Traditional Chinese Treatments and PCOS



PCOS

 

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a condition that affects between 5 and 10% of women during childbearing years. PCOS is generally characterized by an imbalance of hormones, with an increase in male sex hormones (androgens), sometimes leading to lack of ovulation in women.

Symptoms of PCOS can consist of some typically “male” physical qualities, such as male pattern baldness and body hair, as well as weight gain. The “cysts” in “polycystic” refers to the follicle in the ovary that matures the egg. The egg partially matures inside the follicle (still connected to the ovary), but then is not released; the follicle is simply re-absorbed into the ovary, sometimes attaching to the ovary as a cyst.

It can lead to challenges with a woman’s mental and physical health, and can also interfere with a woman’s ability to conceive a child, due to lack of ovulation and lack of hormonal support. Weight loss and increased overall physical health will likely help lessen symptoms of PCOS. Otherwise, hormone therapy or more invasive fertility treatments may be required for women who have PCOS.

The above treatments can be expensive and intimidating to a woman contemplating getting pregnant with PCOS. Probably even more intimidating is the thought of trying for months and months with no success in conceiving. Add to this the depression and anxiety that women with PCOS tend to experience, and you have a recipe for a seriously unhappy lady!

With this challenging prognosis, a woman may want to seek out so-called alternative or traditional therapies. Many women have turned to traditional Chinese therapy for help with PCOS.

A popular Chinese herb used in the treatment of PCOS is called Dong Quai. It has been used for thousands of years to treat the female endocrine system, as well as helping to regulate irregular menstrual cycles and help with premenstrual syndrome.  It has been used for so long that it has been called the “female ginseng.”

Since PCOS is often considered to be a chronic or long-term condition, many women would prefer to take herbal supplements for a longer period of time, rather than modern meds. Herbs are considered to have fewer side effects and to be more successful in the long term. Of course, in order for this to be the case, make sure to buy herbal supplements from a traditional Chinese practitioner that you trust, because otherwise herbal supplements may not be pure (as the production and sale of herbs are not regulated).

Other ancient Chinese treatments sought by women with PCOS are acupuncture and acupressure—these treatments are designed to help regulate a woman’s body and to help maintain balance. These are important outcomes, so acupuncture may be a good option for a woman with PCOS. Since it is completely drug-free, it may be your best option for long-term care of PCOS.

All these treatments should be done under the supervision of a doctor, in order to prevent counter-indications. PCOS is a difficult syndrome to live with, and it is worth trying alternative therapies to find relief and success with trying to conceive.

The TTC – Endometriosis Journey



Endometriosis can be a challenging and painful condition, usually resulting in agonizing menstrual periods. Endometriosis gets its name from endometrial lining (the uterine lining that builds up and is shed each cycle). What happens in a woman who doesn`t have endometriosis is that each month, her hormones tell her ovaries to produce and release an egg, then her uterus builds a thick lining to support a fertilized egg implanting. Each cycle, when the egg doesn’t get fertilized, the egg and uterine lining are shed through the vagina, and the cycle starts again!

A woman with endometriosis experiences this cycle differently. What happens is that, when the uterus builds up the endometrial lining, some of the other guts want to get in on the action as well, and start building endometrial lining too. This lining can grow on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, the outside of the uterus, even to the bowel, bladder, cervix, vagina, and vulva, or to other organs. When the hormones cue the uterus to expel the uterine lining, all the other uterine lining everywhere else inside a woman’s body wants to be expelled too, but has no place to go. Thus, periods for women with endometriosis can be extremely painful. The end result of this could be internal bleeding, scarring, bowel issues, and possible infertility.

Thinking you may have endometriosis? Some common symptoms of this condition are:

  • extremely painful periods
  • painful sex
  • painful urination and BM’s during your period
  • fatigue
  • GI issues like vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
  • frequent yeast infections

 

Endometriosis can be a tough diagnosis to receive, and you may be filled with many questions. Will I be able to get pregnant? Will my periods always be this painful? Will my sex life ever be normal? Is there anything I can do to prevent future outbreaks? How can I best manage this condition?

The good news: there is a fair chance you will be able to get pregnant. Scientists are not entirely sure of the effect of endometriosis on fertility. If you have mild endometriosis, you have an 80% chance of conceiving within the same amount of time as a woman without endometriosis, although again, there doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation for this. If you don’t get pregnant after a while, it’s worth it to take a trip to the doctor. She can prescribe Clomid (clomifene), which might increase your chances of ovulating and of getting pregnant. There may be other hormonal therapies that may be helpful to you in conceiving, and it is best to talk to your doctor about your options.

