The Two Week Wait

the two week wait with Naturopath Tess Doig, Fertile Ground Health Group

It’s important to explore your options for mind and body support during the two week wait, as this is the time between ovulation or transfer of an embryo during IVF,  to when you find out the outcome of your pregnancy test. It can be a time of great anguish, as you wait (for about 2 weeks) to find out if you are pregnant. 

Many women that have been on a fertility journey for a while often say they are living their life in 2 week increments. The 2 weeks leading up to their ovulation are filled with planning, and lots of sex in the days before ovulation, which then moves into stress and anxiety post ovulation, followed by a depressed few days when their period comes, to be repeated over and over. 

Seek Support

To help support you in this time, here are a few tips to help optimise your body in lowering stress, improving your mood and as well as optimising your body to hopefully lead to a positive pregnancy test. 

  • Reward yourself with a massage, a shopping trip or a delicious meal out with your partner (no wine though please). There is some evidence that supporting dopamine can help support implantation. Dopamine is produced when we feel a ‘reward’, so no better excuse to treat yourself than this. It doesn’t need to cost money either, it could be running a bath for yourself with some candles, chatting with an old friend on the phone or anything else that feels good. As well as supporting dopamine, it can also help as a point of distraction during the two week wait.
Sex for everyone
  • Commonly, when couples have been trying to conceive for a long time, sex can become a little mechanical and left for just the fertile window.  However, studies show that a woman being exposed to a male partner’s semen post ovulation or transfer can actually help implantation. When an embryo implants into a woman’s uterus, her body has to perform a miraculous feat of down-regulating her immune system to allow the foreign cells from the embryo to join into her body and allow her blood supply to continue to nourish and grow the embryo. In no other time does this happen, think of how many immunosuppressive drugs a person must take in an organ transplant. It is believed that a woman continuing to be exposed to a male partner’s cells through contact with semen, this supports that down-regulation of her immune system to support the embryo’s implantation. Sex can also be a wonderful way to boost dopamine, see above, as well as to strengthen the connection between a couple.
  • When going through the fertility journey, allowing sex to be for pleasure and not just baby making, can be a wonderful way to maintain your connection in any context you choose – be it to yourself, to your partner or otherwise. Sex can be supportive whether you’re conceiving naturally, through IVF or in a heterosexual or same-sex couple. For single women, self-pleasure can be just as beneficial. 
When is sex not recommended?

The only time I may consider sex may possibly not be safe during the two week wait, is if you have a significant vaginal infection such as Bacterial Vaginosis. Hopefully this has been looked into and treated prior to conception but if you are unsure, speak to your naturopath practitioner. 

Nutritional & Medicinal Support
  • Eat nitric oxide rich foods such as berries, beetroot, dark chocolate, pomegranate and leafy greens. Nitric oxide is a chemical in the body that helps to open blood vessels and promote blood flow. Increasing blood flow is important for implantation to help nourish the uterine wall and embryo. Some examples of how to include these foods could be a berry choc smoothie with cocoa and organic raspberries, or a roasted cauliflower and beetroot salad with a yogurt dressing and pomegranate sprinkled on top. The other benefit of these foods is they are often feel-good foods, boosting your mood. Another fantastic way to support blood flow can be getting acupuncture, and many studies support acupuncture for not only improving implantation but also relieving stress and anxiety.  
  • Take your progesterone or progesterone supportive herbal medicines. Progesterone is produced in a natural cycle post-ovulation from the corpus luteum, the temporary gland that is produced once an egg leaves the ovarian follicle. Progesterone supports implantation by down-regulating the immune system, lowering inflammation and maintaining the uterine wall for implantation. If during your preconception work up, your naturopath has found you have low progesterone, they may have implemented strategies through nutritional supplementation or herbal medicine to increase progesterone levels. If this is the case, please remember to take your medicines in this time as it is important to continue to work on your progesterone. During an IVF cycle, progesterone pessaries are very commonly prescribed, and please continue taking these as prescribed by your fertility team. There are other benefits too – low progesterone can increase anxiety and insomnia, so by supporting healthy levels of this hormone you can also support a happy mood. 
  • Take your probiotics: some strains of probiotics can support progesterone production which helps with implantation as well as supporting good bacteria that support implantation as well. Bifidobacterium strains, in particular, have some research they can increase progesterone, while the lactobacillus species are the beneficial species in the vaginal microbiome. As mentioned above, vaginal infections can possibly affect the implantation process, by increasing inflammation, and triggering the immune system, so support a healthy vaginal flora while helping to boost your progesterone levels. Speak to your naturopath about which probiotics are right for you, as different species have different roles in the body. 

These strategies can be really helpful in supporting your body to increase the chances of falling pregnant and lowering your stress and anxiety during the two week wait, but the real work comes in preparing your body BEFORE conception. Working with your naturopath for at least 4 months prior to conceiving, can increase your chances of pregnancy through natural conception or IVF by improving egg and sperm quality, supporting healthy nutrient levels, looking at microbiome issues and addressing hormone imbalances (just to name a few). There is a myriad of things we look at improving for people who are struggling to conceive. 

If you would like to find out more how I can help you, please book a free 10 minute consult and we can have a chat about your current fertility struggles and make a plan to move forward.

Yours in wellness

Tess Doig

Tess Doig is a highly skilled degree qualified naturopath with over 9 years of practice specialising in the areas of fertility, pregnancy, women’s health and mental health. She is skilled in complex infertility cases, helping support many women and couples through unexplained infertility, recurrent miscarriage, IVF, male factor infertility and more. 

Along with supporting singles and couples with fertility, she also has a passion for all areas of women’s health including hormone imbalance, gynaecological disorders, vaginal infections, autoimmune conditions and mental health.

