Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lets loose it! Postpartum weight loss.

There seems to be an increasing trend amongst new mothers. They have a baby, and immediately look better than they did before! How is that? How does that work? Whilst it might be possible for celebrities like Nicole Richie & Victoria Beckham to dedicate time (and possibly lack of food) and effort to their appearance with the aid of helpers, trainers, nutritionalists, nannies etc, people like you and I don't generally have that luxury.

There have been many published studies on the effectiveness in the use of Chinese Herbal Medicine & Acupuncture to successfully treat weight loss. It isn't advisable to lose weight during pregnancy for most. However, postpartum, there are healthy ways that ensure things do 'go back to normal.'

After having Olivia, I am quite proud to say I felt normal by the 6 month mark. I was careful with how my pregnancy progressed and ate (mostly) the right foods, exercised and enjoyed being pregnant. After having her, I breastfed - one of the things that I attribute to assisting me to restore my old self as well as general good health and lifestyle.

It is not advised for a new mother to start any type of weight loss for the first 6-8 weeks. This is so that she can recover all her energy and heal from the birth. From this time on (8 weeks) it is safe for the mother to aim to loose 1-2kg per month. Trying to lose weight any quicker will most likely affect milk supply and you know what they say - a happy mummy = a happy baby! Slow and steady weight loss also means that it stays off. For the formula feeding mother, this still applies as her energy is just as much required for her baby.

Research shows that regular acupuncture reduces body weight by 8-10% within 6 months. In combination with this, it is advisable for mothers walking, pushing the pram or with baby in a sling, light cleaning, cooking, yoga and most of all playing with her baby. Incorporating these things into your lifestyle is important - whats more, doing this means it becomes part of your routine, rather than being a chore.

Postpartum mothers can return to their pre-pregnancy weight in about 7-9 months. Combining the use of acupuncture, diet, exercise and activity and sometimes herbal supplements, it is nice to know that this is possible and we can have our bodies back in the same amount of time it took to make a baby!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why fertility drugs may work for some and not for others

Nothing has changed this week, in terms of drawing on clinical experience for a topic for my blog. It is sometimes tricky to write from an objective point of view, when so often much of my material I write about goes against the grain. This topic is no different. I feel somewhat drawn to discussing fertility drugs, specifically clomid/serophene/clomifene or similar this week - going by not one, but several instances in the clinic where women have been prescribed it because western medicine has nothing else to serve them.

Clomid is an interesting drug. If you are unfamiliar with it, its is a prescribed fertility drug that basically encourages the body to ovulate. Whilst it does successfully induce ovulation by up to 90%, only 5 - 25% of women taking it will fall pregnant as a result. Unfortunately, the chances of miscarriage in women using the drug is higher. One of the main side effects of Clomifene is that it dries up the cervical fertile mucus, necessary to nurture, feed and transport sperm to the ovum. Without this, it is very difficult for pregnancy to result. But wait... there's more! Clomifene also thins the uterine lining, making it harder to conceive, since the fertilised egg requires a thick healthy endometrium to implant into. I suspect these two factors alone (decreased mucus and thinning of the lining) may be why pregnancy rates are so low by those taking Clomifene.

We see alot of women through their fertility journey - some taking or have previously taken clomid. Good news for them is that Acupuncture and Herbal Medicines have been shown to improve both uterine lining and cervical mucus as it works on hormone regulation and supporting body function. This is a result of increased blood flow to the reproductive organs, as well as TCM supporting the overall workings of the body. Furthermore, acupuncture has also been show to decrease miscarriage rates substantially. Clomid or not - both these factors are extremely important to address in the overall scheme of fertility.

As to why drugs work for some and not others - it entirely depends on the constitution of the patient. Some patients need less support and others need a lot! One thing remains the same however - any form of supportive treatment will benefit a patient no matter what the constitution. Its just another reason why I love TCM! (Traditional Chinese Medicine)

Of course, if I had my way with every patient, it would be to enable them to grasp the concept of making their body work properly. Encouraging body systems to work as one, certainly possible with alternative treatments, lifestyle changes & education. Sadly, this isn't always possible, but it is possible to support a women's fertility whatever stage of that journey she is at.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The fear of Birth

Following on from Sara's most recent post and after some discussions with that certain friend of mine who is forever keeping my memory fresh, I feel encouraged to discuss some thoughts around preparation for labour.

In the clinic, it is routine practice that pre labour treatment begins anywhere from 36 weeks. Pre labour acupuncture does several things. It assists in relaxing muscles and tendons, aids in ripening and softening of the cervix, it supports the mother and ensures there is adequate qi and blood moving through the body and most importantly it strongly works of the mind to prepare for labour and the stresses, anxieties and worries that might be.

We often see women who's first birthing experience is awful. Its something they are very afraid to revisit. Whilst this can be disheartening to the mother, we also see it as an opportunity to drive us in making the pending birth a totally different experience. We know we can do this as Chinese Medicine prepares the entire body - be it the physical and the emotional. Its supports the Mind & Body connection, which in turn has a large affect on all body systems.

Fear may be the most talked about emotion an expectant mother is facing. Truth is, fear will have an impact on the duration and outcome of labour as it produces adrenaline and adrenaline inhibits oxytocin - the hormone that makes the uterus contract. So if there is insufficient oxytocin being released, its is very possible that a woman's birth will not progress sufficiently. It's interesting to read of many women who have recgonised how their labour has taken a swift turn following a change in hospital staff or in the move from home to hospital. This is most likely as a result of fear.

Now it is all good and well to say, don't worry, don't fear, you will be fine - but how do you do that really?

It is so very important to be informed, armed with the right information for what you, the birthing mother wants. However, all the knowledge in the world can often go out the window without support. To me, support is the single most important factor. Feeling safe and being in a supported environment removes much of the fear associated.

A very interesting thing happens when we are birthing if we allow it. We literally 'open up.' You might think - yup Nat, thats exactly what is happening! However, this isn't just a reflection on the cervix, but of the entire Body and Mind. So it makes so much sense that how we are perceived by the people around us as we birth is vitally important. At this time we are more open to every attitude that comes our way and by being more open, we are also more vulnerable. How can the birthing woman stay empowered if no one around her believes she can do it?

By holding a strong belief in my patients, believing in my treatments and trusting that our bodies do know what they are doing, I am providing one of several necessary support teams for the mother. It is this that allows a woman to find strength and courage herself because she feels safe, allowing her to move through associated fears that may be.

Know what you would 'prefer,' know your options and above all know that YOU are in charge of your birth. You are in charge of your body. Eliminate fear by being empowered, informed but most of all supported. Whatever the outcome - you will be most grateful for that experience.

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