Fertility Treatment at Health Foundations Helps Many Conceive

While Health Foundations is best known as a birth center, we also help couples before they get pregnant. We help couples who are just beginning the pregnancy journey to optimize their health to create the best foundation for a healthy pregnancy. We also offer this and additional services to those couples who are experiencing challenges in getting pregnant.

We have had great success with many of our fertility supporting techniques. One in particular has helped many Health Foundations women get pregnant. This procedure, offered here at Health Foundations, is called intrauterine insemination, or IUI, and is a type of artificial insemination. Intrauterine insemination is a fairly simple and safe procedure, and the risk of serious complications is low. It is also less invasive and less expensive than in-vitro fertilization and carries fewer side effect risks.

In the past, artificial insemination involved placing washed and concentrated sperm (those with good motility) inside the vagina, but in this newer procedure—which has a higher rate of success—the sperm is placed directly in the uterus. This procedure is timed with the menstrual cycle (around the time of ovulation) with the goal of having the sperm swim into the fallopian tube and fertilize a newly released egg.

The procedure

An intrauterine insemination procedure itself takes only a minute or two and requires no medications or pain relievers. During this procedure, you lie on the exam table and a speculum will be placed into the vagina, as it would during a normal Pap test. A vial of the small sample of healthy sperm is inserted into the vagina, through the cervix and into the uterus using a flexible tube (catheter). The catheter is then removed followed by the speculum. You may lie back for a brief period, then you can get dressed and go about your normal activities. Some women experience light spotting for a day or two, but other than that no other side effects are common. Women then wait two weeks before taking a pregnancy test. If the procedure is not successful on the first try it may be repeated another three to six months before other therapies are recommended.

Who it may help

Intrauterine insemination is most appropriate for women/couples in the following cases:

  • For women/couples using donor sperm.
  • Unexplained fertility challenges, used often as a first treatment (sometimes in conjunction with ovulation inducing medications)
  • Mild male factor fertility challenges, such as lower sperm concentration, lower sperm motility, or sperm size and shape abnormalities.
  • Cervical factor fertility challenges—for example, overly thick cervical mucus can impede the sperm’s movement into the uterus; IUI bypasses the cervix, which can help couples conceive.
  • Semen allergy

If you would like to learn more about intrauterine insemination or other fertility support offered at Health Foundations, please call to schedule an appointment at 651-895-2520.

Flower essences

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAFlower essences are an amazing and lesser-known healing resource that can be quite amazing for expectant and new mamas, and, really, anyone.  We offer a line of flower essences by Santosha Birth and Wellness that are specifically for conception, pregnancy, birth and motherhood.  We also have a new acupuncturist that is trained in the use of flower essences.  With all the buzz about flower essences, we wanted to share a bit more about what flower essences are and why they are so wonderful for the childbearing cycle.  

What are flower essences?

Flower essences are type of botanical medicine that works on the energetic level (like acupuncture does) to positively affect the emotions, energy, and deeper soul levels. Flower essences are especially suited to helping people overcome obstacles, heal the past, reduce negative thoughts, actions and perspectives, cope with changes and challenges, and achieve greater joy and peace. Put simply, flower essences are energy medicine—they safely and effectively address root causes of emotional and physical issues to bring healing and growth on all levels (physical, emotional, mental and soul).

Odorless and virtually tasteless, a flower essence is an infusion of flowers stabilized in water and a small amount of brandy to preserve. 

What is the history of flower essences?

Flower essence therapy has been used by indigenous people for centuries and have been thoroughly studied and developed in the West for over a century. Dr. Bach, a British physician and homeopathic doctor, was the first to develop a robust system of flower essence therapy in the early 1900s. His system included 38 flower essences and his blend, Rescue Remedy® is the most famous of all flower essences. Dr. Bach’s early death left room for further development and refinement of this system and additional flower essences have been added to this healing system.

Master herbalists such a German healer Julia Graves (creator of the Lily Circle) and Flower Essence Service, among others, have continued Dr. Bach’s legacy, producing high quality flower essences that yield profound results. The Lily Circle (used in Santosha’s blends) is exceptionally well suited for female archetypal issues and those surrounding birth and motherhood, but are equally powerful and healing for all people.  

Why flower essences?

There are so many reasons why flower essences are an incredible healing tool, especially in the childbearing cycle.  

They are safe: Because flower essences work on the energetic rather than biochemical level, they don’t pose the same risks that some pharmaceuticals, herbal tinctures, and essential oils may pose. This makes flower essences particularly attractive for treating issues that may arise in the childbearing cycle, when other treatments may not be advised. Flower essences are completely safe for use in pregnant women, birthing women, nursing women, newborns, infants, and children (and even pets and plants, evidence shows!). There are NO known contraindications.