Read more about Tess and make a booking to get started on your journey together.

Support After a Pregnancy Ends or a Baby Dies

Support After a Pregnancy Ends or a Baby Dies

As a counsellor, listening to and being present to the unfolding stories after a pregnancy ends too early, or when a baby dies, requires me to hold space for another’s sorrow in a way that can seep in, grow, and be held as a deepening sadness. This impact can be felt, yet remain as invisible and silent as the way society responds to these unspeakable losses.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Supporting someone after a baby dies as a loved one requires holding compassion for any perceived failings in supporting the unravelling of another in sinking downwards into an unfamiliar terrain. Allow them to decide whether to rise again or not and just be there alongside, being the doula for the other side of birth where a baby is missing in every part of their imagined shared futures. It is bleak and dark and unbearable and yet bear it you must as it is only a fraction of what the other carries. 

Often the joy of having babies is preceded with experiences of grief, and yet we only see the images around us of blissfully expectant mothers and smiling parents with their children. So rarely do we see the stories of loss, often born shrouded in silence such as with miscarriages, terminations or when a baby dies in utero, during birth or shortly after.

If you visit a maternity hospital, you will likely see image after image of the joy of having a baby. Go seeking a visual representation of the babies that will never be born, die in pregnancy, in labour or shortly after birth and you will notice little to no representation for this reality. With life comes death and the lifetimes in between the two are varied and many, yet we only champion live births and happy parents.

Sitting with

Being alongside such experiences is profound in its sadness, and yet there is honour in being a companion to such grief. Sitting with the love lost and the agony felt in letting go is an enormous task to hold. Forgiveness is needed when you fear you might get it wrong as it comes with the territory where ‘getting it right’ does not really exist. It is as much a fantasy as being a perfect mother. There is only what is.

Be present when others cannot be. Be there because there is a need. Hold self-compassion as you cannot be blamed for any failings as who taught you to hold the unbearable? Who taught you to know what to say, not say and when to do and give instead of speaking?  When you cannot ‘fix it’ there is no room for questioning, only sitting with, being with, sharing the uncertainty.

Anchor

Allow the depth of despair to be felt and be held. Give them an anchor to secure themselves to. Let them know their rights in honouring the loss, speaking of their loss, to expect to be heard for as long as they need to speak of their pregnancy, their baby, the child missing from the dinner table. Speak their baby’s name, ask them about their cherished one. Find ways to honour this experience, a tree that blooms at this time of year, a memory box full of all that is known and not yet known about their pregnancy, their baby. Allow for meaning making and disbelief to coexist.

Let them know it gets easier, you get to know the grief, recognise its needs, make room for it, be forever changed by it. Know your limits and encourage professional support so they can become more than the sum of their broken parts. Seek help yourself as you begin to feel that deepening sadness seep in and start to grow. You and I cannot ward this off for we are human, and it is too big to wriggle our way out of it. When attending to another’s grief we must attend to our own breaking hearts.

Know that a parent that has endured suffering on the path to parenthood will be better equipped to know something of their child’s suffering and may pass to them what has been learnt in reaching rock bottom and rising again. 

What a gift to give to another to reshape suffering into a way to comfort even if you have never received that yourself. Hold light where there is darkness and know if you only offer kindness, it is enough where there is sorrow.

Suzanne Hurley

Support After a Pregnancy Ends or a Baby Dies

Perinatal & Fertility Counsellor & Supervisor

Fertile Ground Health Group

If you would like help navigating grief and loss please feel welcome to make a booking with Suzanne.

How to alleviate Summer pregnancy discomfort

Alleviate Pregnancy Discomfort Fertile Ground Health Group

Pregnancy can cause varied levels of discomfort no matter what time of year it is. However, an increase in blood volume, fluid retention and a metabolism working in overdrive through summertime seems to take the cake in terms of a heightened sense of discomfort 🤰🥵

Luckily, there are a few easy tips that will help you stay cool and comfortable this summer 🌸

 

  1. STAY HYDRATED 💧

Guidelines recommended that pregnant women drink 8-12 glasses of water each day and more if exercising. Water helps regulate your body temperature, when you are hydrated your body is better able to release heat (primarily through sweat).  It’s important to make sure you replace the water leaving your body!

 

  1. FIND A LOCAL POOL OR BODY OF WATER  🏊‍♀️ 🏖

Swimming has numerous benefits in addition to cooling you down – it is a whole body workout, increases circulation, provides relief from swelling and minimises stress! Exercising is an important part of maintaining health during pregnancy and doing so in a safe body of water avoids any risk of overheating in the summer sun.

 

  1. HOME MADE ICY POLES OR FROZEN FRUIT SNACKS 🧊🍉

Pick some of your favourite fruit with or without some yogurt (for a diary free option) and make your own refreshing ‘nice’ cream or icy pole. Healthy, refreshing and full of vitamins and minerals!

 

  1. WEAR LOOSE, LIGHT AND BREATHABLE CLOTHES 👗

These items speed up the evaporation of sweat allowing your skin to cool quickly, plus they don’t dig in. Pop on light colour and your clothing will absorb less heat too.

 

  1. KEEP YOUR HOUSE COOL 😎

Open your windows in the evening and overnight once the temperature has dropped then in the morning close the windows and blinds to trap the cool air in.

 

  1. HIBERNATE 🛌 🛁

Be sure not to push yourself when temperatures soar. When the weather is exceedingly hot give yourself permission to find a cool room and snooze. Napping is another trick in cooling your body temperature. Better yet, enjoy a cool bath with relaxing music or a calming meditation. Luckily for us two of Fertile Ground’s elder naturopaths have made a series of pregnancy specific meditations for nausea relief, early pregnancy, sleep, breech, overdue babies and more, which you can find here.

