Seeing the Forest Through the Trees: Chinese Medicine & Women’s Health

written by Deborahlise Mota LAc, DOM, RH(AHG)

Obstetrics and gynecology in Chinese medicine is a vast and complex subject with a history that can be traced back some 3000 years, however it is still evolving to fit into the paradigm of western culture. Historically Chinese medicine and western medicine existed on opposite sides of the spectrum, Chinese medicine with a more macroscopic view of the body, and western with a more microscopic observation of disease.

Presently modern CM is becoming more microscopic, incorporating some of western medicine’s diagnostic tools, and western medicine is gradually shifting towards a more holistic and macroscopic view of the person in order to fill in the missing pieces. This trend is leading to a new and exciting era in how medicine will be practiced.

Many successful practitioners of CM will take note of the attributing western medicine diagnosis (such as fibroids, PCOS or infertility), but will then further diagnose the imbalance using CM differentiation. It becomes clear rather quickly that there is no reasonable translation from the east to the west. Chinese medicine has a language all its own.

So, how does Chinese medicine diagnose? It is a poetic dance of yin/yang, 5 phases and 5 elements, 8 principles, 10 organs, and 12 meridians. The diagnostic tools are observation of the tongue, palpation of the pulses and points, and observations of characteristics and symptoms. The underlying beauty of this method is that as long as the practitioner can observe the patient, one is never without a diagnosis…even if all western lab results are inconclusive.

In terms of women’s reproductive health, Chinese medicine considers certain organs and their functions of utmost importance. Such as the Spleen (pancreas) for creating blood, the Liver for circulating Qi and blood, the Kidneys for storing essence (vitality and longevity), and the Heart for regulating the mind. There are also a few extra meridians that are not associated with an organ, that are specific for reproductive health, such as the Chong (penetrating) vessel, the Ren (directing) vessel, and the Dai (girdle) meridian.

Hormones can be translated into yin (cooling) and yang (heating), with imbalances causing abnormal body temperature sensations, such as night sweats and hot flashes. When observing a woman’s basal body temperature, in order to gage a woman’s fertility and hormonal cycle, the follicular phase is representative as the yin phase (cooling/estrogen) and the luteal phase as the yang (warming/progesterone).

There have been copious clinical studies on the efficacy of Chinese medicine. Most studies focused on just acupuncture, but some incorporated herbal remedies. Personally, I feel that the validity of Chinese medicine should not be dependent on modern clinical studies, if not only because there is no precise translation from one medical standard to the other. We are just now beginning to understand what Taoist practitioners figured out back in time immeasurable. Yet, to appease the western mind, research has concluded that

CM is effective for:
-Pain, including Dysmenorrhea (painful menses)
-Amenorrhea (both primary and sencondary)
-Asherman’s Syndrome
-Endometriosis and Adenomyosis
-Menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding)
-Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
-Non-Anovulatory Menstrual Disorders
-Infertility, Luteal Phase Deficiency (LPD)
-Polymenorrhea (bleeding between periods)
-Stalled labor/ Labor Induction
-Breech Presentation (turning the baby head down for labor)
-Threatened or Recurrent Spontaneous Abortions (RSA)
-Morning sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum
-Hypertension in Pregnancy
-Hepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy
-Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
-Periodic Menstrual Migraines
-Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
-Postpartum Heat Stroke
-Puerperal and Postoperative Urinary Retention
-Urinary Incontinence
-Uterine Myoma
-Uterine Prolapse
-Fibrocystic Breast Disease
-Insufficient Lactation
-Acute Mastitis
-Perimenopause and Menopausal discomforts (ie insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats)
-Postmenopausal Syndrome and Osteoporosis

As an Oriental medicine practitioner living in the west, there is social understanding and clear benefit to simply treating the woman according to the western diagnosis. However, the Chinese medicine model of looking at the greater picture and treating the whole person with their complex layers of imbalances, not only can resolve the health issue at hand but also the underlying cause. This perspective of seeing the forest through the trees, can give the gift of health at the deepest level of both our mind and body.

