Natural Fertility Consultant

Posts By: Brendan

We Are All On The Spectrum

All the great adventures worth going on involve taking risks.

The risk is that you might fail.

If it is a physical journey like crossing the dessert, then the risk is you might die.

If it’s an emotional journey like overcoming anger, then the risk is your ego might die.

If it’s a health journey, then the risk is your old habits might die.

If there was no risk at all it would mean the outcome was certain.  If the outcome is certain it means you don’t have to do anything to get it…because it is certain.

If you don’t have to do anything then there is no real journey, and if there is no journey then there is no adventure.

Adventure is something a lot of people can’t handle, the uncertainty of it creates too much tension inside them and freaks them out.  For them a normal life of predictability seems preferable, but at a deeper level they are choosing predictability because they fear ‘death’.

But without some level of variety in life even these people would die of boredom, and so sooner or later the urge rises in us all to go and do something different from time to time.

If we resist this, if we become stuck in our ways, life has a way of tossing us upside down to make sure we challenge ourselves.  Most of the time this is exactly what we don’t want…but usually it is what we need.  There’s a clichéd story to it!

On the other side of human nature are people who live lives of constant upheaval – jobs that expose us to endless unpredictability, relationships that keep us on our toes, challenges that stretch us to the limit of our ability.

Without some degree of inner peace, these people too will die.  We all lie naturally somewhere on the spectrum between the extremes of excess boredom or excess stimulation.

Fertility can be lost in people who are bored with life and lack direction or purpose, and it is also lost by people who live in a constant state of ‘go’.

If you find yourself excessively bored then choose to become responsible for something new that matters to you, and then work towards making it happen.

If you are living with your foot on the accelerator and fear burn out, then relinquish some responsibility and take more time out with yourself.

If you don’t do one of these things, then life will do it for you and usually it won’t be at a time of your choosing.

For many of my clients, infertility is the wall they have hit that forces them to take stock.  My job is to show them where the ladders are.

 

 

If a child lives with criticism they learn to criticise. 

It seems to me we must all have been criticised as kids, because everybody I know criticises someone for something.  It happens so regularly it could be regarded as ‘normal’ in society, like the proverbial fish unaware of the water they live in, humans mostly seem unaware of how deeply ingrained criticism is.

But there is a serious problem with it, and if you are struggling with infertility it is something you need to be aware of. 

Whereas the concept of ‘critique’ is meant to be an objective and honest appraisal designed to help someone, ‘criticism’ is not, it is always judgemental, and that’s the issue.  We know how it affects the receiver – it makes them feel ‘less’ – (that’s why we do it!!), but it seems almost no one is aware of the karmic sting in the tail that rebounds on the giver.  It sows in us the seeds of our deepest fear – the fear we all have of not being ‘enough’.

This is the fear that wells up inside us whenever we try to pursue our dreams.  It is the fear that causes us to doubt our ability whenever we face a challenge big enough to sink us.

It’s because of this fear that we hesitate, we procrastinate, we turn away and we lose confidence.  The fear we feel is the magnification of every criticism we ever gave out to others for making mistakes.  It makes us shy away from taking risks in case we fail and end up looking foolish in front of others.  This in turn makes us choose the path of safety instead of the path of adventure.  Alas it is somewhere on the path of adventure that life’s meaning awaits us.

The real tragedy of this self-inflicted wound is that it hinders us from full expression of who we are and what we can be.

We hold back our best self…just in case we might get criticised.  For the artist in us all – this is our deepest fear.

The solution is mind-bendingly simple though – The Criticism Diet.

Choose to give up criticising.

Like quitting sugar – the process brings you face to face with just how often you eat it, but once you get it out of your system it loses its grip over you and you feel free!

If you are struggling with infertility it’s possible that your solution lies somewhere down the ‘safe path’, but for many of you infertility IS your call to adventure.  It’s a problem so difficult it forces you to venture into unknown lands in search of answers you don’t yet understand.

If you harbour a fear of failure that prevents you from acting, it’s probably because you were unfairly criticised throughout your life.  You can’t change the past, but you can change how it affects your future by making sure you are not karmically cursing yourself by criticising others – even if they deserve it!

Assumptions Prevent Pregnancy

Most people are unaware that we all use mental models of the world in order to live our lives.  It’s not that they don’t know, it’s that they are unaware, but being aware of this fact is really useful.

Mental models help us to understand and play with life as if we know what we are doing, the more accurate they are the greater the chances we will win.