 

  1. GET SOME PURIFYING HOUSEPLANTS FOR CHRISTMAS 🌿

Aloe Vera, Areca palm tree, Ficus tree, Fern and Snake plants all cool and purifying their air space. Pick one up yourself or ask someone to purchase for you as a lovingly supportive gift!

These are just some of the ways to bring more comfort to you through a summer pregnancy.

Written by Dr Nicole Cukierman, Fertility, Pregnancy and General health Osteopath at Fertile Ground Health Group.

Dr Nicole Cukierman is available for one on one consultations in person at Fertile Ground Health Group. Book in with Nicole and find out what’s possible for your situation.

Identify your Unique Fertility Needs

Sage King Unique Fertility Needs Fertile Ground Health Group

What’s your Fertility Plan and do you know how to identify your unique fertility needs?

Welcome to this free 6-part article series designed to help you determine your fertility plan and understand the steps you can take to optimise your fertility outcomes. 

Over these 6 weeks we are going to discuss all potential options for those of you who are:

  • single, 
  • in same-sex relationships, 
  • are gender non-conforming, 
  • or are in a heterosexual relationship.

In these articles I will address information around:

  • trying to conceive, 
  • options if you have been struggling to conceive, 
  • considerations for those of you thinking about IVF, 
  • considerations for those of you currently undergoing IVF treatment,
  • how beneficial naturopathy can be in optimising your fertility outcomes.

Opportunity to Ask Me Questions – LIVE

After each article release, you have the option to submit any questions you may have by 7pm Monday evening to the Create A Fertile Life Facebook group. If you’ve not yet joined that private group you are welcome to go there and request to join.

If you wish to submit your questions anonymously, you can private message the Fertile Ground Health Group Facebook page and admin will forward them to me. 

Each Tuesday, I will be answering your questions live in this Create a Fertile Life Facebook group at 7pm AEDT, so we can all learn from each other.

Your Fertility Plan

Now, some of you may know exactly what your plan is, others may not have thought about it so concisely yet. Whatever stage you are at, I want you to provide you with the tools to determine what your fertility plan can look like and how you can optimise your outcomes with Naturopathy. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, or type in to a document on your phone/computer so that you can create the skeleton of the items that relate to YOUR individual journey and we will build on this each week over the next 6 weeks. 

I am excited to embark on this journey with you. Let’s get started!

Part One: Identify Your Unique Fertility Needs

In the same way that we are all our own unique individuals, no two fertility journeys nor pregnancies are the same.  It is important for you to identify what your family plan looks like, taking into consideration your age, who your fertility plan involves – who is providing the egg (you or your partner?), who is providing the sperm (you or your partner? Sperm donor – known? Clinic recruited?), who will be carrying the pregnancy and in which timeframe you wish to try to conceive. 

Age & egg quality

For individual’s trying to conceive, age is something that is spoken about regularly. I see frustration in many of my patients when age is spoken about and I understand that frustration because, well, you know the impacts of age on fertility. While age is something we cannot change, thorough preconception care can positively influence your egg quality and reduce the impacts of biological age as much as is possible. 

Statistics show a decline in fertility from 35 years of age, with a further decrease after 40-42 years of age. (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Gynecologic Practice, 2014; Fertility Society of Australia, 2018) Individuals assigned female at birth are born with all their eggs and research now shows that egg quality can be positively influenced in the 100 days before ovulation. (Fertility Society of Australia, 2018)

If you’re 34 years old or younger, you’re fortunate enough to have at least 12 months to undertake a thorough preconception screening and treatment protocol. 

If you’re 35 years or older, your time to conceive considerations are a little different. If you’re wanting to try to conceive within the next 3, 6, 9, 12 months, it is essential you undergo a thorough preconception screening for your individualised preconception care as soon as possible to maximise your time to influence your biology in a positive way. The more time, the better! In some cases, the best opportunity to conceive involves using donor eggs, however this is something that is determined on a case by case scenario and takes many factors into account.

Timeframe of starting your fertility journey

Have you considered the time in which you want to start trying to conceive? Considerations include your age, sourcing a sperm donor and individualised preconception recommendations. It is good to start with an estimated time frame. The time required to optimise your health for conception will become clearer once you’ve undertaken a thorough preconception screening. 

The minimum recommendation for your optimal preconception screening is 3 months. However, some of my patients have more time-sensitive scenarios where we will tailor their treatment protocols to support where they’re at in their fertility journey, whilst closely monitoring their pathology and working alongside their fertility specialist.

Questions you might want to consider
  • What does your timeframe of trying to conceive look like? 
  • Do you have an age in mind of when you want to start your fertility journey or have children? 
  • Given the information you know now, has this changed or become clearer? 
  • Will you need support in trying to improve your cellular health and egg quality due to your biological age? 

Maybe you’ve already started your fertility journey and unfortunately are yet to achieve conception. No matter what your circumstances, preconception screening and care is the best way to optimise your…

Want to keep reading? Sign up to get instant free access to Sage’s preconception article series and find out about the intricacies of your menstrual cycle, sperm donor considerations, intercourse, conception, egg quality, egg carrying considerations, assisted reproductive technology, home insemination, the answers to your questions and more.

Written by Fertile Ground fertility Naturopath, Sage King.

Do you need Preconception Screening?

Preconception Screening by Naturopath Sage King

What’s your Fertility Plan and do you need preconception screening?

Welcome to this free 6-part article series designed to help you determine your fertility plan and understand the steps you can take to optimise your fertility outcomes. Below you’ll find Part 2 – “Do You Need Preconception Screening?” If you’ve already read article 1 feel welcome to skip this intro and get stuck into part 2 below. If this is, however, your first time finding out about this series – please read on to learn what it’s about, how it can help you and what to expect over the coming weeks.

