Natural Fertility Consultant

Posts By: Brendan

Responsibility Is Scary

The realisation that there is nobody out there who can assume the responsibility of solving our particular problem, is surely one of the most terrifying aspects of being an adult.

It’s unnerving! 

When we were young and immature, we could turn to someone – a parent, a teacher, a mentor maybe, but now there is nobody we can give our problem to, nobody we can hide behind anymore.  The weight of responsibility rests heavy on our shoulders.

The essential definition of being an adult is that we have to deal with our own problems.

We can of course recruit help, but the responsibility sits on us, we have to make the decision.

Not accepting this fundamental truth is the cause of much stress, suffering and even neurosis in the world, which is a true pity because there is a way to transmute this burden of responsibility into something that creates joy, satisfaction and meaning – define a worthy goal for yourself and then pursue it with everything you’ve got.

A worthy goal becomes a magnet that draws you forward with anticipation, it creates in you the desire to overcome obstacles, to stretch yourself, to learn, and to grow.

The desire to make a baby when your body won’t allow it…that’s a profoundly powerful goal!

Successful Fertility Case Study – Jenny

About three years ago a woman, whom I’ll call Jenny, came to see me looking for help getting pregnant, here’s her story.

Jenny was 35 Years old (pushing it..I know!), she worked as a hairdresser, was married for 5 years, but only began TTC’ing seriously over the previous year. From the beginning there was little mention of her DH so I was suspecting some relationship issues may be at play -which turned out to be the case!

Jenny had been on the pill for 18 years and only came off it a year earlier to begin a family.  As an aside…this is not a good plan IMO, it takes a while for the body to readjust it’s hormones after years of forced dysregulation, so you really need to come off the pill well in advance of TTC’ing.  (Whether or not going on the pill is ever a good idea is a different debate!!) 

She was a really nice person to work with, open to ideas and in obvious need of nutritional but also emotional support.  It seemed she couldn’t talk openly with her husband about the whole idea of there being ‘a problem’ and was even reluctant to talk to her friends about it as they all had kids, plus she felt they’d give her the “ya left it to late girl” speech.

She was perhaps half a stone overweight…nothing too serious, and showed evidence of early skin deterioration for her age…basically there was a story of struggle in her face.  To me this means she was living with a degree of stress and thus experiencing chronic inflammation in her body…which is ultimately the thing that messes up hormone cycles…and mood…and all the other ‘stuff’ we tend to not value until it’s too late.

Her diet was far from ideal:  Boxed cereal for breakfast for as long as she could remember, with skim milk, toast and coffee.  At the weekends she would eat a fry up with sausage, rasher and scrambled eggs or else she would leave off breakfast entirely. A pretty common breakfast for sure…but in terms of using food to support your health and prepare for pregnancy this is a horrendous way to start most days of your life.  Some of you might be shocked to hear that it was probably the weekend breakfasts that were keeping her afloat!!  Jenny’s weekday breakfasts were a deal breaker for fertility because from this foundation alone it is well nigh impossible to get your body to where it needs to be to support the huge task of pregnancy. For lunch Jenny might have a salad roll or a sandwich, which was eaten usually quickly in the small canteen at work.  Fast eating means poor digestion I’m afraid.  The rolls would contain margarine (another deal breaker), white or brown bread (which is neither here nor there in terms of nutrition), ham or turkey slices, cheese, some salt and some lettuce.

She would eat a bar for an energy pickup later on in the afternoon and on getting home might have a beef stew, or spaghetti bolognese, or shepherd’s pie or chops, or steak or some fish…with spuds and broccoli, or some variation of the above.

Those of you who know me and my work with the Weston A Price Foundation will know that I aim to achieve far higher levels of nutrition than promoted by the standard food pyramid with its so called 5-a-day rule etc., but honestly Jenny’s diet fell far short of even the basic government recommendations for most nutrients. Jenny was taking Folic Acid in a multivitamin recommended by her doctor.  For me whilst this may be better than nothing and will help prevent neural tube defects, multivitamins dont come even close to supplying your body with solid nutrition…and the form of folic acid recommended for pregnancy is, well, better than nothing but a long way from optimal.  Optimal health should be the goal in advance of pregnancy.