Maps are a good analogy.  We use maps to help us get from A to B (no one ever seems interested in getting to C!!) but the map is only a representation of the real thing.

If you are having regular periods but you just can’t get pregnant – that’s reality, but how you deal with this will depend on your map of the world, on the assumptions you make based on your map.

A common assumption women make is “it must be me!”.

A common assumption men make is “it must be her”.

A lot of people never examine these assumptions, or to put that a more useful way – a lot of people are under the assumption that their assumptions must be correct, and therefore they never take the time to examine them.

Funny one isn’t it…assuming that our assumptions must be correct, assuming that our map of the world must be right!

Here’s a moment of truth…it isn’t!

If you find yourself ‘infertile’ but determined to get pregnant then you MUST begin by making assumptions – there is no other way, and since time is never on your side you need to be careful of the assumptions you make because wrong decisions can waste you months.

For most people infertility is a whole new experience that derails their life and takes them on path they never expected to go down.  It’s confusing, not to mention highly stressful to say the least.

Assumptions lead to decisions.  The most common assumption couples make is “The doctor will know what’s wrong”.

The most common decision couples make based on this assumption is “Let’s book a check up and see what the doctor says”.

On balance this is probably a good assumption because sometimes there are genuine medical issues that need to be uncovered and treated, but behind the main assumption lies a deeper assumption, and this one mostly goes unexamined. 

It’s the assumption that GP’s know all about the body therefore they will know all about fertility. 

It’s very similar to the common assumption that doctors know all about the body therefore they must know all about good nutrition.  Here’s another moment of truth…they don’t! 

My experience also tells me that doctors wish people would stop making those assumptions, because it puts too much pressure on them to have all the answers.

Here’s my prescription: 

  • Assume that your long-held assumptions are at least partly wrong (coz most of them are)
  • Assume full responsibility for the problem
  • Assume full responsibility for fixing the problem
  • Assume that whatever the problem is your body can fix it given the right set of tools
  • Assume it won’t be easy
  • Assume the universe wants you to succeed

Assumptions lead to decisions, decisions determine your fate.

I read a great line on a forum recently – “Why is it so hard to put into practice what you know?” Answer: “…because in Theory – theory and practice are the same thing, but in Practice – they are not”

I’m like most people, I only put a small amount of what I learn into practice.  I’ve procrastinated a lot in my life.  This used to bother me but I’m ok with it now.  What changed me was the realisation (thanks to a perfectly timed comment from a great mentor) that our time on earth is short and that I was never going to get to ‘do it all’ anyway.  I always knew this but never really internalised it.

For me, ‘swallowing the blue pill’ meant I had to let go of notions that I had subconsciously courted my entire life.  It was hard.  It felt like I was in some sense cutting myself adrift from the old familiar me.

Going through this process made me realise that my biggest sin of all was not the bad decisions I’d made nor the wrong directions I’d taken in life, rather it was the time I waste every day.  I haven’t fully grasped it yet and do find myself wasting time now and again, but I’m more honest with myself about that now.  I’ve dropped the internal judgment and instead work to create systems in my immediate environment that keep me on track.  It’s working well but needs to be constantly improved.  I put a countdown timer on my desktop, it counts down the number of estimated days I have left in life – that helps!

I make a serious effort to only do those things that further my goals and bring me closer to my dream.  This involves cutting out a lot of ‘stuff’ I used to do and breaking the ingrained habits of doing them to free myself up for doing what matters.

If I had to say what the secret to this is, I would say it’s about clearly defining your dream in a way that feels right to you and makes sense, then committing to it with full intent on achieving it. 

A mistake I used to make was believing that I had to know clearly what my purpose in life was, and since I didn’t know I felt paralysed and unable to take steps towards it.  This was a limiting belief.

In theory I knew, but in practice I didn’t know how.  The truth is you just need to pick whatever purpose seems right to you at any given moment and set things in motion.  You can change your purpose whenever you want, and typically that’s what people do.  Life becomes clearer to you once you encounter the challenges in your way, they shape you and help you tune in deeper to the real you.  It’s the real you that knows your purpose.

My dream is not just one thing, it is an idealised version of the kind of life I genuinely want to live.  It encompasses my work for sure, but it is centred around my family, my friends and my desire to make a decent contribution.  It is structured around how I want to spend the hours of my days and the days of my life.

It takes a clear goal before your brain can focus on the diversity of tasks you need to get done.  Once you have this you can then pour all the theory you have learned into real practice and start making progress.  Forget about everything else, there’s too little time!

