A Great Little Fertility Guide

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It's no secret that Kerry Meath and I have been hard at work on our post partum book. I had hoped for a release date of now-ish, but as these things tend to go, I'm updating the release date to June.Following that release, I'll be working on a pre-conception / fertility book, which means a guide to preparing for pregnancy for couples, and then a pregnancy book.

So here's the news - I came across this great little guide put out by Banyan Botanicals, one of my favorite Ayurvedic product companies. It was compiled by Dr. Vrinda Devani, an OB/GYN who was a student at the Ayurvedic Institute and graduated last year. I had the pleasure of being one of her supervisors in the student clinic. Anyway, she's done a beautiful job putting this together, and while I work on my book, which will be much more detailed, this guide will be a great help to many. Enjoy! 

In health and love, Sunny

Fertility Awareness: Kindara App Review

I must confess I am rather new to natural fertility planning and charting. I did not even know it was a thing until I was already pregnant with my first child. Once I found out about it and got “Taking Charge of your Fertility” my mind was blown. I could not understand why, in my 25 years, I had not heard of it. It was amazing. I kind of didn’t believe it was possible. that your body gave you all sorts of signals to show what was going on. AMAZING. I was very excited when my cycles returned postpartum and I could FINALLY try out this seemingly magical information. Long story short, it did not disappoint (our bodies are amazing guys). Being a pretty tech savvy lady, I decided to use an app as part of my charting. There are many apps out there from very simple and free to all the bells and whistles. For me Kindara was the perfect fit and here’s why.

1. It can be as simple or complex as you want. It charts the basic basal body temps, cervical fluid and menstruation, but also allows you to add custom data that you feel is helpful or specific to you.

2. I found the chart view to be clear and pleasing. The prediction of fertile days was spot on for me after only charting one cycle. This simplicity of reading chart results was a must for me. I didn’t want to spend a time of time ‘interpreting’ the results.

3. There is a large community you can tap into to learn more about charting, analyze other charts and ask questions (They call this feature community support).

4. WINK! I am very excited about this. The company has developed a new basal thermometer that will sync wirelessly with the app! It vibrates when temp has been taken and syncs both the temperature but the time with the app to help with accuracy. I can’t wait to try it out!

I have tried a few other apps with mixed success. Some were cumbersome for me with lots of information to fill out and unclear chart results. Others were just for achieving pregnancy. Kindara has a cheery reminder that sounds if I haven’t input my data for the am, and tracking ‘intimacy’ with my partner helps this mama of two keep our ‘love life’ front and center in my mind. For me, Kindara is great whether you are trying to get pregnant, trying to avoid getting pregnant or just looking to learn more about you body, it does it all and I love that. And it has a ‘free’ portion of the app, so you can give it a no obligations try.

(Kindara is currently available for iPhone and Android. If you order your Wink using this link, you and Erin will both get $10 off!) 

Your Post Baby Belly & Pelvic Floor: Help is on the way!

So, if you're anything like me, you had your baby (maybe even years ago). You oiled and bound your belly for weeks, then you started to exercise some, maybe even a lot. Maybe you did planks, chaturangas, maybe you did Pilates or something specific to get your core strength back, and perhaps you did kegels to strengthen your pelvic floor.But... something still doesn't feel right and really doesn't look right. You still look as if you could be a couple or even a few months pregnant. And if you have a big sneeze or a good laugh with friends... sometimes [gah!] you might even pee a little.

One day, one of the clients in our midwifery practice came in for a post partum appointment and told us about a system she had followed that really helped to heal her diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and get her flat tummy back. "What was it!?" I had to know immediately. "It's called Mutu System," she said. I looked into it, but didn't have time just then.

Then one day about 4 weeks ago, I was ready. Well, I am loving it! And I've seen what it's done for other women, so I wanted to share it with you. This is going to be one of our top recommendations post partum. After the classical 42 days of rest and rejuvenation...start your Mutu program. I could tell you all about the science behind this program, but the founder, Wendy, has everything set up to explain this very nicely, so I'll leave that to her. What I will tell you about, is a few things I love about the program:

  • You can sign up and get instant access to do everything online OR you can order the DVD
  • Once you sign up, you have lifetime access to the videos and the support
  • You can use some of the recommended tools such as dumbbells, resistance band, etc. or you can completely improvise with household items (saving you money)
  • Mutu supports Hamlin Fistula, which supports the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia (HFE), opened in 1974 by Drs. Reginald and Catherine Hamlin. They raise awareness of obstetric fistula – a debilitating childbirth injury, and also take care of many women who have suffered this injury.