Over this free 6 week article series we are going to discuss all potential options for those of you who are:

  • single, 
  • in same-sex relationships, 
  • are gender non-conforming, 
  • or are in a heterosexual relationship.

In these articles I will address information around:

  • trying to conceive, 
  • options if you have been struggling to conceive, 
  • considerations for those of you thinking about IVF, 
  • considerations for those of you currently undergoing IVF treatment,
  • how beneficial naturopathy can be in optimising your fertility outcomes.

Opportunity to Ask Me Questions – LIVE

After each article release, you have the option to submit any questions you may have by 7pm Monday evening to the Create A Fertile Life Facebook group. If you’ve not yet joined that private group you are welcome to go there and request to join.

If you wish to submit your questions anonymously, you can private message the Fertile Ground Health Group Facebook page and admin will forward them to me. 

Each Tuesday, I will be answering your questions live in this Create a Fertile Life Facebook group at 7pm AEDT, so we can all learn from each other.

Your Fertility Plan

Now, some of you may know exactly what your plan is, others may not have thought about it so concisely yet. Whatever stage you are at, I want you to provide you with the tools to determine what your fertility plan can look like and how you can optimise your outcomes with Naturopathy. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, or type in to a document on your phone/computer so that you can create the skeleton of the items that relate to YOUR individual journey and we will build on this each week over the 6 weeks of this series. 

I am excited to be on this journey with you. If you’ve already registered for the whole free package, take a sneak peek at part two below and check your inbox for the arrival of your full comprehensive article for this week (week 2).

If you’re just finding this free series now and would like access from part 1 all the way to part 6 – simply register here for your free access to the whole package.

Part Two: Do You Need Preconception Screening?


Before we jump in to preconception screening, it’s important to understand what your optimal preconception window is, why it’s important, what medical preconception screenings are available to you, and how naturopathic clinical assessments and further pathology investigations provide us with key information to tailor your treatment plan to complement your fertility journey. 

 

Your Optimal Preconception Window

As we touched on last week, the optimal preconception window for both egg and sperm quality is approximately 3-4 months. This is because although individuals assigned female at birth are born with the basic cells that will eventually form their eggs, these follicles do not contain eggs ready for fertilisation. In order to develop eggs required for fertilisation, they must go through what’s known as ‘maturation’ and this process takes approximately 100 days. So the egg released during ovulation each month actually started maturing 3-4 months ago! (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Gynecologic Practice, 2014; Fertility Society of Australia, 2018). This means that given 3-4 months of tailored preconception care, you can positively influence the health and development of your ovaries, follicles, and the eggs maturing and growing inside. 

Similarly, when it comes to sperm health, preconception screening and care is just as important as egg quality. Sperm also undergo a process of development ready for ejaculation, and take nearly 90 days to be produced from scratch to the time they are ejaculated. So the sperm trying to fertilise an egg this month was already being produced 3 months ago! (Rowley, et al., 1970)

But what if time is not on my side?

For many of my patients, time is of the essence with their fertility plan; due to age, their partner’s age, and if they’re about to/are already undertaking IVF. Time considerations will also vary for individuals wishing to freeze their eggs due to egg freezing not being recommended for individuals older than 38 years of age. If this is you, in these circumstances, I still recommend preconception screening so we can use this information to tailor a treatment protocol to complement any stage of your fertility journey. By implementing key dietary, lifestyle, nutritional, and (where indicated) herbal medicine interventions, I can support you at any stage of your fertility journey. However, if time is not on your side and/or you are currently undergoing IVF, our treatment protocol aims to support your egg quality & endometrial receptivity in the background so that should you be unsuccessful, we have begun to positively influence your egg and sperm quality throughout this window putting you in a better position than before.   

 

Preconception Screening and Your Health Team

It can be really overwhelming knowing where to start with preparing to conceive. Some of my patients come to their initial consultation with blood test results referred by their GP for general health, nutritional status, immunological markers, cervical screening, and sexually transmitted disease (STD) screening. If their fertility specialist has referred them for further testing, I review these test results too. 

While it requires some organisation and commitment, pathology testing provides us with very important data about your health status. If you have already had preconception testing performed, how long ago did you have them conducted?

Want to keep reading? Sign up to get instant free access to Sage’s preconception article series and find out about the intricacies of your menstrual cycle, sperm donor considerations, intercourse, conception, egg quality, egg carrying considerations, assisted reproductive technology, home insemination, the answers to your questions and more.

Written by Fertile Ground fertility Naturopath, Sage King.

Ten Fertility Enhancing Foods

Ten fertility enhancing foods

Let’s talk about the top ten fertility enhancing foods. Of course, there are a number of foods that are great for fertility and health, however there are some that are indeed more super than others. Getting the basics of healthy heating right is the most important step. From there you can integrate some nutrient dense superfood options that are still commonly over looked by many people.

There is a lot of talk about superfoods and all the amazing things they have to offer for just about every conceivable human ailment and worry. From Cacao to Gubinge, Maca to Goji and Acai the promises include increased fertility, cures for cancer, recovery from all sorts of disease, anxiety and woe. Certainly these foods have so much to offer and definitely can be considered to be powerful, nutrient dense foods with super qualities. However, they fall short of being miracle foods. No amount of goji berries is going to make up for the 2 or 3 coffees or cokes you might drink in a day, or if you gorge on junk foods week after week. If you haven’t got the basics covered, superfoods are not your miracle cure-all for a modern-day poor lifestyle.

Get the basics right first

While superfoods can be fantastic, we (naturopaths and nutritionists) are big believers in the necessity of getting the basics right. Eat whole, live foods that are as close to their fresh form as possible, preferably locally grown or even better straight from your garden. This includes veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, pulses, grains, meat, fish and dairy. Often it’s the unassuming, simple whole foods that actually have incredible super qualities that should be taken advantage of daily.