Jenny was displaying symptoms of irregular cycles with some pain leading up to, and again during, her period.  Now for sure it is not essential that a woman have regular periods in order to conceive…but it really does help…and so period timing can be used as a target to aim for. On questioning it transpired that Jenny and her hubby didn’t really know when the best window was to have sex…they were guessing based on partial understanding of timing, so the first thing I suggested was for them to talk to a Billings Practitioner, which they did.  Later it turned out that this was actually the one element of the whole program that gave them the biggest confidence boost…which was a blow to my professional ego…but hey…whatever works right!

I considered running a saliva hormone panel over Jenny’s cycle but figured there was a lot to clear up first so I put it on hold.  This test involves collecting 11 samples of saliva spread out over the month and it shows you the exact hormonal pattern your body is working to…which is most definitely NOT what a blood test for hormones do…instead blood tests for hormones are used as a basis to take a guess at what your hormones are actually doing.   

Jenny’s DH had never actually been checked out for sperm quality, yet here she was…assuming the problem was all her! I have an issue with this because it is now pretty easy for a man to get his seed tested so I always advocate that he should do so at the first inkling of doubt!  With the rising rates of infertility I advocate that all men should have their sperm quality tested.  Why?  Because it’s only a few hundred quid and if something is found then it can save a lot of time and angst.  Men are so much simpler to test than women so they might as well get it done and if problems show up then well and good, don’t waste another day worrying about it…let’s get to work fixing them! Sperm problems can sometimes be cleared up in three months all going well.  For sure some problems are more complex and need more specialist intervention but most are just ‘functional’ issues whereby some function needs support and then the whole system comes into balance …and all is good.

Anyway I suggested to Jenny that her DH’s sperm should be tested but for whatever personal reason he refused, and so my original suspicions began to take shape.  Indeed it transpired there was a communication problem in their marriage (isn’t that always the case?? I hear you say), but I wasn’t in a position to broach this with her just yet.

We decided to work on her diet first as she was all on for this, she was also on for the occasional eating of lamb’s liver which a lot of women balk at.  This is the power food, a sacred food in many cultures and an intervention that can sometimes make the difference all on its own. I prescribed a nutrient dense diet with lots of good healthy fat, organic sources of meat and eggs, I trebled her intake of a diverse range of vegetables and made sure she include at least a small amount of rice or spuds for carbohydrates.  I advocated that she use butter liberally and throw out the margarine.  She would later say to me that she was worried about eating so much food…she reckoned it was perhaps three times the volume she had been used to eating…yet she lost weight.  It’s actually possible she was eating more food but less calories overall, visual quantities can be deceptive…Go figure!! 

Once I saw a change in her eating habits and confirmed a beneficial change in her bowel habits from once every two or three days to once a day I knew we were making progress. I stepped up the program to include some herbs that are known to help the brain manage hormone levels.  Lot’s of people don’t get this idea…but it is the brain that regulates our hormone patterns so supporting your hormones doesn’t just mean feeding the glands, it means clearing stress out of your brain and then nourishing it…along with the rest of the glands.  

I advised Jenny to enjoy a massage once a week for 6 weeks to relieve tension in her body.  Looking at her from the front it was possible to see that her left ear was slightly lower than her right ear…a posture imbalance often due to the body being torqued out of alignment by chronic stress, and which also indicates a pelvic imbalance.  It is plausible that such a posture imbalance has a knock on effect on ones ovarian cycle by compromising nerve conductance and or blood flow to the ovaries and or womb.  I figured there are numerous ways to address this but the massage idea resonated with her so we went for that!  Acupuncture or osteopathy would also have been good options.

I was concerned about the potential for toxic build up in her body as a result of constant exposure to hairsprays, and coupled with the fact that her diet had been poor with generally low levels of fat, protein and minerals, I figured Jeny’s detoxification potential was definitely compromised.  I suggested we run a test on her urine (called an organic acid test) to look for evidence of compromised detoxification and systemic inflammation.  She declined this fearing bad results would only stress her out…which is a good reason not to do it I admit. In the absence of this I recommended a product that promotes liver detoxification, as the liver is where it is all at when it comes to detoxification.  (Well…mostly!)  It contained whole food B-Vitamins, milk thistle extract, N-acetyl-Cysteine, and turmeric extract.  All of these activate various pathways of detoxification in the liver and can often have a very strong noticeable effect on some people.

