Fertility Journeys 2014
FERTILITY JOURNEYS 2014 ALL FIVE OF OUR CHOSEN COUPLES ARE NOW ON THEIR OWN PARTICULAR FERTILITY JOURNEYS, SPENDING TIME AND FORMULATING PLANS WITH OUR FIVE EXPERTS, WHO HAVE VERY KINDLY OFFERED TO GIVE UP THEIR TIME AND EXPERTISE AS PART OF THIS GROUNDBREAKING, NEVER BEFORE ATTEMPTED PROJECT. For all our couples this project is likely to be a rollercoaster ride, and in this issue there are the combinations of highs and lows that are to be expected, as the journey towards potential parenthood gathers pace. As always, we thank both our experts for their commitment, and our chosen couples for being so brave in telling their stories through
the magazine. What we hope is that their experiences will inspire and inform countless others, offering a true and complete glimpse look at the some of the real stories behind conception. We’ll be back with another update in the next issue, but in the meantime, please turn over to see what has been happening over the past two months.
DETOX: Simply Healing • NUTRITION: Dr Marilyn Glenville CHINESE MEDICINE: Andrew Loosely • HYPNOTHERAPY: Russell Davis • EGG DONATION: IVF Spain WWW.FERTILITYROAD.COM
Fertility Journeys 2014
WITH SIMPLY HEALING For the first time, we meet Mita and Pardeep, who were chosen to work with Vivien Kay and the other detox experts at Simply Healing. The West Sussex-based retreat has a great reputation for getting couples to optimum internal health in preparation for natural or assisted conception, and in May they kicked off a programme with our selected couple. In this issue, Mita details how her and her partner made it to this stage, and what has happened so far in their time with Simply Healing. The story so far
understand exactly what we are going through.
Following a miscarriage and complications my sister had in 2012, I thought I should get myself checked out before my husband and I started trying for a baby. I was so grateful that the doctor was happy to test us both without telling us to go away and try for a year, but that did nothing to lessen the disappointment of discovering that, while I was okay, my husband Pardeep came back with zero sperm count.
So as all of my test results came back clear and age was not of concern, we were eligible on the NHS for six rounds of IUI and one round of IVF. We started IUI in May 2013 and did six back-to-back treatments without any success. In December 2013 I began taking my injections for IVF and had egg collection in January 2014. I had 11 eggs, seven fertilised with ICSI, one embryo was frozen and one embryo was transferred on day three. Unfortunately, this did not work and there was no set reason given but egg quality may have been a factor.
In January 2013, we were referred to the specialist at the hospital for blood tests which confirmed azoospermia. The second consultant we saw advised us to consider using a sperm donor if we wanted to have a baby of our own, but in the early months of 2013 we explored adoption. Soon though, we found ourselves on the same path – we’d decided to go ahead using donor sperm. This was a huge decision to make and we knew from the start that we would want to tell the child, and therefore we had to inform our family, more for support than anything else. We have been together for eight years and married for six, so the ‘baby question’ comes up frequently. Pardeep quickly accepted his infertility and was happy to openly speak to family and friends about it, yet being part of the Asian community (where sex is a taboo subject, let alone IVF, and especially using donor sperm) it was a huge thing and we had two very different reactions from each side of the family. Joining the Donor Conception Network has helped us immensely, not only in enabling us to gain a wealth of information but, better than that, a place where we have found others who
At our follow up consultation in February 2014, we were advised to use our frozen embryo, but I felt that because of the unexplained egg quality and low embryo number, I wanted to try another fresh cycle even if that meant paying for the treatment this time. After all, if age was on my side, I wanted to maximise our chances to have baby number two one day instead of using the frozen embryo. We were due to start IVF next month which has now been pushed back two months because of the opportunity to work with Simply Healing through Fertility Road magazine. We opted to have an ‘endometrial scratch’ this time - which takes place usually between days 16-20 - before commencing the injections and next cycle leading up to egg collection.
Being selected to work with Simply Healing - May 2014 I patiently waited to be called in for my scan. Whilst there, I picked up the lone copy of
Fertility Road magazine from the table in the waiting room and flicked straight to the Fertility Journeys 2014 section wondering who the lucky couples were who got selected.
Simply Healing recommended that I eat steamed rice and vegetables the night before and had some fresh fruit in the morning before arriving. It was all happening!
only a shot. The celery was overpowering and it wasn’t a pleasant introduction to what was to come, but I reminded myself I was here to embrace it all, green shots and everything!
There was nothing yet revealed on the detox side - I had entered late, but thought I had put a good case forward. Was there still hope? Probably not, as I had never won anything, apart from maybe the odd £10 on the lottery! What were our chances? Curiosity got the better of me and I emailed Simply Healing for their price list. But with the cost of IVF eating into our savings already, there was no way we could afford the fertility detox plan.
1pm I was then treated to the main dining room but there was going to be no dining, just juicing, and this time a glassful! But thankfully, it was apple, carrot, yellow pepper and ginger, and absolutely delicious. I think I can do this!
