosterone (but other hormones may be out of balance too – including the LH FSH ratio.)  This hormonal imbalance can lead to symptoms such as hirsutism (an increase in body hair on the face, chest, nipples and lower belly), hair loss/thinning (again in the male pattern) and acne (although this is controversial as to whether it is definitely a part of the syndrome.
  3. Anovulatory menstrual cycles/amenorrhoea.  This means that either you have stopped having periods altogether (and you are not pregnant or menopausal) or that you are not ovulating during your cycle.  Women may also experience longer menstrual cycles.  (35-60 day cycles are common in PCOS).

So, what can be done if you are given this diagnosis from your doctor (aside from or complementary to the common drug protocols – OCP, Clomid, Metformin)?

  • Acupuncture.  Research suggests that acupuncture can be useful in increasing the number of menstrual cycles a woman with PCOS has (that means bringing the length of the cycle down to a healthier range).  Two randomised controlled trials have been undertaken on the topic.  The first double-blind study showed that both the control group and the sham group (who had pretend acupuncture with a special non-needle) both improved on their before trial results.  This suggests that perhaps the sham acupuncture may have worked after all.  (Pretend acupuncture is very difficult to do without making a change to the body.)  The second trial, I think used better acupuncture points (more like what I would use in my clinic), and showed that acupuncture was superior to exercise for PCOS.  The researchers pointed out that doing acupuncture and exercise would be the most beneficial treatment.
  • Paeonia and Licorice.  These herbs have both been shown to be beneficial in women with PCOS.  They have also been studied in Chinese herbal formulas for the condition.
  • Vitamin D.  Have you had your levels checked?  Researchers identified that women with PCOS are often low in Vitamin D.  This has a relationship with calcium in your body and can influence ovulation.  This makes sense from a Chinese medicine point of view as sunlight (one source of Vitamin D that we have) is a source of Yang (the warming, energetic, functional aspect of our body).  A woman needs a peak in Yang to ovulate.  (Anyone who has taken Basal Body Temperature charts knows to look for a peak in body temperature prior to ovulation.)
  • Spearmint Tea.  A month-long study on hirsutism was undertaken with participants drinking 2 cups of spearmint tea each day.  The participants experienced a decrease in androgens and a subjective decrease in male pattern body hair.
  • Weight loss and Insulin management. Most of the studies specify that the treatment is more likely to work in patients with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and without insulin resistance.  There are additional dietary, herbal and nutritional interventions that may assist in these areas, so that your PCOS treatment works more efficiently.  These areas can not be overlooked.  It’s suggested that PCOS may be an evolutionary condition allowing a small percentage of women to be able to reproduce in times of starvation (when most other women would experience infertility).

If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, I recommend discussing the condition with not only your doctor but also your acupuncturist or natural medicine practitioner (who has an interest in women’s health).  PCOS if left untreated, may be a risk factor for other metabolic disorders including diabetes and hypertension.  Every woman is different, and PCOS is notorious for presenting in many different ways so an individualised treatment plan is a must.

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.