Tags: Preparing to Conceive

Miscarriage: What Should You Do For The Next Pregnancy?

By @DrPoppyBHRT

It is estimated that one in five pregnancies will result in miscarriage (termed spontaneous abortion). Given this high percentage, one would expect the medical profession to have more insight about etiology, treatment and prevention of miscarriage. When I was in my OB/GYN training we were told that the majority of miscarriages are the result of chromosomal abnormalities. Many of the studies surrounding this issue were conducted in the early 1980s, and I question this information since most women who have miscarriages do not have the products of conception sent for chromosomal analysis and the majority of them go on to have a subsequent normal pregnancy.

Certainly we would expect as more older women (late 30s-40s) are pursuing pregnancy, that age-related chromosomal abnormalities would explain the increased risk of miscarriage in this group. In a study of pregnancies achieved with in-vitro fertilization, the rate of miscarriage was 11.4% in women aged 33-34, 19.8% for women aged 38-40, 29.9% for women aged 41-42, & 36.6% for women older than 42 years.

As a hormone specialist, I recognize that hormonal imbalances and abnormalities abound, are often undiagnosed, and are inadequately addressed before, during and after pregnancy. Knowing that these imbalances impact fertility, I suspect that those numbers cited above reflect an increased percentage of hormonal problems in those women seeking treatment for infertility. While there are clearly medical & structural abnormalities which can cause miscarriage (which I’ll outline later), the medical profession generally does not conduct a work-up on a woman until she’s considered to have recurrent miscarriages, defined as three or more consecutive miscarriages. I’m of the opinion that searching should begin after one miscarriage and work-up should definitely be done after two as my philosophy is toward proactivity and prevention. I never want a woman to needlessly suffer a painful loss if an answer can be found. From a common-things-being-common perspective, I generally want to assess a woman for progesterone deficiency (also called luteal phase deficiency) and thyroid abnormalities. The most important step for a woman is to chart her cycles so we can get some idea of which direction to focus our efforts. Blood work can be taken for thyroid assessment and other medical problems like blood sugar abnormalities.

Luteal phase deficiency (LPD) is somewhat controversial in the field of OB/GYN. This is mostly because the diagnosis was originally made by an endometrial biopsy that was “out of phase” with where the patient was in her menstrual cycle or luteal phase. The first half of the cycle after menses is called the follicular phase which tracks the development of a follicle in preparation for ovulation, a phase that is dominated by estrogen. The second half of the cycle after ovulation is called the luteal phase, reflecting the production of progesterone by the corpus luteum (ovulated egg). While the majority of women have a stable luteal phase of 13-14 days, there is some variability and there are clearly women who have a shortened luteal phase of 6-7 days. Accurately assessing progesterone levels because of irregular cycles or shortened luteal phases contribute to the difficulty of making the diagnosis of LPD.

Dr. Thomas Hilgers is Clinical Professor of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, NE. He is also Director of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and in my opinion, is the foremost authority of the hormonal influences on fertility and pregnancy. He outlines the 3 most common luteal phase deficiencies in his textbook The Medical and Surgical Practice of NaProTECHNOLOGY (‘the term ‘NaPro’ refers to ‘Naturally Procreative’), based on a study of 328 patients with infertility.

Type I: The post-Peak phase is short (less than or equal to 8 days in duration) estimating a short luteal phase. The last progesterone level prior to the onsent of menstruation is less than or equal to 2.0 ng/mL.

Type II: The post-Peak phase is normal in length but the progesterone profile (Peak +3,5,7,9, & 11) is clearly suboptimal.

Type III: The post-Peak phase is normal in length but the progesterone profile (Peak +3,5,7,9 & 11) shows an abrupt drop (>50% drop of Pk+9 and Pk+11)

Most women who have progesterone levels assessed have them drawn as a cycle day 20 blood draw. Type I & II deficiencies will have a Peak+7 decreased progesterone level, but this blood draw will miss a type III luteal phase deficiency. While efforts can be made to make a diagnosis of luteal phase deficiency, the difficulty of doing so should not preclude the use progesterone therapy in a subsequent pregnancy. If a woman has evidence from charting of a possible luteal phase deficiency, I would strongly suggest finding a provider who would be willing to prescribe progesterone even in the absence of a definitive diagnosis.

