You are what you eat

"You are what you eat" is a saying often bandied around but it wasn't until I reached my 40's that I realised how true it is (I know, I'm a bit slow).

Your body is, literally, produced from what we put into it.  In the womb, we are made from the nutrients that our mothers take in but once we're in the outside world all cell renewal and growth can only happen if the body gets food and fluids.

Bodies can survive for a long time on not much - water and bread or rice if necessary but we can't thrive on that.  You only need to look at pictures of people in war torn countries where there is no regular supply of food to see the results of malnutrition.

But you don't have to wait for The News to see the result of a nutrient-poor diet.  Many people who come in to the clinic, although living perfectly safe lives, are undernourished and therefore not in the best health. It is obvious to those of us working in this field because we're on the look out for symptoms and we understand the link between a body strong in nutrients and fertility.  However, we have grown up in a society where there is a disconnect between what we put into our bodies and what we expect to get out.  Our food comes off white shelves, in plastic boxes covered in clingfilm with no traces of the soil it grew in or evidence of the it's origins.  Food is marketed and chosen on how the packaging appeals to us, not on how it will nourish our bodies and minds.  And yet we still expect it to get us through our busy days at work, long commutes, Body Pump or Spin classes and busy social lives and still have enough left over to help us conceive, or produce good enough sperm to conceive.

The latest evidence for a nutritious and healthy diet is to cut down on carbohydrates and increase healthy fats and proteins.  Healthy fats come from nuts, seeds, olives, coconuts, oily fish, organic meat and full-fat organic dairy.  Fats allow absorption of nutrients and feed the brain (1/6 of our brains are made up of Omega 3 Fatty Acids) and offer an effective slow-release energy source which in turn regulates insulin and our hormones.  Most of these foods also offer some level of protein which are vital for cell building.  Last on the list should be carbohydrates which only function as a quick-release energy source.  If you stick to complex carbohydrates like brown rice, brown bread and wholewheat pasta then you're already doing your body a favour but it's vital to cut out white and processed foods because they offer nothing in the way of nutrients and only cause hormonal imbalances.

For those who want to know more - come and see our nutritionist Dr Jane Jamieson or look up Ketogenic diets online for some information on low carb eating.  But most importantly, try to start looking at food in a new light -  as a source of nutrients for your bodies, which should result in improved egg and sperm quality and great health of your future baby.  Food can still be enjoyable and tasty, just make sure it's doing you some good at the same time.

Lovely Thank You Message

It makes us so happy to receive your good news, it doesn't matter how long after we last saw you. We once received a thank you card 2 years after seeing a patient and were so pleased and relieved to find out what had happened and how things had turned out.

Here is our latest Thank You email - we know it helps patients to read others' stories, to feel there is hope and know that things do work out for many, many people.

Ladies,
I meant to send you this email months ago!
I wanted to say thank you for your help conceiving my children.
I believe acupuncture has made a real difference in the IVF process.
I have 3 beautiful children which I never thought I would ever have.
The twins were born the day after my last appointment on 14th September.
Rachael, Fiona, Jill, Anu, and Monika, Thank You very much.
I recommended you to a friend of a friend and after many IVF attempts she is pregnant and due soon.
You are doing an amazing job.
Sorry it took me so long to send this message.
Kind regards

Another Happy Customer!

Here's our latest case study from a patient, in all her own words:

I am age 38 and had four years trying and then four rounds of IVF in 2016. Unexplained infertility on my part, my husband tested fine. I had 12 eggs of which 7 fertilised, all 5 day blastocysts. My fourth frozen transfer worked and I am nearly 18 weeks pregnant J

I had been having acupuncture for around 18 months with another lady (not at the clinic) but I had a great initial appointment with Dee who gave me lots of great advice and then with Fiona who I think was for Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. Then I had two abdominal massages with Jill just before my fourth IVF transfer.

The clinic was a real breath of fresh air, as where the practitioners. It had a spa feel about it which was so relaxing. I really only attended a few times before my fourth round of IVF worked but I think the abdominal massage and the instruction on using the castor oil packs really helped me. I really focused on keeping my uterus calm, warm and in good health which I really believe the massage and castor oil packs helped with.