*More info on Deborahlise can be found at www.eastwestwhcenter.com

How Can A Birth Center IUI Increase Your Chances For A Family?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released earlier this year that 12% of US women 15–44 years of age have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term

So what are your options? 

Artificial reproductive technologies or ART (with IVF being the most popular) is the best modern medicine has to offer you.  

But they can be expensive, time-consuming, invasive, and potentially affect mental health. For the icing on the cake, they are only 36% effective in achieving a pregnancy and 29% effective in achieving a live birth. Which means after all the time, money, and energy you invest, only 1 in 5 pregnancies will result in you being able to start your family.

Where do IUIs or intrauterine inseminations fit into the picture? 

Compared to the old intracervical inseminations (ICI),  IUIs are 2 - 3x more successful, although they are still not as effective as IVF treatments (Carroll, 2001). Yet, lesbian couples, single or transgender women, and heterosexual couples with minor fertility issues (such as male infertility factor of unexplained infertility), find IUIs as a lower-risk, less invasive, and empowering option to create their families.

Here are 4 reasons why a birth center is not only a safe and less expensive option to starting your family, but may increase your chances too!

1)    Environment

 The medical view of an IUI, or intrauterine insemination, looks like something along these lines:
1) Wash sperm in a laboratory to concentrate sperm and remove seminal fluid.
2) Conduct medical tests to detect ovulation either by blood (endocrine testing) or urine (luteinizing hormone).
3) Lie on surgical table while clinician inserts speculum into vagina to see the cervix.
4) Insert catheter through the cervix into the uterus and then inject the  washed semen.
5) Wait 2 weeks to take a pregnancy test to determine results.

            Talk about taking the magic out of this miraculous moment of creating a life!

Now, I am not saying that all reproductive endocrinologists or medical clinicians are devoid of an empathetic approach when it comes to an IUI. Granted, we live in a system where doctors get a whopping 15 minutes to tend to a patient; creating a magical experience isn’t always a top-of-mind concern.

So, what are your other options?

A birth center can provide a more intimate experience and your IUI may look something more along these lines:
1)    Meet a birth center team and get to know them as people.
2)    Make an appointment for a comprehensive medical history of both partners. This includes both emotional and psychological events that could be affecting fertility.
3)    Based on your personal history, your midwife may recommend you explore various non-invasive approaches that are known to increase fertility and IUI success rate. This could include: acupuncture, nutritional counseling, yoga for fertility, therapy, and more. 
4)    Once you and your body are in a place where the procedure will be most successful, plan a date to have the IUI inserted. This will occur in the relaxed comfortable space of a birthing room. 
5)    Attain your washed sperm (this may happen earlier on in the process).
6)    You should trust and have confidence in your midwife, whom you should know well by now. They may encourage you to bring or do whatever you need to feel relaxed and safe including: lighting candles, having music softly playing, being aroused by your partner, et cetera. When you are ready, they will respectfully insert the sperm into your uterus and allow you the space to complete the process as you wish.
7)   You follow up with your midwife in 2 weeks to assess your body and discuss what support your body may need at that point. 

(Sound like a good option to you yet?  Keep reading if I haven’t convinced you yet!)

2)    Trustworthiness

 Trust is everything when it comes to creating your family.

The power of our psyche to affect our physical body is profound. We now have studies to prove this in relationship to fertility issues. The process of creating life is intricately bound up in the trust you have in your body’s ability to accomplish this naturally life-changing process.

When you are trying to conceive, every month your menstrual cycle begins can beat down your confidence a little more. Especially if you have moved beyond the bedroom doors and started the process of ART. Women undergoing ART have shown increased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress (Leiblum 1987). Studies have actually shown that with every failed cycle, a couple experiences a lowering of self-esteem and an increase in depression relative to pre-treatment levels (Hynes 1992). 