Risking Failure

There is no pathway forward you can choose that totally shields you from the possibility of failure.

You can choose to act, or you can hesitate in the hope of a better option down the road – either way it’s a choice and both options carry risk.  Mostly we hesitate to choose a path due to our inborn fear of failure, but let’s be clear – this is still ‘choosing’.  There is no way out of it, there is no way to avoid risk.

I don’t care what GI Jane says – failure IS an option, and if you allow yourself to believe there’s a way to avoid risk and guarantee success, then you’re fooling yourself.  The truth is we don’t have that much control in life, in fact we don’t have control at all.  The only thing that sits within our power is the ability to influence outcomes by our thoughts and actions, in that order.

There are steps we can take to radically improve the chances of solving big problems in our lives but if they are not built on the principle of being honest with ourselves first then they are destined to sink into the sand.  The worst consequence of this is not that we don’t get to solve the problem, it’s that we waste our precious time, and we have no way of knowing how much of this we have.

GI Jane and her fellow marines don’t believe for a second that failure is not an option, they know it is and they accept it upfront, then they set about inculcating in their minds the most powerful weapon of influence that exists – self-belief!

Several years ago, our family was buzzing with the joys of spring after we witnessed the hatching of 7 chicks in our backyard hen patch.  An 8th chick hatched a few days later thus allowing its siblings a decent head start, and soon it became obvious that amidst heavy competition for mom’s attention number 8 was failing to thrive.  The longer it went without feeding the weaker it grew, and eventually the others inevitably began to act out the cruel laws of the jungle pecking the limp featherless weakling until she was bloodied and dying. 

It was distressing to watch.

Having failed to induce any recovery by our hapless feeding attempts (how do you feed a limp blind 5cm long creature with a beak?) I was forced to face facts and decided to end the chicks suffering.  With the kids at school I brought her away into the grass and retrieved the shovel figuring this was the fastest and most painless way to end her life.

Having barely moved in the nest since hatching, save for the odd attempt at waddling towards her mom, I couldn’t believe it when she lifted her head fully off the ground and looked square at me with her blind eyes.  Did she somehow recognise in some primal sense that the shovel raised above my head was the reaper coming to visit, or was it a desperate attempt to look for mom amidst a heightened degree of separation anxiety?

I’ll never know but it was a surreal moment that imprinted itself on me in a way I still find hard to explain.  The best I can offer about my experience is that we shared an undeniable moment of communication, or even bonding.  I ‘felt’ her voice in my heart saying – “I want to live”.

It melted me, and a minute later she was back in the nest. 

For reasons I’ll never understand, the other chicks never pecked her again and she thrived into a healthy hen who lived in our garden generously donating eggs to us for the next five years.  Did her brush with death activate something in her?  A sense of urgency, or the strength to fight?  I don’t know.

She did meet her end one spring night when she became dinner for a local fox and her hungry cubs.  At least it was a natural ending!

That moment reinforced in me the idea that if you have the courage to ask for help life can find a way despite the most overwhelming odds.  No matter how desperate the situation or how bleak the outlook may feel, no matter how lost you might imagine yourself to be, there is always a way home…so long as you don’t give up!

We are programmed to seek out danger signals, we can’t help it.

Our brains will automatically zero in on that one danger signal in midst of a hundred ‘other’ neutral signals.  This hardwired trait kept us alive in the distant past, and still does, but now it’s also working against us – in fact it is slowly killing us AND it is taking our fertility offline in the process. 

There…I’ve just activated the alarm bell in your mind!  Danger – must pay attention!

Today we are much more threatened by the new dangers than the old ones, and if we don’t get to grips with this it will take us out.  We must, it is not optional, we must find a way to bring this problem into our conscious awareness if we are to live meaningful lives, because chronic stress really does sap us of our vitality, and with that goes our dreams.

How do we bring this ancient trait under our control?

First, we must recognise that it takes its que from information around us, which is now coming at us fast and furious.  People have evolved clever ways to grab our attention, and there’s an endless stream of them.  It’s relentless, and they are all competing to win our minds, our focus and our time.

The ones who win do so because they are better at activating our danger signals.

But there is a deeper truth to this…we let them do it to us, and we even give them permission.  That’s kind of fracked up!

But consider this – behind all the negative stuff lies a better story…the world may have lots of problems, but it is actually getting better and better with every year.  There is divide, but more and more people are coming together to make things better. 

