How did you become interested in Fertility?
I guess it sort of chose me as an area of specialty. As you might know, after you graduate there are so many different areas of health that you start treating patients for. I started with a bit of everything, then followed allergies, then I moved into a clinic with a focus on weight loss and fertility. From there I gained so many skills, and really, the passion for being a part of the journey couples go through. Seeing both people in the relationship is so special to me, as i get to be a part of creating practices and dietary changes which set them up for optimal fertility. And then when that little bub arrives- it is truly one of the most rewarding things I could possibly be doing with my life (outside of having my own family). Reflecting on what’s important to me, Family is probably number one on my list, and so it seems natural that I would be interested in supporting others with creating a family.
What is preconception care and why is it important?
Preconception care in my eyes is the 6 months leading up to when you want to conceive. Creating healthy sex cells for sperm and ovarian health takes at least 3 months to sort out. So when I work with a couple I like to ensure we address any underlying health concerns like possible hurdles for fertility (low sperm quality/count, poly cystic ovaries, and digestive issues are the main 3 I see the most of). Then once that process is well underway, we start to look at the ways in which a whole foods lifestyle, filled with delicious nutrient dense foods in combination with herbal & nutritional medicine can prepare the mum-to-be’s body for a healthy conception/pregnancy/birth/recovery.
It is important because we can really make a difference in not just the conception, but the health of that baby, and the health of the pregnancy. Of course genetics play a large role in it, but with the busy and stressful lifestyles we all lead, and the over consumption of heavily processed foods we eat, the demand for a 6 month preconception process is certainly relevant and important.
Many females who have issues with fertility present with conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, Fibroids and Adenomyosis – is this something Naturopathy can assist with?
It sure can! One of the reasons I LOVE doing my job is because I get to be a part of looking in to these underlying reproductive diseases and conditions. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to the pathology and anatomy side of things. I am so fascinated by the human body, and the ways in which it can be altered, and then returned back to a healthy state. The conditions you mentioned Steph are certainly common, and by no means an instant referral for IVF. Particularly with PCOS so much can be improved with diet and lifestyle. Reducing sugars, exposure to xeno-oestrogens, regular exercise are 3 things which can make an enormous amount of change. Not to mention the ancient herbal combination of liquorice and peony, which many of my patients will have blended into their fertility tonics.
I would say to anyone who has an irregular cycle, painful periods, spotting, difficulty losing weight, or is just unsure about their cycle and what it is telling them, to go and see a naturopath- the changes may not be instant, but they will work over the course of a few months.
What can Naturopathy offer a expecting mum?
Once my patients are pregnant, it is about ensuring the health of mum continues to stay strong during the course of the pregnancy. So this will continue to include nutritional recomendations; like making sure they are eating enough fresh leafy greens for folate intake, having miso and seaweed for iodine, a balance of animal proteins for iron and vitamin B12, good quality activated nuts and seeds to support calcium levels. Also keeping an eye on their immune system. Ideally supporting the mum with nutritional medicine so they don’t need antibiotics. The two other most important parts of naturopathic treatment for pregnant women are supporting a healthy micro biome (gut bacteria) and opening the conversation up about breastfeeding.
Can Naturopathy help with Fertility if someone is undergoing IVF?
In my clinic I see many couples going through IVF. Naturopathy is a great adjunct to pair with the IVF process as the nutrient loading, and herbs used to encourage healthy uterine function can certainly support the rate of implantation of the embryo. And in the lead up to egg collection naturopathy will definitely help to support the health of those eggs and sperm cells too. One of the most important areas naturopathy can help with during the IVF process is stress and nervous system support. The use of gentle herbs to ease anxiety and stress are so beautiful, and I just love making those blends for people.
As a mum yourself, what is one tip you have learnt about motherhood that you can share with expecting mums?
Haha, soooo many things I have learnt, so I will think about how to narrow it down to just one thing. I guess what I would like to share is that as someone who has carried and breast fed a baby, the demand it puts on your body is quite extraordinary, so be kind to yourself. I think many years ago when the women’s role was to stay at home, and raise the family, the pressures and expectations where more focused on this alone. Now days it really is a juggling act. Working, being a home maker, exercising, socialising, being present for your partner, all of these things can be tough to manage. So having a naturopath to support you with nutrition, counselling, and to be a friend, is invaluable. As someone who is known to push themselves, I have learnt that rest is hard to come by, so asking for help and support is critical.
What are your top 5 tips for fertility & pregnancy?
- Reduce heavily processed foods from the diet (vegetable oils, high gluten and sugar containing foods, processed meats, alcohol, and caffeine).
- Enjoy sex and intimacy regularly (for preconception, for IVF, and during pregnancy- providing it is safe to do so).
- Make it a time to celebrate abundant fresh vegetables and fruits every day!
- If you are anxious or stressed speak to someone who can help (your GP, Naturopath, Psychologist etc).
- Be patient… it might seem like each month takes forever to arrive, but once it happens, it all happens so quickly.
If you or someone you know has been actively trying to conceive for more than 6 months, book in to see myself or Claire. We can personally tailor a management plan for you and your partner to help you prepare for conception and pregnancy. We would love to help you achieve your fertility goals and journey towards good health.
Stephanie is a Naturopath and Nutritionist who has a special interest in female reproductive health, sports nutrition and digestive issues. She lives by the beautiful beaches of Bateau Bay.