They are gentle: Flower essences are gentle, they don’t work by force, nor do they overwhelm the body or mind. Flower essences are subtle, yet powerful and profound in the positive change they produce.

They address root causes of physical ailments and emotional/spiritual conditions. Flower essences often get to the source of one’s physical or other ailments. By addressing underlying emotional/mental/energetic/spiritual factors contributing to dis-ease or challenges, flower essences heal the deeper levels of one’s being and when they are healed, the body follows. What better time than pregnancy to clear out what doesn’t serve us and make room for greater wellbeing in parenthood? The healthier and happy we are going into parenting, the better we can be for ourselves and our children!

How do you use a flower essence?

Flower essences are commonly taken by mouth, with 4 drops taken orally 4 times a day. This is a general guideline—a person in an acute situation (e.g. labor) may take an essence as frequently as every 10 minutes as needed. Taking an essence frequently is the path to desired change. Because there is a small amount of brandy in the essence, some pregnant women or sensitive individuals may prefer not to take the essence directly under the tongue. You can add an essence to beverage—covered water is best (but tea or juice can also be used). For those that wish to avoid ingestion entirely, flower essences can be sprayed or applied on to the skin, clothing, bedding or air. One can also take a flower essence bath.

How long should one use a flower essence?

Many flower essence practitioners note a definite cycle period in taking a flower essence, typically two to four weeks though this can be longer or shorter for some and depending on the reason for use.

Can flower essences be used together with other healing modalities?

Flower essences can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies to enhance a healing process. They have been used with great success by flower essence practitioners, naturopathic doctors, massage therapists, psychologists, medical doctors, veterinarians, and other health care practitioners.

How do I learn more?  

If you want to learn more about flower essences, you can speak with us at an upcoming appointment or contact Santosha Birth and Wellness directly at http://www.santoshamama.com.  

4 of the most important pregnancy foods you never hear about

Bone brothHere at Health Foundations, we emphasize the importance of a healthy diet before and during pregnancy because we’ve seen again and again how much of a difference good nutrition makes in the health of mom and baby, including a reduced risk of c-sections, easier labors, quicker postpartum healing, and so much more.  And the benefits aren’t just relegated to the childbearing year.  Babies who receive good nutrition in the womb are at a lower risk for many serious diseases in their child and adulthoods, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, autism, and ADHD.  Science is finding the crucial role nutrition plays in epigenetics, or the factors, such as chemical reactions, that influence gene expression.  Cutting edge studies are finding the importance of the gut microbiome in overall health for both babies and adults.  

So in that spirit, here are five foods that you might not find on the list of best pregnancy foods but are actually some of the best foods you can eat when expecting (and when planning to conceive).  

1.  Traditional Fats:  

We went through a phase in our collective history during which everyone feared fats.  And we still haven’t quite recovered.  But many kinds of natural fats are not only good for you, they are essential to your wellbeing.  Across cultures, you will find fats emphasized in fertility and pregnancy diets.  Good fats include ghee, butter, dairy fat (full fat dairy products), avocados, and coconut oil.  Used in moderation, these healthy fats can do a world of good for you and baby.  They can support maternal skin health, optimizing your body’s response to the stretches and effects of gravity that pregnancy impose.  Healthy fats in pregnancy also lower the risk of childhood allergies for baby, research shows.  Additional studies show that health fat consumption in pregnancy can lower the risk of baby later developing autism.  

2.  Organ meats:

Okay, we are not a culture that commonly enjoyed organ meats.  In fact the words alone may turn people off.  But meats like liver are super foods when it comes to baby making (we’re talking pregnancy here, folks).  Organic, grassfed and/or free range organ meats are some of the most nutrient dense foods absolutely loaded with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fat.  They are particularly rich in the nutrients that help keep our brains healthy and grow healthy well-functioning baby brains– i.e.  the essential fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docasahexaenoic acid), and AA (arachidonic acid). Liver is one of the best sources of folate, which is SO crucial in pregnancy (and supplemental folic acid pales in comparison to food-sourced folate in terms of health).  Liver and other organ meats are also tremendous sources of:

  • high-quality protein
  • fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • vitamin A, which is rapidly depleted during periods of stress
  • All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
  • A highly usable form of iron, so important in pregnancy
  • Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium
  • CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
  • Purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA

One of the easiest and tastiest ways to eat liver is through liver pates.  Here is a tasty recipe for Chicken Liver Pate.  Here is one for a delicious Beef Liver with fig, bacon, and caramelized onion.  While not as ideal as consuming as food, desiccated liver in capsule form is also available.  