The feature in the magazine highlighted the IVF egg donation couple only - I guessed the next edition would feature the other couples. Later that night I happened to be looking in my email junk folder and spotted a message. To my amazement, it was from the editor of the magazine asking if we were still interested. Yes! It looked like we still had a chance. Pardeep told me to go to sleep and reply in the morning – how could I sleep though?! A few days later I received good and bad news. Simply Healing wanted to work with us, but we would have to delay our treatment for at least two months. It was a bittersweet moment but there wasn’t actually anything to think about, we already knew what we were going to do... delay treatment. It was more important than ever before that we should embrace everything given to us and we felt that finally someone was on our side. Fate did want us to have a baby after all! A week later Vivien at Simply Healing gave me a call. We were on the phone for about half an hour and there was something about her voice and outlook that I instantly fell in love with. I finally let myself feel excited that something good was going to happen to us after all the pain and suffering we had endured over the previous few months.
9.30am I walked through the door to be greeted and shown around by Carolyn who works primarily in the office. She knew who I was straight away and there was something special about her welcome. We walked through the impressive warm house and I was shown to the ‘cream bedroom’ with my detailed plan for the next few days in my hand. My first item was a one-to-one consultation with Kate, a former nurse. Kate emphasised the point that the detox was about me and the next few days were my time and only my time. She took my blood sugar levels and blood pressure which were all fine. I weighed in at 9st 13lbs (almost two stone more than when I started my fertility journey two years ago!) 11am Next was the first juice of the day in the ‘juicing room’. The juices somehow magically appeared in the room looking perfect and fresh - a small shot glass size of what looked like green vegetables: power juice, consisting of cumber spinach, celery, broccoli, green pepper. I was told it was really good for my liver, and that there are five freshly made juices per day. My breakfast of strawberries and mango seemed so long ago that I was disappointed I was only going to get a shot. Was this what the week entailed? Five shots of juice a day? After tasting the first sip, I was secretly glad it was
2.30pm Next was the psyllium husk with a touch of apple juice in which you add some bentonite clay, mix together and drink. It looked off, like a very thick paste, but surprisingly tasted okay. I had four tablets of cleansing herbs, all helping to clean my insides in preparation for my colonic. A glass of apple, pear and red pepper juice followed. 2.30pm Then the treatments began. I met Nicky who has featured in Fertility Road before. Again, there was this instant connection and I was drawn to her. She made me feel so relaxed and comfortable and I had only just entered the treatment room. Nicky first did links reflexology and was able to tell me exactly what was going on before I’d even revealed anything. My right foot gave away the fact I was guarded and protective about the disappointment of previous failed treatments, while my left foot was open to treatment working with donor sperm. 4.30pm The abdominal sacral massage was an odd treatment but Nicky worked her magic and made me feel at ease again. Having a massage without actual muscles being massaged felt strange but it was all about getting energy and blood to my vital reproductive organs.
Sacral massage expert Nicky
Preparing for our visit to Simply Healing As keen as we were to get started with the detox and visit Simply Healing, it was important to plan in dates that fitted with my cycle and ovulation times. Simply Healing suggest you cut out meat (I’m vegetarian), dairy and alcohol (I don’t drink) and junk food (which I hardly eat) in the run-up to the stay, to help you prepare for the detox. We had done a couple of home juicing programmes before so had an idea of what to expect, but also knew it was going to be a shock to the system, so we introduced a few juices instead of lunch and snacks during the day from the Monday (three days before going).
Fertility Journeys 2014
questionnaire I’d filled out prior to my arrival. There were some interesting revelations, namely that fresh orange juice is not good as its acidity inhibits digestion. Furthermore, I was unaware I had been eating strong proteins with strong carbohydrates - this is what was making me feel bloated and making me go to the toilet! Flo also explained that strong protein foods go with low starch/carbs, and low proteins with strong carbohydrates are more favourable food combinations for when we get back home. Small changes like brown rice rather than white, and rye bread and spelt instead of wheat will really make the difference.
5.30pm Juice of spinach, fennel, courgette, cucumber and green grape - these green juices are definitely not for me! 5.30pm Full body salt scrub to brush away all the toxins on my skin. 7pm Meditation. 7.30pm Detox soup of pea, lettuce and mint. That was my first day complete. No headache, hunger or nausea. I loved the Simply Healing touch of different sizes and styles of glasses throughout the day, and the tall mug for evening soup. With only seven others there, the house didn’t feel overcrowded and everyone knew their detox was about them, so never any obligation to do anything. At Simply Healing clients (men and women) lounge around in their dressing gowns, nap in their rooms, watch something in the TV room, sit in the main living room with the fire going, relax in the conservatory or outside and look out onto the countryside and refresh! It’s absolute bliss!
In the afternoon I had my first one-to-one session with Vivien, and of course, I was nervous. I have read about her healing powers but was unsure how much I believed. After all, the process of IVF and the constant negative result makes you feel very protective and leads to you questioning everything – you don’t want to believe in something because of the fear of disappointment and getting hurt. But Vivien made this thought disappear very quickly and I could feel her heat and energy during my session with her. I felt very blessed to have this one-to-one time with her and she explained her reasons for choosing us for this amazing opportunity. She could do her special bit for us but it was important for me to make some changes too. Later that afternoon I had my nutritional consultation with Florence based on the
We went through supplements to help complement IVF treatment, but also addressed the stress factor and having important ‘me’ time. Flo promised to email me the following week, and again with a follow-up email a few weeks after that in order to really support me in making the changes I needed to make. Pardeep arrived that evening, just in time for the last juice of the day and soup. Lucky him!