We can’t ‘sense’ this improvement intuitively, instead we need to seek it out.  Doing this helps to rewire our minds towards good news stories and hope, rather than the endless expressions of anger frustration and apathy which trigger our alarm bells and make us think it is important, when it isn’t.

If you don’t fill your mind with real good news and stories of triumph against the odds you remain at the mercy of your lizard brain, constantly reacting to danger signals that sap your vitality and your ability to experience life at a better ‘vibe’. 

Yes, we face imminent global bankruptcy, yet inspiring entrepreneurs continue to product magical solutions to massive problems.

Yes, we face real terrorism, both from failed states as well as powerful nation states, yet inspiring humans constantly work to bridge the divide between cultures and bring us closer together with common purpose despite our fears.

To ‘see’ this new truth you have to metaphorically stop looking with your eyes…you have to close them and allow the sounds of the city to fade away, then once you find your peace open them again and begin to choose deliberately what you are going to focus on.

A stressed body will focus on the fight and kick the can of fertility down the road, but there’s a lot you can do about this!

Bacterial Vaginosis

Most women will have heard of Thrush, but very few are aware of the condition called Bacterial Vaginosis, despite it being twice as common.  1 in every 3 women will experience it…that’s a lot!  It’s characterised by a greyish discharge and a mild ‘fishy’ odour and can occur with or without pain.

Although it is not specifically proven to cause infertility, BV exists in up to 45% of women struggling to conceive, according to this paper, now that’s a hell of a lot!

It’s also implicated in pre-term delivery, as well as 2nd trimester spontaneous terminations, so this is a serious issue.

It was shown in the above paper that treating the vaginosis improved pregnancy rates…but not by a lot.  My thoughts on it are that it is yet another ‘burden’ on the body of a woman struggling to conceive, and so treating it frees them up at least to some degree, and this -for some women- is enough to allow their body to get back on top and re-establish fertility.

Officially BV is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina.  Now if you think like I do you will recognise the contradiction in medicine whereby even though most doctors know that everything in the body is connected, the medical mindset regards everything in the body is separate, and it is this mindset that prevails.

So it’s no wonder that once a woman is diagnosed with BV the most common response is to treat them with antibiotics.

That’s what they did in the above study, and in my opinion that’s why they only saw a small (albeit significant) improvement in pregnancy rates.

What is not considered here is how gut bacteria balance is directly related to one’s vaginal bacteria balance.  Nor is it considered that antibiotics are one of the major causes of longer-term bacteria imbalance in the gut, and thus they are implicated in causing the very condition they treat.

This is not an argument against using antibiotics to treat BV, it’s an argument to consider the longer-term effects of living with imbalanced gut bacteria, especially if you are having trouble conceiving.

Sometimes ‘nuking’ the bacteria that cause BV solves the issue and allows the body to get back on top, but if nothing more is done to help establish a good balance of bacteria systemically then the relief is usually temporary, and the can is just kicked down the road.

The imbalance of bacteria in our gut is caused by the way we live, by what we eat and don’t eat, so if all you do is nuke infections with antibiotics, sooner or later they tend to come back.  What’s more, some bacteria will come back resistant to antibiotics making the next episode even harder to conquer.

The key to healing is not sudden shock therapy to correct the course we are on, it’s the willingness to change the little things we do daily that gradually contribute to long term problems.  This requires the very thing most of us are not prepared to embrace…a shift in mindset!

In my early days I accepted any client who needed help, but many times I ended up engaged in a sort of arm-twisting game trying to get them to change.  As I matured, I came to realise this is approach was only a pathway to perdition for both of us.

I love helping my clients make the necessary adjustments once they commit to the process, but I no longer work with people whose arms I have to twist.  Since I made that leap everything has gotten better, including the results!

You know it’s actually possible that you don’t really know your partner in their natural state!

You might know them for some years before tying the knot and then some years since, and so you will have come to know them ‘as they are’.  But, and as you read this you can also apply the insight to yourself, what if their personality was ‘not truly them’, or yours was not truly you?

We know that A LOT of people have been diagnosed with some or other disease or condition and we also know that this represents the tip of the iceberg insofar as for every person with a diagnosed condition there are many more who are slowly (or quickly) limping towards it.

Seemingly simple functional daily issues like stiffness, or constipation, or sleep problems or general energy levels are all versions of ‘limping’.  If our energy production is challenged, we feel it in these ways.  It affects our mood in a big way, and we can become ‘set’ with this way of being, but like a fish in water we can’t notice it because we just think ‘it is’.  We think it’s normal!