By far the most common hormonal disorder I see is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is characterized by insulin resistance, excess androgens (“male” hormones) often causing acne, hair growth on the face and infrequent/decreased ovulation. Since progesterone is made from the ovulated egg, virtually all PCOS patients are progesterone deficient.
Many doctors still don’t believe in the benefit of progesterone therapy in the first trimester for the prevention of miscarriage (I had one colleague refer to it as “voodoo medicine”) due to conflicting studies and some of the diagnostic pitfalls outlined above. I believe a return to the basics of human reproduction and a lack of side effects with bioidentical progesterone should quell any fears. Progesterone is the PRO-GESTATIONAL hormone. Without it, you cannot get pregnant; without enough, you cannot stay pregnant. Babies literally take a bath in progesterone for the entire pregnancy. It is an essential hormone to every aspect of reproduction. The literature is now abounding for the use of progesterone therapy in women with a history of preterm birth. Much has been said about how much money could be saved in the care of premature babies in the face of this one intervention. Why then are we so reluctant to undertake the larger studies needed for the routine first trimester application of progesterone therapy in those women at higher risk? Fertility doctors know the importance of progesterone which is why all of their patients are automatically given it. My approach is to either test or treat empirically. If a woman with a history of miscarriage is able to undertake hormonal testing prior to another pregnancy, efforts should be made to exclude any hormonal abnormalities. If there is any evidence of abnormality through testing or charting, I recommend using progesterone therapy at least through 14 weeks when the placenta takes over production of progesterone.

Dr. Hilgers published data of normal progesterone levels for every gestational week of pregnancy, so my practice is to test progesterone before discontinuing it. I also do not see a reason to not give a woman progesterone if she finds herself pregnant again before hormonal evaluation can take place. I tell these women, “Progesterone deficiency may not be the cause of your miscarriage, but it can’t hurt to take it and it may help prevent a miscarriage.” I follow up this treatment by monitoring their progesterone levels.

Besides luteal phase defect and thyroid disorders, there are certain other medical conditions that have been associated with a greater risk of miscarriage. These include:
• Lupus and other autoimmune disorders
• Heart disease
• Severe kidney disease, especially when there is also high blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Familial or acquired clotting disorders
• Celiac disease

Other factors that can cause miscarriage are
• Intrauterine or intraamniotic infections
• Drug use, excessive alcohol intake
• Acquired (adhesions, fibroids) or congenital uterine defects (septation, bicornuate uterus, etc)
• Incompetent cervix

Depending on the results of risk factor assessment in the individual woman with two or more miscarriages (my choice is 2 rather than 3), consideration can be given to a more targeted blood work-up, ultrasound, HSG (hysterosalpingoram: dye study of uterus and ovaries), chromosomal testing of parents, and possibly hysteroscopy/laparoscopy. I strongly encourage women to read, educate and research their options and partner with a health care provider who is willing to explore those options with them.

Dr. Poppy Daniels is an Ob/Gyn who diagnoses and treats a wide spectrum of hormonal issues across all age groups.  She has a holistic approach utilizing bioidentical hormone therapy, nutrition and targeted supplementation.  She is also a natural birth and VBAC advocate, and supports a birth model incorporating collaborative physician/midwifery care. Visit her at www.drpoppy.com, “Dr. Poppy” on Facebook, and@drpoppyBHRT on Twitter.

Gigantic Benefits of Fertility Massage for Women Trying to Conceive

I wanted to make you aware of a short podcast interview from Donielle Baker’s website, Naturally Knocked Up, with Claire Miller on the gigantic benefits of fertility massage, particularly when coupled with fertility charting.

Fertility massage is more of physical therapy-type massage – not so much what you would get at a day spa – but it includes massage of the abdomen (and other places, of course). It’s most beneficial in the days between your period and ovulation.

Please check this out if you are trying to conceive because the anecdotal data is stupendous. I wish there was a larger study to back up the claims but it’s worth a try!

FertilityFlower is featured in Donielle's new best seller!

Important Book: Naturally Knocked Up by Donielle Baker

Naturally Knocked Up
Well-known WAPF foodie and natural fertility expert, Donielle Baker, has a newly released book on natural fertility. I’m really excited about this, friends, because (as Donielle says), going ‘natural’ doesn’t mean ‘doing nothing’.

The book is called Naturally Knocked Up (just like her blog) and covers it all.