Day 3 We began day three with a three-mile walk through muddy woods – it was great to have my husband by my side. At 10am I had a colon massage with Florence, who of course understood my eating and toilet habits from the previous day. This was intense and slightly painful, but bearable. I could feel her move the stuff from my right side through to the exit! It was strange but she really worked her magic. This was all in preparation for the dreaded colonic irrigation in the afternoon, but I left feeling calm that I was one step closer to being very clean indeed! I had a detox massage after that then the
Day 2 Day two was to follow a similar regular process of juices, though I started the morning with a pleasant walk through the countryside. I had hypnotherapy in the morning. Initially it sounded scary as I didn’t know what to expect, but by the end of the session I felt it was more like meditation - a chance to really focus on me and give myself both positive phrases and mind pictures that worked. Instead of worrying about future things, Karen helped me to focus on key points, offering me perspective I had somehow lost over the past few months.
I had hypnotherapy in the morning. Initially it sounded scary as I didn’t know what to expect, but by the end of the session I felt it was more like meditation - a chance to really focus on me and give myself both positive phrases and mind pictures that worked. Instead of worrying about future things, Karen helped me to focus on key points, offering me perspective I had somehow lost over the past few months. colonic hydrotherapy in the afternoon. Anything alien usually keeps me up at night - I couldn’t sleep for days ahead of going in for IVF because I was worried about the anaesthetic – and having the colonic on the itinerary should have been high on my list to keep me awake at night, but maybe it was because of the resounding calmness at Simply Healing that I found myself approaching the treatment with little apprehension. Carolyn was yet another therapist who had this warm energy about her and instantly I felt at ease. She explained the process and showed me all the bits and what they did. It felt uncomfortable but as soon as I relaxed everything started working as it should. Carolyn did the essential bowel reflexology points and then proceeded with massaging my colon to get things moving more! What a result! I felt so empty and so hungry. I remember thinking ‘now I’m clean, I don’t want to put any toxins in my body again’!
I was expecting another green juice but was pleasantly surprised with a bowl of red cherries, pomegranate, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries with a little bit of agave syrup! I concluded the day watching The Green Mile in the TV room – an apt movie about healing. Perfect.
Day 5 I weighed in to find I’d lost nearly half a stone! How good was that feeling... I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so good about myself. Vivien accompanied us for a fresh fruit breakfast, reminding us that the bowl of fruit was the size of our stomachs, and to think before we eat! She also recommended chewing food 20-30 times to help you digest it! We went through juices we could make at home and I promised to stay off the dairy, wheat and carbs for the rest of the week. We talked through the different food options - soup mainly and salads, and the idea of snacking on nuts and fruit if we get peckish. A few more days of juicing before ‘real’ food! I know I have a little bit more weight to lose which should come off if I stick to the plan, especially over the next few days, but we are definitely on the path to success. Vivien told
me she knows my secret about the picture I have in my mind when I close my eyes and imagine my baby! How does she know this? We departed that afternoon, so happy and optimistic.
Thank you! Reading the Simply Healing website, reviews and articles online simply did not prepare me enough for the five-day fertility detox I was going to experience. It really is a place of healing, something I did believe but did not fully appreciate until I felt it. We have both come away more conscious than ever before about the food we put into our bodies and the effect it has. More importantly, I feel so different, like a weight that I didn’t even know existed has been lifted. I’m very grateful and very appreciative of what I do have going for me and extremely at peace and relaxed. We are so grateful to Vivien for choosing us to take part in this journey. She believes in us more than we do ourselves and I believe she is going to do everything she can to ‘make it happen’. I have to play my part and make some tweaks in my lifestyle, but am looking forward to coming back in a few weeks for my next session with Vivien and Nicky. And beyond that, who knows...
I had a one-to-one with Vivien who could already see the change in me, some more juice, a walk in the woods, meditation, a Potassium Broth soup, then bed.
Day 4 Day four included toning, Pilates and another abdominal sacral massage. This time Nicky said she could get right in as my stomach was much softer. She worked her magic and did the uterus lift too! This means now that my uterus is getting a good flow of blood and circulation as it’s not leaning on or squashing any other organs. I had an Indian head massage at lunchtime, more juice combinations, then a real treat...
