Pregnancy Support

PCOS and Fertility

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), is a condition that is often associated with infertility. Women who experience PCOS often have longer menstrual cycles that are greater than 35 days or them to have less than 9 cycles a year. They also experience “hyperandrogenism,” where they exhibit symptoms of high androgens, such having acne anywhere on the body (commonly back and/or face), or hirsutism, where they have facial hair along their jawline. Asian women are less likely to display facial hair due to PCOS. During Ultrasound, a String of Pearls is often seen, caused by 10 or more follicles that were not able to mature along the periphery of the ovaries (Merck Manual). People who experience PCOS often have a difficult time regulating their blood sugars, sometimes leading to later diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome.

Balance Hormones

This goes without saying. Hormones are how the body communicates what to do between different organs. Your brain sends messages to the pituitary gland, which sends messages to different organs to get things done. Every hormone if your body comes with a feedback loop, where the concentration of certain hormones is regulated. Balancing hormones would allow your body to regulate itself better and allow more regular cycles, and better regulation of insulin, and a decrease of hyperandrogenism symptoms.

One of the easiest recommendations to help with hormonal balance is by losing weight. A 5-10% decrease in body weight can be enough to regulate your menses, blood sugar, and allow you to get pregnant (Jiskoot et al, 2017). This might be all you need to balance your hormones and get pregnant; however, you may want to do more to continue enhancing your chances.

Regular Cycles & Ovulation

One thing that can happen from having irregular cycles or missing your cycle, can be not ovulating for that month. This is also known as anovulation and can be due to a hormonal imbalance between progesterone and estrogen. Women that do not ovulate can experience breast tenderness, fluid retention, PMS symptoms, and painful cramps with clots and heavy flow. These symptoms are also associated with estrogen dominance, which can prevent the body from ovulating and having regular cycles. Which brings us back to hormonal balancing.

As mentioned above, losing 5-10% of body weight can be enough to regulate hormones. However, if you are still not where you want to be, there are certain foods you can eat to help balance hormones. The Cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane glucosinolates that can up regulate glutathione, which is the master antioxidant in the body. It helps bind metabolites and is able to stop reactive oxygen species from attacking the cells (Fahey J, 1999). As a food, you would have to eat a ridiculous amount of these vegetables to experience the benefits.

If you have thyroid concerns, specifically hypothyroidism, make sure that you are cooking these vegetables because they are goitrogenic. This means that they can interrupt the production of thyroid hormones (Paśko et al, 2018).

Playing with hormones without proper knowledge can be a challenge and be potentially dangerous, depending on how you choose to go about it. So before you start working on your hormones, make sure that you find a practitioner that will be able to guild you properly.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Padsicles!

Padsicles are a great way of providing postpartum relief by helping the perineum heal after birthing your baby. In general, after birthing, the vagina becomes swollen and sore. So having something there to help decrease the inflammation, and provide some healing support is wonderful.

Padsicles are pretty much exactly as it sounds - pads that you put in the freezer to make them into padsicles. The only thing is that before you place these pads into the freezer, you put wonderful ingredients onto the pads, and let those absorb first.

Ingredients:

  • Witch hazel

  • Aloe vera

  • Overnight/super absorbant pads

  • Optional:

    • Essential oils - lavender and frankincense

Directions:

  1. Open up the pad. Don’t remove from the covering.

  2. Spread 1 tbsp of Aloe vera on to the pad.

  3. Pour some of the witch hazel into a 250 mL spray bottle, and add 1 drop each of lavender and frankincense into the bottle.

  4. Spray this mixture onto the pad until damp from the spray (should be around 1 tbsp)

  5. Package up the pad, and place into individual ziplock bags

  6. Place them into the freezer.

Make 10-20 of these pads before birthing, that way they are available for you right after you birth your baby.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Acupuncture and Fertility

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, first seen documented around 100 to 200 BC. Initially, sharpened stones or bones were used during treatments (News Medical Life Science), instead of the needles we now associate it with. Luckily, practitioners now use sterilized needles, with various widths and lengths. These needles are not coated with any medication and are single use, and are disposed into a sharps container afterwards. All of the needles that I use are thinner than a needle that you get with injections. Some needles have a very thin layer of silicon around the shaft of the needle to help the practitioner insert the needle "faster and painlessly;" however, in my experience, it does not make much of a difference, unless you have fibromyalgia or another condition that makes you extremely sensitive to pain. Acupuncture is an incredibly safe therapy to use, whether it's for pain, improving fertility, relieving stress, regulating the nervous system, etc. when done by someone who has been trained properly. Treatments range from 30-45 minutes, depending on what is being addressed. 