3.  Bone Broth

Beloved by the burgeoning paleo health movement, bone broth has numerous benefits for both mamas and babies (and the rest of us!)  Bone broth has shown to offer the following benefits:

  • builds, rebuilds and repairs our connective tissue, including joints, tendons and ligaments
  • improves hair, skin and nails
  • strengthens bones
  • heals and promotes a healthy digestive system 
  • supports optimal nerve health
  • great for the immune system
  • good source of protein
  • supports brain health
  • boosts fertility
  • and much more

Because broth supports the nervous system, endocrine system and brain function, consuming it while pregnant helps the developing fetus build healthy organs.

Bone broth is cheap and easy to make yourself.  You can use the bones from a whole chicken you have cooked or can get soup bones from the coop. It is best to use high quality bones to make bone broth– those from healthy (grassfed or free range), organic sources.  This is not a difficult thing to do in Minnesota!  There are many great recipes out there for bone broth.  Here is one simple way to make and enjoy bone broth throughout the week.

4.   Fermented foods

Fermented foods are some of the best sources of probiotics one can get from food (which is a superior source of all nutrients, compared to supplements, in virtually all cases).   Fermented foods are great for maintaining a healthy digestive system in pregnancy, which many of us know can go awry when we are expecting.  Eating these probiotic-rich foods is also great for gut health and the immune system and can positively impact your child’s gut health and overall wellbeing.  Fermented foods also increase your body’s ability to absorb the maximum level of nutrients from the foods you eat.  You can make your own fermented foods or there are some great (and quite tasty!) options available at co-ops, Whole Foods, and other health markets.  Examples of fermented foods include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Plain yogurt
  • Kombucha

Here’s to you and your family’s health, mamas!

Ten ways to naturally increase your fertility

meditationIn our external-oriented culture, we often seem to search for a magic pill, procedure, or treatment that will help solve our problems.  Sometimes we forget that the answer can be much more simple and that it is found right inside ourselves.  Our lifestyles exert a tremendous effect on myriad elements of our wellbeing, including our fertility.  While we don’t always have control over all the factors that affect our fertility, we can make lifestyle choices that support our ability to conceive new life.

Here are ten lifestyle-oriented ways to support fertility.  The only potential side effects are reduced stress, improved relationships, and greater joy.

1. Talk it out

It’s important to keep the channels of emotional expression open so that blockages in this area of your life do not lead to fertility “blocks”.  Talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust—express your fears, your frustrations, your disappointments, your hopes, your desires, and your dreams.  Keep connected to your emotions and your needs at this time.  Don’t be afraid to ask for support.  You don’t have to go through this experience alone.

 2. Sleep optimally

Sleep is paramount to fertility.  A diminished amount or quality of sleep has been shown to decrease fertility, so it’s important to make sure that you are well rested.  Sleeping in a completely dark room gets our circadian rhythms working optimally, setting ourselves up for the regenerative and restorative phases that support our hormones and ovulation.  Sleeping in silence and comfort are also key.  Lastly, it is important to get enough sleep.  Sleep needs vary by individual: some people need only 7-8 hours and others need 9 or 10.   Your body will tell you what you need if you really listen.

3. Practice yoga

Practicing yoga can encourage conception by:

•    Reducing stress
•    Increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs
•    Opening the pelvic and hip region
•    Aligning the spine
•    Releasing toxins
•    Releasing emotional tension
•    Regulating the endocrine system
•    Elevating mood
•    Relieving insomnia

 4. Get creative

Practicing what creativity looks like to you—perhaps gardening, cooking, dancing, drawing, painting, writing, singing, crafts, knitting, etc.—is a way to get creative energy flowing.  Those same creative forces are what support fertility.  Connecting to your creative side actually supports the creative act of conception.  It also can relieve stress and anxiety and increase enjoyment.

5. Eat optimally

A Harvard Medical Study found that the following dietary habits support fertility:

  • eating a mostly plant-based diet
  • consuming high-fat dairy instead of low-fat dairy
  • taking a prenatal vitamin
  • avoiding trans fats
  • choosing healthy monounsaturated fats
  • choosing low-glycemic foods

6. Enjoy sexual expression

When fertility comes to the forefront in a relationship, it can cause challenges in a couple’s sexual relationship.  A couple may become distanced from the recreational and relational aspects of sexual expression, favoring the procreative aspects.  It can be helpful to intentionally rebalance this and allow yourself the ability to enjoy sexual expression, not “just get a job done.”  This can relieve pressure and stress and increase calmness and joy, which can actually support your fertility.

7.  Be Still. Relax. Take deep breaths.

The link between stress and infertility is well recognized. The trouble is stress and cause infertility and then the stress of coping with fertility challenges can compound the problem by adding more stress.  Studies have shown that the diagnosis of infertility can create a “stress response” similar to that experienced by patients with terminal illnesses.  Physiologically, stress hormones, such as cortisol, ACTH, norepinephrine and epinephrine, are released into the bloodstream and force the body into “survival mode”.  In this state, vital functions are prioritized over reproductive function.  A constant surge of stress hormones over time interferes with hormonal balance and ovulation patterns.