Check out the video below to learn more, or go to the "About Mutu" page now to learn more now.

Go to the Mutu homepage now to explore the options. And as always, we would love to hear what experiences you're having with this as other suggestions.

Much Love, Sunny

 

Ayurvedic Menstrual Self-Care Guide & A Product Discount Code!

We wanted to share a great Ayurvedic self-care guide for women that Banyan Botanicals recently published. PLUS we wanted to give you a discount code for some of their new women's products.For those who aren't familiar with Banyan Botanicals, they are one of our favorite Ayurvedic retailers for fair trade organic herbs and oils. If you do give any of the tips or products a try, we would love to hear about it!

Click here to read Banyan's Guide to Menstrual Self-Care: An Ayurvedic Approach to Healthy Menstruation

 *and be sure to look below for a special offer on some of Banyan's new Women's products...

Excellent new women's formulas: Now through the end of August - order any of these excellent new women's formulas and get 20% off with the coupon code below

These new women's products from Banyan Botanicals were formulated to balance and support the unique feminine aspects of women on their journey of health and well-being throughout the stages of life.

 

 1371_Women's Cycle Ease

Women's Cycle Nourish New Product! Balancing Formula for a Vata Menstrual Cycle. Supports women with limited flow, interrupted regularity, and discomfort with menses* Women's Cycle Ease New Product! Balancing Formula for a Kapha-Pitta Menstrual Cycle. Supports women with occasionally heavier menstrual flow, frequent cycles, and discomfort with menses.* Healthy Bones New Product! Daily Support for Healthy Bones & Bone Density.* Women's Natural Transition New Product! Support for a Healthy Menopause and Beyond.* Women's Support General Support for all Stages in a Woman's Life.*

*Please remember to check with your personal health practitioner for details about using these products.

 

20% Off Discount Code Order online at banyanbotanicals.com and enter promotional code AFWOM14 at the top of the shopping basket page. Good for 20% off Women's Cycle Nourish tablets, Women's Cycle Ease tablets, Healthy Bones tablets, Women's Natural Transition tablets, and Women's Support tablets. Normal shipping charges will apply. May not be combined with other offers or discounts. Offer expires August 31st, 2014.

Preventing Vaginal Tearing - a Pre-Birth Stretch

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To tear or not to tear…. this is the stretch for it!

Preparing for birth can be daunting  especially if this is your first birth. You don’t know what is important to do, what will help, and what will be an extra “should” on the preparation checklist. Luckily, ?yurveda provides some time-tested techniques that actually work to make the birth process just a little bit easier. This one in particular is designed to help you prepare your tissues to become softer and stretchier to more gracefully let your baby pass through, which may prevent vaginal tearing. There is no way to guarantee that you won't tear as there are so many factors, but this will certainly help.

  • Begin the 8th Month of Pregnancy
  • Practice 4-5 x a week
  • Use Licorice ghee as lubricant (we like this one from our friends at A. Muzda)

What to do:

o  Get the licorice ghee and wash your (or your partner's) hands. Find a comfortable place to sit or lean back. Put ghee onto thumbs or fingers

yoni o  Insert one to two fingers along the bottom of the vagina after a couple of inches there is a drop-off where the inner edge of the muscles lie.

o  Massage the bottom half of the vaginal gently yet firmly to create a definite stretching, burning sensation. Usually the fingers go in about 1-1 ½ inches and you press firmly down on the side towards the anus, as the picture demonstrates.  This can also be thought of as following a U shaped motion along the lower half of the vagina

o  During massage women should practice relaxing the stretched muscles

o  Continue gently pushing the limit of stretching and relaxing up until the time of labor

o  You should notice a considerable increase in the stretchability of the muscles, this is good!!!

5 Practices For Your Moon Time (Menses)

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“With modern civilization came the loss of women’s memory of her precious feminine energies and her role as thekeeper of nurturance.”~Maya Tiwari

For many women, the monthly moon time, or menses  can seem like an annoyance. Most of us try to ignore our menses as much as possible and hope it will pass quickly. However, the length of our menses, and the symptoms we experience can provide valuable information about the overall health and fertility of our body (more on that later). According to Ayurveda, our menses is an essential time for cleansing and restoring the system. Making space to nourish the body during your moon time is essential to balance all bodily systems.  Below are 5 basic practices to get you started.