Take a look at this title of contents:

1. Natural Fertility

2. Cleansing the Body With Whole Foods

3. Natural Living

4. Exercise for Fertility

5. Natural Family Planning

6. Real Foods

7. Super Foods for Fertility (an aside: Donielle developed our Nutritional Healing checklist on Fertility Flower which hopefully helps you incorporate more of these fertility super foods into your diet)

8. What Not to Eat

9. The ‘Perfect’ Fertility Diet

10. Alternative Therapies for Infertility

11. Stress

12. The Fertility Plan

13. Recipes and Instructions for Real Food and Natural Living

While she was writing the book, Donielle asked permission to use screenshots from Fertility Flower to illustrate points. I’m not sure if those screenshots made it to the final cut but I was happy to oblige.

Get this book as soon as you can! I’m anxiously awaiting my pre-ordered copy from Amazon.

Naturally Knocked Up Book Trailer

How To Tell If You Have A Hormonal Imbalance

By Poppy Daniels, MD

Sometimes it’s easier for me to talk about who doesn’t have a hormonal imbalance than to discuss who does.  Granted, I am a hormone specialist so I tend to have a skewed population of patients that are aware that they have hormonal issues.  But given the amount of hormone or endocrine disruptors in the environment, the never-ending flood of stress, the adulterated food supply, the frequent exposure to synthetic hormones through birth control and other drugs, and the obesity epidemic, it’s no surprise that hormonal imbalance is exceedingly common.

Common signs & symptoms of hormone imbalance include:

  • Heavy/clotty and/or prolonged periods (more than 7 days of full flow)
  • Long cycles >33 days or skipping cycles
  • Mood swings, irritability, anxiety particularly if occurring the 2 wks before menses
  • Night sweats
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Cyclical migraines
  • Acne
  • Hair growth on face
  • Thinning hair on head
  • Rapid weight gain despite no dietary or exercise changes

Medical conditions frequently indicating hormone imbalance include:

  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Premenstrual syndrome/PMDD
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Preterm birth
  • Post-partum mood disorders

Charting your cycles is an excellent way to begin to ascertain whether you may have a hormonal imbalance. FertilityFlower can help pinpoint hormonal imbalance and registration is free. Besides long cycles, other charting irregularities pointing to hormonal imbalance include a shortened luteal phase, lack of temperature shift or zig-zag temperature pattern , or no egg white mucous days.

Once you’ve decided to pursue testing, make sure that you work with someone who is knowledgeable about the complexity of sex hormones.  Serum hormone levels are often not reflective of the active, bioavailable or tissue hormone levels.  Urinary hormone tests are usually measuring hormone metabolites.  Saliva testing is accurate for baseline hormone levels and in those women using topical or vaginal creams, suppositories or patches.  Saliva testing is not accurate for those using sublingual hormones.  Bloodspot or capillary blood testing is accurate for those women who are taking sublinguals.  For those with regular cycles, cycle Day 20 is the optimal day for testing.  I highly recommend testing diurnal cortisol levels to assess adrenal function, as well as targeted thyroid and vitamin testing.  If you don’t know of a hormone specialist near you, you can go to www.zrtlab.com and plug in your zip code, and find a local practitioner who performs saliva and bloodspot hormone, thyroid and Vitamin D testing.

Happy Hormones!

Poppy Daniels Dr. Poppy is an Ob/Gyn who diagnoses and treats a wide spectrum of hormonal issues across all age groups.  She has a holistic approach utilizing bioidentical hormone therapy, nutrition and targeted supplementation.  She is also a natural birth and VBAC advocate, and supports a birth model incorporating collaborative physician/midwifery care. Visit her at www.drpoppy.com, “Dr. Poppy” on Facebook, and @drpoppyBHRT on Twitter.

Charts Showing a Depleted Body and the Recovery with Herbs and Time

By @FertilityFlower

You can read a lot in a woman’s chart.

The following is a picture of a depleted body (my body):

You can see that 3 years and 3 pregnancies took their toll on my body. Temps are more erratic and at a new lower average temperature in both phases of my cycle.