Another option is to have an abdominal ultrasound to see if any of the extra endometrial tissue is interfering with your fertility. If it looks like there may be some extra tissue loitering around your uterus (like teens outside a convenience store), an option for you may be to take the tissue out (like the owner of the convenience store shooing the kids away!). This would likely be done laparoscopically, with minimal pain and recovery time.

After each of these interventions, you will likely be told to try for a few months to see if you are able to conceive. I hope that you are, but if you aren’t, you can go back to the doc and you can try something else!

Lastly, intrauterine insemination (IUI) may be an option to increase fertility. IUI is a procedure wherein sperm are “shot” into a woman’s cervix.

Women can live a good life with endometriosis, and most are even able to conceive. As with most other health challenges, your best bet is to maintain open communication with your care providers.

Wanna Get Pregnant? Know When You Ovulate



 

When??

So, how do you know when you ovulate?

There are a few ways you can tell.

The first way you can tell is completely natural, involves no fertility tests, and in which you only rely on your womanly instincts and hormonal realities. That is, you feel horny. You want to get it on with your partner! If you have a regular cycle, this is a seriously strong impulse. A woman’s body has been giving cues for thousands of years, so who are you to be ignoring those impulses? You will likely feel this at the most in-opportune times, such as wanting to mount the clerk at the grocery store, or wanting to jump a cute guy on the walk home. When you notice this, make sure you go home right away, and jump your husband instead! Your hormones are a little bit slutty; they don’t only feel attracted to your partner—you have to teach them that aspect of commitment. But other than that, they won’t lead you astray. Women with a regular cycle don’t feel like jumping a man except when they’re ovulating, so that’s a major cue to you mamas-to-be!

The second way is that you just magically know when you are ovulating. That`s right; you just feel a “pop,” and know you’re ovulating. One-fifth of all ovulating women feel this, which means that four-fifths of women hate the one-fifth who can feel themselves ovulating! I have heard it described it as a “pop” feeling, like a minor period feeling. If you feel this feeling (like a half-period in the middle of your cycle), jump your husband right away, without any ado! Women who say they can feel ovulation say that it takes a bit of energy to ovulate, so it makes sense that they feel an energy depletion at ovulation. Again, most women don’t feel ovulation, so don’t feel bad if you don’t feel that little egg dropping!

Next, there are two more completely natural methods that can work to help you understand when your body is ovulating, so you can get down and dirty with your husband!

The first method is the basal body temperature (BBT) method. If you don’t feel intuitively that your body is ovulating, this is one of the next best ways to know that your body is ovulating. In order to measure your BBT, you need to measure your basal body temperature as a way of determining your ovulation. That means you need to take your temp every morning before you get out of bed in the morning, most likely using a digital thermometer, as that is the only one you’ll be able to read it that early in the morning! You pop it in your mouth each morning (don’t your husband wish he were a digital thermometer!), and write down your number on your calendar. Then, your base body temp goes up by a half- to a full-degree Fahrenheit, and you will know that it’s your time! You can try to conceive when you notice that your temperature is increasing. But, honestly, your best bet is to track it for a few months and to start with your partner BEFORE your temp is set to rise—that’s when it’s your best time for conceiving. Sperm are hardy and live for several days inside your cervix, like the ‘80’s nerds in those nerd movies, and the eggs are the cool girls who don’t have time to wait for someone to come up to them. So make sure that you set it up so the sperm can wait, and the eggs don’t need to wait!

The next best way to test for ovulation is by touching your cervical mucus. The “plus” is that you can tell your ovulation, and the “minus” is that you have to feel your vagina and cervix every day. A side benefit is that you will get more in touch with your cervix/vagina and your own sexual health.

Cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle—it gets more and more “welcoming” and plentiful as you get closer to your ovulation. Welcoming cervix looks like this: abundant, relatively thin, and similar in consistency to raw egg white. When you notice that your cervical mucus is like this, jump on your husband! It means that you are ovulating!

If you want to plan in advance, you can track your cervical mucus on your calendar, and plan for when you will get your “egg white” cervical mucus. You will want to have sex with your partner prior to when you anticipate your cervical mucus being this consistency, so that you can best prepare for your ovulation.

Have fun trying to reproduce, in any case! You’ll have the most success when you relax, so pick the philosophy that fits you the best. Good luck!

 

PCOS and Vitex



PCOS (Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome) can be a complex and challenging diagnosis. Many women with PCOS are concerned about their chances of conceiving without hormonal or surgical assistance. Some women are concerned about a “short luteal phase,” which is the phase in the menstrual cycle between the mature egg being released and the uterine lining being shed. If women have a short or disrupted luteal phase, that may have an impact on a couple’s ability to conceive. This can be related to PCOS, as in PCOS, a woman often lacks the estrogen to mature the egg and tell it to release from the ovary.