The massage was just amazing, so much time spent on the treatment and really good value.

Having unexplained fertility left me with nowhere to go really as I had nothing that my doctors could actually treat so looking at natural alternatives really helped me to feel that I was still being proactive – and without spending a fortune!

The advice on things that I could do myself like the castor oil packs and going gluten free was just invaluable. Every day that I practiced this I felt that I was making a difference and that was a great feeling.

Well, all I can say is that my fourth round worked just after my visits and abdominal massage so I am sure that they definitely contributed!

I was so close to starting IVF for the fourth time that I only used the Chinese herbs very briefly so I don’t think they even had a chance to take effect. But I still think they are worth doing and would consider again.

I would highly recommend a visit to the clinic. So much good advice and you can actually have a really open and honest conversation. We talked about different case studies too so my faith was definitely restored after four long years of trying. I was also really impressed with the up to date knowledge that the practitioners had – more than my own doctors ever had or ever wanted to share anyway. And the treatments are really good value for money which helps when you may have already spent a fortune trying to conceive. My only regret is that I didn’t find the clinic sooner!

New rulings on BMI and IVF

This article in the Mirror online reports that couples who's BMI is too high or too low will no longer be offered a round of IVF on the NHS (in England).  We already know that women with a BMI over 35 have to cut this to 30 before being offered a round of IVF in Scotland. In England they also need to have been trying to conceive for 3 years rather than 2.

Having worked with couples who are trying to conceive for the last 12 + years, we understand how frustrating new stipulations can be.  It just seems like another hoop to have to jump through.  But on the other hand, we also know that many couples will go on to conceive once they have either lost or gained enough body fat to allow their hormones to balance out.  So it makes sense to get this sorted before embarking on IVF.

People usually only think of body fat as a way to tell how much people eat and/or exercise - too much or too little.  What is not as commonly understood is that reproductive hormones are stored in your body fat.  This is why women with too little fat (like long distance runners) often stop having periods.  Their bodies cannot store enough oestrogen to generate ovulation and therefore to have regular period.  With men it's the same.  Men with high levels of body fat will have too much oestrogen which effects their testosterone levels and sperm production.

At the weekend, some of the Natural Fertility Team were at the Fertility Fair in Manchester where we met and chatted with many couples struggling to conceive and also consultants and researchers from the IVF world.  It was an interesting weekend and we did notice a number of people (hetero-sexual & same-sex couples and single women) who were overweight and a few who were obviously underweight.  If these imbalances could be put right before turning to IVF then maybe fewer couples would reach the point where they felt they needed it.  Obviously, some couples DO need IVF - those with blocked tubes, no sperm or other medical conditions that make natural conception impossible - and that was what IVF was invented for but many consultants and IVF nurses say readily that couples could improve their chances by addressing their general health.

To this end we will be putting up more general nutritional and life style information on our site over the next while so everyone can access the basics.  In theory it's not that difficult to achieve a good level of body fat once you are motivated enough and if you can follow and stick to the advice.  It can and should be a slow and steady process but it's amazing how much simple changes or additions to diet can help bring levels of body fat to their optimum place and restore hormonal balance, allowing a greater chance of natural conception as well as IVF success.  We know it's not always easy in practice - and sometimes it's actually more difficult to gain body fat than lose it - but it is possible with the right support and perseverance.

Tips on Tackling Endometriosis

Tips To balance oestrogen levels:

Increase intake of fibre especially whole grains, pulses, brown rice, flax seeds, fruits and vegetables.

Eat bitter foods such as chicory and radicchio and vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and turnips to improve oestrogen clearance via the bowel.

Reduce saturated fat intake and cut down on meat, poultry and dairy produce.

Avoid foods containing sugar, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol (see our info sheet on sugars).

Tips To help reduce inflammation:

Eat fruits rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, especially the pulp and inner peel of citrus fruits, grape skins and berries.

Take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement containing vitamins B-complex, C and E, zinc, magnesium and selenium.

Take a daily supplement of omega-3 essential fatty acids and evening primrose oil.

Avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oils including margarine.