Your Fertility Journey
WITH DR MARILYN GLENVILLE We’re delighted to welcome renowned nutrition and supplements expert, Dr Marilyn Glenville to Fertility Road magazine as one of our chosen Fertility Journeys experts. The published bestseller has been working with Sonya and Paul on their fertility journey. Here, we meet the couple and reveal more about Dr Glenville, by introducing her Natural Health Practice. If you and your partner are having problems conceiving or staying pregnant, doing everything you can to boost your fertility is important and could well make the difference between being able to have a healthy baby or not. How a nutritional consultation can help you with boosting fertility and preventing recurrent miscarriage A nutritional consultation involves building a detailed picture of your lifestyle, eating habits and medical history, and any concerns you have about your health. The consultation aims to identify nutritional factors which may be affecting your fertility and to design you a tailor-made nutritional and lifestyle programme to address your individual needs and boost your fertility. Before your appointment you will be asked to complete and return a nutritional questionnaire. This will help maximise the effectiveness of your appointment by asking questions about your health, digestion, immune function, stress and more, and will ask you to complete a diet diary so we can see what you are eating and drinking. Your partner would also be asked to complete a nutritional questionnaire and there is separate fertility/ miscarriage questionnaire which covers where you are on your fertility journey and what tests you both may have had already. At your appointment your questionnaire will be discussed. You may be advised to have tests and the results of any tests will be taken into account when suggesting the dietary and supplement recommendations. Testing can check for deficiencies including the antioxidant vitamins - vitamin E, lycopene,
lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, minerals – zinc, calcium, chromium, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium - vitamin D, the B vitamins, iodine and the essential fatty acids, Omega 3 and Omega 6. Making sure you are not deficient in key nutrients is important for fertility; for example, a deficiency of vitamin D is known to impact on auto-immune problems and inflammation that may be affecting your fertility and ability to maintain a pregnancy. Good levels of antioxidants are crucial for male fertility and reducing sperm DNA fragmentation. Depending on your problem and whether you have already had investigative tests, you may be referred for additional tests. With all information gathered we can work together to form an eating plan that suits your needs and your lifestyle and daily commitments. We’ll help you identify and avoid unnecessary or harmful foods, as well as ensuring you enjoy an abundance of wonderful food that makes you feel good in body and in mind. You will also be advised on which vitamin and mineral supplements are best to take to correct any deficiencies found or whether other nutrients like probiotics for example are needed to correct abnormalities found from any test results. Improve your fertility with nutrition There is ever-increasing evidence to support the importance of good nutrition for fertility. Crucial nutrients such as zinc, selenium and essential fatty acids, often lacking in today’s diets, are vital in the pre-conception period to optimise sperm and egg quality. Nutritional support is particularly helpful for unexplained fertility male fertility problems, failed IVF cycles and boosting IVF success rates and preventing miscarriage.
Nutrition as part of your IVF/ICSI treatment
Our nutritional programmes have been designed to be used prior to and during assisted conception procedures. In fact many experts now believe that to maximise success, assisted conception should always be accompanied by a healthy nutrition and lifestyle programme, as nutrition is known to improve egg and sperm quality, fertilisation rates, implantation and foetal development.
My husband Paul and I first went to see Dr Marilyn Glenville to see if there was anything else we could do as we had been put in the bracket of ‘unexplained infertility’ by our local fertility clinic after three failed ICSI treatments from 100% fertilisation! So we wondered where we could go from there.
Nutrition – crucial for female fertility A comprehensive nutritional programme can help with many of the common female problems that contribute to infertility such as PCOS, endometriosis and fibroids. The right nutrients can address any nutritional deficiencies and help normalise hormone levels, establishing optimal conditions for conception and implantation. Nutrition – crucial for male fertility General health, weight and nutritional status can have a significant influence on sperm quality and quantity. Selenium, zinc and other nutrients have been shown to improve sperm count, morphology and motility over a three month period. Antioxidant nutrients can also play an important role in reducing elevated levels of sperm DNA fragmentation, thereby increasing chances of fertilisation, healthy blastocyst development, successful implantation and a successful pregnancy. While, as a woman, you cannot change the quantity of eggs you have (ovarian reserve), you can certainly change their quality and this is the important point. For men, we can help to change both the quantity and quality of sperm. From a nutritional consultation you will come away with a tailor-made plan of action knowing exactly what you need to do, taking into account your own personal circumstances and what tests and treatment if any you have had already.
I had already done some research on nutrition, and how it can help with infertility, and discovered Marilyn’s website, which was extremely helpful. We had both been taking supplements for the last few years and thought we had a good diet, but decided to start taking Marilyn’s supplements then arrange a consultation. We had our first consultation and Marilyn was very reassuring. From our pre-consultation questionnaires she said we’d already started to make good changes in our diets, but suggested a few more tests to try to determine the cause of our infertility. Firstly, nutritional profiles were taken for both of us as she explained that there are certain vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy full-term pregnancy. The other, a sperm DNA fragmentation test, was required, then dependent on results, we could go from there. We got the results through three weeks later and had a follow-up with Marilyn to talk them through. From this, we finally had some answers that could go some way to explaining our infertility. Marilyn was very positive and tailored supplements to our individual needs. So, as a result, we are currently in the process of trying to correct our nutritional deficiencies. We have been warned this will take at least three months, then we can be retested before thinking about going for another ISCI cycle.
OUR TAILORED SUPPLEMENTS Our supplements were individually tailored from our nutritional profiles, and my husband’s sperm DNA fragmentation results. It was revealed that I was low in magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, EPA Omega 3 and vitamin D. Therefore I was prescribed to continue with what we were taking whilst adding extra Omega 3 and then the minerals, so as follows: 1 x Fertility Support for women (am and pm) 2 x Omega 3 Support (am and pm) 1 x Vitamin C Support 1 x Bio-magnesium (am and pm) 1 x Bio-manganese (am) 1 x Copper Gluconate (am) 1 drop of Bio D Mulsion My husband’s nutritional profile showed low levels of copper, zinc and vitamin D, and the Sperm DNA fragmentation came back high at 36% (which could explain the 100% fertilisation but failed three ICSI blastocyst transfers, as Marilyn said that it doesn’t affect the fertilisation only the continued development after Tri-blastocyst stage), so he was prescribed to continue with Marilyn’s range: 2 x Fertility Support for men (am and pm) 1 x Omega 3 Support (am and pm) 1 x Vitamin C Support (am and pm) ...then for the mineral deficiencies: 1 x Copper Gluconate 1 x Bio D Mulsion ...and then to reduce the DNA fragmentation: 1 x Nutriguard (am) 1 x CoQ10 200 (am and pm) 1 x Acetyl Carnitine & Alpha Lipoic Acid The first three support supplements are from Marilyn’s range through the Natural Health Practice, and the others are from the BioCare range apart from the vitamin D, which is through the Biotics Research Corporation.
Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD is the UK’s leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health. She is the Former President of the Food and Health Forum at the Royal Society of Medicine and the author of thirteen internationally bestselling books including ‘Getting Pregnant Faster’ and ‘Natural Solutions to PCOS’, For more information go to www.marilynglenville.com. Dr Glenville runs a number of clinics in London (Harley Street and Kensington), Tunbridge Wells, Dublin and Galway. If you are interested in a consultation (in person, by phone or Skype), you can contact Dr Glenville’s clinic on 01892 515905 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Fertility Journey
CHINESE MEDICINE WITH ANDREW LOOSELY
We catch up with Louise, who in the last three months has started working with the founder of Natural Fertility Expert, Andrew Loosely. It’s early days, but Louise is optimistic about what the future might hold. When I heard that I had been selected to work with Natural Fertility Expert, Andrew Loosely, I couldn’t believe my luck! I recognise how fortunate I’ve been to be selected for this fantastic opportunity to work with him, with the intention of preparing me for my next IVF cycle. Andrew will be supporting me to get my fertility health into the best possible shape, to increase my chances of success. If it works and I get pregnant, Andrew said he would continue to support me through the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy, by which point I’ll be fine to continue on my own. Upon being told that I’d been successful having applied to be a part of Fertility Road magazine’s groundbreaking Fertility Journeys project, I knew I wanted to get started immediately. So Andrew and I scheduled an initial meeting to talk about how we would work using his tried and tested three-step programme, The Baby Creating Plan.
The first meeting Before starting the programme, Andrew wanted to get clear on what I’ve been through over the last few years, and what my future plans are for my journey. I explained that this would be my last IVF cycle and he agreed to support me right up to the end of the cycle, and beyond, if it’s positive! We talked about the struggles that my partner Sean and I have had on our journey so far, and discussed the areas that we need to investigate further. He provided me with a list of everything that I needed to get tested in advance of our next meeting, which would be my Natural Fertility Expert Health Assessment.
Getting really clear Step One of Andrew’s programme is to complete an assessment that identifies what my fertility health is like now, and where it needs to be to optimise my chances of IVF success. We met on the scheduled day and spent two hours together talking through every aspect of my fertility and general health, so that he could completely understand what has been and is going on in my body. I can honestly say that I feel I’m in the best hands ever as he covered every possible aspect of my health! Andrew started the session by talking through
my medical test results, BBT charts and health notes, and explained how Chinese Medicine can fit into my pregnancy plan. Andrew then picked up on something that has never been discussed before, which is that my luteal phase is short and very low in temperature. He explained that this could have been the reason that I haven’t conceived naturally so far, and why my IVF cycles may have failed in the past. With a poor luteal phase it appears implantation would be made difficult, and that it is something that is frequently overlooked in conventional medicine and IVF treatment. Andrew also explained how it can be changed, and that we would work to do that over the next six months.
We will use herbs that are bespoke to my needs, and will be made into different prescriptions throughout every stage of my cycle. I’ll be taking this herbal medicine every day, with fortnightly supervision from Andrew. And what’s important is flexibility in the process, so the herbs used will change as I progress. WWW.FERTILITYROAD.COM
Could herbal medicine transform your fertility? …by Andrew Loosely What is herbal medicine?
He then assessed me using Chinese Medicine, which involved lots of questions about my day-to-day health, as well as detailed questions in terms of each stage of my menstrual cycle. He even looked at my tongue and explained that this is one of the diagnostic methods that Chinese Medicine uses – incredible stuff. Once the assessment was completed we talked through his diagnosis, and outlined in full detail how Chinese Medicine sees my fertility health, and how this also links to other health issues that I’ve experienced over the years. Andrew explained what was out of balance and how, over the next six months, we can work to re-establish a healthy body, ensuring that every aspect of my cycle will be balanced and controlled before I attempt IVF again.
My new strategy With the assessment complete we created a plan of action so that we know where I’m heading with treatment for the next six months. We will use herbs that are bespoke to my needs, and will be made into different prescriptions throughout every stage of my cycle. I’ll be taking this herbal medicine every day, with fortnightly supervision from Andrew. And what’s important is flexibility in the process, so the herbs used will change as I progress.
A wonderful surprise! To my surprise, Andrew has organised for me to have extra support with other members of his team whilst he’s working with me. This means that I also get to work with his fertility nutritionist, to balance my diet and supplements; his emotional wellbeing expert, to make sure I’m feeling emotionally supported; and his fertility massage expert to help improve my womb health and circulation. The integrated approach that Andrew takes is so refreshing, as it offers a completely holistic way of looking at fertility. I’m so excited and feeling so much more hopeful about my journey again, and I’m prepared to give it everything I’ve got to give myself the best chance possible of conceiving. I finally feel that I’ve got the best natural support available, and I’m excited to be able to share my experience with Fertility Road readers!