Some women with these sorts of reproductive challenges look to natural supplements to help with their hormonal balance. One such supplement is called Vitex (or chasteberry), which is a shrub from Greece or Italy. Over the years, the reproductive benefits of Vitex have been catalogued and expounded upon. But does it really work?

First of all, it’s ironically named, since it was believed to promote chastity among early monks. Funny that it came to be known as a reproductive aid! Vitex has been studied in relation to PMS symptoms, and has shown some promise, although the tests are not considered to be well-designed. It seems that the science is thin, but the anecdotal evidence is plenty for this extract in helping with PMS, as well as with regulating menstrual cycles and helping with fertility.

The folks who are in favor of using it to help with fertility believe it works by influencing the pituitary gland to regulate reproductive hormones. They believe it can help lengthen the luteal phase, to ensure that a mature egg can be released with enough time for it to be fertilized by a sperm.

So, where does that leave you? You may want to mention it to your doc; she may have read the research and have an opinion on it. Chances are, your doc will not know about it, as the science is not deemed to be conclusive. You could go see a naturopath, or you could just pick some up at a pharmacy or natural health store. It is recommended that you start with a low dose, since side effects may not be well catalogued or understood.

Even if it does not work, guess what? If you think it will work, it very well may work for you, my friend! It’s called the placebo effect, and it can be virtually indistinguishable from actual effectiveness. For example, it may help you to be more relaxed and more excited to have sex with your partner. If you do not release an egg to fertilize, it won’t change anything, but if you do, those changes may be the ones that push you over the edge into baby-making territory!

So good luck, and happy supplementing and conceiving!

 

Endometriosis – A Painful TTC Journey



Endometriosis

Endometriosis can be a challenging and painful condition, usually resulting in agonizing menstrual periods. Endometriosis gets its name from endometrial lining (the uterine lining that builds up and is shed each cycle). What happens in a woman who doesn’t have endometriosis is that each month, her hormones tell her ovaries to produce and release an egg, then her uterus builds a thick lining to support a fertilized egg implanting. Each cycle, when the egg doesn’t get fertilized, the egg and uterine lining are shed through the vagina, and the cycle starts again!

A woman with endometriosis experiences this cycle differently. What happens is that, when the uterus builds up the endometrial lining, some of the other guts want to get in on the action as well, and start building endometrial lining too. This lining can grow on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, the outside of the uterus, even to the bowel, bladder, cervix, vagina, and vulva, or to other organs. When the hormones cue the uterus to expel the uterine lining, all the other uterine lining everywhere else inside a woman’s body wants to be expelled too, but has no place to go. Thus, periods for women with endometriosis can be extremely painful. The end result of this could be internal bleeding, scarring, bowel issues, and possible infertility.

Thinking you may have endometriosis? Some common symptoms of this condition are:

  • extremely painful periods
  • painful sex
  • painful urination and BM’s during your period
  • fatigue
  • GI issues like vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
  • frequent yeast infections

Endometriosis can be a tough diagnosis to receive, and you may be filled with many questions. Will I be able to get pregnant? Will my periods always be this painful? Will my sex life ever be normal? Is there anything I can do to prevent future outbreaks? How can I best manage this condition?

The good news: there is a fair chance you will be able to get pregnant. Scientists are not entirely sure of the effect of endometriosis on fertility. If you have mild endometriosis, you have an 80% chance of conceiving within the same amount of time as a woman without endometriosis, although again, there doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation for this. If you don’t get pregnant after a while, it’s worth it to take a trip to the doctor. She can prescribe Clomid (clomifene), which might increase your chances of ovulating and of getting pregnant. There may be other hormonal therapies that may be helpful to you in conceiving, and it is best to talk to your doctor about your options.

Another option is to have an abdominal ultrasound to see if any of the extra endometrial tissue is interfering with your fertility. If it looks like there may be some extra tissue loitering around your uterus (like teens outside a convenience store), an option for you may be to take the tissue out (like the owner of the convenience store shooing the kids away!). This would likely be done laparoscopically, with minimal pain and recovery time.

After each of these interventions, you will likely be told to try for a few months to see if you are able to conceive. I hope that you are, but if you aren’t, you can go back to the doc and you can try something else!

Lastly, intrauterine insemination (IUI) may be an option to increase fertility. IUI is a procedure wherein sperm are “shot” into a woman’s cervix.

Women can live a good life with endometriosis, and most are even able to conceive. As with most other health challenges, your best bet is to maintain open communication with your care providers.

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