The next cycle, I started a tincture of red clover, red raspberry and grape leaves/tendrils – 30 drops, 3x daily. I also ditched my synthetic prenatals and started taking a raw food multivitamin in the pre-ovulatory phase and drinking 3-5 cups of nettle tea in the post-ovulatory phase.*

*I didn’t have access to a raw food prenatal when I started this ‘experiment’. My multivitamin could work as a prenatal…it hits all of the key components of a prenatal…however, it also has a little bit of borage in it. Borage isn’t safe during the bulk of pregnancy. It can cause contractions which is not what you want in early pregnancy. The only time that it’s OK to take Borage during pregnancy is at the end (as in, the last month or so). In small doses, it can help ripen the cervix, etc in preparation for birth.

This was the effect on my temps after 1 month of my regimen:

By the next month, you can see that my temperatures are settling down and coming closer to my 2008 levels:

I still have some dips here and there but it much fewer!

Finally, my current cycle (3 cycles out) is still underway but you can see that my temperatures have basically returned to the 2008 levels and aren’t bouncing around crazily like before.

Neat ;)

Good Bugs – AKA Probiotics

By @YourGreenBaby

Probiotics are good bugs or bacteria that live in our digestive tract, and provide us with health benefits beyond belief. Probiotic means “for life” and research continues to discover what else these little “bugs” can do for us.

During the preconception period supporting the digestive tract with goods bugs ensures you are properly digesting and absorbing the nutrients from the nourishing foods you are eating and good bugs also support the immune system.  Better digestion, increased nutrient intake and an immune system which is functioning optimally all means a more conducive environment for conception.

Here are some other wonderful benefits of supporting the digestive tract with probiotics:

  • They improve digestion by stimulating peristalsis, the rhythmic contractions of the large intestine which help to move food through the colon.
  • They act as natural antibiotics helping to fight off bad bacteria in the gut.
  • They are responsible for the manufacturing of B vitamins and vitamin K.  B vitamins are important for energy production and vitamin K for blood clotting.  They also play a role in the absorption of minerals and the elimination of toxins.
  • Using probiotics during pregnancy is linked to a decrease in eczema and other allergies in babies.  A study from The University of Turku in Finland found pregnant women with allergies can reduce the risk of their children becoming sensitized to allergens by regularly taking ‘good’ bacteria.  In a 2008 study pregnant women were given probiotic supplements from the eighth month of pregnancy and their babies were given probiotics for 6 months. The babies were 30% less likely to develop eczema than babies who did not receive probiotic supplements.
  • Probiotics are important for immune health – believe it or not up to 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract.
  • Probioitcs have been shown to aid in the elimination of digestive complaints including gassiness, constipation, diarrhea and IBS.
    • Probiotics can also help to reduce symptoms of colic in your baby.  A study published in Pediatrics in January 2007 compared the results of treating colicky babies with simethicone (medication for bloating) and probiotics. The probiotics reduced symptoms in ninety five percent of babies within a week, while only seven percent of the simethicone group had a similar response. Probiotics seem to have a natural pain relieving action on the gut that aids in their usefulness for colic.

Supplementation with a good quality probiotic is suggested to ensure colonization for the digestive tract.  You can find probiotics in some food products including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and miso but they will not contain enough to properly colonize your gut and provide maximum benefits.

When looking for a probiotic supplement, it all comes down to numbers; that is the number of bacteria.  For overall health and to support the digestive system look for a supplement providing 9 to 12 billion bacteria per day.  The strains of bacteria you are looking for are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Also look for HMF on the label, this stands for Human Microflora.

If you are new to probiotics, start slowly and build up over a few weeks to a full dose. Taking too much at once can lead to gassiness, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.  Take your probiotics after meals.

Probiotics are live bacteria; they are very sensitive to heat and should be refrigerated. Buy only from a store which keeps them in a fridge and be sure to store them in the fridge once you get them home.

Get your good bugs today!

Kim Corrigan-Oliver is a first time mom and published author. She is a certified holistic nutritionist specializing in nutrition for mom, baby and toddler. She loves good food and to cook. And, she loves to share her passion for all of the above with those interested in learning more about feeding their babies and raising healthy happy children. For more information please check out her website at Your Green Baby.

Other posts by Kim Corrigan-Oliver

Herbs and Fertility

Nutrition Guidelines in the Preconception Period

Cosmetics and Fertility

Cleaning Up Your Environment Preconception

By @YourGreenBaby

The preconception period is such an important time and I wish more women took time to properly prepare their bodies and environment for the journey of pregnancy. During pregnancy you are building a human being from scratch. The food you eat, the environment in which you live, the stress of your daily life, etc can all play a role in the long term health and wellness of your baby. Taking time preconception to clean up your environment – both outside and inside your body, can play a big role in your fertility, a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Here are ten things to consider during your preconception period to help clean up your environment.