If you or your partner has some degree of infertility it means something fundamental is not working ‘inside them’.

If you are courageous enough to face this head on you will inevitably take action to fix the problem, but to do this you will need to plumb the depths of yourself, your body, your mind, and your health in general.

One of the things that often happens when people do this is that they finally come out from under a sort of ‘fog’, or a ‘mode of being’ that has thus far governed their lives, and they begin to see things differently, and feel differently and act differently.  In a sense they become more their true selves and they find their balance and their groove much more gracefully.

I’ve seen moody, cranky men and women become more balanced, more confident and happier.  Whereas once they might lose their temper easily, now they don’t, and this in turn changes how they argue and how they interact with their spouse.

This can be a relief and open a whole new future for some people, but it can also be somewhat jarring for the partner as they have -in a sense- lost some of the person they were familiar with and now must ‘get to know’ the new person all over again because the new person will automatically recalibrate their lives and begin acting differently…in a much better way.

The price of success is almost always Change, and the effect is almost universally positive, but it’s the cliched ‘fear of change’ that stops so many people from achieving it.

 Are you willing to change in order to become fertile?  Can you deal with your partner if they do?

“I don’t get it” said one of my fertility clients to me…”every time I get a new blood test my levels are all normal…they can’t find anything wrong, yet they still give me drugs to try and fix my levels!!”

Yes indeed it’s complicated, many factors can be conspiring together to keep your fertility system under par….but one issue that really hits me is the routine over reliance on ‘average’ levels of hormones from blood tests.

The reference ranges for various hormones like estrogen, FSH, LH and progesterone are worked out using a hodge podge of averages across the population…but everybody in the lab testing world knows there is no such thing as an average person.  Yet despite this we still try to aim for average norms.

The problem with this is twofold;

  • Your ideal level of any given hormone may be different from the average (and hint…it always is!)
  • The way hormone levels are detected in blood tests doesn’t really give you any functionally useful reading…it doesn’t really tell you what the heck is going on inside your body.

I’m not saying that average values from blood tests are pointless, I’m saying they’re useless!  They are a holdover from the old way of doing things…and we all know how long it takes to stop doing old things and start doing new things.  All of us…right!  We all find it hard to change old habits…so I guess we can’t exactly get off complaining about the medical system and how it’s stuck in the mud, when we can’t do it ourselves!

Anyway…here’s the science bit if you want it…

Hormones travel around the blood either bound to proteins or not…either in taxi’s or walking!

When you measure estrogen from a blood test for example, what you are seeing is the total amount of estrogen…both the stuff in the taxi’s and the stuff walking around ‘free’.  We call this bound and unbound.

Typically over 90% of the stuff is bound…in taxis, and the rest is unbound…or walking around freely.

Now here’s the clincher…only the free stuff can do anything to you…only the free estrogen can go into your cells and make them do something that estrogen makes them do.

Estrogen for example makes your womb lining grow in preparation for having a baby…but only free estrogen can do this…not estrogen bound to a carrier protein (aka a taxi).

So what’s the point of measuring all the estrogen when it’s only the free stuff that actually changes anything in your body?

It’s like….you’re on holidays in Lanzarote with your family…on paper you’re a millionaire coz you own 5 properties, but you can only buy beer and pizzas with whatever money you have in your pocket.  (Credit cards don’t exist in this world…just go with it!)

If you only have €1.50 in your pocket, well you’re not exactly going to get pissed are you.  But imagine an onlooker commenting about you that you’re as tight as tuppence because you won’t buy your kids pizzas!!  It wouldn’t be very accurate would it?  Yet that’s what doctors do…they comment on your overall wealth without knowing your immediate liquidity status, without knowing how much of your estrogen you can actually spend at any given moment.  And whats worse…they often proscribe drugs to you based on this reading.

Is there a way to tell how much free estrogen (or progesterone…or LH or FSH for that matter) you have floating around your blood?  The answer is yes….you can get this information in saliva tests, because the only hormone in saliva is the free stuff…and reference ranges have been worked out…and to boot (at least for the labs I use) the reference ranges are not generic averages…they are ranges based on what healthy people have, therefore they offer decent targets to aim at.

Why don’t doctors use these?  Old ways are slow to change.

If you’re interested in finding out how you can get these tests send me an email and I’ll let you know.

Brendan

Natural Fertility Consultant