Getting to know your midwife over several appointments and creating intimacy and trust is a natural part of a birth center's process. This naturally happens through the time they take to answer your questions, get to know your body, and bring you into their community. 

You begin to trust your own ability and body again, and feel empowered to take your health back into your own hands.

3)    Community

 Studies have suggested that group psychotherapy, as well as, support groups decrease stress and mood symptoms while increasing fertility rates (Domar, 2000).

At a birth center, you become part of a tribe.

Many birth centers host various classes, talks, and gatherings as a way for you to become part of their community. You are able to feel supported, held, and listened to by your midwife and the community they bring together. This could single-handedly be a determining factor on why one would choose a birth center to start their birth journey with.

 4)    Financial measures

Finally, for those of you that need to get analytical and logical with your decision, here are the real number comparisons of what you are looking at (published by the non-profit Resolve):

The average cost of an IVF cycle using fresh embryos (not including medications) is a whopping $8,158.  Using donor eggs bumps that number up to $38,015.  To top that off,  women who chose cycle-based treatment received an average of 3.6 treatments before they have a successful cycle. This could be contributed to the fact that repeat procedures may lead to an increase in depressive symptoms and thus increased need for repeated attempts (Thiering 1993).

On the bright side, the average cost of an IUI cycle at is a merely $865 and typically, that price is even lower at a birth center.  Most insurance agencies do not cover fertility costs anyways, so you might as well make some phone calls and explore your options first.

The fact that a birth center supports your self-confidence with your own body, addresses your fertility from many angles, provides community, and allows for a spiritual and/or magical experience during the procedure, all point to the possibility of increasing your chances of conception at a birth center. Not the mention the fact it is something way more affordable. 

Isn’t that worth a visit? 

Bibliography: 
“ART Success Rates.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015. 
Carroll, Nina, and Julie R. Palmer. "A comparison of intrauterine versus intracervical insemination in fertile single women." Fertility and sterility 75.4 (2001): 656-660.
Domar, Alice D., et al. "Impact of group psychological interventions on pregnancy rates in infertile women." Fertility and sterility 73.4 (2000): 805-811.
Hynes, Gloria J., et al. "The psychological well‐being of infertile women after a failed IVF attempt: The effects of coping." British Journal of Medical Psychology65.3 (1992): 269-278.
“Infertility FAQs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015. 
Leiblum, Sandra R., et al. "Unsuccessful in vitro fertilization: a follow-up study."Journal of in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer 4.1 (1987): 46-50.
Thiering, P., et al. "Mood state as a predictor of treatment outcome after in vitro fertilization/embryo transfer technology (IVF/ET)." Journal of psychosomatic research 37.5 (1993): 481-491.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Author’s Bio: 
Kodiak Soled, Certified Clinical Herbalist and Maternity Nutritionist
Maternity Maven
Kodiak Soled, aka the Maternity Maven, supports expectant and new mamas with a mindful and Real Food-approach to nutrition and holistic medicine. She has studied proven traditional practices and protocols as well as modern scientific research and medicine, which has resulted in her safe and effective, systematic approach to maternal and reproductive health. She supports mamas all over the world with her 6-Step Transformational Approach, which includes: nutrition therapy, botanical medicine, food-based supplements, stress management, lifestyle changes, and community building. Kodiak dedicates her life to supporting women transitioning into motherhood because she deeply believes nourished mothers raise nourished children who grow up and change the world. 

 

Cosmic Women's Tribe

May 3rd at 6:30 pm

$40/person
$30 early sign-up before May 1st
Open to ALL LEVELS
RSVP
yashodadevima@gmail.com

LIve Music by Janaki Rossell

HEAL . LOVE . RESPECT
To heal women through women. To unite as one through love, nurturing, honor, grace, wisdom, consciousness and deep respect. We must become peaceful with one another for all women to move forward into the divine feminine.