1) REST, READ, RELAX - As our teacher Dr. Lad says, rest read and relax during your moon time! This is a time to give yourself extra permission to do nothing, or at least very little. Learn to say "no" to extra obligations and allow others to take care of you. Although this might sound too indulgent, it is essential for you to restore your systems and prepare your body for the coming month.

2) Keep Exercise Mild - During your moon cycle it is essential that you avoid too much exercise (including yoga). Too much exercise can push ?ma (toxins) back into the body leading to a build up. Favor yoga nidra, and restorative ?sana for at least the first 3-4 days of your menses.

3) Eat a light, warm, dosha pacifying diet - Light, warm meals can be easily digested and allow the body to focus more on cleansing and less on digesting.

4) Stay Warm - Avoid extreme temperatures. In ancient India they advised against bathing because of the risk of getting too cold, which is not optimal during this part of the female cycle. Bathing is ok as long as you take a warm shower or bath and don't become chilled afterward

5) Use Natural Pads & Keep Tampons to a Minimum - Tampons disturb the flow, and chemically bleached pads can leach into our system creating toxic build up. Try using natural unbleached pads - if this is disruptive to your activities, we recommend a Diva cup over a tampon. However, Diva cups do still disturb the downward moving flow, and their use should be kept to a minimum. These products can be found online or at most natural grocers.

5 Practices to Incorporate 4 Months Before Conception

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In Ayurveda, we believe a "pre-trimester" of care is equally as important as each trimester. Incorporating diet and lifetstyle practices before pregnancy, can have a profound influence on your baby’s health. There are many more factors to consider before pregnancy, but here are 5 basics to get started. “The fetus gets delivered easily in time in its well developed form and without any pain, if the sperm, the ovum, the uterus, and the timings (of sexual union and delivery) are in excellent condition and the woman during the period of pregnancy takes wholesome diet. Even in a fertile woman, there is a delay in conception because of defects in the uterus, mental afflictions, defects in sperm, ovum, diet and regimens, union in inappropriate time and want of strength.CS: Sarirasthanam II 6-10

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1- Eat foods for fertility: Healthy fats such as cold pressed organic olive, flax, sunflower, and coconut oils plus ghee and/or grass fed butter. Healthy proteins such as soaked legumes, pastured eggs and meats. Wild caught fish in small quantities. Soak your grains. Avoid processed, microwaved, packaged foods. Cook at home more!

 

2- Begin the following supplements: Food based prenatal vitamin for you and multi vitamin for him. CoQ10, Vit C, Vit E, Zinc, Selenium. Probiotics for both of you, but especially you – more and more research is showing that the health of mom’s vaginal flora has a profound effect on the infant gut microbiome…more on this topic later! - If you need supplements, visit the RoseHeal Dispensary. Stay tuned for a special post with some of our favorite supplements.

P1010139 3- Abhyanga at least 3x/week: Organic sesame oil for vata and kapha, organic sunflower oil for pitta. Or, better yet your herbalized doshic oil (Banyan has some good options). Check out our previous post on Abyanga for specific instructions.

 

4- Avoid toxins and reduce EMR exposure: Toxins in the form of food additives, pesticides, conventional cleaning and laundry products, paints, adhesives and plastic containers (especially disposable water bottles), and alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs. EMR (electromagnetic radiation) in the form of cell phones worn on your body, laptop in your lap (put it on a table), wireless modem in the bedroom, etc. You can use stones or devices that offer protection and also reduce your exposure. We like Tachyon!

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5- Mindfulness practices to reduce stress: Meditation, walking in nature, yoga nidra, pranyama, yoga asana, and qi gong are all good options.