Other tips:

Take regular moderate exercise, especially first thing in the morning but avoid strenuous activity during your period; Make sure you take plenty of rest when you need to

Acupuncture can help reduce pain and regulate the menstrual cycle; Chinese or Western Herbal Medicine can be useful for pain relief and hormone balance; Use painkillers that do not contain codeine but try to cut down on using analgesic drugs altogether; Relax in an Epsom-salt bath to relax the muscles deeply and release emotions and stress.  Dissolve 1-2 cups of Epsom salts in hot water and immerse yourself for 20 minutes or so.  When you are dry, lie down quietly for another 20 minutes.

How Sugar affects your fertility

Image: Rosanna Davidson Nutrition

Image: Rosanna Davidson Nutrition

When we refer to sugar we’re talking about fructose. Fructose is found in refined sugar, fruits, honey, agave, maple syrup and many processed foods.  Sugar causes our hormones to fluctuate hugely.  When your hormones are fluctuating it puts a massive strain on your fertility and fertility is about your reproductive system working to the best of its ability, regardless of gender and whether you are trying to conceive or not.

Sugar messes with your hormones: When we consume sugar it drives our insulin levels too high & too quickly for a brief period of time, then it drops dramatically.  Our adrenals go into a ‘stress response, by releasing cortisol and adrenaline in an attempt to restore our sugar levels back to an even keel and this leads to a hormonal imbalance.

This impacts our fertility because progesterone (the main hormone required for ovulation to occur) and cortisol compete for the same receptor binding sites in the body and cortisol always wins.   If this continues for an extended period of time it can disrupt the entire endocrine system, meaning all your sex hormones whether you’re male or female: oestrogen, progesterone and the androgens DHEA and testosterone.

Sugar causes inflammation: This is of particular importance to women who suffer from endometriosis. Endometriosis affects the uterine lining and makes the implantation of an embryo difficult.  Many endometriosis sufferers who cut out sugar from their diet notice substantial changes due to the immediate reduction of inflammation. Our bodies aren’t designed to consume quantities of sugar and our gut goes into a frenzy trying to cope. Inflammation is our body’s reaction to this.

Sugar consumption affects PMS: Hormones need to be in balance in order to keep everything running smoothly and our moods even.

Sugar leads to insulin resistance: Many women who suffer from PCOS have insulin resistance. Insulin is released by the pancreas to convert sugar to energy; so the more sugar we eat, the more insulin we release, eventually leading to insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is linked to issues with ovulation, maturation of the egg and implantation of the embryo into the uterine lining. It also puts women at a much higher risk of miscarriage.

Sugar depletes essential vitamin and mineral stores: In order for our hormones to function efficiently they require specific amounts of vitamins and minerals to be well-fuelled. Fructose severely depletes our vitamin and mineral stores and this can have a huge impact on our fertility. When our stores are low, our entire body is compromised which contributes to amenorrhea, irregular periods, lower immunity, increased infection (which can be a factor in miscarriage), increased anxiety and depression and gut health issue like irritable bowel syndrome.

A deficiency of vitamins and minerals will also age you.

If fertility is important to you or is likely to be of relevance in the not too distant future, one of the best things you can do to ensure your hormones are in tip-top shape is to reduce your sugar intake.

If you're looking at cutting sugar, focus on the foods you can eat rather than those you can’t, to make quitting easier and it’s still fine to include some organic fruit in your diet. It’s not as bad as you think!

Why are we still not getting pregnant?

Could a micronutrient deficiency be stopping you conceiving?  NFC Nutritionist Dr Jane Jamieson (PhD) examines the issue.

The patients I see at the Natural Fertility Centre are looking to improve their health and increase their chances of either conceiving naturally or through IVF.  Some people have specific issues – male sub-fertility for example, or low AMH. Very commonly I see an imbalance of hormones and thin endometrial lining. 

Women usually seek out nutritional help of their own accord.  Most, but not all, men have been persuaded or coerced by their partners and many couples are referred to me from my colleagues at the centre. As a nutritional therapist I am more likely to see couples than most of the other complementary therapists and this makes perfect sense.  Nutritional therapy impacts the sperm and the egg equally and good nutrition for both ensures the best possible embryo with the greatest chance of success. 

