Top 11 Things You Can Do for Your Fertility Now!
From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO...
More than ever, I find that patients feel overwhelmed navigating through conflicting information in the media on the role of diet, exercise, stress on our overall health and specifically fertility. Exercise more, exercise less-or don't exercise at all. Eat ice cream, don’t eat ice cream. (Yes-there really is a body of research that recommends that women eat full fat dairy to help them conceive.) Eat grapefruit, eat kale, and the list goes on. The truth is that a cookie-cutter treatment plan effective for all patients doesn’t exist. As an acupuncturist and integrative medical professional, I stress this point to all of my fertility clients so that they can begin assembling a supportive team that will help them customize a treatment plan. It’s important to find health care practitioners that will do the same for you so that you can discover your fertility formula. In the meantime, here is my list of 11 things you can do now without any hype. This year, I am adding an 11th "to do" on the list of things to do to improve your fertility and overall health. I can not stress the importance of this 11th item and yet I find that it is rarely discussed by medical professionals. I am referring to the connection between the environment and our bodies, specifically the impact of chemical exposure on our ability to conceive. Read on to learn more.
- Read a Book: It’s time to brush up on what you know about your body, sex, fertility treatments, and conception. That’s right-twenty years later you still need to take sex education. Although this time, you can do it the privacy of your home. Several wonderful books have been published about the above topics. A few favorites include Christiane Northrop’s Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and Making Babies, a book co-written by physician, Sami S. David, and acupuncturist, Jill Blakeway. So, get out of those crazy fertility chat rooms and educate yourself. What you learn about your body will serve you for a lifetime and on your path to becoming a parent.
- Take Your Temperature: A basal body temperature (BBT) chart is a powerful tool. It involves taking your temperature every day at the same time and tracking the results. Your BBT chart will help you maximize conception, predict ovulation (or lack there of), and rule out various endocrine-related issues. To learn more about BBT charting visit www.tcoyf.com or pick up Toni Weschler’s book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
- Ask for Help: As you may have discovered, it takes a lot of energy to create a baby and you literally can’t do it alone. My clients braving single parenthood will tell you that there are more people out there willing to help than one would ever imagine-even neighbors who are surprisingly good with time-sensitive injections. Your partner or village can act as your appointment coordinator, cook (see #5), workout partner (see #6), or hand-holder. You just need to begin by asking for their help.
- Do the Math: You may have read in fertility-related pieces that you need to “aim for a healthy weight”. Research has shown that women with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) are the least likely to have difficulty conceiving. If you’ve never been a fan of math, visit: www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi and the website will help you calculate your BMI. It is time to consider #5 if your BMI is out of range or if you are not ovulating and your BMI is at the low-end or high-end of normal.
- Find a Nutritionist: The recent book, The Fertility Diet: Groundbreaking Research Reveals Natural Ways to Boost Ovulation and Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant by J. Chavarro, W. Willett, and P. Skerrett was pivotal in clarifying specific diet factors to improve fertility. As you may have read, you should be eating less sugar, more foods of color, better sources of essential fatty acids, more vegetarian sources of protein, and possibly ice cream. Exhausted by this list? This is why you may need a nutritional counselor to help customize a nutrition plan and work out the real-life logistics of eating a healthier diet in a burgers- and-fries world. Additionally, if weight issues (see #4) bring any twinge of emotion, it’s time to get support and resolve the emotional underbelly of your dinner plate.
- Move Your Body: Once you have a good nutrition program, it’s time to move your body. Research compiled in the The Fertility Diet book has also shown that incorporating vigorous exercise (running, swimming, cross-country skiing etc.) for 30-minutes, 3-5 days per week, improves rates of conception. If your BMI is above average, experts estimate that you may need 45-60 minutes, 3-5 days per week. Don’t overdo it-too much exercise can work against conception if your BMI is low or below normal. If this is the case, choose moderate forms of activity less than the recommendation until you maintain a healthy weight.
- Try Acupuncture: Since 2000, studies have been showing that acupuncture regulates the endocrine system, increases the rates of IVF/ICSI, reduces the rates of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies, and increases the rates of live births. Did I mention that it’s also good for stress? To find a licensed acupuncturist in your neighborhood, visit www.nccaom.org and ask about their women’s health and infertility experience. When you do become pregnant, acupuncture can help you with nausea, back pain, breached presentation, and inducing labor if necessary.
- Find an OB/GYN: This may seem like an obvious “to-do” but so often we pick a health care provider based on what our insurance plan offers, geographical convenience, or who happens to accepting new patients. Your relationship with your OB/GYN is one of the most important long-term relationships that will affect your health. Do your homework-ask nurses, physicians, coworkers, and friends for good referrals. Ask a few interview questions and don’t be afraid to “shop around” until you find a great fit.
- Get Counseling: Did you know that there are counselors specializing in fertility-related issues? Many fertility clinics offer individuals and couples free or reduced-cost services. Ask your circle of peers for a good referral before becoming isolated in the process and interview the therapist. Regardless of where you are in your journey, having the extra support can be crucial in helping you manage the physical and emotional demands of infertility.
- Join a Support Group: If #9 doesn’t seem to be a good fit or if the process is too expensive, try a support group. Connecting with a group of peers with a shared experience can provide you with great insight, an occasional laugh, and a form of support that goes beyond words. Support groups exist in non- traditional formats such as Facebook pages, Meet-up groups, and Twitter handles as well as their traditional format. Visit RESOLVE’s website for local listings.
- Consider Going Green: The trend to go green is finally entering the world of fertility. Definitive research now links chemicals such as BPA, dioxins, and PCBS (to name a few) to various endocrine disorders related to fertility. If you haven't considered the impact of various chemicals on your body not to mention the complex cocktail of chemicals that most of us are exposed to in food, water, skincare products, cleaning products, furniture (to name a few), it is time. The topic is overwhelming but making changes now will not only result in health benefits for yourself, but ensure a cleaner and safer environment for baby.
Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO
Jessica L. Molleur is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and massage therapist in Massachusetts and California. She first became interested in acupuncture as a soccer player searching for an alternative to knee surgery and discovered the many benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of California at Davis and a Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, CA. Jessica is a National Diplomate of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). She is also a Diplomate of Acupuncture Orthopedics, a specialty certification held by fewer than 500 acupuncturists in the United States.
Jessica currently maintains a private acupuncture practice in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, which was awarded Best Acupuncture Center by Boston Magazine. Areas of specialty include women's health, pregnancy, infertility, pediatrics, and sports medicine. If you are interested in learning about the benefits of acupuncture for fertility and IVF, please visit the acupuncture + fertility page. New patients can book online to schedule any acupuncture service including a complimentary consult. Jessica also serves as a health care consultant for a number of integrative medical institutes. Her clients include IVF and infertility centers, functional medicine offices, orthopedic facilities, concierge practices, and green spas. Please contact OMBE for more information about these services.
Prior to her consulting work, Jessica founded an integrative health center in Boston. The eco-friendly center was one of the first twenty-five companies certified as a Sustainable Business Leader in Boston. During its ten-year tenure, the center provided services including acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, naturopathy, nutritional counseling, personal training, Pilates, and yoga. Studio offerings included mom and baby programming, Mongan Method Hypnobirthing, natural childbirth education and the Holistic Moms Network. The center was the recipient of several awards, including Mayor Menino's Green Business Award, a multiple recipient of Boston Business Journal's Best Workplace, Boston Magazine's Best of Boston Award for Massage Therapy as well as Best Eco-Friendly Massage, Eco-Beauty Bar, Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, Pilates, and Workout.