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Female fertility considerations
In our last issue we discussed some of the factors affecting male fertility, impacting sperm number, shape and motility, which means how well they swim.
In this edition, we look at the more complicated aspect of a couple's fertility, namely the female role. With women it's more complex because there is more that could possibly go wrong. Also, the tricky timing of conception is impossible to predict accurately without some effort on the part of the woman.
Of course, basal body temperature is a good starting place. A couple can conceive within a few days before conception to 24 hours afterward. Finding that window of time can done by counting about 14 days into a 28 day cycle. If your cycle is longer, shorter or possibly irregular, you will want to measure your temperature to figure out what day you ovulate. In order to do that, you want to measure your axillary (underarm) temperature each morning on waking. Try not to even get out of bed before measuring, because you are looking for changes on the order of half a degree to one degree Fahrenheit. To track such a small change, it is best to keep a graph or list of your temperature each day during each month.
When there is a rise of 0.5 degrees or more, especially toward the middle of your cycle, you are probably ovulating. Take advantage of that opportunity to attempt conception (which is a nice way of saying that it's time to get intimate).
There is of course also the mucous method. For much of the cycle, cervical mucous is thick and sticky, which sperm find to be impenetrable. However, at the time of conception, there is a clear, slippery, thinner raw egg-white quality to the mucous, which is called Spinnbarkheit mucous. This is something that you can tell by wiping some of that mucous with your forefinger and stretching it out from your forefinger to your thumb. If it is stretchy and doesn't break till you've stretched it out over an inch or two, then you've got a Spinnbarkheit mucous, which enhances fertility.
The most important thing to keep in mind is not to put pressure on yourselves to conceive. Both male and female partners can have various degrees of performance anxiety that decrease our ability to reproduce in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Very often adopted children are the oldest of their siblings, because after the adopted child comes along, the pressure is off the parents to conceive, and then they do so naturally and easily.
Other considerations that enhance female fertility are:
- Getting enough essential fatty acids. Not enough good things have been said about fish oil and the omega-3 fatty acids in them. Many women who have trouble conceiving have either hypercoagulable blood or some atherosclerosis, either of which keeps adequate nourishment from getting to the ovaries and later the fetus. Other good sources of essential fatty acids are eggs, nuts, and olive oil.
- Alkaline foods are very important for maintaining a welcoming environment for a baby. Emphasize vegetables in your diet as well as non-citrus foods. However, lemon does alkalinize the body well. Sprouts and wheatgrass are also alkalinizing. Black cohosh is an herb that has been used for many generations to enhance fertility.
- Eliminate caffeine and alcohol and any unnecessary pharmaceuticals.
- Take a multiple vitamin with B's. You will be much better off getting your vitamins from a health food store, rather than a discount store or drugstore, where most of the vitamins you get will be synthetic and unusable. The health food stores sell more bio-available, food source vitamins in general.
- Cruciferous vegetables are important for the proper metabolism of your hormones. Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are example of these vegetables.
- Get enough sleep, and try to reduce your reactions to stressors. A baby will only feel welcome in your body if you are relatively calm and can provide a safe environment, without a lot of biochemical fluctuations caused by stress.
Herb of the Month: California Poppy
Here in Arizona, the beautiful sunny California poppy is just beginning to blossom. It is so resplendent that if you have ever wanted to see the Southwest, now is the best time. Mid to late March through mid April is a good time to see our vivid multicolor wildflower displays, especially after a relatively wet winter, such as the one we have just enjoyed. Look for lupines, penstemons, desert marigolds, globe mallow, and of course, the magnificent California poppy.
California poppy is easy to grow in the Southwest, provided you remember to sprinkle your seeds on the ground the previous fall, and if you have at least of a few sprinklings of moisture during the winter to help the roots begin to establish. California poppy brightens the desert here quite nicely, even growing in otherwise barren and sparse areas.
California poppy or Eschscholzia Californica is a distant relative of the opium poppy, but fortunately is quite legal and available. The whole plant is specifically used for a type of insomnia that can be described as "busy brain," when there are too many thoughts or racing thoughts preventing sleep. 1 or 2 teaspoons of California poppy in a cup of water is a nice way to wind down from an exciting or stressful day in order to clear the mind sufficiently to enable sleep.
Pregnant women should not use California poppy, however, as it can stimulate the uterus and cause miscarriage.
Somebody's heart stops: What do you do?
Sooner or later many people will find themselves in a situation where someone near us needs emergency help. If you find yourself in the presence of a victim of electrocution, near drowning or cardiac arrest you can make a huge difference, even if you never learned CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation).
9 out of 10 cardiac arrest victims die before they get to a hospital. Not receiving CPR plays a significant factor in many of these deaths. Many others will suffer brain damage as a result of getting help too late. Once blood flow to the brain stops brain cells begin to die very quickly; in as little as 5 minutes.
Many people are fearful of giving CPR because of the mouth-to-mouth contact and the concern that infectious disease may spread from victim to rescuer. The spread of infectious disease from victim to rescuer is actually quite rare. Additionally most cases of cardiac arrest occur in the home were the rescuer will be a relative or close friend. Now new research published in the medical journal Lancet shows that the chest compressions performed during CPR are usually far more important than the mouth-to-mouth breathing.
What to do if you are the only one present with a collapsed person, or the only one willing to help:
If a person is collapsed, first very gently attempt to rouse them and ask, "are you okay?" Raise their feet if possible. This will increase blood flow to the head. If there is no response, listen for breathing. Also, check the wrist or side of the neck for a pulse. Try to find the same point where you would find your own pulse.
If you can't find either breathing or pulse, call 911 right away. Better yet, find a specific person to call 911 yelling out to the nearest observer "You! Call 911," while you attend to the collapsed person. If you have to go far away from the collapsed person to get to a phone, it would be better if you stay to help that person, and shout for another person to call 911.
Now, if you cannot detect breathing, gently adjust the head and neck so that the person's chin is tilted forward. This will open the airway, and facilitate breathing. Unless you witnessed the collapse, there may be a broken neck or other unexpected injury. Don't move the victim any more than necessary.
Next, roll the collapsed person to lie face up. Locate the bottom third of the breastbone (between the nipples). Kneel next to the collapsed person, and place the heels of both of your palms there, one on top of the other, and with straight arms, lean over the person and push repeatedly - about 10% of your body weight as your very rough guess. Use about the same rhythm of your own pulse.
Just keep going until you can get someone else to give you a break, or until the collapsed person revives. Yell again for someone to call 911 if necessary. The EMTs who arrive will relieve your efforts, if no one else can help you first.
If you have a separate cloth, you can put that over the person's mouth, place your own mouth over it, and force in two of your breaths.
Then give 30 more chest compressions. Then two more breaths. Repeat. Again, the chest compressions are far more important, if that is all you are willing to do for the person. A brief illustrated guide to these steps can be found at the University of Washington.
In the event you tire before help arrives and need to stop for a moment Traditional Chinese Medicine has used a point about one-third of the way down from the nose to the upper lip as a "rescue point" to help in reviving an unconscious person. This point described in our March 2005 article Acupuncture in an American hospital is known as Du-26 and pictured here. Momentarily pressing on this point with your thumbnail may help in reviving the person. This should only be continued for a few seconds. If it has no effect then CPR should be immediately resumed.
The above description is obviously not meant to provide training in Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation. We can not offer advice on how you should act or respond in an emergency situation. If you would like further information or training on CPR - courses are offered by the American Red Cross and American Heart Association. Many local fire departments also offer CPR courses.