Generally people try to eat fairly healthy diets and this is a great starting point for nutritional therapy.  However, many people are often unaware of what a healthy diet really consists of for their specific needs. Patients might increase their intake of fruit and try to cut out refined sugars in biscuits and alcohol but will not be as aware of the need to add in nutrients.  Because of this, many of these patients still struggling to conceive.  

Reaching optimal fertility needs a multi-faceted approach.  The basics are: a healthy diet, regular exercise and good sleep which all lead to balanced hormones.  Sometimes these can all be in place but conception is still elusive.  This is when we look at deficiencies of micronutrients. Very often people are taking in enough nutrition for their every day needs however, if they have been depleted for a period of time, they will need an enhanced programme and specific supplementation to counteract their deficiencies. 

There are two types of nutrients - macronutrients and micronutrients.  Macronutrients are the foundations of a healthy and fertile body.  They include carbohydrates, proteins and fats.  These need to be eaten in the right ratios dependent on a patient's lifestyle and underlying genetic make-up.  In a consultation I help people work out what their optimal balance needs to be.

Micronutrients are nutrients that the body needs, in very minute amounts, in order to function optimally.  They are the catalysts that help the body work most efficiently and effectively. They include vitamins (eg. C or E); minerals (eg magnesium and calcium); trace elements (eg chromium and copper), phytochemicals and antioxidants. Understanding where your body is lacking and addressing your specific needs can make the difference between having a successful outcome and almost being successful. 

Micronutrient deficiency becomes even more of an issue when the couples are older and whilst they may have a great diet now, that may not have been the case in their 20’s or 30’s when they were training, or working hard and playing hard! It all needs to be taken account of. 

My job as a nutritional therapist is to pin down deficiencies in micronutrients that may be causing difficulties with fertility and conception.  It’s a complex business and requires an in-depth knowledge of chemistry and biology but the deficiencies are usually obvious to the trained eye and can be put right through a combination dietary advice, targeted supplementation and lifestyle interventions.  

They key is finding out why the deficiencies arise – is it due to lack of a certain micronutrient in diets (eg not enough iron in vegetarian diets) or due to problems with absorption because of digestive issues?  For example, patients with IBS are often lacking in micronutrients as the gut doesn’t have time to absorb them before they are expelled by the body.  Stress also causes the body to use up its resources much more quickly than normal, so leaves you deficient in enough nutrients to help fertility.

Very often, I recommend a Hair Mineral Analysis which highlights deficiencies and give me a precise guide on which changes to recommend to a patient, but the aim is always to make it practical and manageable for you.  Sometimes dietary changes seem be daunting, depending on where your starting point is, and patients either go for it full throttle or make smaller, incremental changes.  Whichever way you want to go, these improvements can make a huge difference to your health and your fertility and also gives your baby the best start in life. 

 

Exploitative IVF 'Add-on's'? We disagree.

Both The Times and The Telegraph have today printed details of a BMJ report on exploitative methods used by IVF clinics in the UK and these were followed by a BBC Panorama programme which has only left our patients more confused and disorientated than before.

Ok, so they might be right about London where competition is fierce and prices are high, but we disagree about clinics here in Scotland.  We know we're not over-endowed with IVF clinics up here but the ones we do have are mostly good and are patient, rather than money, focused.  NHS IVF clinics, generally, do not offer many, or any, 'add on's' such as Assisted Hatching or PGD (except where genetic disorders are present).  Most will offer Blastocyst transfer, which I would suggest is now the norm rather than an 'add on', and Uterine 'scratching' but we know from many years experience that they don't by any means push these on patients. 

The one private clinic of note in Scotland, the GCRM (based in Glasgow but with satellite clinics in Dundee and Edinburgh),  are very careful with what they advise couples.  Our experience with them is that they look very carefully at the research and only recommend a treatment or technique if they think there is enough evidence to support it.  We sometimes get frustrated when we read about, and have patients who successfully try, other interventions (such as immune system testing, which the GCRM is now providing) in London or abroad, but we appreciate that clinics here proceed with great care and we value that integrity.

From the perspective of our patients, we know many like to gain a wider perspective and have the options laid out in front of them.  Here at the clinic we see it as part of our job to inform people about what's available both in the UK and abroad. Sometimes, a couple is happy not to find out more and would rather just go with what they've been offered but we're always here to provide information about alternative clinics or techniques to interested patients.