Cosmic Women's Tribe
Creating a space and tribe of women to fully connect without story and truly touch each other’s soul. To deeply experience the now and the Goddess who sits before you. Honoring the human being that stands before you, walks next to you, sits behind you, breathes the same air as you, etc. Letting go of all barriers, judgements, triggers, ego, competitiveness, jealousy, gossip, etc and absolutely selflessly be there for one another.

In this workshop we will come together in deep
communion, tap into our 5 senses on a more intimate level while creating an environment for one another to feel safe to let go while truly allowing for one to be nurtured, seen and loved. Revealing the Goddess within us so she can shine brightly.

I will guide you through kriyas (mantra with movement), pranayama (breath work) and japa meditation to clear what no longer serves you while tapping in the love that you are. I will guide us into finding the awareness of how to use our story to inspire others rather than fall victim to its circumstances and binding karma. 

Gathering on a New/Full Moon night is extremely powerful
and purifying for the feminine. It allows for us to brign light what no longer serves us while creating a space to empower one another.

It is an important time for women to come together and soak up the Soma (moon energy). It is good for women to wear black and/or navy on Full Moon nights. These colors absorb the energy easily. Wear comfortable clothing for movement. Bring water, yoga mat, blanket/wrap and/or a cushion to sit on.

For more info on Yashoda please visit: www.yashodadevima.com

 

Celebrate Stephanie Moore and Becoming Mothers!!!

Beloved Community,

As you know, Stephanie Moore has shared her PASSION for community, connections and bringing together folks for over 15years! 
As Becoming Mother's doors close and Stephanie steps into her next chapter, let's join together in honoring, reflecting and celebrating with her, as well as offering our gratitude for her services and her supportive work in our birthing and parenting communities.

CELEBRATION: 
Potluck + Toast to Stephanie Moore and Becoming Mothers
APRIL 29th (Wed) at 6pm
at 2800 Folsom Street - in the Community Classroom in the Birth Center of Boulder
Everyone is welcome!
You are welcome to bring something to share.
[If you'd like to help out or have questions, contact Lynn at lynn@intuitivehandspt.com or Elizabeth at classes@birthcenterofboulder.com]

COMMUNITY GRATITUDE JOURNAL to Stephanie:
Submit a poem, kind words, reflections, images, art, memories and representations of gratitude, well-wishes, celebrations for Stephanie!
The journal collection will be presented to her at the party, so you can add to it then ... OR ... Drop by a location near you!

Write in or bring things to paste inside of it:
~ April 7-13 in JOYCollective & Birth Center of Boulder = 2800 Folsom Street, Boulder CO 80304
~ April 14-17 in MamaHood-Boulder/YoMama = 737 29th Street, Boulder CO 80303
~ April 20-24 in MamaHood-Denver = 2902 Zuni Street, Denver, CO 80202
~ April 27-29 in South Boulder Chiropractic = 4150 Darling Ave, Boulder, CO 80305

If you cannot attend the party nor one of these above locations, email your sentiments to joycollective.info@gmail.com by April 13th at 5pm for it to be included in the journal!
You may also mail cards or notes to JOY Collective 2800 Folsom Street, Boulder CO 80304

Please pass along this information to folks you know that have been touched by the work, services and care of Stephanie Moore!

why come to an orientation?

At the Birth Center of Boulder orientation, we introduce you to our model of care, our staff, and our facility.  At the orientation, two staff members (usually a medical and office), will provide a brief introduction to the birth center model of care and address many of the common concerns including safety and our financial policy.  Then we tour the facility - answering questions as they arise and allowing you and your family to explore our space.  At the end their is time for one on one questions with the medical or office staff member.  

We believe that the most important decisions you can make while pregnant is choosing the right care provider and correct location for your birth.  At orientation, you are immersed in the birth center for an hour and for most mamas and their families that is enough time to know if our care is right for you.  

We have orientations the first Saturday and third Tuesday of every month.  The next couple months are listed below....
April 4th at  10 am
April 21st at 6 pm
May 2nd at 10 am
May 19th at 6 pm
June 6th at 10 am
June 16th at 6 pm

and click here for a complete list