Consider blueberries, salmon, oats, green leafy veggies and garlic just to name a few. To be super, food does not necessarily need to be exotic. For example, eating a seasonal diet ensures that the foods you do consume are as fresh as possible and are consumed when they are picked – not after they have been stored for a year or two. Truly super eating is actually quite simple. The foods we most commonly refer to as superfoods (spirulina, maca, goji, acai, etc.) are really just the cherry on top!

Superfoods are a useful and highly beneficial addition to your diet. But of course, as always, there is no quick fix and no way around eating the basic ‘super’ foods with every meal, everyday for ultimate health and a fertile life.

Tips for daily essential top 10 ‘super’ foods for fertility and health

 

Chia seeds

Chia seeds for fertility are an important addition to your diet if you aren’t already eating them. They are gluten free and as well as being high in fibre, they absorbs water to form a gelatinous texture that is soothing and healing to your digestive tract. Chia seeds contains eight times more Omega 3 than salmon, more calcium than dairy, is high in iron as well as vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants. Best of all, chia seeds are a complete protein and contain all 8 essential amino acids. Athletes find Chia seeds improve endurance and hydration as well as maintaining blood sugar levels. Chia seeds for fertility – aim for 1-2 tablespoons daily.

Blueberries

These little bundles of joy are packed full of antioxidants! Blueberries for fertility are low in sugar (a low GI fruit) and so are great for women with PCOS or people trying to lose weight. They are a good source of fibre, vitamin C, manganese and Vitamin K. Best of all, they taste delicious. Be careful to choose organic with berries as they are commonly sprayed because bugs really like berries too. Look for local berries as many berries available in major supermarkets have been shipped from across the globe (often China), which makes it harder to ensure the freshness and quality of your final product.

Green leafy vegetables

Include silverbeet, spinach, rocket, kale, lettuce, parsley, coriander, mint, etc in your diet for fertility. These foods are a good source of fibre as well as being high in important vitamins A, B, C, K and folate. They are essential for women who are preparing for pregnancy or are pregnant as they contain folinic acid, which is the most absorbable form of folate. Maximise your daily intake with a green smoothie during the warmer months.

Eggs

Free range, organic eggs for fertility are one of your best sources of protein, vitamin D, B12, zinc, phosphorus and selenium. Yes, they contain cholesterol, so if it is a problem for you, take fish oil at the same time to lessen the absorption of cholesterol. Also, as part of a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and high in healthy fats, a little cholesterol is required. Cholesterol has been painted as the bad guy but it’s also what our hormones are synthesised from. If cholesterol is an issue, check with your naturopath about how to use food to regain control.

Yoghurt

Organic, full-fat, unflavoured yoghurt for fertility contains calcium, good fats and ‘friendly bacteria’ to keep your digestive system healthy. Have a serve of yoghurt daily to keep your immune system strong.

Quinoa

While technically a seed, quinoa cooks up like a grain and unlike most (even whole) grains, quinoa is a complete protein. That simply means that it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It also contains more fibre than other grains and is rich in essential fatty acids, iron, lysine (great if you suffer from cold sores), magnesium, B2 and manganese. Quinoa is also gluten free. It is a significantly better grain choice than pasta or even brown rice due to its protein and nutrient content.

Salmon

One of the richest sources of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. It’s also high in protein, selenium and B vitamins, especially B12. Eat salmon with the bones for the added bonus of calcium. Most of the salmon in Australia is farmed but the best source is Huon Tasmanian salmon. Locate your nearest Huon stockist.

Oats
High in soluble fibre, oats eaten daily have been shown to lower and help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure. They improve bowel function and are a good source of B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and selenium – all the best nutrients for fertility. Oats are also considered to be a ‘nervine tonic’ in herbal medicine, which means they are useful for calming and nourishing your nervous system. Eat oats for fertility regularly throughout your week.

Walnuts

Researchers from UCLA in California found that men who ate a couple of handfuls of walnuts (75gms) a day saw improvements in their semen quality. They found improvements in sperm motility and morphology and the suggestion is that it was due to walnuts being a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (an Omega-3). Other benefits with these great fats include improved brain and heart health. Be sure the walnuts taste fresh and are organic. Try eating walnuts for male fertility every day.

Remember, superfoods are a useful and highly beneficial addition to your already amazing diet. As always, there is no quick fix and no way around eating the basic ‘super’ foods at every meal, everyday for ultimate health. Get the basics right and build from there.

Exercise during Pregnancy

Pregnancy and Exercise - with Osteopath Nicole Cukierman at Fertile Ground Health Group

Exercise during pregnancy should be done and is safe in a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy. In fact, performing the recommended type and amount of physical activity during pregnancy achieves health benefits for mother and baby including reduced risk of pre-eclampsia, pregnancy induced hypertension, a reduction in instrumental delivery and unplanned caesarean section birth and may help to reduce the severity of lower back and pelvic girdle pain 

According to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) evidence- based guidelines for physical activity in pregnant women, it is recommended that in a normal pregnancy woman participate in 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity or if previously exercising can continue 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week. 

This can be completed over a minimum of three days per week, however, being active every day (ideally 30 minutes per day, less if previously inactive) is encouraged and doing some physical activity is better than none. 

Training should be a combination of aerobic (brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, exercise classes) and strength (body weight, light weight or resistance band) exercises and exercise intensity will vary depending how physically active you were or we not pre-pregnancy. Women who were active prior to conceiving can continue with their usual activities for as long as they feel comfortable but are advised to check with a health professional if they would like to continue with vigorous intensity or high impact sports and exercise 

 Additionally, some exercises may need to be modified as your pregnancy progresses due to biomechanical changes and pain i.e. After 16 weeks it is best to avoid exercises lying on your back. 