The BMJ also says in its report, that IVF is often offered to patients who don't need it and this we have found to be true.  Conventional 'bio' medicine sometimes seems to bypass what we see as common sense and go straight to interventionist options.  We have seen many, many couples where an irregular menstrual cycle, overwork (leading to high levels of stress hormones) or missing the time of ovulation is really all that's going against them and, although IVF can overcome the first and last of these, it need not be the first point of call.  I have spoken to IVF nurses who say the same .... many of the couples they see do not actually need IVF at all.  On the other hand, we have seen couples who, despite all the fantastic nutrition, acupuncture and other 'complementary' interventions, do not go on to conceive naturally but do conceive with IVF.  In those cases, you can be sure that there is some physical or hormonal barrier which remains un-diagnosed but which IVF overcomes.

So all in all, we would say this BMJ report has some value if it makes patients more aware of being led up the garden path by unscrupulous clinics but, here in Scotland, our experience is that add-ons are carefully considered and offered in appropriate circumstances.

'It's Stat time of year again!' or 'Not just a bunch of numbers'

I'm not sure what's happening to me.  On the Business Management HND course I did when I was 19, statistics were my most dreaded subject, along with accounts.  Now however, that they seem to have a purpose and Excel has been invented (yes, it was that long ago), I actually really enjoy the number crunching.  It's amazing what you can glean from a full spreadsheet of figures and it does really feel like 'data mining' - digging into the rock face of figures staring at me on the screen and finding those gems.   

What's also lovely is seeing patients' names again - patients we treated way back in 2012. I remember them and the stories they told me, both happy and sad,  over the time they came into the clinic.  These memories give even a flat excel spreadsheet a warmth and richness of detail.

Of course, I understand that not many people out there get as much excitement from this as I do but I'm hoping that sharing our results means you can make informed decisions - whether or not it's worth coming to see us, for example - and whether you feel happy telling struggling friends about what we do.  Not only that of course, the data  also helps us keep track of how we're doing and, I'm very pleased to say, that our results/success rates have been consistently high since we started keeping track effectively (2012).

Here are some simple stats to get you in to the groove:  

40% of our patients are using, or have used, ART (Assisted Reproductive Techniques) including IVF, ICSI, Egg donation and Sperm donation.  That means, of course, that 60% are trying naturally.

22% of patients have had either one or more miscarriages.

14% of patients have been told they have 'unexplained infertility' and 12% have a Male Factor issue.

Importantly:  38% of the total number of patients we have seen since 2012 went on to conceive. That's from everyone, whether we actually know their results or not - when we don't know the outcome we record no pregnancy, although actually experience has shown us that people often have been successful but have just moved on in their lives and haven't remembered to tell us.  Even better, of the 43% (359 people) from whom we have results, 85% have conceived.

Despite the excitement of number crunching, it's the patient's stories the shine through most in this exercise.  Each little '1' in the 'pregnant' column is an overwhelming joy for you and a shout of jubilation for us. Each '0' in the same column is a deep sigh and a willingness to re-group, construct a new plan and to make things better next time.  We share so much of your lives in the precious sessions in the clinic: some people want to chat, others want to close their eyes and lie still, but there is always an interchange of stories and ideas, which certainly enriches our lives and, hopefully, yours as well. 

Seeking the thin blue line - a personal blog

Blog post 1

 

I’m 33. My partner and I are trying for a baby. A family. It’s proving much trickier than we thought.

The lovely ladies at The Natural Fertility Clinic are supporting us and they’ve asked me to share my journey with you. It’s a very personal one. It’s not one I’m sharing with many people and I'm finding it lonely. I’d spoken to Rachael about reaching out for support from the Clinic’s community, I let slip that I write, and we came up with this idea.

These are all my own thoughts, my experiences. They may reflect your own, they may not. You may disagree with what I say, how I’m handling things. Or something I write may reach out to you and make you feel you’re not so alone. Ultimately I’m hoping that by sharing something intimate that impacts so greatly on me everyday, but that is rarely talked about, that I’ll feel less alone too.

