Thursday, March 13, 2014

5 Natural Ways to Relieve Morning Sickness

Morning sickness is said to affect about 80% of pregnant women. Its exact causes are not quite known, but many researchers believe the high levels of hormones (especially hCG, the pregnancy hormone) have a lot to do with it - especially because morning sickness is most common in the first trimester and tends to be worst around 10 weeks when your hCG level is at its highest.

For those lucky women who do not experience the nausea and vomiting, hooray! But this post isn't for you. For the rest of us, let's talk a little about some ways you can relieve your morning sickness, naturally:

Acupressure Wrist Bands
Initially developed for travelers who were fighting motion sickness, these bands put pressure in a particular spot (the P6, or Nei-Kuan, point) in your wrist that is said to help alleviate nausea. These are completely unmedicated, and you don't have to deal with trying to eat or drink anything. The pressure is minimal, and most women forget they even have the bands on.

Peppermint Essential Oil
Using essential oils to help combat nausea and vomiting is another great way to fight without having to eat or drink anything. Essential oils are designed to penetrate the skin, and then get circulated rather quickly throughout the body. Peppermint works well for both nausea and vomiting. There are other essential oils that are effective, such as ginger or lavender, but peppermint seems to be the least offensive smell (which is important when you're nauseous!).

Change Your Eating Habits
Eating smaller, frequent meals will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and avoid spikes, which could lead to increased symptoms. Try to avoid fatty, spicy or fried foods as these may further upset your stomach. Protein-rich snacks and meals, especially before bedtime, will help as well. 

Try Ginger
If you are able to stomach food and drink, there are a variety of ways to take ginger which has been proven super effective at combating nausea and vomiting. You can drink warm, flat ginger ale or make some warm soothing ginger tea. There are ginger capsules you can take, or even just chew on a piece of crystalized ginger. 

Rest and Hydration
It may be hard to keep fluids down, but try to stay hydrated - it's not only extremely important to your health, but being dehydrated is also going to make you feel worse. Plenty of rest will also help how you feel, and whenever you get up from lying down try to get up slowly so you don't shock your system.

Luckily, for most women who suffer from morning sickness the symptoms generally subside by 16 weeks. Some will be dealing with the nausea and vomiting throughout their pregnancy, but these remedies are safe at any stage so definitely try them out. If you are experiencing severe vomiting, or are unable to keep anything down, call your doctor as you may have hypermesis gravidarum - extreme morning sickness that requires monitoring by your physician.

Hang in there ladies, it is all worth it! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why Yoga is Essential When Trying to Conceive

Whether you have been trying to conceive for a month or a year, the process of deciding to have a child and then accurately hitting that magical window of fertile time can be a stressful process. Let's face it, charting your basal body temperature and counting down the days to ovulation...not very romantic. Suddenly now, you are aware of your biological clock, the timing necessary for conception and the LONG two week wait where you can do anything but stay calm.

Unfortunately, stress plays a very big role in achieving pregnancy. According to WebMD, a study was done by the National Institutes of Health along with the UK's University of Oxford about the effect of stress when trying to conceive. They found that women who's stress levels were elevated were 12% less likely each month to get pregnant than the women who's stress levels were low.

Fertility and Sterility published an article stating that women who were under a lot of stress when undergoing IVF (in-vitro fertilization) produced less eggs than those who did not report high stress levels. They also conducted research in which they found IVF patients who participated in a mind/body program throughout their cycle had a 52% success rate, while those who did not only had a 20% success rate.

With all the research pointing toward the negative effects of stress on the ability to conceive, it seems only natural to try to keep as calm and relaxed as possible throughout your journey. Of course, in today's world of working, bills, appointments and even other children that's easier said than done - which is why yoga is so essential as part of your preconception prep.

Yoga not only allows you to work your body, but also your mind and your breathing. Throughout a workout, you focus on clearing your mind, listening to your body and taking deep, steady breaths in and out. Just writing about it is calming! Practicing yoga even a few times a week will allow you to reduce your stress level and also learn the deep breathing and relaxation techniques that may help you deal with a stressful situation later on that week. (not to mention it's going to payoff big time when you get pregnant and are going into labor...breathe, breathe, breathe...)

Yoga is becoming so popular for dealing with infertility and women trying to conceive that there are classes and studios popping up all over just for that reason. Of course, yoga is not going to be a magic bullet that suddenly clears a blocked tube or overcomes PCOS issues - but it will help to make your fertility treatments more successful by putting you into a more relaxed state.

So, here are a few yoga poses that are particularly beneficial for fertility. Try 'em out and see what you think!

Cobbler's Pose
This pose will open your hips and increase blood flow to the pelvis - which is key in getting an embryo to implant in the uterine wall. To perform this pose, sit with your back straight and your weight on your "butt" bones. Touch the bottoms of your feet together and grab your toes. Try pressing your knees as far down to the floor as you can. Inhale deep through your nose and exhale through your nose. Try to focus on making your inhale and your exhale both the same length.