Exercise is not recommended in all circumstances. The following are cases in which exercise is not recommended; 
  • Incompetent cervix  
  • Ruptured membranes, preterm labour 
  • Premature labour 
  • Persistent second or third trimester bleeding  
  • Placenta previa  
  • Pre-eclampsia  
  • Evidence of intrauterine growth restriction  
  • Multiple gestation (triplets or higher number)  
  • Poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes, hypertension or thyroid disease  
  • Other serious cardiovascular, respiratory or systemic disorder  
Stop and seek advice from a health professional if you experience any of the following while being physical activity: 
  • Chest pain 
  • Persistent excessive shortness of breath – that does not resolve with rest  
  • Severe headache 
  • Persistent dizziness / feeling faint – that does not resolve with rest 
  • Regular painful uterine contractions
  • Vaginal bleeding 
  • Amniotic fluid loss 
  • Calf pain, swelling or redness 
  • Sudden swelling of the ankles, hands or face 
  • Decreased foetal movement 

 Still unsure what physical activity you can or cannot be doing during pregnancy speak with your health care provider before starting an exercising program 

*Exercise intensity ratings are based on ratings of perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is not moving and 10 is maximal effort. Activities in the range 3-7 indicate moderate-vigorous intensity and are considered safe and are recommended for health benefits in pregnant women. This can also be judged by the ‘talk test’ in which a conversation can be held during moderate intensity activities but difficult during vigorous activities. 

Written by Dr Nicole Cukierman, Fertility, Pregnancy and General health Osteopath at Fertile Ground Health Group.

Dr Nicole Cukierman is available for one on one consultations in person at Fertile Ground Health Group. Book in with Nicole and find out what’s possible for your situation.

References

Brown, W.J., Hayman, M, Haakstad, L.A.H., Mielke, G.I. et al. (2020). Evidence-based physical activity guidelines for pregnant women. Report for the Australian Government Department of Health. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health. 

Counselling for Fertility

Counselling for Fertility - Written by Suzanne Hurley, Perinatal Counsellor

Counselling for Fertility is an important aspect to consider for your Fertility journey. When fertility plans are interrupted or delayed it can cause great distress with feelings of helplessness and eventually hopelessness. My clients often decide that it just shouldn’t be this hard and maybe it is their fate to be childless. An incredibly painful conclusion as you can imagine.

When does counselling for fertility begin?

I can begin my work with you at any stage of the fertility pathway. Sometimes it is following a pregnancy loss, which then complicates how one feels about the next pregnancy. Or you may have been trying to conceive for some time and fear may set in that pregnancy may not happen. You may be at the point at which you have been informed you will need fertility assistance and as such may be struggling with this new identity of needing IVF.  Or you may have made many attempts with IVF and may be left feeling drained emotionally, mentally, and physically. Addressing the grief of what has and or is happening is fundamental to the work that I do to help you through these times.

How to make your way forwards

Acknowledging what this all means is vital to establishing a plan of what next. The impact of the whole experience can be extremely profound on work, health, relationships, family and mental health. Often those people facing these challenges have been running on empty for a long time, putting other life plans on hold to chase the elusive goal of wanting their baby yesterday. It can be heartbreaking, tender work that my personal and professional experience allows me some insight into the rocky terrain to navigate together with you. The life you may now be living may have been intended as a short term change to get the outcome you wanted, however adversity may have struck and now you may feel like you’re stuck, with your life on hold for too long, perhaps even devoid of pleasure. 

Finding your centre

Often this life is lived silently, in the shadows of others’ joys and celebrations of their own fertility successes. Sisters, colleagues and friends all seem to competently become pregnant and have the babies so yearned for. Self-esteem plummets, anxiety symptoms bring a sense of panic and the exhaustion of grief brings depression. I am often met by a person barely hanging onto life, so scared to pause and reflect lest the only opportunity they have to conceive will pass them by. This is often nothing like the ideal most of us aspire to for starting a family.

The task is no small one for either of us. A task too big for one person alone and best advised held in the warmth of company.  We build a care team and soon we find a path that embraces greater wholeness, joy, laughter, purpose, and clarity about what is needed and awareness of what is harmful. We develop strategies to walk through the treacherous forest of others’ seemingly blossoming fertility at every turn and find a quieter, kinder, position to begin to thrive once again.

For more support, Suzanne Hurley, Perinatal Counsellor, is available for consultations at Fertile Ground Health Group or you can make an appointment for a phone or video session for your convenience. Learn more about Suzanne.

Your Guide to IVF

Part 6 - Your Guide to IVF by Naturopath Sage King

What’s your Fertility Plan and are you considering IVF?

Welcome to this free 6-part article series designed to help you determine your fertility plan and understand the steps you can take to optimise your fertility outcomes. Below you’ll find Part 6 – “Your Guide to IVF” If you’ve already read articles 1 to 5 feel welcome to skip this intro and get stuck into part 6 below. If this is, however, your first time finding out about this series – please read on to learn what it’s about, how it can help you and what to expect over the coming weeks.

Over this free 6 week article series we are going to discuss all potential options for those of you who are:

  • single,
  • in same-sex relationships,
  • are gender non-conforming,
  • or are in a heterosexual relationship.

In these articles I will address information around:

  • trying to conceive,
  • options if you have been struggling to conceive,
  • considerations for those of you thinking about IVF,
  • considerations for those of you currently undergoing IVF treatment,
  • how beneficial naturopathy can be in optimising your fertility outcomes.

Opportunity to Ask Me Questions – LIVE

After each article release, you have the option to submit any questions you may have by 7pm Monday evening to the Create A Fertile Life Facebook group. If you’ve not yet joined that private group you are welcome to go there and request to join.