 

Baby Oil Massage - a first year practice for lifelong health

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Warm oil massage isn’t just for adults, it is a wonderful soothing and calming practice for your baby too. In many cultures a baby is massaged daily around bath time as it’s understood that babies are more content, happy and experience better growth when they are massaged. More recently western research has also supported the beneficial effects of infant massage. One of the leading researchers in the U.S. on infant massage is Dr. Field, who thirty years ago personally saw the the calming and positive weight gain effects of oil massage in her premature baby girl. She became inspired to explore the topic further. Since then, she and dozens of others have researched and written about the powerful effects of massage. Benefits include:

  • Improved sleep-wake patterns
  • Improved emotional bonding
  • Enhanced neuromotor development
  • Reduction in gas pains
  • Relief from daily stress that builds up from new encounters
  • Healing effects on birth trauma by soothing strained or pulled muscles
  • Increased weight gain

The overall method is similar to adults, with the exception of emphasizing use of your palms with gentle pressure more than fingers. The overall sequence moves from the head to the toes. Similar to abhyanga in adults, we use circular movements on the joints and organs, and long strokes on the long bones. Remember to keep the room warm, and calming (no blaring TV or bright lights). Gently warm the oil by placing the oil bottle in a pan or bowl of very warm or hot water, but be sure to test the oil to ensure it is only lukewarm before application. The best oils include organic sesame, coconut, almond, bala, or jojoba. Our personal favorite is Ashvagandha/Bala as it imparts strength and calming, you can get it here. Have fun with with this! Some nights you may be able to get a nice 10 minute massage in, and other nights it might be one minute with a drop of oil. We do our best! photo 2 General Sequence:

  • Scalp:
    • Circle top, back & sides of head with palm (be careful not to press on the fontanel)
    • Massage outer parts of ears up and down
    • Move across the forehead and around the temples & cheeks, sides of the nose, and upper chin
  • Neck & shoulders, arm:
    • Move around the neck and shoulders gently down the torso
    • Make figure eight patterns around the chest
    • Massage the arms using long strokes along the muscles and circular motions at the joints
  • Belly:
    • Massage the belly in a clockwise direction to soothe the stomach
  • Back:
    • Rub the back by running the palms along the spine
  • Legs & Feet :
    • Sweep down the legs with circular strokes at the joints, and long strokes along the muscles
  • Feet:
    • Massage up and down the tendons, heels, and top of the foot
    • Rub the sole of the foot in a long motion with the palm

Optional: After the massage, make a paste of chickpea  or almond flour and warm milk and massage this over baby’s body to absorb excess oil (this will make the bath easier). Then you can fill a regular tub or large sink part way with water and support your baby with one hand, rinsing with your other hand. If your baby is old enough to sit propped in a baby tub or basin simply bathe her/him as usual in this way. You won’t need any soap unless you prefer to soap baby’s bottom  … Resources: 1) http://www.massagemag.com/News/2006/January/125/Tiffany.php 2) Field T., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M. (2010) Preterm Infant Massage Therapy Research: A Review. Infant Behavioral Development 33(2): 115-124. 3) http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/InfantMassage.html 4) Welch, C., Blossom, S., (2011) Mother Nurture: Yoga and Ayurveda for Postpartum Bliss. Yogainternational.com. 5) Oaks, Y. Sacred Window School. http://sacredwindow.com

An Ayurvedic Practice that Will Change Your Life: Abhyanga

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The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age. - Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89

One of the easiest and most powerful traditional Ayurvedic practices we can do on our own is Abhyanga (warm oil massage). Our teacher, Dr. Lad says that “a dry body, like a dry stick, breaks easily.” When we apply oil, the body becomes more flexible, and able to bend with the challenges of life. We feel nourished, grounded and supple. This is an amazing practice for women before pregnancy, during pregnancy with modifications (see below), and especially important postpartum!

Benefits Of Abhayanga

  • Enhances health of the skin, makes it strong, soft & lustrous
  • Produces softness, strength and color in the body
  • Decreases the effects of aging & increases longevity
  • Bestows good vision
  • Promotes healthy appetite & strong digestion
  • Nourishes the body by removing toxins & providing nutrients to tissues
  • Supports restful sleep patterns
  • Strengthens the immunity, energy & vitality
  • Imparts a firmness to the limbs
  • Imparts tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
  • Maintains optimal body chemistry, including hormones & neurotransmitters
  • Calms the nervous system & sense organs
  • Reduces pain
  • Stimulates the internal organs of the body, including circulation
  • Balances elimination processes
  • Reduces coarseness, stiffness, roughness, fatigue and numbness
  • Nurtures & supports positive feelings & emotions
  • Benefits local veins & ligaments
  • Helps sciatica
  • Oiling the face removes facial wrinkles
  • Oiling the scalp causes hair to grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy

 Abhyanga for Vata Sesame is considered to be the best choice of oil for vata because it is inherently warming (get it here). Almond Oil and mustard oil are also good choices because they are also warming. Vata massage oil (oil infused with special herbs) is especially good if vata is high in your Vikruti (get it here). Vata massage oil can be used alone or added to sesame, almond or mustard oils. *For increasing strength and stamina try Ashwagandha/Bala oil, get it here. *If you're pregnant, we recommend sesame or almond oil.