Garland Pose
This pose will also help to open your hips, strengthen your lower back and your pelvic floor - again increasing blood flow. You will get a deeper stretch from Garland than you will from Cobbler's but it is also slightly harder. To perform this pose, stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and slowly bend your knees to lower yourself down into the position. Keep yourself stable by pushing your elbows into your knees, and keeping your hands together. Once in the pose, take long deep inhales and exhales through your nose.

Bridge Pose
This pose helps to tighten and strengthen the connection between your hips, pelvis and back. It also can lend itself to improved circulation and stimulation of the endocrine and immune systems. To perform this pose, lay on your back with your knees bent and arms flat against the floor. On an exhale, begin by lifting your buttocks off the floor then slowly lifting the rest of your back, one vertebrae at a time - as if you are peeling your back off the floor. Once fully extended, take 10-15 deep breaths in and out through your nose. Release on an exhale, slowly just like you raised. Repeat 2-3 times.

Hopefully some of these poses will not only help you strengthen the pelvis but also relax a little bit. Fertility challenges are incredibly stressful (they have even been compared in a Harvard study to the stress levels experienced by women with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses). It's important to get proper amounts of rest, eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, and keep your stress levels down. Whether trying on your own, or going through infertility treatments - yoga will play a key role in preparing your body, and your mind, for success.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Postpartum Depression: Understanding, Recognizing and Dealing

Many women (about 50%) will experience some form of mild baby blues after delivery. Usually characterized by sudden mood swings (ranging from sadness to happiness), these symptoms generally last a few days to a few weeks. For others, though, it doesn't stop there and true postpartum depression sets in. 

Postpartum depression affects roughly 10-20% of new moms, characterized by intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear and despair. Often interfering with the ability to function and perform daily activities, symptoms of postpartum depression can worsen if medical attention is not sought. While you may think it would be easy to spot the signs of pospartum depression, all too often it goes unrecognized - causing potentially more harm to mom, the baby and the family.

Understanding PPD:
Educate yourself before you have your baby about postpartum depression - why it happens, what causes it, and how to cope with it. Having a solid understanding of what is happening to your body will better allow you to cope with your depression. Your body goes through some pretty extreme hormonal changes after delivering your baby. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically, and combined with changes in blood pressure and metabolism that new mothers experience, this can lead to postpartum depression. 

There are some risk factors that have been associated with developing postpartum depression. These risk factors, in conjunction with changes in your physical appearance as well as the added stress of having a new baby, can contribute to postpartum depression. These risk factors include:
  • A previous history of depression (or having PPD previously)
  • Lack of support from family and friends
  • A history of severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMS)
Recognizing the Signs:
Make sure you are keeping a close eye on your thoughts, actions and attitude. Close friends and family should also be aware of the signs of postpartum depression, and not be afraid to talk with you about it. Your doctor will also "screen" for symptoms during your postpartum checkup, but don't rely on a quick visit to uncover what may be postpartum depression. You should look for:
  • Lack of energy and/or motivation
  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Overly worried about the baby, or not worried at all
  • Lack of concern for yourself
  • Disinterest in activities you usually are interested in
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself, or your baby
Dealing with PPD:
If you, or a friend of family member, suspects any of the symptoms the worst thing you can do is brush it off. Recognizing that you are being affected by postpartum depression is going to help you cope with it better. Take care of yourself - go for a walk down the street and get some fresh air, make sure you are eating frequent and properly balanced meals, start a simple exercise routine. These things are going to help to lighten your mood and keep your spirits up.

Proper support from family and friends is extremely important as well. If you're not receiving the support you need at home, join a group of new moms - sharing stories and being around others in your same situation will help you through this difficult time. 

If your symptoms are not going away, getting worse, or if you start having thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby - you need to seek professional attention. Counseling, therapy and even medications can help get you back on track. It's important to remember that you can get through this, just make sure to ask for help when needed.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

5 Diet Changes to Help Boost Your Fertility

If you are one of the 7.2 million people affected by infertility in America, you know how frustrating it can be. While infertility can be a complex issue, sometimes requiring the care of a specialized fertility doctor, there are some things you can do on your own to boost your fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant. 

In addition to regular exercise and maintaining a positive outlook, there are also some changes you can make to your diet that may help combat infertility issues:

1. Stay away from processed foods.
Fake or processed foods may be harmful to your reproductive system, or even have adverse affects when undergoing fertility treatments, as they can mess with hormones and create an unbalanced reproductive system. Processed foods are usually found in packages and boxes, but some are harder to spot - for example, even some breads can be processed even though they seem "fresh". 