If you wish to submit your questions anonymously, you can private message the Fertile Ground Health Group Facebook page and admin will forward them to me.

Each Tuesday, I will be answering your questions live in this Create a Fertile Life Facebook group at 7pm AEDT, so we can all learn from each other. The first live session was Tuesday, June 8th at 7pm AEDT and these lives will run each Tuesday evening all the way through to Tuesday July 20th. Cut off for question submission is 7pm AEDT each Monday – the day before ‘live’ Tuesdays. You can always watch the recording if you miss the live, just jump onto the Create a Fertile Life facebook group and you’ll see it there.

Your Fertility Plan

Now, some of you may know exactly what your plan is, others may not have thought about it so concisely yet. Whatever stage you are at, I want you to provide you with the tools to determine what your fertility plan can look like and how you can optimise your outcomes with Naturopathy. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, or type in to a document on your phone/computer so that you can create the skeleton of the items that relate to YOUR individual journey and we will build on this each week over the 6 weeks of this series.

I am excited to be on this journey with you. If you’ve already registered for the whole free package, read on for part four below. If you’re just finding this free series now and would like access from part 1 all the way to part 6 – simply register here for your free access to the whole package

Part 6 – Your Guide to IVF

Did you know the first baby in Australia conceived using IVF was only born in 1980?1 The IVF process has developed quickly in the past 40 years, and has helped many individuals and couples successfully bring babies into this world. In some cases, the impact of IVF in achieving a successful live birth is undeniable, however IVF does not guarantee a successful live birth. One key and integral part of the fertility process that IVF can not do, is have the ability to positively influence the quality of the egg and sperm in order to optimise your outcomes. Even though IVF allows fertilisation to occur in a much more controlled environment, it can only work with the quality of egg and sperm you currently have. So if you begin the IVF process with suboptimal egg and sperm quality, which may very well be part of the reason as to why conception is not being successful for heterosexual couples for example, then you’re already starting the process on the back foot so to speak.

What is IVF?

In a nutshell, IVF is a process in which eggs and sperm are collected and placed together in a Petri dish to see if fertilisation occurs before transferring a successful embryo back into the uterus where hopefully a successful pregnancy occurs. But how do we get to that stage you may be wondering? IVF is a process that begins on the first day of your period (cycle day one) and involves hormonal stimulation to increase the amount of follicles (and therefore eggs) that your ovaries produce in one cycle, to try to maximise the chances of achieving fertilisation and successful pregnancy. For some individuals, this process may be omitted due to poor ovarian function and/or age, and involves the use of a donor egg in place of hormone stimulation.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? In some cases it is, in some cases it can be quite complex, and treatment may change from cycle to cycle depending on your results. However, no matter how straightforward or complex your case may be, there is always the opportunity to influence your egg and sperm quality, and endometrial health to support the transfer process to optimise your outcomes. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s break down the IVF process from start to finish and understand what it entails. Then we can continue our outcomes optimisation later (may favourite part!).

The IVF Process
Each IVF cycle takes approximately 4 weeks, starting with treatment on the first day of your period, Cycle Day One, and finishes with your pregnancy (hCG) test which is conducted two weeks after embryo transfer. Many IVF clinics say that step one begins at the initial specialist appointment, but I count step one as seeing your GP to get a referral in order to book your fertility specialist appointment. So keeping in mind that these steps may have slight variations depending on your case (using donor eggs or sperm) and IVF clinic, starting from step one all the way to step thirteen, let’s break it down…

Step 1
Book an appointment to see your GP
You will need to see your GP in order to get a referral to see a fertility specialist. If you have a fertility specialist in mind, great. If not, your GP will be able to point you in the right direction.

Step 2
Initial fertility specialist appointment
At this appointment, your fertility specialist will review your medical history, previous investigations, and treatments. They may refer you for further investigations based on your case.1

Step 3
Pre-treatment fertility specialist consultation
At this appointment, your fertility specialist will confirm your treatment plan.1

Step 4
Fertility nurse appointment
Your fertility nurse will explain your treatment cycle timeline, the medication you need, and will show you how to administer any self-administered medications including Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) injections.

Sign up below to read the next 13 steps. 

Want to keep reading? Sign up to get instant free access to Sage’s preconception article series and find out about the intricacies of egg freezing, your menstrual cycle, sperm donor considerations, intercourse, conception, egg quality, egg carrying considerations, assisted reproductive technology, home insemination, the answers to your questions and more.

Written by Fertile Ground fertility Naturopath, Sage King.

What is IUI & do you Qualify?

Sage King_Preconception Series_Fertile Ground Health Group, IUI

What’s your Fertility Plan and do you qualify for IUI?

Welcome to this free 6-part article series designed to help you determine your fertility plan and understand the steps you can take to optimise your fertility outcomes. Below you’ll find Part 5 – “What is IUI & do you Qualify?” If you’ve already read articles 1 to 4, feel welcome to skip this intro and get stuck into part 5 below. If this is, however, your first time finding out about this series – please read on to learn what it’s about, how it can help you and what to expect over the coming weeks.

Over this free 6 week article series we are going to discuss all potential options for those of you who are:

  • single, 
  • in same-sex relationships, 
  • are gender non-conforming, 
  • or are in a heterosexual relationship.

In these articles I will address information around:

  • trying to conceive, 
  • options if you have been struggling to conceive, 
  • considerations for those of you thinking about IVF, 
  • considerations for those of you currently undergoing IVF treatment,
  • how beneficial naturopathy can be in optimising your fertility outcomes.

Opportunity to Ask Me Questions – LIVE

After each article release, you have the option to submit any questions you may have by 7pm Monday evening to the Create A Fertile Life Facebook group. If you’ve not yet joined that private group you are welcome to go there and request to join.

