Everyone is talking about Menopause and Peri-Menopause. But what about women who are 40 plus and want to start or extend their family? Liberty Mills, an Integrative Health Coach who specialises in Fertility Fitness, has been on this journey and shares her secrets.
At age 44, Liberty Mills was told by a leading IVF clinic that she had a less than one per cent chance of conceiving with her eggs (even with the assistance of IVF). Undeterred, she and her partner decided to put her wellness background to the test and embarked on comprehensive lifestyle and dietary changes to get themselves fertility fit. Three months later Liberty was pregnant and she gave birth naturally to her second daughter shortly before her 45th birthday.
The mother of two and a grandmother of one now helps women and couples get fertility fit for natural conception or as an accompaniment to IVF. Many women she works with have unexplained infertility or have been discouraged from trying naturally for a baby due to their age.
The first step Liberty takes is to get her client’s cycle in balance. “Periods should come and go without negatively impacting our lives. When the body is in balance there will be no headaches, no cramps, no mood swings and you won’t need to raid the fridge or long for a duvet day,” she says.
She explains that the reproductive system does not act in isolation from the rest of the body, yet often conception is treated as an isolated issue. Integrative health treats the mind and body as a whole, and once the whole mind and body are in sync, the reproductive system will naturally fall into line.
The body is constantly in communication with you, and all you have to do is learn the language it’s speaking and then listen and respond accordingly.
Here are some of the major factors causing infertility and how we can address them, as outlined by Liberty Mills:
Rosacea, Arthritis and Raynaud’s Disease are all signs of inflammation. Chronic or excessive inflammation can disrupt ovulation and can contribute to the failure of implantation or early loss.
You need to remove the heat-inducing foods, such as alcohol, processed food, spices such as chilli and replace them with warming and cooling foods.
Another great way to reduce inflammation is with a well-sourced Chai or “Heal Me” tea in the morning with spices such as clove, ginger, star anise, fennel, turmeric, cinnamon, fennel and cardamon. These spices not only lower the excess heat but are warming, and it’s imperative to keep the body and especially the uterus warm for fertility, especially around ovulation.
As the saying goes, many of us are “Overfed and undernourished”. Due to the land, sea and soil not being what it was in our grandparents’ generation, the food we source is often lower in minerals and nutrients. PAN (Pesticide Action Network UK) has a great downloadable PDF for a guide on the latest Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen to help you choose the fruits and vegetables with the lowest amount of pesticides.
Magnesium is a mineral that many of us are deficient in due to the diet we now have. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 functions in the body, but it also helps balance progesterone and oestrogen’s fertility hormones.
It is often best to top up your magnesium with a powder supplement that is a bulk agent, especially maltodextrin free. This not only supports the fertility process, but you will get fewer headaches and cramps near your period flow as these are often symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Lowering your toxic burden
Toxins come in many guises; they can be anything from plastic food storage containers, cookware and pesticides in fruit to the SPF in your daily beauty routine.
The IMCJ, the Integrative Medicine: A Clinical Journal, published an article in 2018 on environmental toxins and fertility.
Here they cited a study on the effects of BPA, often found in food packaging, for example. The study found, ‘women undergoing IVF, those with the top 25% body load of BPA levels were 211% more likely to have implantation failure.’
Simple practices such as using old glass jars (that once held olives or coconut oil) for food storage can lessen plastic exposure.
Men were affected too. The paper revealed that “Men in the highest quartile of consumption of high pesticide-residue fruit and vegetables (>1.5 servings/day) had a 49% lower total sperm count and a 32% lower percentage of morphologically normal sperm as compared to men in the lowest quartile of intake (<0.5 servings/day).
It’s often forgotten that the skin is our biggest organ, and what you not only put in it but what you put ON IT has to come out in some way. Detoxification places a toll not only on the liver but the whole body. With some reports suggesting the average woman puts on 515 chemicals on herself every day, that is a lot for the liver to process, and toxins are endocrine disrupters, creating havoc with the perfectly formed orchestra that is the human body.
With the average moisturiser containing 30 plus chemicals, there are many ways we can lower the burden and let the body do what the body knows best to do, which is serve us. I advocate using toxin-free beauty and hygiene products wherever possible.
“Everyone says, ‘Just relax, and it will happen!’ Unfortunately, trying to conceive can be anything but relaxing and can be an enormous added stress to what can be a daily juggle or struggle with everyday modern life,” says Liberty. “This goes for women and especially men who are often not addressed in the fertility journey conversation.”
Stress is a massive blocker to fertility, so a great way to access those silent and often blind spot stresses is to journal daily. When Liberty works with clients they often find fears, grudges, resentment, loss all come up on the page. Often the client was unaware this is how they truly felt.
As with all poison, it is better out than in. “Many clients have unresolved issues with a parent that they are holding on to,” Liberty Mills says. “We work through this to a place of acceptance and forgiveness that allows the body to release the stress and be more open to new life. When the truth is on the page, it’s easier to navigate, deal with, and release.”
Women post 40 are often at the peak of their stress burden in life. This is the age where women are at the top of their profession, may have older children, or a second family (so multiple dependants), ageing parents or caring for grandparents. It is a very demanding time in our lives.
This is where the adaptogen Ashwagandha can help. As the word suggests, it ‘adapts’ to each person’s bio-individual needs and balances the body’s response to those everyday stresses that can knock your hormones out of sync.
“Ashwagandha, an ayurvedic herb, is high in iron, so this not only helps with energy, but if you have iron-deficient anaemia, as I did for years, it can be a contributing factor to making it difficult to conceive,” Liberty says. “Finding a natural source of iron is a huge benefit, especially to those on a plant-based diet.”
People with thyroid issues should not take Ashwagandha and always consult your GP or certified Ayurvedic practitioner when choosing to add supplements such as this to your diet.
Ashwagandha for Male Infertility
Ashwagandha is great for men’s sperm too and studies have shown that it improves sperm motility and sperm count. A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled parallel-group pilot study found outstanding results when testing men’s sperm in men that took Ashwagandha. The study found that after the 90-day treatment phase, average sperm concentration rose 167% in men treated with Ashwagandha root.
“I genuinely believe that the body is a map of our past, and often we need just a simple inner refurb. It doesn’t take long, maybe three or four months, and the body can get back to doing the job it knows best. When we remove the obstacle and allow it to thrive, it can create a new life and grow a new life within us!”
Follow Liberty Mills here: @mills.liberty
FRANK readers will receive a 20% off the fertility fitness programme or any other programme offered by Liberty Mills. Please quote code FRANKFERTILITY when making your enquiry.