I’ll be publishing this blog regularly so please look out for it and comment, share, like, connect with me - and please be kind - thanks. Daisy

Fertility vs Fertility

If you look up the word 'fertility' in a dictionary it will give you two definitions: 1. the ability to conceive children or young and 2. the quality of being fertile or 'productiveness'.  Synonyms for this last definition include: fruitfulness, productiveness and prolificacy. 

The article, Redefining our own fertility - and then realising we never lost it in The Huffington Post puts an emphasis on the this second definition of fruitfulness and productiveness and suggests that we have lost sight of this more general and generous aspect of Fertility.   The author describes older women, in their 50's, 60's and 70's, who are enjoying a full life; exploring aspects of creativity beyond reproduction and childbearing and encourages us to discover and nourish our productive selves.

Working from within the fertility industry we tend to see only one side - that concerning reproduction.  We witness the many patients who come looking for support and treatment when conception is either delayed, or, further down the line, improbable without medical help.  It is easy to forget that there is a wider role for men and women as fertile beings in life. 

In our role as supporters of sub- or in-fertile women and men, we should also encourage them to explore and develop the other fertile sides to their lives.  Whether through sport, adventure, art, self-development, writing or even the way they manage their lives, we can try to bring to each patients' attention their ability to express themselves, create and be fertile in many other ways.

Thank you letter from a happy patient

We often receive cards with thank you's and they're all kept proudly in a folder in our reception but are difficult to share online.  Here's an email we received from a happy patient which we can share easily with you all in the knowledge that many take hope from hearing other patient's stories. 

Hello
Just wanted to let staff who have been involved in our treatment know of your part in helping us to have a positive and successful journey so far...
Particularly wanted to extend our thanks, and ask you to share this message with Jill Storstein, Acupuncturist.
 We both had acupuncture treatments with Jill last Autumn, various dates through November.
We then had IVF treatment at GCRM in Glasgow in cold and wintry mid December last year, so just squeezed this in right before Christmas.
Our positive pregnancy result on 28 December, and later 8 week scan, all were promising.
Since then we have had one or two extra private scans, plus our NHS maternity scans also.
 Last week we had our 20 week scan and all is looking very well.
Baby is measuring right on target for a 3 September due date, and all physical development looking very healthy.
 We are so hugely grateful for all support from your centre, and the excellent treatment received from Jill.  This means the world to us.
We are now trying to relax and believe this will really happen this time, and now need to get busy with preparations and clearing out nursery space at home!
 We will of course update you in around 4 months, once the happy arrival joins us!"

We also had the additional acupuncture sessions immediately before and after embryo transfer. These were carried out by Alan Hunter in Glasgow, affiliated acupuncturist, who is experienced in working with GCRM patients at the clinic. Another incredibly supportive professional, and excellent treatment, which helped give us extra confidence at the crucial stage.

 "We hope that many other couples will feel encouraged on their journey, and confident in trying therapies available.  It is difficult to believe that things will stay positive, particularly after experiencing loss and heartaches in the past. However we feel we explored all options and did all the things we could within our means, to put ourselves in as strong a position as possible, and give ourselves best chances of succeeding. Luckily we sought out great care, and were fortunately blessed with good results."
 

Latest Testimonial

Here's a short testimonial from a past patient, now looking to conceive No.2.  We often hear back from patients who are ready to try again and it's lovely to welcome them back and catch up on all the news and life-changing experiences!

I have PCOS with very irregular periods. We’d been trying to get pregnant for over a year and I was taking clomiphene for ovarian stimulation, with increasing doses every visit to the ferility clinic. The urine tests were showing that with increasing doses it seemed to be working initially, then stop again. As a GP, I’d heard of acupuncture for fertility and thought it was worth a try. Rachel was a great therapist and I found it very interesting from the medical perspective too. After 1 month I got pregnant. I continued to attend in early pregnancy and I now have a beautiful baby girl.

The Heartache of Recurrent Miscarriage

Almost one quarter (22.5%) of our patients have suffered from miscarriage or recurrent miscarriage.  Of those, our records show that at least 45% do become pregnant again and most of those patients go on to give birth.  But what happens to those who don't stay pregnant and suffer one miscarriage after another?  