Abhyanga for Pitta Applying Bhringaraj Oil or Brahmi Oil to the scalp and soles of feet at bedtime may reduce pitta and encourage sound sleep. Herbal/Medicated “Pitta Massage Oil” from Banyan Botanicals is our choice, get it here. Sunflower and coconut oil are also good choices for pitta. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you may want to add some Neem Oil to whatever your basic abhyanga oil is, because it is said to reduce pitta in the skin (get it here). *If you're pregnant, we recommend sunflower or coconut oil.

Abhyanga for Kapha Sesame, corn and mustard oils are all helpful for kapha because they are warming, but herbal oils are an even better choice for Kapha, as they add more Kapha pacifying properties to the oil. Banyan's “Kapha Massage Oil” is a great choice, get it here. *If you're pregnant, we recommend sesame oil.

Abhyanga in 2nd and 3rd trimesters of Pregnancy

  • Follow the directions below, only DO NOT massage the oil in, simply spread it over your skin.
  • Allow the oil to soak in, and follow with a warm shower.
  • Do not do if there is any sign that the pregnancy is threatened in any way
  • Not recommended for the first trimester

Abhyanga Routine

  • Put about ½ cup oil in an 8 oz. glass bottle. Make sure the oil smells fresh and isn't rancid.
  • Place the bottle of oil in a pan of hot water until the oil is warm.
  • Sit or stand in a warm room, on an older towel (one you don't mind ruining with oil accumulation). Make sure you're protected from drafts.
  • Apply the oil to your entire body, and use a generous amount - 1/4-1/2 cup.
  • Massage the oil into your entire body, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of the body. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side. Massage the body for 5-20 minutes, with love and patience. Don't rush this process.
  • Give a little extra time and attention to massaging the oil into your scalp, ears and feet, at least once a week.
  • Apply oil to the crown of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger and apply to the opening of the ear canal. (If there is any current or chronic discomfort in the ears don't do this without the recommendation of your health care practitioner).
  • When you massage your feet, be sure to wash them first when you shower, so you don't slip.
  • Enjoy a warm/hot bath or shower. You can use a mild soap on the "strategic" areas, but it's best not to soap the oil off your skin. Enough will soak in and then rinse off that you shouldn't need to use soap.
  • When you get out of the bath, towel dry. Keep a special towel for drying off after your Abhyanga because it can eventually get ruined, due to the accumulation of oil.
  • Put on a pair of cotton socks to protect your floors/carpets from the residual oil on your feet.
  • If you like, apply a dosha-appropriate essential oil to your wrists and neck.

Clean-up and Maintenance Oil can accumulate in your tub and drain over time. A couple of times each month, pour approx. ¼ cup dish soap into the drain, then pour 2-3 cups of boiling water into the drain. Let sit for 15 min. Run hot water down the drain for a couple of minutes to flush out the residue. For laundering oily towels, add ¼ cup grease-cutting dish soap along with your regular laundry detergent. Let sit in very hot water for at least 30 minutes, then wash. You may need to repeat this. Experiment as needed. Caution: do not dry oily towels in a hot dryer as they are easily combustible and may catch fire. Oil towels stored together can build up internal heat in warm environments to the point of catching fire. Be sure to store them in well-ventilated, cool areas. Never store them in your vehicle trunk.

Contraindications for Abhyanga:

  • After eating and if there's indigestion
  • Acute conditions such as fever, chills, common cold, diarrhea, flu
  • Chronic high systemic ama. This can show as a heavily coated tongue.
  • Immediately after taking emetics or purgatives
  • Under a doctor’s care for medical condition
  • During pregnancy without consulting health care practitioner or in threatened miscarriage
  • During menstrual cycle
  • Infected or open lesions
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Blood clots or bleeding disorders
  • Hangover
  • Extreme emotions
  • Acute hypoglycemia
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Dehydration
  • During chemo therapy

References: Welch, Dr. Claudia. (2009). http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/ayurveda/abhyanga.html Lad, Vasant. (2005) “Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Oil Massage”