2018 was a difficult year for me, to say the least. One of my fears became a reality, I was struggling with trying to conceive and was experiencing significant anxiety and depression about it. I wanted to share a little about my fertility journey in this article, as I have so many patients, friends, and family members who have had their own fertility challenges and I know it can be a very isolating and distressing experience.
Going through my own fertility challenges has given me insight and compassion for others who are also going through it. The extensive testing, frequent appointments, worry, sadness, relationship stress…I’ve been there. But I do know that your experience can really depend on the approach you choose to take toward your fertility journey. When I started going to a fertility clinic this summer, I was overcome with anxiety, fear, and distrust. I didn’t trust in my body, my decisions, the doctor… and the experience became very scary for me.
Life circumstances required me to take a short break from care with the fertility clinic. During this time, I decided that I was tired of feeling like my fertility was out of my control. I took my health into my hands and I started to take better care of myself. I wanted to do what I could to improve my fertility, naturally. So, I nourished my body with whole foods. I moved my body in ways that felt good: yoga and walking. I made sleep a priority. I took high quality supplements to support my nutritional status, egg quality, and hormonal balance. I started meditating to calm my mind at night and practiced mindfulness. I used affirmations and chose to think more positive thoughts.
After a few months, I felt ready to return to the fertility clinic, but this time I decided to go in with a new outlook. I trusted my body more, felt more confident in my decisions, and trusted my great doctor. I began to feel a sense of empowerment over my health and fertility. I no longer felt anxious about the experience, I felt excited about it. After all, it was leading me to (hopefully) conceiving!
With time and patience, my body responded to all of the self-care I had been doing. I started to get regular ovulatory menstrual cycles again. My bloodwork showed that my hormones were doing exactly what they should be. My ultrasounds showed that my follicles were growing and that I was ovulating. With each piece of encouraging news, I started to trust and love my body more and more for the amazing things it was doing for me.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this journey is to TRUST. Trust is the opposite of anxiety. When you trust in your body, yourself, your doctors, the universe… you will feel calmer and more at peace with your journey. Feeling calmer and more at peace is also exactly the state you want to be in to allow your nervous system to relax and support healthy conception.
Please let Melanie know if you have any questions ( MelanieReidlND@gmail.com ).
Most women at some point during their lives struggle with Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS). The symptoms usually appear around 7-10 before the menstrual period is due and disappear when the period arrives. Some women have mild symptoms that they barely notice while others feel a huge change that can have a negative impact during that phase of the menstrual cycle.
PMS Symptoms vary from:
Mood changes – anger, frustration, weepiness, Anxiety, Depression
Food cravings/Increase in appetite
PMS is a sign that your body’s energy is out of balance. Acupuncture can help bring the body back into balance and can relieve PMS symptoms. Acupuncture also helps with stress, and calming your mind.
For those of you struggling with infertility, I understand the pain. As an ND who has gone through it, I understand the worry, sadness, and stress it can cause. Even finding the right practitioners and the right treatment approach can be a challenge. From my own fertility journey, to the many patients I’ve supported on theirs, I have seen the magic of naturopathic medicine alone or alongside conventional fertility care.
In this article, I wanted to outline the assessment and treatment approach, and modalities that I use when a patient comes to me for fertility support. In some cases, a specific diagnosis for the infertility has been made, and we would start treatment. In other cases, patients come to me with ‘unexplained infertility’ and I will spend the time necessary to help uncover reasons for the infertility.
In the case of ‘unexplained infertility’, I often run some laboratory tests to more thoroughly check thyroid function and hormones such as cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone. This helps to determine if there are subtle abnormalities with the thyroid or hormones that are impacting fertility. I also have these patients track their BBT (basal body temperature) and ovulation signs so that we can monitor the cycle and increase fertility awareness.
Once a diagnosis has been established, we focus on treatment. As far as treatment goals, they include the following:
1) Optimize egg/sperm quality,
2) Balance hormones
3) Treat the specific cause of infertility
4) Support mental-emotional health (a very important piece!)
Treatment modalities that I frequently use with my fertility patients include the following:
2) Lifestyle Medicine
5) Counselling & Mindfulness techniques.
Nutrition involves a dietary assessment, individualized dietary guidelines, and nutrient supplementation. Lifestyle medicine involves an assessment of one’s current lifestyle and introducing changes that support fertility such as exercise and sleep recommendations, and specific stress reduction strategies. Herbs can be very powerful in the treatment of infertility. There are several that have been studied and found to regulate the menstrual cycle and improve conception rates. Acupuncture has also been well studied and has been found to be a great supportive treatment in infertility. I find that acupuncture, in addition to mindfulness techniques can really improve patients’ mental-emotional health and support the relaxation of the nervous system that is needed for healthy conception.