Another area to avoid is "diet" foods. While it may seem tempting to control your weight with skim or low-fat milk, margarine, and other low-fat foods, when trying to conceive it's actually best to go with organic whole cow's milk, real butter and other "real" foods.

2. Get yourself a good prenatal vitamin.
Find a prenatal vitamin that has at least 400mcg of Folic Acid, and also contains Vitamin D and Iron. DHA is also a bonus. Make sure you take a prenatal vitamin every single day. You're going to have to take one every day once you are pregnant, so treat your body as if it's pregnant already and make it a habit every morning or night. Your physician may offer a prescription prenatal, and if your insurance covers it great! If not, there are a variety of good prenatal vitamins available over the counter, so go to your local pharmacy or grocery store and pick up some if you don't have a prescription or the co-pay is too expensive.

3. Eat the right organic food whenever possible.
Not everything needs to be organic in your diet, but there are some important items to really try to get organic if you can. The "dirty dozen" are the twelve most contaminated food products, and are the ones you should focus on when trying to buy organic. The list includes:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
On the other hand, there are some foods that you can skip organic and go for the conventionally grown versions, and save the money for other items. These foods are found to be the least contaminated and generally safe to consume conventionally. You can always buy locally, too, if you are concerned about purchasing conventionally grown items. Items you can skip organic are onions, avocados, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.

4. Avoid plastics in your dinnerware and in packaging.
Studies have shown that Bisphenol A (or BPA) may reduce fertility in both men and women. BPA is a chemical that is used to make plastics and resins that are used in many plastic containers and packages. Additionally, BPA is used to make a lining for metal cans and bottle caps. Try to avoid food in packaging that may contain BPA, such as canned soups and vegetables, or "steam in the bag" frozen items. Also look for water bottles, plastic dishes and cups that are labeled "BPA Free" to avoid using items that may contain this chemical.

5. Skip the tea, soda or coffee and reach for water.
When trying to conceive it's important to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day (and it will be even more once you get pregnant!). It may seem like a lot, but think about how many beverages you have every day. Try drinking a glass of water instead of that morning cup of coffee, have some water with lunch instead of an iced tea, and have water again with supper instead of that soft drink. This will not only increase your water intake, but also help you to avoid the unnecessary sugars in most beverages.

Remember, infertility can be a complex issue that is sometimes unexplained and hard to navigate. Many times it may feel as though things are out of your control, but just remember that if you do everything you can to improve your situation you are contributing to the process and may just end up with that little miracle you are hoping for. Good luck and baby dust!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

5 Foods to Boost Your Energy, Naturally

With the holidays fast-approaching, we are all likely rushing around trying to get last minute things done to prepare for festivities, family and fun. This time of year, while excitement levels are high, energy levels tend to drop especially after a day of running from store to store.

To make it through the day, rather than downing a coffee or energy shot why not grab some natural energy by incorporating some of these foods into your day:

1. Bananas
Quick and easy to eat, bananas are not only a simple snack but they also slow down digestion, allowing the body to keep blood sugar levels stable. This helps to keep the body from "crashing" and can sustain energy levels.

2. Eggs
Have a busy day ahead? Start your morning with a breakfast of eggs. High in iron and protein, eggs will give you sustainable energy throughout the day.

3. Greek Yogurt
Yogurt is packed with probiotics, which help to promote healthy digestion and can also give you an energy boost. Added bonus - yogurt can also provide an immune system boost which is super helpful especially when being out among crowds during flu season!

4. Dark Chocolate
Yes, chocolate! Now don't go grab a dark chocolate version of your favorite candy bar, but rather a bar of pure 70% or more chocolate for a clean energy boost.

5. Almonds
Unsalted, raw almonds are a good source of healthy fats and protein which can also help to keep blood sugar levels stable. Almonds are also very good for heart health.

BONUS: Water
If you start your day with a bottle of water, you will absolutely feel the difference. Keeping your body hydrated can keep your energy going throughout the day. Being dehydrated, your energy levels will fall and you will succumb to fatigue much earlier in the day.

What food(s) top your list for naturally boosting energy? Share your comments!

Monday, December 16, 2013

7 Amazing Herbs to Prepare for Pregnancy

Having a baby is an exciting time. It is a beautiful and amazing process. We love being able to support the body naturally, and pregnancy is no exception. You can start preparing your body for pregnancy 2-3 months before you plan to start trying. By making following a proper diet, engaging in regular exercise, and incorporating some herbs into your life you can increase your health and chances of getting pregnant. Furthermore, if your body is well prepared for pregnancy, you will reduce your chance of miscarriage and are more likely to have a happier, healthier pregnancy.