After a few more months it was clear that there was still some pain leading up to menstruation so I recommended Jenny take a magnesium supplement, which has many uses – one of which is to assist with muscle cramping.  This worked a dream…the pain stopped completely.  I love magnesium, it’s such a useful product and quite reliable (when you are using the right form of it), yet I sometimes kick myself for not suggesting these things sooner…but the truth is I rely on feedback from my clients to know how far and how fast to push things, so I tend to go slowly and ‘suck-it-and-see’.

10 months after contacting me Jenny was pregnant and 9 months later had a beautiful boy. As Hannibal Smith says…”I Love It When A Plan Comes Together”.  

Sometimes plans don’t always work out perfectly…sometimes they work out a lot sooner…it’s a very personal journey and so it’s hard to compare between different people.

Buried within these case studies lies a deeper analysis that would take too long to share.  It can get seriously complicated when analysing hormone patterns, detoxification pathways, toxin accumulation and dietary adherence, but it’s a job I love doing and when it works out the satisfaction is really powerful!

I hope to share more of these case studies with you all regularly now that my website is finally working properly!!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to pass this link on to who ever you feel would be receptive to them and may be in need of guidance.

Brendan O’Brien NT MSc

Husband comes home, hands his wife a book saying, “here, I got you a present”.

Wife takes the book, but without looking at it shows a pained expression on her face.

Facial expression annoys the husband, who instantly feels unappreciated and wonders why he bothered to buy her the book.

I thought you’d like it” he says, it’s your favorite author. 

Oh” she says, now interested, “I thought it was just some boring book you were giving me”.

What’s going on here?

Reading between the lines one can easily see that each reaction – the pained look on her face, and his annoyance of it – are conditioned reactions based, most likely, on a series of past events.  In other words, there’s history here.

Maybe the husband has a history of getting his wife stuff she has no interest in, and this hurts her feelings.

Maybe the wife has a history of reacting before she takes time to consider the situation and thus the husband feels momentarily rejected.

We can’t change the past, but we can acknowledge that our past actions – and more importantly our reactions – create within our brains unhelpful patterns that now condition us and make it far more likely we will react the same way over and over.

There’s a sense in society that we need years of therapy to overcome this kind of stuff, but we don’t.  If we first choose to acknowledge the truth of the situation, ie that we are reacting based on conditioned patterns in our personality, then we just need to interrupt those patterns a few times to break the hold they have over us.  It’s the simple biology of brain wiring!

One tool that is freely available to us all that would instantly solve both of the above conditioned reactions with no judgment or difficult introspection is the act of being present with the person you are engaging with.

A wonderfully humorous paragraph by a patient of the famous Dr Beer (RIP) recounting her memory of the crazy days women go through after IVF transfers:

After 2 paranoid weeks of checking everything…nada…no HCG reading…not even a hint of pregnancy.  I hadn’t drunk any coffee, hardly touched red wine, walked the dog daily, eaten broccoli and generally tried hard to keep in good shape. I’d done everything right!  Finally, after 2 days of abject misery I had to do something – so I signed up for emergency acupuncture and hypnotherapy

Such is the mindset of a lot of women who are on the roller-coaster of fertility treatment.

But I’m here to tell you…all of the above stuff may be good to do, but it’s not even close to a home run. 

When I hear people on online fertility forums say “We tried everything to get pregnant – nothing works” I want to pull their hair. 

But luckily that urge soon gives way to a feeling of compassion for them and for the struggle they are going through.

If you have ongoing infertility, or a series of miscarriages, or failed IVF’s – you need to let go of simplistic notions and be prepared to tumble deep into the rabbit hole to learn what your body is trying to tell you, and you need to do it fast. 

You need to be prepared to go where you haven’t gone before.    Action alone won’t get a bun in the oven, you need a plan based on a proper understanding of what’s actually happening inside you. 

If you’ve already tried lots of ‘things’ with no success, then you may need to rethink your plan.

Natural Fertility Consultant