Herbal medicine is the use of selected plants as medicine, which is referred to as herbs. For more than 2,000 years Chinese physicians have been using herbal medicine to treat fertility problems. The oldest Chinese medical text describing herbal fertility treatment was written around 475 BC. Over 1,500 plants in China have been identified as having medicinal properties, and around 100 are used specifically for enhancing fertility.
How do herbs work? Herbs deliver energy and nutrients to your body that help it to work more efficiently, and reestablish a state of balance and natural fertility. Blood quality and circulation are improved allowing better flow of blood and nutrients to the reproductive organs. Reserves of energy and nutrients are increased allowing your body to draw on these reserves at the time of implantation and early pregnancy.
Three key benefits of using herbal medicine Safety – with more than 2,500 years of use Chinese herbal medicine is a safe, natural approach to balancing fertility. 203 million people safely use herbal medicine in China every year, as prescribed by their herbal practitioners. Effective – herbs deliver key nutrients and energy to your body helping to promote good health and increased chances of conception and pregnancy. Personalised treatment – Chinese Medicine follows the principle that your fertility health is unique to you, and that it’s possible to discover the underlying cause of your delay. Once this is known then your treatment can be focused on restoring the root cause, and enhancing your fertility.
What fertility issues can it help? Irregular menstrual cycles, Endometriosis, uterine and ovarian cysts, PCOS, fibroids, sperm quality, unexplained infertility, BBT irregularity and more.
Where’s the evidence? 2,500 years of use – every year there are trials being carried out around the world in Europe, US, Scandinavia and Asia, all showing the positive effects of herbal medicine. To reference one example - ‘Efficacy of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine in the management of female infertility.’ This trial showed a 50% clinical pregnancy rate out of 1,851 women, compared to 30% pregnancy rate for IVF alone. (University of Adelaide 2011 published by Elsevier).
Any tips on using herbal medicine? Only work with a qualified and experienced practitioner who specialises in Chinese herbal medicine for fertility, and never self-prescribe herbs. Use the three-step approach that Louise is receiving as part of Fertility Journeys 2014. Use herbal medicine to enhance your natural fertility or to prepare for future IVF or egg donor cycles.
Your Fertility Journey
HYPNOTHERAPY … WITH RUSSELL DAVIS
Three months ago, our fertility expert Russell Davis began working with Leah, who was keen to use cognitive hypnotherapy as a way of channelling her energy and emotions into conceiving a second child, some 16 years after her first. After failed attempts and a number of diagnoses, the 38-year-old is looking to put behind her two miscarriages and to move forward. Russell writes... In our first session we explored some of Leah’s limiting beliefs that prevent her from fully experiencing a sense of ‘I’m okay’ - innate wellbeing regardless of circumstances. We are all born with a sense of ‘I’m okay’ - just look at little children being in the moment. But as we go through life we tend to pick up thinking that prevents us from truly recognising who we are and the innate wellbeing within us. Thinking that tells us our sense of being okay is dependent on external situations, whether they are represented by people or circumstances.
Leah has begun to connect with this innate wellbeing, which means she no longer needs to look externally for wellbeing as it is there already. What’s more, it never goes away, we just forget it from time to time. This means Leah feels calmer and more at peace and is also sleeping better. 24 FertilityRoad
This is thinking about life in general that we tend to bring into our fertility journey. For me, one of my beliefs was ‘I don’t get things in life easily; I have to work harder than everyone else to get what I want’. For Leah, it is things like ‘I’m only okay if nothing stresses me out’ or ‘I’m only okay if people treat me fairly’.
The injustice of infertility is also quite a big thing for Leah. She had a strong feeling of anger about circumstances involving her exboyfriend that again was about injustice and how she (and potentially her fertility) had been impacted unfairly. Helping Leah recognise the nature of thought means she no longer needs to give these stories power or meaning. A dog chases its tail because it doesn’t understand the nature of a tail. As soon as it realises it is part of the dog it stops chasing it. We chase our thinking because we don’t understand the nature of thought - we think it is real, we think the resulting feelings need to be acted on. We think we need to do something about them. When we see thinking for what it is, just stories in our head (often habitual stories we tell ourselves from the past), we no longer need to give them the power and attention we have been. It is not an intellectual understanding
that frees us from the power of thought; it is a deeper sense and feeling that our wellbeing is not dependant on anything. Leah has begun to connect with this innate wellbeing, which means she no longer needs to look externally for wellbeing as it is there already. What’s more, it never goes away, we just forget it from time to time. This means Leah feels calmer and more at peace and is also sleeping better. We also went back into Leah’s childhood to reframe and let go of the source of a particular thought pattern around injustice and resulting feelings of anger. Our thinking is far more plastic than we may imagine, and memories become unstable when we recall them. We cannot change what happened in the past but we can let go of the resulting belief/thinking habit or feelings by reframing the experience subconsciously. As children we experience things when our emotional intelligence is not fully formed and we can reframe those experiences with more adult understanding which lets go of the resulting stored beliefs and emotions that we bring into present situations without being aware of it - believing it is a result of the present circumstances. In moving from ‘Project Baby’ to ‘Project You’ we want to make sure Leah is at peace with herself, and accepts herself as she is today. One area she wasn’t at peace about was her relationship with chocolate! Our relationship with food is interesting as so many of us eat emotionally to one degree or another. The thinking behind the eating is ‘if you eat this you will feel happier/ more content’. Again, taking Leah back to the time when she first associated emotions with chocolate identified a situation where, due to circumstances, the young ‘her’ associated being loved with chocolate rather than the giver (her nan). Having let that association go Leah feels far more in control of her chocolate eating, even surprising herself at the difference! Interestingly, the core belief was that Leah felt in control, and like a lot of people Leah likes to feel in control of situations! Of course fertility is not something you have total control over with. Leah also has a suite of hypnosis mp3 tracks to listen to each night - one based on our conversations and sessions, and one focused on utilising the mind/body link to guide her body to do what it needs to do to help her get pregnant. In a handful of sessions Leah has made fantastic progress in changing her experience of life day to day, feeling more relaxed, sleeping better and in general being more confident in herself. This groundwork of letting go of past thinking and beliefs as well as actively utilising the mind/ body link through hypnosis is going to ensure she can get into the optimum state mentally and physically for her to get pregnant naturally.