If you wish to submit your questions anonymously, you can private message the Fertile Ground Health Group Facebook page and admin will forward them to me. 

Each Tuesday, I will be answering your questions live in this Create a Fertile Life Facebook group at 7pm AEDT, so we can all learn from each other.

Your Fertility Plan

Now, some of you may know exactly what your plan is, others may not have thought about it so concisely yet. Whatever stage you are at, I want you to provide you with the tools to determine what your fertility plan can look like and how you can optimise your outcomes with Naturopathy. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, or type in to a document on your phone/computer so that you can create the skeleton of the items that relate to YOUR individual journey and we will build on this each week over the 6 weeks of this series. 

I am excited to be on this journey with you. If you’ve already registered for the whole free package, take a sneak peek at part four below and check your inbox for the arrival of your full comprehensive article for this week (week 5).

If you’re just finding this free series now and would like access from part 1 all the way to part 6 – simply register here for your free access to the whole package.

Part 5 – What is IUI & do you Qualify?

What is intrauterine insemination (IUI)?

IUI is also known as Assisted or Artificial Insemination (AI), as it is the process of assisting sperm to inseminate into the uterus at ovulation. The two key aspects of IUI include washing the sperm to find the best quality sperm, and timing the insemination procedure to coincide with when you’re ovulating. (2)

Firstly, the sperm sample (from either a partner or known/clinic recruited sperm donor) is washed to find the most active and virile sperm. It is then inserted through the cervix and into the cavity of the uterus via a catheter at ovulation. You could say that the IUI process gives the sperm an advantage in quality, combined with a head start by selecting the highest quality sperm from the sample provided; with insemination increasing the number of sperm that reaches the fallopian tubes. While the sperm still need to find their way to the egg on their own for fertilisation, the greater the quality and number of sperm that reach the tubes, the greater chance of fertilisation occurring. (1,2) 

Secondly, your cycle is monitored to determine if/when ovulation is occurring. To refresh your memory, ovulation occurs when an egg is released from one of your ovaries and must occur in order for conception to be successful. In the same way that timing intercourse during your fertile window is important for couples whom can provide both the egg and sperm, IUI is conducted at the time of ovulation by closely monitoring ovulation using blood tests and ultrasound to track the developing follicle to determine when insemination will go ahead. 

Sounds easy, right? Reproduction always seems so straight forward on paper. But unfortunately for some, and particularly in a world where sperm quality is on the decline due to today’s way of living and environmental factors, it’s a lot more complex. So if IUI assists to find the best quality sperm prior to insemination, what if the quality of sperm is poor to begin with? 

If the quality of the sperm sample is poor, then it’s like selecting the ‘best of a bad bunch’ so to speak. Now that it’s week five and I’ve spent all this time going on about the importance of preconception care, please bear with me while I repeat myself… this is why preconception care is so important! We want to be able to holistically assess all the contributing factors to sperm quality to be able to control and optimise those variables as much as possible. We want to have the best quality sperm sample to select from in the first place. We want the best of the best! But more on this and egg quality later…

What does IUI feel like?

The IUI process is described as similar to a pap smear in sensation. A speculum is inserted into the vagina so the cervix can be visualised. A thin catheter containing the selected sperm is then passed through the cervix and into the uterus. The process takes a few minutes to complete, usually with minimal discomfort. IUI does not require sedation. (3,4)

Is IUI for you?

For single cis-women, or individuals or couples assigned female at birth who require donor sperm, IUI is the ART method that is most commonly used. IUI may also be indicated in cases of mild suboptimal semen volume, sperm count, and/or sperm motility, mild Endometriosis, cervical scarring or other concerns that may reduce sperm penetration into the uterine cavity, poor or absent cervical mucous, for those who cannot have regular or penetrative sex, infertility of unknown cause, and for individuals for which ovulation is absent or irregular. (3)

IUI is not indicated for significant sperm quality issues where a good sperm sample cannot be achieved in the andrology laboratory, or for individuals with poor fallopian tube functioning or blockages – these need to be open and functioning for the sperm to be able to reach the egg. (4)

In mild cases of poor sperm quality, while IUI washes and selects the most viable sperm and gives sperm a bit of a helping hand in helping them get closer to where they need to go, it in no way improves sperm quality parameters on a cellular level. This is why focusing on improving all parameters of sperm quality where possible is such an important preconception consideration prior to undertaking IUI. 

For those of you using your partner’s or known donor sperm, I hope this gives you some encouragement to at least have a conversation with them about undertaking a semen analysis prior to giving their sample for IUI. Hopefully your partner is open to undertaking preconception care alongside you, and your donor may or may not be open to it. But it’s absolutely worth a discussion to optimise your outcomes and require less samples from them! Even better if your donor is open to 3 months (only 12 weeks) of preconception care to improve their sperm quality. If they need a little convincing, I highly recommend giving them a copy of our book, Create A Fertile Life. It is evidence-based, easy to read, and you can read from any chapter that is relevant to your circumstances. Purchase your copy and get a head start.

For those of you using clinic-recruited donor sperm, it emphasises the importance of undertaking your own preconception screening and individualised preconception care so that we can optimise egg quality and your endometrial lining to increase the chances of successful implantation.

So, you’ve determined IUI is for you or it has been recommended by your fertility specialist. Did you know that IUI can be performed with or without…

Want to keep reading? Sign up to get instant free access to Sage’s preconception article series and find out about the intricacies of egg freezing, your menstrual cycle, sperm donor considerations, intercourse, conception, egg quality, egg carrying considerations, assisted reproductive technology, home insemination, the answers to your questions and more.

Written by Fertile Ground fertility Naturopath, Sage King.