1. Reduce chemicals in your home by switching to natural cleaners or even better, make your own. Vinegar, water and a few drop of tea tree oil do an amazing job of cleaning up your home.  Be cautious with the other chemical laden products you bring into your home – paint, new carpets, furniture, dry cleaning, etc. Allow products to off gas outdoors for a day or two before bringing them into your home.

2. Reduce chemicals in your home by switching to more natural skin care products. We use a ton of chemicals daily on our skin, hair, nails, etc. The skin is very absorbent and all of those chemicals do have an effect on our health and well being, including our fertility. Take some time to check how the products you currently use are rated at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep.

3. Reduce chemicals by choosing organic foods. There are a lot of chemicals used in farming today. These chemicals are in our food – meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables are all contaminated with toxic chemicals which also affect our fertility and can have a detrimental effect on our health and well being and the healthy and well being of future children.  Can’t afford to go all organic, I suggest choosing organic meat and dairy and checking out the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen. The dirty dozen are the top 12 contaminated fruits and vegetables and ones you should choose organic. http://www.foodnews.org

4. Reduce chemicals by choosing real food over processed food.  Processed foods contain many different chemicals, additives, food colourings, preservatives, etc. Many of these have been shown to have adverse health effects in both adults and children. Make the choice to eat real food which has not been processed and package with harmful chemicals.

5.  Reduce your exposure to other toxins which can affect your health and fertility – smoking, second hand smoke and alcohol. Be cautious with over the counter medications and take some time to research any prescription medications you are taking. Be informed about what you put into your body and the effects it may have on you.

6. Leave your shoes at the door. Believe it or not we bring a lot of undesirable germs, bacteria and chemicals into our homes via the bottom of our shoes. Leave your shoes at the door and everything you brought home with you will stay right there.

7.  Open your windows. It has been suggested our indoor home environment is more toxic that the outdoor environment, and with all of the chemicals we bring into our homes, I can understand this. Open the windows to allow the exchange of air in your home, sending the toxic chemicals out and bringing the fresh air in.

8.  Support your body in its detoxification process. Your body has an amazing ability to detoxify chemicals and toxins from your body. The problem, in our society today is we are bombarded by toxins on a regular basis and the natural detoxification pathways of the body (liver, lungs, lymphatic system, kidneys, blood, skin and colon) become burdened.  You can help your body and support these systems with a few easy steps.

  • Start your day with hot water and the juice of half a lemon, which will kick start your digestive system and liver and alkalinize your body.
  • Before you shower each morning, do a dry brush http://www.naturalhealthtechniques.com/healingtechniques/dry_brushing_technique.htm to stimulate the lymphatic system and remove dead skin cells.
  • Participate in moderate intensity exercise which works your lungs, allowing you to expel toxins, makes your sweat, allowing your skin to expel toxins and if you choose an impact activity you will also stimulate the lymphatic system.
  • Using homeopathic remedies can help your liver sort and better eliminate toxins from your body.
  • Drinking lots of water, 2L per day, will help the kidneys function optimally and aid in the elimination of toxins. Water will also help to support proper elimination via the colon.
  • Include lots of fruits, vegetables and high fibre grains in your diet to help support the colon in its role and to prevent constipation.

9.  Support your body with as nutrient dense whole foods diet. This type of diet provides you with optimum nutrition to best support health, well being, fertility, a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.  If you are not sure where to begin, hit your local farmers market, before you will be the best foods to support your body and prepare it for the journey ahead. And of course a visit with a nutritionist specializing in preconception care would also be a huge benefit as you take time to prepare for pregnancy.

10. Take time to reduce your stress. Stress plays a large role in our hormonal system and can also be the trigger for unhealthy eating habits, poor sleep habits, and so on. Take time for yourself every day. Use the time to focus on you and the journey you are about to embark on. Go for a walk, mediate, take a yoga class, read, enjoy a bath – do whatever allows you to relax and de-stress on a daily basis.