Leah writes... Wow, what a lot of changes since I last wrote... and so quickly! Firstly I am sleeping peacefully, for the first time in 20 years or more! I have more energy and I feel so calm and positive. But the most unexpected difference I have noted is in my wellbeing, in what has surprisingly become a journey of self-discovery for me. With the aid of various recordings, books and hypnosis from Russell, combined with our regular sessions, I have been delving into who I really am, looking at my habits and behaviours, many of them I’d not taken time to appreciate in the past. For example, chocolate - it always felt like a part of me; I am even labelled as ‘Leah the Chocoholic’, though I never saw the link to an emotional connection with it. Through talking about my experiences with chocolate, Russell got me to do some visualisations to go back to the time with my nan when I was just three years old. It was revelation to realise that this ‘story’ had been one of many shaping my thoughts and my relationships. So Russell has helped me to understand my thoughts in a totally new way. He has shown me the tools I can use to apply the principles of mind, consciousness and thought in order to compartmentalise the emotions I experience day to day, whether at any certain moment that might be anger at my situation with fertility, or fear, or anything else. Now, once I understand what these thoughts and stories are, I can allow them to wash over me rather than give them power to take hold to the extent of making me feel something physical like pain or illness, which has often been the case in the past. And the results... well, mentally I am in a completely different place. And physically, incredibly, my Thyroid condition has healed
to the extent that I no longer need to take medication for it, much to my doctor’s astonishment, not to mention mine! Even though I have always been quite holistically inclined, and therefore have a good understanding of how the mind/body it is so inextricably linked, I still sit back in awe when proof like this arises. To experience this has been the biggest revelation for me during this journey. And in terms of infertility – well, I realised just last week that my thoughts were telling me a story that I wasn’t well enough to have a baby because I had been diagnosed with a Thyroid condition, Endometriosis and some scarring in my fallopian tubes. I had become obsessive in researching all the information I could find on these and many other fertility subjects, and I realise now that my mind wanted to prove my thoughts were right and this was the purpose of my researching. This was the story I had been telling myself... Russell has been helping me to understand why my thoughts did this, recognising that they are just thoughts, nothing else. Although I can’t control them coming in, I can control whether or not I give them power to make me feel or act in a certain way. In understanding this I am now able to allow these thoughts to just flow through me and I feel a sense of ease and calm instead. I am at a place now where I feel calmness pretty much all of the time, whereas before I was filled with anxiety as soon as challenges arose, and that in turn was affecting my sleep. I find that the stress level now is so low and lasts for much less time and I can usually fall into a relaxed sleep very easily, even if the day has thrown new things at me. I can’t thank Russell enough for all he has done so far, and look forward to continuing working with him over the coming months on this wonderful journey of discovery!
Your Fertility Journey
EGG DONATION … WITH IVF SPAIN
We catch up with Emma and Craig, who had already started their egg donation programme with specialists IVF Spain, and were returning to the continent for their first transfer. Emma writes… The Hotel Husa is about 10 minutes’ walk from the clinic, so a perfect location. The hotel was clean and tidy – TripAdvisor says ‘tired’ but I had no complaints and it was a peaceful retreat, with a golf course if inclined. The outdoor swimming pool was not heated so I didn’t swim but the weather was very pleasant for sunbathing - a much more relaxing way to go through treatment than juggling it with work! Alicante is more of a holiday location for the Spanish and the season doesn’t start for them until late June, so May was a nice time to go as it was quite quiet, and the number of restaurants opening along the waterfront gradually increased over the course of the few days. Typically, outside of the hotel not many people spoke English, but I got by! I had a scan on arrival at the clinic – again everyone was very accommodating and
friendly. Then the day after egg collection from the donor we got a call to say how many eggs had fertilised, then every day afterwards we had a call from the biology department to say how they were progressing. We initially had around 11 eggs retrieved and we willed them on as if they were our own, and on day five we had five perfect blastocysts, so exactly in line with what Dr Szlarb had suggested. On transfer day the clinic were great and booked me in for transfer around 9.30am, so I could fly home the same day as I was really homesick missing Craig who was working hard, and our dog, who wasn’t! I had intralipids first and during the transfer process. Intralipids are a fraction of the cost in Spain compared to the UK. We had two textbook quality embryos transferred. It was strange because the run-up to the process was so simple and relaxing compared to my experience of IVF, and I thought I was so much more relaxed and the-
On transfer day the clinic were great and booked me in for transfer around 9.30am, so I could fly home the same day as I was really homesick missing Craig who was working hard, and our dog, who wasn’t! I had intralipids first and during the transfer process. Intralipids are a fraction of the cost in Spain compared to the UK.