Lately, the number of women coming to us with recurrent miscarriage seems to have increased and these patients are experiencing anger, frustration and grief on an emotional level, as well as the aftermath of blood loss and surgery on a physiological level.   They feel alone - surrounded by friends or relatives either pregnant or with babies; ignored by the doctors - who insist that tests are only available once three miscarriages have occurred, and at a loss as to how to help themselves.

Mark Zuckerberg highlighted the tragedy of miscarriage last year with comments on Facebook about he and his wife's attempts to have a child.  After three miscarriages and then a successful pregnancy, he wrote:

It’s a lonely experience. Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you. So you struggle on your own.

Loneliness does seem to characterise how the couple, and the individual, feels after a miscarriage.  Each pregnancy loss is a blow which most people do not want to share or discuss for fear of re-living the pain.  We very much understand and acknowledge a couple's, specifically the woman's, grief and loss, and try to provide a safe space to talk and be understood.  But we do, as a team, also try to help a couple communicate, find strength in each other and to look forward and visualise the possibilities.  

Partially, we do this by advising some practical steps. For example, we might recommend tests such as Hair Mineral Analysis, which can indicate abnormal levels of metals (like mercury, lead and aluminium - all very unhelpful in conception and pregnancy) in the body tissue.  The tests are relatively cheap to do and our nutritionist will go through the data with you and advise on ways to balance out the nutrients and eliminate toxins in the body (for both partners).   We also suggest private testing for those who don't want to wait for a third miscarriage.  Both chromosomal and blood clotting tests are available from private clinics.  Some patients have looked online and found information about immunological involvement - we can pass on information on clinics who offer testing for levels of Natural Killer Cells.  DNA Fragmentation testing is also available - offering a way to look at the involvement of the sperm in recurrent miscarriage which previously could only be guessed at. Research indicates that sperm DNA fragmentation could be a large factor in recurrent miscarriage. 

On the other hand, some patients are not ready to move forward and try again and our experience has shown us that sometimes just waiting, supporting and being there, is what that person needs most.  There is a huge fear and anxiety around trying again, which is wholly understandable and needs time - days, weeks, months -  to change into the courage to move on.  We also understand, and support the fact, that 'moving on' does not exclusively take the form of another pregnancy.  

Time to get your mojo back!

Recent research published on the Fox News website, has discovered that the more sex a woman has, at any time of the month, the more fertile she is, due to increased levels of specialist cells which help prepare her body for pregnancy.

Image: Fox News

Image: Fox News

The Fox News article states:

Researchers at Indiana University found that sexual intercourse, even when performed outside the window of ovulation, causes physiological changes in a woman’s body that make her more fertile.

The author of the study said that the research is the first to show that sexual activity may cause the body to promote types of immunity that support conception.  

Women's immune systems have a difficult task  - they have to  keep the woman safe by attacking diseases and infections but they also also need to recognise other types of foreign bodies, such sperm and embryos,  and leave them well alone.

There are two types of cell which help the woman in this task - 'helper T cells' which prevent the body from detecting the foetus and sperm as a foreign substance and 'Immunoglobulin G Antibodies' which are found in the blood and ward off disease without affecting the uterus.  Both these types of cells were found in greater numbers in women who had more sex during their cycle, meaning that those women had a greater chance of conception.

GP's regularly recommend that a couple have intercourse every 2 days when trying to conceive but this is because they assume that women are not able to accurately predict their 'fertile window.  In our experience, this advice can have a negative effect on couples, as the pressure to 'perform' (for the man and the woman) every two days is often too much to bear on top of busy work and social lives plus other commitments.  At the Natural Fertility Centre we teach women to be aware of the lead up to the fertile window, as well as the window itself but also emphasise the need to keep functioning as a sexually active couple throughout the month - for the sake of the relationship and communication on all levels.  Lately we have seen a few couples who have taken a break from actively trying to conceive in order to focus on their relationship, a decision which we applaud.  Getting your sex life back on track, or reassessing and revitalising your sexual relationship as a couple is vital to create a strong bond and improve your chances of conceiving.