Nothing in life is guaranteed and nothing is risk free, but by taking time preconception to clean up your environment, you take steps towards achieving optimum fertility, a healthy pregnancy, a wonderful birth experience and a healthy baby. Every pregnancy should begin in an optimum state of well being, it is best for both mom and baby. Take time, take care of yourself and ensure a healthy start to your pregnancy by taking time preconception to clean up your external and internal environment.

Kim Corrigan-Oliver is a first time mom and published author. She is a certified holistic nutritionist specializing in nutrition for mom, baby and toddler. She loves good food and to cook. And, she loves to share her passion for all of the above with those interested in learning more about feeding their babies and raising healthy happy children. For more information please check out her website at Your Green Baby.

Other posts by Kim Corrigan-Oliver

Herbs and Fertility

Nutrition Guidelines in the Preconception Period

Cosmetics and Fertility

Cosmetics and Your Fertility

By @YourGreenBaby

Have I got your attention? Never really thought about how your cosmetics or personal care products affect your health and your fertility. Well it is time to think about it.

We use many different personal care products daily, from shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, toothpaste, body lotion, deodorant, make up, hair products, perfume and so on. Most of these you use before you even step out your front door to start your day.

So why are they a problem? Well to put it simply these products are chemical concoctions which are not required to undergo testing before they are put on the shelves for you to buy.  The Environmental Working Group suggests people apply an average of 126 unique ingredients on their skin daily and these chemicals, which are absorbed by our bodies, rinsed down the drain and flushed down the drain in human excretions, are causing big problems not only to human health, but they also impact wildlife, rivers and streams.

So just how do they effect fertility?  When these chemicals are applied to the skin, the body absorbs them and stores them in fatty tissues and organs such as the liver, kidney, brain and reproductive organs.  According to the Environmental Working Group, in August 2005, scientists published a study finding a relationship between plasticizers called phthalates and feminization of U.S. male babies, naming fragrance as a possible culprit. And when estrogenic industrial chemicals called parabens were found in human breast tumor tissue earlier this year, researchers questioned if deodorant was the source. And then, when studies show, again and again, that hormone systems in wildlife are thrown in disarray by common water pollutants, once again the list of culprits include personal care products, rinsing down drains and into rivers.  We cannot ignore this research.  If the hormone systems in wildlife have been thrown off, can you image the effect on our hormones when we apply these chemicals to our bodies on a daily basis?

The connections are there, so it is time to sit up and take notice. So just what should you be looking to avoid when you look at an ingredient list on a cosmetic product? Here are some of the chemicals you want to avoid:

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) – human carcinogen, causes brain and liver tumors in animals at low doses, endocrine disruptor, causes contact dermatitis and skin depigmentation, persistent environmental toxin.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) – endocrine disruptor, skin and lung toxicant at low doses, causes death, liver and stomach cancers, thrombosis, fibrosis and liver and brain damage in animals, strong, skin and eye irritant.

Dibutyl phthalate – neurotoxin, linked to impaired fertility and urinary abnormalities, linked to breast and ovarian cancer, contaminates wildlife.

EDTA – neurotoxin linked to brain damage in animals, caused liver changed and endocrine damage in animals, caused fetal death and birth abnormalities in animals, made from formaldehyde and the kicker, approved for use in cosmetics and baby food.

Oxybenzone – endocrine disruptor, produces free radicals that can increase skin aging, environmental toxicant.

Parabens – all of them including butyl, ethyl, isobutyl, methyl, propyl, are skin and eye irritants, endocrine disruptors linked to breast and ovarian cancer, environmental contaminant.

Padimate O (Octyl Dimethyl PABA/PABA Ester) – has estrogenic activity, releases free radicals which damage DNA when exposed to sunlight, causes allergic reactions.

PEG (with any number after it) – often contaminated with 1,4-Dioxine, which may cause cancer, suspected endocrine disruptor, linked to cancer in animals, skin and eye irritant.

Phthlates (commonly hiding under the word “fragrance”) – reproductive toxins

Triclosan – endocrine disruptor, affects thyroid hormone, caused fetal death in animals, strong skin irritant, environmental toxicant.

These are just a few of the chemicals from The Green Beauty Guides 100 Toxic Chemicals You Don’t Want in Your Beauty Products.  Yes, that is correct 100 toxic chemicals.