Acupuncture is a useful therapy to use in conjunction with preconception care. Treatments have been known to decrease stress, and modulate the nervous system - which in turn can modulate hormones. There have been studies that have found that acupuncture, especially after in vitro Fertilization (IVF) increased rates of pregnancy, and delivery (Qian). Jungyoung found that acupuncture increased pregnancy, and ongoing pregnancy rates in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). While Balk found that women undergoing IVF and receiving acupuncture, objectively felt less stress than women who did not have acupuncture. As a result, more women receiving acupuncture with their IVF became pregnant (64.7%), where as 42.5% of the women not receiving acupuncture with their IVF became pregnant. 

Using acupuncture to help increase conception rates with or without IVF, is another tool in the toolbox that naturopathic doctors can use to help couples conceive. It helps increase blood flow (and therefore nutrition) to the uterus, improve egg quality, decreases uterine spasms, decrease stress, promotes relaxation. If you were looking for extra support throughout your journey, having a Naturopathic Doctor on your side would be a great addition to your health team. 

~ Dr. Charmagne

Breastfeeding Series - Self Expression

Self expression is a useful tool to have especially before going into labour. It allowed you to collect some colostrum before your baby comes into this world, allowing you to start a stockpile of breastmilk for when you want to go out, or let your partner feed your baby. As an added bonus, if for any reason - doctors or nurses are worried about baby's blood sugar, or baby has jaundice, for example - you can give your baby expressed colostrum instead of formula. 

Colostrum is what your breasts produce before they start making breastmilk. It is yellowish in colour, and has a very viscous and sticky consistency. Some liken it to honey. Colostrum is absolutely amazing and perfect for your baby, especially the first few days of breastfeeding, when your baby's stomach is the size of a grape, and their intestines have not been exposed to any bacteria. Colostrum is rich in antibodies, as your baby drinks it, it coats their stomach and gut - protecting your baby from bacteria. As a result, colostrum is high in protein, and lower in fat than in breastmilk. That being said, it is the perfect transitional food to the outside world because your baby has not had to use their digestive tracts in utero, so they get a few days to practice before breastmilk comes in. 

When you start self expression, you may not collect anything the first few times. Don't be discouraged if you don't collect anything the first few attempts, or if you only collect drops. Collecting drops is amazing, and it will build up! You can collect the expressed milk into a cup or spoon, then use a syringe to collect all of it. Make sure you label it with the date before putting them into the freezer. Let your care providers know you have expressed milk to use instead of formula, so they can let you know when you need to use it. 

Stanford Medicine made an instructional video that shows you the steps of how to hand expression. This is one way you can self express. There are other ways as well - including compressing the breast, pulling back towards the ribs, and pushing forward towards the nipples (instead of compressing more there), among others. Try different ways, some might work better than others, and which ever one works for you is the perfect one for you and your body. 

~Dr. Charmagne 

Pregnancy & Delivery Support

Expecting a baby is very exciting - but also nerve racking. Let’s be honest - the best things in life occur when these two emotions are experienced together!

There are literally hundreds of books, websites, and opinions out there, exploring pregnancy and newborn health. Choosing your health team is key to navigating your way through all the information. Consider having a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in pregnancy and lactation on your team. Naturopathic doctors provide science based, safe, holistic medical advice to help complement your obstetrical care. 