Our Conception Coach, Dee Armstrong, is here on Mondays for women who want to learn more about identifying their fertile time.  For those couples who need help getting their mojo back, this book from YinOva director and author Jill Blakeway can be a useful guide and our counsellors, Gabrielle Moericke (Edinburgh) and Francesca Howell (Glasgow), can also give you expert support.  Sometimes small tweaks to your diet can make a huge difference as well - effecting mood and energy levels - and for those needing calm, acupuncture reduces adrenaline levels and helps to keep you relaxed and more able to enjoy life and enhance relationships.

Quantum Physics + Biology = Food State Supplements!

Traditionally, biologists have used the concepts in Newtonian physics to explain biological phenomena but this has never proved to be very satisfactory.  So I was delighted to watch Professor Jim Al-Khalili, in his series “The Secrets of Quantum Physics”, explore how quantum physics explains some of the mysteries seen in biological systems.

Episode 2 of his series “Let There Be Light” focusses on interesting problems which have never been satisfactorily explained before - questions like 'how do birds navigate so accurately?', 'how does chlorophyll capture light so effectively and transform it into physical matter?','how do enzymes work so efficiently?' and the 'mechanism of DNA mutation'. 

Newtonian physics describes how matter is constructed in simple terms and is easy to visualise and understand.  It is seductive in terms of using it to explain the natural world because it makes sense to our minds. Matter appears to our experience as solid and acts in a consistent manner and therefore Newtonian physics appears to describe how our world works. 

Quantum physics, on the other hand, can be quite difficult to bend our minds around as it describes our world as being made of particles which can either be in a state of a particle or a wave and can be both at the same time. It depends on what method we use to try and visualise these particles as to whether we see them as particles or waves. 

The exciting thing, to my mind, about using quantum physics to look at biological systems, is to imagine the interactions between different molecules occurring as vibrations (waves) rather than a physical entities.  This makes it easier to see how the energy that is contained within molecules affects how they interact. 

I had a kind of eureka moment, from watching some of his explanations, of how our receptors interact with molecules to give us our sense of smell and realised that this explains beautifully how synthetic molecules differ from biological ones. 

Biological molecules are in a higher energy state due to the amount of energy captured from the sun in the form of photons. As long they do not have too much physical processing applied to them, they remain in a high energy state when they are consumed which will affect the amount of energy they can give us and how good we feel when we eat these types of food. 

This explains why we feel better and do better on foods which are closer to nature such as wholegrain brown rice, compared to rice krispies. Rice krispies are ultimately based on rice grains but they have had all the nutrients processed out of them, using chemicals and high levels of heat, and goodness knows what else, and have had synthetic chemicals put back in, so that they can still be called food. 

You can easily prove the difference between these two “foods” to yourselves, by trying to eat a diet which consists solely of either rice krispies and water, or cooked brown rice and water. The first diet is very unsatisfactory to the body and would be difficult to sustain for any length of time.  The second, whilst being boring to the palate and the mind can be much more satisfying to the body and has been used as a great healing tool to assist digestive distress by many nutritional therapists.  

How do we apply this understanding to the differences between synthetic and natural or food state supplements? 

Most interactions that occur in biological systems occur through binding to receptors. That means binding to the receptors on cell membranes to trigger a reaction within the cell or binding to the receptor sites found within enzymes to allow chemical reactions to occur much more quickly. 

We can use the description given by Professor Al-Khalili of how our sense of smell works to understand that the bonds within molecules will vibrate at different rates depending on how the molecule is structured. The molecular bonds within a synthetic molecule will vibrate at a different rate than the molecular bonds found within food or foodstate molecules. This means that when the more natural molecules are attached to the receptor sites they will trigger a reaction more effectively and work more efficiently in the body. The net result of this is that natural foods and food state supplements are absorbed more effectively into the body, they are held onto for longer by the body and make a bigger difference to the biochemistry of the body. The end product of this is that that we get more energy, better hormone balance, improved digestive function and better immune system support. Over time this means restoring your body to a better state of health and this is why, as part of the Natural Fertility Centre, I developed our food state supplements. 

When you come to read this blog it is likely that the programme “Let There Be Life” by Professor Jim Al-Khalili may no longer be available on iplayer, however, it is still likely to be found on youtube and also Professor Jim Al-Khalili can be found on Ted Talks. His talks are always entertaining and illuminating. 

Dr Jane Jamieson PhD, Nutritionist, The Natural Fertility Centre