An individualized approach to infertility is so important, since there are so many possible causes and reasons for it. This is why seeing and ND can be so helpful; the holistic and individualized assessment and treatment approach lends itself to fertility care. As an ND who has been there herself, I strive to be a compassionate practitioner who sees and supports you as a beautiful person going through a challenging time, not as an infertility diagnosis.
Written by: Amanda Cressman, N.D.
The New Years is generally a time of reflection and creation of goals and plans for the coming year. 20 years ago I created a resolution of sorts with myself and have been asked to share it here. It’s one I have spoken about numerous times in my office and I hope it may be of interest to you, if you’re reading this.
When I was 19 years old, I was in my first year of university and was doing my best to be successful in all aspects of life. I was in a science program that was challenging, living in a dorm with lots of people and away from home for the first time. To give you more context, I didn’t know it then but I was a perfectionist…or at least on the spectrum – expecting the best from myself and frustrated and embarrassed when this wasn’t achieved. I had a ton of friends…I literally was invited to 50 weddings in 7 years. I was that girl…the girl everyone was friends with, who floated easily between cliques and groups of friends and somehow made connections in them. I was about 30-40 lbs heavier than what I am now and I went to each of these weddings alone…single which was difficult but was my reality. I share these details to help you gain more understanding as to why this resolution was created.
So, one day in the Math Building at University of Waterloo, I got back a calculus test and didn’t do well. I did ok, but ok was never enough for me, it needed to be great. I was known as the ‘smart’ girl growing up and not achieving well in school shattered this core part of my identity. Upon getting the mark, I did what I always did in times like that….I went for it…and began criticizing and basically yelling at myself. My inner dialog was mean, harsh, shaming and malicious. And it didn’t just stop at not achieving the mark I thought I should have, it was relentless and began attacking my body, my personality, every shortcoming it could see, it attacked. In those moments I would freeze, almost like a child receiving punishment, waiting for it to be over….for my sense of worth to be trampled on before moving on with my day. But for some reason, something was different this day. I was struck with a new thought, that this behaviour was hypocritical…that if I were to talk to any of my friends the way I talked to myself, that they would be appalled and I would have no friends. For some reason, this dissonance was very unsettling and wasn’t ok. I have always strived to be authentic as best I can and this was the opposite of that.
So, I did something that was very un-me. I went out shopping and spent money on myself. I bought myself a ring as rings had represented something very special to me – the symbol of worth. And instead of waiting for someone to give me this gift, it was time to give it to myself. So, I bought myself a promise ring and made a commitment to work at being my own friend. Each time I would catch myself criticizing or judging myself, I would rub my ring and say, “What would you want your best friend to say to you?” and I would say it to myself. It was actually really hard for the first bit and was challenging as trying to be an authentic person…the compliment felt very inauthentic. But I kept with it and 20 years later, I’m on my 3rd ring with the compliments finally feeling easy and becoming more of my natural narrative. It’s still a process, one that needs attention and care but changing anything is just that…a process.
New Years Resolutions are a wonderful symbol of the desire to change but a game plan is needed to implement the change on a day to day basis, especially when it really counts. I am so grateful for that moment in the Math Building when the realization that the narrative had to change to ensure I was being authentic and able to lead a kinder and happier life.
Happy New Years to you and hoping whatever resolution you have created, that it’s one that creates health and well being for you on all levels.
It is quite common for Acupuncture clients to feel a little nervous before receiving their first acupuncture treatment. What I always find though is that by the end of the treatment people are always pleasantly surprised by how good and relaxed they feel.
What happens during an acupuncture treatment?
During your first appointment, we will go over your Initial Intake Form. (The Intake form is very long but it paints a picture of your system and helps me come up with a custom treatment plan for you). I will look at your tongue and feel your pulses on your wrist (this also helps come up with a Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis).
The acupuncture needles are ultra-thin (hair thin), sterile, disposable needles. They are gently inserted and generally feel like a mosquito bite as they are inserted. They are quite comfortable when they are inserted. The treatment itself can last between 20-30 minutes. It is at this point people take a nap, meditate, or just relax (and this is easy to do during an acupuncture treatment!)
In most cases people feel quite relaxed, in a calm zone while other people feel more energized following an acupuncture treatment.
A series of acupuncture are generally recommended depending on your main complaint and other factors.
Acupuncture is only one type of treatment that can be used on its own or in combination with acupressure, cupping therapy, or moxibustion.
564-572 Weber Street North, Unit 3A Waterloo, Ontario N2L5C6