So just how do you avoid them? You read labels, if you can’t pronounce it, if you don’t know what it is, if it looks like only a scientist would know what it is or if you wouldn’t eat it, it is better left on the shelf.

There are products out there without these chemicals; you just need to look for them. And many times you can turn to your kitchen for alternatives. Coconut oil, almond oil and even olive oil, all make great moisturizers for face and body. You can make you own body scrubs, soothing eye masks, and so on. You can find easy recipes by doing an online search.

For more information on cosmetics and to see the test results of more than 65 000 products check out the Cosmetics Database at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Resources

The Environmental Working Group www.ewg.org

The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

Kim Corrigan-Oliver is a first time mom and published author. She is a certified holistic nutritionist specializing in nutrition for mom, baby and toddler. She loves good food and to cook. And, she loves to share her passion for all of the above with those interested in learning more about feeding their babies and raising healthy happy children. For more information please check out her website at Your Green Baby.

Other posts by Kim Corrigan-Oliver

Herbs and Fertility

Nutrition Guidelines in the Preconception Period

The Importance of Preparing For The Journey

Spring Tonics

By Julie Stockman

As the weather in our area continues to warm, we are finding evidence of all kinds of renewed life. Bare trees have become full of fresh green leaves and showy blossoms. Daffodils and tulips have pushed their way up into the light and are beginning to show off their beauties. And signs at the edge of driveways are beginning to advertise Asparagus and Rhubarb.

I find myself thinking of renewed life too and especially this year, renewed vitality. Two close pregnancies and then two little tandem nurslings to keep up with gave me the justification I needed to reach for the not-so-good foods this winter. At times, I think I ran on coffee and sugar alone.

Now those road signs for asparagus and rhubarb are calling me back. It’s time to get back on track, my body seems to be saying. It’s time to cleanse yourself again. The world outside responds by offering just the things I might need to do that.

Here are some of my favorite Spring tonics. They are perfect for shedding the winter blahs and capturing some of the renewed life around you.

Nettle Tea

I began drinking nettle tea during my second pregnancy and consider it a multi-vitamin in a tea. Not only do nettles contain Vitamins A and C, calcium, chlorophyll, iodine, iron, magnesium, and potassium, but the tea seems to have a magical healing effect on my adrenals. I like to make a big batch in my half-gallon pitchers as soon as I start to feel run down or overwhelmed.

My process is simple: add 1/4 cup of the leaves of the stinging nettle plant (dried or fresh) to a pot containing a quart of boiling water. Add flavors that you like, such as a pinch of mint, lemongrass or cloves. Remove the boiling pot from the heat, cover, and let it steep for as little as 30 minutes or as long as 12 hours. Add honey or other sweetener if desired and dilute with another quart of ice cold water before storing in the refrigerator.

As you can see, the process is much like making any other iced tea. The big difference is in the steeping time. Often, I will make mine right before bed and leave it steeping on the stovetop overnight.

Red Clover Tea

I added red clover tea to my arsenal on the advice of my midwife last summer. We are blessed with many red clovers throughout our pastures. Red clovers are said to have Vitamins A, C, and all the Bs, choline, copper, biotin, folic acid, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc. I find them to be a pick me up when I am feeling constantly fatigued – when I never feel well-rested no matter how much I am sleeping.

My process for the red clover tea is nearly identical to that of the nettle tea. I boil and steep the flowers of the red clover plant for 30 minutes minimum or up to 12 hours maximum. If you are making a batch of red clover tea with no nettles added, you might find that you don’t need to add any mint or other herbs for flavor. The red clover flowers also have a subtle sweetness on their own, making a sweetener optional.

The color of this tea is beautiful and it is a big hit at potlucks and parties.

Beet Kvass

Beet kvass is to me what kombucha is to many of my friends. I cannot tolerate kombucha well – I do poorly with almost all fungi in excess – but I make big batches of beet kvass to fill the same niche.

Beet kvass is basically just naturally fermented beet juice, but made in a way that doesn’t allow the beet juice to become alcohol upon fermentation (which would be an easy mistake since beets have such a high sugar content). I use it as a blood builder, such as right around my monthly cycle or for several weeks after giving birth, and as an immune booster. Beets are said to have a wide range of vitamin and mineral content, including Vitamins A, C and the B-complex, as well as iron, copper, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, and trace minerals.