Taking time daily to consciously counteract stress can change this physiological pattern.  This is a great time to develop a mediation practice, a yoga practice, or just start simple with a few deep calming breaths throughout the day.  Try to imagine your breath going all the way down into your lower abdomen as you inhale, and breathe out all the stress of the day on an exhale.

Other steps that can reduce stress are found in #s 8-10.

 8. Be kind to yourself

You and your body are doing the best you can.

 9.  Set boundaries so you don’t overextend yourself

10. Do things that make you happy

Health Foundations offers preconception planning services that can greatly support/increase your fertility.  Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

Preconception Planning

PPcoupleMost couples don’t think about preconception planning—yet it can make a world of difference in fostering a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Every couple benefits from addressing their overall health and wellness in preparation for pregnancy, even if they are not having fertility issues. This preparation supports a healthy and happy pregnancy and eases the transition through postpartum into parenthood.

preconceptionP1For all the gardeners out there, consider this metaphor: preconception planning is much like preparing/improving the soil. Creating a healthy environment for your growing darlings even before they are planted optimizes their chances of thriving — sometimes in ways that later care doesn’t allow (e.g. water and sun; or, in our case, pregnancy care).

Health Foundations offers preconception planning services, including comprehensive visits to discuss your health and create an individualized plan that works for your family.

When should preconception planning begin?

Ideally, we love to see couples three to six months before they hope to conceive.  This gives us time to correct any nutritional deficiencies (such as low iron or Vitamin D), which can have a significant impact on the pregnancy.  Sperm live for approximately 3 months, so we want to get dad as healthy as possible before conception so that his contribution to the pregnancy is healthy and strong.  Eggs begin their maturation process around this time too; when, like sperm, they are most vulnerable to toxins, radiation, and nutritional deficiencies.

What does a preconception planning visit look like?

During a preconception visit, we will talk with you and your partner about your current health, lifestyle, diet, personal and family medical history, medications you are taking, work and home environments, past pregnancies, and you and your partner’s desires and concerns about getting pregnant.  Here are some of the issues we will explore during your appointment:

  • General current health:
  • Blood Sample
    • We recommend women receive a pap and cultures during a well-woman visit (which Health Foundations can provide)
    • Visit a dentist to get a cleaning and any necessary work done prior to conception
    • Talk to your provider about current medications to make sure they are safe at this time
    • Discuss any history of hormonal birth control
    • Have diagnostic/lab tests for various issues that can impact pregnancy and maternal health (all offered at Health Foundations)
  • Diet/Weight
    • Love coupleWe can work with you to optimize your diet to ensure the greatest health prior to and during pregnancy
    • Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs.
    • Drink plenty of water (aim for 8 glasses a day)
    • Weight: women 15% below their ideal weight may benefit from added pounds during pregnancy; women who are overweight, however, do not benefit from crash dieting prior to pregnancy, as this can deplete their health.  In either case, we can create a plan to create optimal health for you.
  • Lifestyle
    • Establish a consistent exercise pattern
    • Inventory your environment for chemical, heavy metal, and other toxic exposure (you may want to work with a professional on a detox plan)
    • Address emotional health and stress
  • Use of supplements
    • We recommend women begin prenatal vitamins at least three months prior to conception (folic acid is especially important to begin prior to conception to avoid neural tube defects in baby)
    • Omega-3 and DHA are also important
    • Nutritive herbal infusions such as alfalfa, nettles and red clover can support overall health
    • Vegans and vegetarians may want to begin B12 supplementation
    • Additional supplements may also be recommended based on the individual
  • Men’s health
    • Men should follow the same dietary and lifestyle recommendations as their partner
    • Men should also take a multi-vitamin for the months leading up to conception
  • Fertility awareness
    • PPchartingWe help couples understand their fertility so that they can maximize their chances of conceiving.
    • Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weshler (book and website) and Fertility Friend (website) are great resources for understanding fertility awareness and how to chart your fertile periods each month
    • Inexpensive, reusable fertility test kits are available (less expensive than one-time ovulation tests)
  • Useful therapies
    • Acupuncture has proven benefits for women wanting to conceive
    • Massage, yoga, aromatherapy, and chiropractic can also help by reducing stress, balancing hormones, and overall physical wellness.
  • Having fun
    • Above all, we encourage couples to have FUN during this process!  It takes an average of 6 to 9 months to conceive—being stressed during this time will only make conception more difficult.  Plus, this is your time to really enjoy your partner and all those things that can be a bit more difficult to enjoy during pregnancy and into parenthood.