Here are 7 herbs that will help you prepare your body for pregnancy, naturally:

1. Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus)

Probably the most well-known pregnancy herb, red raspberry leaf is extremely high in vitamins (A, B, C and E, mainly) and targets the uterus, toning and strengthening it to help prepare the body for pregnancy. Red raspberry leaf is most helpful when dealing with issues such as heavy menstrual bleeding or a weak uterus. As some women can be more sensitive to red raspberry leaf than others, if you have a history of miscarriages, you will want to stop using red raspberry leaf after ovulation - as the toning properties can sometimes be too much for a weak uterus. Red raspberry leaf is best used in preparation for pregnancy, and avoided in the first trimester.

2. Oatstraw (Avena sativa)

Oatstraw benefits the reproductive system by being a natural fertility enhancer. This herb is rich in calcium and magnesium, and helps to reduce stress and anxiety (which is always helpful when trying to get pregnant). If you are dealing with stress-related fertility issues, some oatstraw is the perfect choice.

3. Nettles (Urtica dioica)

Very high in minerals and vitamins, nettle is great for improving overall health and gently cleansing the liver and kidneys. Nettle also high in iron and helps to support proper blood formation and circulation. In the first days and weeks after conception, it is very important to have a proper blood supply to the uterine wall to provide nourishment for a growing embryo. Make sure, though, that you are using nettle leaf, not the root, as the root is unsafe for pregnancy and the preparation for pregnancy.

4. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

As with most of the other herbs, alfalfa is high in minerals and vitamins, helping to create an overall healthier body. It is also contains many amino acids, which are not made by our bodies, but rather taken from food or other sources. Because alfalfa is easy to absorb, it makes for a great source of vitamin intake.

5. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Both the leaf and the root are useful in preparing for pregnancy, and can be combined for added benefits. The leaf is very nourishing, used to increase overall nutrition and help balance out hormones. Many times, uneven hormones can lead to irregular menstrual cycles which can make ovulation harder to predict (and timing is essential when trying to get pregnant). The root also can improve hormone balance, and aids in liver health. 

6. Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

Very high in vitamin C, hibiscus flowers can help aid in iron absorption and have also been proven to help support healthy cervical mucous, which can offer an optimal environment for sperm and aid in getting pregnant. Hibiscus works best when combined with other herbs that are high in iron (like nettles and red raspberry leaf).

7. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Another great herb for reducing stress and anxiety, lemon balm can help support a healthy response to stress and may lessen depression. As mentioned earlier, stress and anxiety can have a negative effect on getting pregnant, making it more difficult to conceive. Lemon can help place you in the right emotional state, and make getting pregnant a bit easier. (Note: lemon balm is not for use in individuals suffering with hypothyroidism).

Well, there you have it! Some great, natural herbs that can help you achieve your pregnancy goals faster. Which have you tried? Do you have any other favorites to add to the list?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 Nutritious Holiday Snacks to Make with the Kiddos

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

It's also the most unhealthy time of the year. From pies to cookies, candy canes and marshmallows - let's face it, holiday snacks are not very healthy. But they are fun! Who doesn't remember standing on a stool as a child, baking some sweet chocolate chip cookies with Mom or Grandma?

Well, luckily there are some great, creative holiday snacks out there you can make with the kids that just happen to be healthy as well. Best part is, you can serve them at your get-togethers and rest assured your kids, and your guests, will have at least one healthy option on the holiday menu.

Here are some of our favorite healthy holiday snacks:

1. Strawberry-Banana Candy Canes


These creative canes are ridiculously easy to make. Just slice up one banana and some strawberries and arrange them in an alternating pattern, curving them at the end to make a candy cane shape. This is great for kids of any age to help create - and eat!

2. Edible Christmas Fruit Tree

So this one is a bit trickier, but REALLY fun. The base of your tree is made from a whole pineapple, with a pear on top to make the proper shape. A star can be made from part of the pineapple to put on top. Then, decorate your tree with fresh fruit like strawberries, kiwi, oranges, raspberries and blackberries.

3. Grinch-a-Bobs

These are adorable, especially if you are a fan of the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Super simple to make, just grab some toothpicks (the fancy ones work well with the little red plastic at the top) and add a green grape, banana slice, strawberry and a mini marshmallow to make this fun and festive snack.

4. Snowman Cheese Sticks

If your little ones are fans of cheese sticks, here is a great craft that they will enjoy eating afterwards. Simply take your favorite brand of cheese sticks, and leaving them in their wrapper add draw on the buttons and face with markers. Then, cut little black top hats from paper or felt and add a pretty ribbon scarf and you're done!

5. Veggie Ornaments

With some wafer crackers, low-fat cream cheese and veggies you can let your kids decorate something a bit healthier than cookies this year. Spread some of the low-fat cream cheese on the wafer crackers to coat the ornament and provide a good surface to stick your veggies on. Then decorate away with peas, peppers, carrots and broccoli. Dice up the veggies into different shapes to give your kids a variety of options to decorate their ornaments with.