To make beet kvass, you must first find a source of organic beets. It is absolutely essential that the beets are grown organically because genetically modified beets or beets grown on conventionally farmed soil will not have the beneficial bacteria present to ferment into kvass.

I use the beet kvass recipe straight from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon. Although I adamantly disagree with her opinions about breastfeeding, her information on soaking grains and naturally fermenting vegetables made this book a worthwhile purchase.

In her beet kvass recipe, you peel and roughly chop 3 medium-sized organic beets into one-inch squares, give or take. Divide the chopped beets into two 1-quart jars. To each jar add 1/8 cup whey and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt (non-iodized). Fill the jars with filtered water, leaving one inch of space at the top of each jar. Loosely screw on the lids (it is very important to loosely screw on the lids, as the carbon dioxide created during the fermentation process needs to escape or it might bust the jar). Leave at room temperature for two days, then transfer to the refrigerator.

The whey you need for fermenting can be hard to find in the U.S. If you have a milk share or access to unpasteurized milk, you can make your own whey by letting a small jar of milk sit out until it separates into curds and whey. I have used 1/8 cup of liquid from other fermented things such as fermented sauerkraut or kimchi in place of the whey. As a last resort, you can try pouring off whey from the highest quality yogurt you can find, then increasing the sea salt to 2 teaspoons per jar.

I usually drink somewhere around 1/2 cup of the beet kvass a day when I have some on hand. My children also like it and ask for it. When the juice is all used up, I usually add the beets to the compost pile, although some people have success with reusing them for one more batch before discarding them.

All naturally fermented vegetables have a cleansing and healing effect on the body and are incredibly beneficial to enjoy on a regular basis. Sourcing the starters and learning the basic process can feel like a steep learning curve and is a deterrent for many people. A good place to ask questions and find sources for starters is your local Weston A. Price meeting. You can visit wapf.org to find a meeting in your area.

Julie Stockman lives in Farmland, Indiana where she homeschools her children with her husband, Jeff. She spends her days baking, gardening, keeping chickens, exploring the nature around them, practicing gratitude and mindfulness, and writing about it all on her blog, Heirloom Homestead.

Other Posts by Julie Stockman:

When Mama Really Does Know Best: Why I Love Tandem Nursing

Organic Food Shopping Tips

Ideas for Finding a Good Naturopath or Nutritionist in Your Area

Treating Seasonal Allergies While Trying to Conceive

By @FertilityFlower

Unfortunately, when your garden starts a-bloomin’ oftentimes your allergies bloom with it. For all you allergy sufferers who are trying to conceive, remember that commonly prescribed and over-the-counter antihistamines can dry up cervical fluid which you need for baby making!

Cervical fluid functions to:

  • nourish sperm for up to 5 days
  • filter out abnormal sperm
  • make the environment within the vagina less acidic
  • provide a means for the sperm to travel through the uterus and fallopian tubes

Without it, it’s exceedingly difficult to determine your fertile phase nevermind the fact that it reduces the conduit for sperm to make their way towards the egg.

If you can avoid taking standard antihistamines, do so. Fortunately, there are some natural remedies for allergy season that won’t interfere with cervical fluid production.

#1 Avoid exposure to the allergen as much as is possible

Close windows (home and car) until the majority of the plume has passed.

#2 Neti Pots

Yes, yes…we all hate them but they work at ridding your nasal passages of the tiny, prickly sea urchin-like pollen particles. Use your neti pot twice daily, flushing your nasal passages with salt water (especially after time spent outside)

#3 Stock your pantry with allergy-fighting foods rich in Omega-3s

Cold-water fish, flaxseed, walnuts are all good sources. You can also use Cod Liver Oil supplements (which have the added benefit of actually improving the quality of your cervical fluid). Stick to between 20,000 and 30,000 UI per day, particularly if you are trying to conceive!

#4 Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles actually inhibit the production of histamine (which is causing your eyes, nose and every other orifice to leak right now). It’s God’s antihistamine! It comes in capsule form, 300mg, and will provide some relief (albeit temporary). You can also drink it as tea or in a tincture.

#5 Raw Honey

Raw, unprocessed honey contains 90% of the pollens, dusts and molds that are causing your allergies in the first place. A teaspoon of raw honey, daily, is like a natural  allergy shot.

So, those are just a few natural options for treating seasonal allergies that won’t hinder cervical fluid production.

What natural remedies have you had success with?