Select few NDs have also received additional training to assist women in birth as a doula.  Birth Doulas have a long history - some people say as far back to Aristotle's time. Doulas are trained to provide techniques to assist in pain reduction - such as visualization, massage, counter-pressure, and movement. Coupled with the skills that are uniquely at the disposal of a trained Naturopathic Doctor (acupressure and homeopathy to name a few)- a ND/Doula is an outstanding option to consider. You can read more about the benefits of having a doula here

Birth is only the beginning of this life-changing time for a family...breastfeeding is often an overwhelming hurdle for many women. There is natural uncertainty and often rough patches along the way. Lactation Consultants are specifically trained to help Mothers with latching, milk supply, nipple pain, mastitis, and more. They are amazing at reassuring Mothers. Naturopathic therapies work exceptionally well for lactation needs - supply issues respond well to botanical medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture. This type of support has been shown to increase breastfeeding rates and durations, allowing Mothers to achieve their breastfeeding goals.  To read about some Do's and Don'ts have I have learned, read here

I am dedicated to ensuring Mothers and their children have the best possible start in life together!  As a Licenced ND with training as a birth doula and lactation specialist, my unique approach offers truly holistic medical care. I hope to meet you soon and join you on your journey!

You are welcome to book a complementary 15 minute meet and greet to answer any further questions you may have.

~ Dr. Charmagne

Breastfeeding Do's and Don'ts

When it comes to breastfeeding, everyone has an opinion, and everyone thinks their way is correct. It doesn't help that the information found on the internet is often contradictory, and that physicians, nurses, and lactation consultants have a difficult time agreeing if a baby has a tongue tie or not. So how does this leave mothers? Confused. Very confused. 

In the clinic, there is a number of moms that book appointments to have all of their questions and concerns addressed. To have someone they've met and trust answer questions, give tips on how to help with breastfeeding is very relieving.

I've learned several things from my amazing mentor, Janet Regts RN IBCLC, being at the clinic, here is a few Do's and Don'ts when it comes to breastfeeding:

Don't judge yourself

As women, we tend to judge ourselves harshly. Now add a baby, and you judge yourself 10x harder. There's no need to add undue pressure on yourself to be the perfect mother and wife. Do the best that you can, and trust that it is good enough. If that means you have to feed your baby formula so he is gaining weight while you work on increasing your milk supply, then feed your baby formula. If you give your baby a few bottles of formula to give yourself a break, then do it. What is important is that you and your baby are in a happy and healthy relationship, and if that means you are adding formula, then it's fine.

Don't be pressured to do something you don't feel is right

It seems like everyone is judging mothers. What are they feeding their baby, how they're raising their baby, are they coddling their baby? If someone advises something to you, and it doesn't feel right, then don't follow it. You have the best interests in mind for your baby, and if that means you want to go the natural root and not take medication to increase your milk supply, then go for it. Make this breastfeeding journey what you want it to be, and remember there is always support for you.

Don't limit yourself

If your goal is to breastfeed for x number of months, and you are determined to do it, you should be able to do it without having painful breasts and/or nipples. There are treatments and different strategies that can help you accomplish that. But if you refuse to hear the options, then you will have a more difficult time accomplishing that goal, and may quit before reaching it. As with anything in life, you'll have to weigh the pros and the cons, and decide which route you want to go, but you have an open mind so you can see both sides.

Do trust in yourself

Women's bodies are amazing. We can create and give birth to life, and we can sustain that life solely on breastmilk - which our bodies make! You trusted your body to create your baby. You worked with and trusted your body to give birth to your baby (either through natural means or a cesarean birth), and you can do the same thing with breastfeeding. Trust yourself and your body. You know what to do. There's no need to stress about it. You have people making sure that your baby is growing accordingly. Feed your baby, and have confidence in your ability to care for them.

Do seek assistance when you need it

You should never have to be by yourself when working out something difficult. This goes for your health as well as breastfeeding. Everyone needs support, and encouragement. Find someone to help you through these difficulties. There are La Leche League meetings all over Canada to support mothers breastfeed. These are groups of mothers who talk about their hardships and get support from their Leader and their fellow mothers. Lactation Consultants (LC)are knowledgeable and specialized in helping mothers with any breastfeeding difficulty they may have. La Leche League Leaders will often recommend seeing an LC if your concern requires more knowledge and/or understanding. You are not alone. There are people that want to help support you and know what you are going through.

Do find what works for you

There's a saying in the clinic that is often said: "As long as baby poops, pees and gains weight, whatever you are doing is perfect." Every feeding situation is different for every mother and baby, don't be hard on yourself. You are doing everything you can to make sure your baby grows up healthy. If your feeding your baby a mixture of your breastmilk and formula, and both you and baby are happy, that's 100% perfect for you. 

- Dr. Charmagne