Oocyte donation explained in four simple steps By Inge Kormelink, IVF Spain.
10 day wait would be a breeze. Alas, after a few days the nerves set in and ‘knicker watch’ started. With every stomach twinge I analysed whether it could be a good or a bad sign; as ever, I used Dr Google to somehow get an answer! So my words of advice to prospective donor recipients is expect to go as nuts as you would on your own fresh cycle during the two-week wait! However you do this, it won’t be easy. Unfortunately for us this time, despite the twinges and positivity about the 80 per cent chance of a positive test, our luck was not in and the urine and blood tests came back negative. It should never be underestimated how devastating a negative result is after so much hope, combined with a double whammy of fake hormones going through your body. A good way to describe the feeling after a failed test is of being ‘broken’. It’s tough to find the strength to carry on. After now five failed attempts and the loss of a total of eight beautiful embryos, one could be forgiven for calling it a day. However, we are so lucky to have this amazing opportunity with IVF Spain and Fertility Road so, as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger - we will brush ourselves off, take a breather for a couple of months and try again in the late summer/early autumn. We have three blastocysts waiting for us and hopefully at least one may be our longed for precious baby. Our thanks go to Emma and Craig for putting this into words, and we’ll be sending positive thoughts their way over the coming weeks and months.
While Emma and Craig continue their journey with us, it’s interesting to look at what goes into egg donor processes. Many women who decide to create their family with the assistance of an egg (oocyte) donor wonder who the donor is as a person, and what physical and psychological characteristics she will transmit to the child. Patients who need an egg donor are unable to use their own eggs and so pass on their own genetic characteristics to the child. It is often difficult for them to imagine carrying or parenting a child with unknown genes. Because of that, infertility patients will go to great lengths to ensure knowledge of their donor’s history by using a donor who is a relative, close friend or a person they trust and view as a family member. However, in many countries the law requires that the egg donor is anonymous. For instance, here in Spain, donation is anonymous and knowing your donor is not an option. Therefore, it is important to find a wellrespected, trustworthy fertility centre that has a proven egg donation programme. It is essential to work with a clinic that provides appropriate screening and genetic testing for all donors, and here is what we believe you should bear in mind: An effective and successful egg donation programme depends on several factors: The availability of donors in the population • The donor’s health (tested for infectious diseases and screened for genetic disorders). The clinic should eliminate applicants who have a family history of ill health or if they have any infectious diseases. • The quality of oocytes – this factor can sometimes be attributed to the egg donor, other times the clinic and sometimes the sperm once fertilisation has occurred. • A donor selection and management programme that will provide the infertility patient with answers to all their questions while maintaining the anonymity of the donor. A strong egg donation programme in Spain, such as at IVF Spain consists of four simple steps: Legal requirements: According to Spanish law, the donor must not only possess similar characteristics to the mother but also the father, ensuring that their future children will have similarities to their parents. Both psychological and medical experts advise parents to tell the child. There are several reasons for this opinion. Firstly, every child has
the right to know his/her genetic background, particularly since there have been many medical advances in identifying and curing genetically transmitted diseases. Secondly, keeping secrets represents a denial of reality and is likely to cause problems in family relationships. In addition, children’s trust in their parents may be shaken, as they wonder if other secrets have also been kept from them. We believe that children will not love their parents any less; to the contrary, they know that they have been born out of love and the desire to build a family. Their parents have gone through a long fertility journey to create this new life; their child. Phenotype matching This step is known as ‘phenotypic selection’ and is completed by the medical team. The matching is based on blood group and physical characteristics, also known as phenotype, and must be similar to that of the patient’s hair colour, eye colour, skin tone, shape of the face or body mass ratio. Although intelligence is not strictly genetic, many patients feel more secure if the donor can demonstrate a certain level of education or a favourable social and cultural environment. At IVF Spain, these steps will reduce the donor poll from 500 to just two or four. The matching process is done by doctors and the oocyte donation specialist team; in IVF Spain, we have improved this work thanks to a selection of donor algorithms. Genetic matching IVF Spain also offers a revolutionary possibility for parents using egg donors wishing to screen for or at least identify genetic diseases that can be passed on to their child, plus help match donors who share genetic similarities with the mother. This process is known as Recombine Preconception Genetic Testing. This test is used to identify more than 180 monogenic diseases in patients and donors. Matching process We select one donor who fits most closely to the patients and start the oocyte stimulation, synchronised to the recipient’s cycle. This takes place in the same timeframe in which the pregnancy treatment takes place, so that when the patient is ready, there are oocytes available for fertilisation. This phase is very important because the quality of the donor’s treatment will determine the quality of their oocytes and so the quality of the medical team and technician’s work is key at this stage to the success of the treatment.