The Greatest Gift

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I can’t believe I am writing these words but… last week, on Thursday 12th March, our beautiful baby boy was born!

The labour was horrendously long and difficult, but also totally, completely and utterly worth it. We are now on cloud 9, blessed with the most precious, perfect little man I could have imagined.

I share this with you in the hope that you will recognise that despite the many hurdles, challenges and heartbreaks you can encounter on the road to motherhood there can be a happy ending that exceeds all your wildest dreams. We have had an emotional journey through infertility, ivf, pregnancy loss, grief, fear and anxiety. Thankfully the storm has passed and the sun is now shining brightly. I really hope you will be as blessed as we are now and that you will not let the set backs, failures and the disappointments stop you from having the baby you desire.

Acupuncture & Reflexology

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In parts of Asia, acupuncture has been used for centuries to jump-start labour. But does it work? Research is inconclusive. One small study at the University of North Carolina found that women who got acupuncture were more likely to go into labour without a medical “push.” The study included 56 women who were 39.5 to 41 weeks pregnant. Half of the women got three acupuncture sessions, while the other half did not. Seventy percent of the women who got acupuncture went into labour on their own, compared to 50% who received standard care. The women who got acupuncture were also less likely to deliver by cesarean section — 39% compared to 17%.

9 months ago, to accompany my IVF treatment, I used acupuncture. I found the process very relaxing and positive. It was calming and restful, in fact I fell asleep! So last week I decided to give it another go as there are suggestions that it can be a a safe natural way to help bring on labour.  I was told to have two sessions which combined acupuncture and reflexology. The first was in week 38 to prepare the body for labour, and the second, scheduled for today, to induce labour. Watch this space!

Right Place, Right Time

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For the first time a new test has been developed that tailors the timing of IVF treatment to a woman’s individual cycle. The scientists behind the technique believe that IVF frequently fails because the embryo is transferred at the wrong time, missing a crucial fertility window. The new test pinpoints a woman’s optimum time for treatment and in pilot studies the approach significantly boosted success rates.

There are more than 60,000 IVF cycles in Britain each year, but just 24% of these treatments lead to live births. Clinics currently check the visual appearance of the womb lining using ultrasound, giving a general indication of health. In the pilot study, the test was given to 85 women who had each experienced on average five rounds of IVF that had failed at the implantation stage. When the gene analysis was used as a guide, 33% of those treated had a successful implantation simply by just changing the day.

Nick Macklon, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southampton, believes that issues linked to the womb lining explain around two-thirds of cases of recurrent implantation failure, with around one-third of cases being due to embryo abnormalities. He asserts that these tests could significantly improve success rates.

Eat Yourself Pregnant

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Zita West, a midwife and fertility expert, believes a good diet ‘forms the bedrock of getting a woman’s body baby-ready and a man making healthy sperm’. In her new book, Eat Yourself Pregnant: Essential Recipes for Boosting Your Fertility Naturally, she explains which foods can help with conception. Fascinated by the role nutrition takes in every couple’s ability to have a baby she came to the conclusion that micronutrients play a big role in getting pregnant – both naturally and through assisted conception – with deficiencies having significant effects on fertility for both men and women. When meeting a couple she investigates their digestion and gut health, toxicity, immunity, and how much their states of mind are affecting their bodies. But don’t worry this book does not eliminate bread, chocolate, cheese and dairy. It is not a faddy diet. The focus is on nourishing the body in a positive, sustainable way.

She explains that mood, weight and hormones can change rapidly according to where a woman is in her cycle. It is possible to support your body’s monthly shifts through your diet. Here are her rules for your cycle.

Phase 1

On the first day of your period when you may feel lethargic enjoy warm, nourishing foods and a diet rich in iron and vitamin C, as these nutrients help to replenish the iron that you lose with your period. Good sources of iron include lean red meat, pumpkin seeds, beans and pulses, dried apricots and raisins, shellfish and dark green leafy vegetables. For B-vitamins include whole grains, lamb, beef, poultry, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products, leafy green vegetables, yeast extract and nutritional yeast flakes. Most fruits and vegetables will provide good levels of vitamin C particularly citrus fruits, berries, kiwi fruit, leafy green vegetables and red pepper.

Phase 2

During phase two of your cycle oestrogen is on the rise as your body prepares for ovulation. This is usually a time when you’ll burst with energy. Foods rich in capsaicin, isoflavones and L-arginine (such as spicy foods, tofu and watermelon) encourage the body to make nitric oxide (NO). This compound helps to dilate your blood vessels, easing blood flow through your whole system, which is good news for your reproductive organs. During this phase, stock up on your B-vitamins, which are important for hormonal balance. B-vitamins also help with healthy cell division. Lecithin will help to keep your cell membranes healthy. Keep eating the vitamin-C-rich foods as this vitamin is thought to increase the amount of water in your cervical mucus, making it more plentiful. For healthy implantation of an egg, the immune system needs to be strong. For this reason, stock up on vitamin D. Exposing your skin to sunlight is the best way to get your body to manufacture this vitamin, but it is also present in salmon and sardines, and in shiitake mushrooms.

Phase 3

Next is the luteal phase of your cycle. The corpus luteum, that produces progesterone to thicken the womb lining, close the cervix and maintain a pregnancy, contains a high level of betacarotene. During this phase, try to include plenty of betacarotene-rich foods, including butternut squash, carrots, collards, kale, spinach, potato and mustard greens.

Phase 4

Lastly, in stage four, if no fertilisation has occurred, your hormone levels start to fall. During this phase you may begin to feel more lethargic again and crave sweet foods. Allow yourself the odd treat, but try to keep your blood sugar stable.

Finally do not forget that substituting foods containing fat with low-fat products, to avoid weight gain is a bad idea as these products often contain trans fats, sugar and sweeteners. Ovulation rates were 38 per cent better among women who used whole milk, a study found.

Wow some pretty amazing advice there. Happy fertile eating!

The Child Who Was Never Born

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I wanted to share this beautiful sculpture called ‘The Child Who Was Never Born’. As an art student, Martin Hudáček of Slovakia was moved to create a sculpture to draw attention to the devastation losing a child can bring. The sculpture shows a woman in great sorrow grieving the child she never knew. The second figure, the child, is created in a translucent material that adds an angelic presence. In a very touching, healing way, she comes to the mother, to offer comfort.

Always Our Baby

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It has been 1 year since we lost our precious first baby. Bizarrely it feels like it was a long time ago and yesterday all at the same time. The traumatic experience of terminating the pregnancy (for medical reasons at 21 weeks) and the sadness that filled our lives was so heartbreaking that I cannot believe we survived it.

However a year on we are different people. We still carry the pain but it is not raw and crushing like it was. We still talk about what happened and we still are in disbelief about what we and our baby went through.

A year on and our life is different too. We are two weeks from expecting another baby. The experience of losing our first baby has made pregnancy a difficult time. But the hope of a new baby has helped us heal and restored our faith. This baby will never replace the baby we lost and there will always be a profound sense of loss for what could have been.

So today, like everyday, we think of you and the love that will always exist between us.