ONE in seven couples in Ireland has trouble conceiving. Good health, physical and mental, increases their chances of conceiving, as does optimum body weight.
If a couple are both overweight, they are three times more likely to have problems conceiving.
A 2008 study found that 12% of women’s fertility problems were linked to body weight, with underweight women twice as likely to experience problems.
An estimated 40% of infertility problems are due to low sperm count or quality — 40% are due to female factors, and 20% are unexplained.
Stress impacts, too. According to a Harvard study, carried out by Dr Alice Domar, women who completed a mind-body programme were three times more likely to be successful on fertility programmes than those who had not.
Getting mentally and physically fit can be hard. That’s where Dermot O’Connor comes in. A practitioner in Chinese medicine, O’Connor runs holistic medicine and natural fertility clinics in Dublin and London.
O’Connor has written The Fertility Code, explaining how his fertility methods work.
“The book is a marriage of Western and Eastern styles of medicine,” says O’Connor.
“It’s not an alternative to IVF — many of my patients come from IVF clinics. It’s as important to be as healthy as possible, whether you’re trying to get pregnant naturally or going the whole medical route. I help people with their lifestyle. That’s the key.”
The Fertility Code is a comprehensive guide encompassing diet, detox and supplements, exercise, stress avoidance, and how often, and when, to have unprotected sex. Designed as a three-month programme, O’Connor’s methods have been scientifically proven.
“My aim is to help others to take the power to their health back,” he says. “I spend a lot of time telling people that they are in charge of their health, and, in consequence, of their fertility.”
In 1998, diagnosed with aggressive multiple sclerosis, O’Connor was told he’d be in a wheelchair within two years.
Reading up on the subject, he became convinced that the mind could control the body, and he studied nutrition, psychology, acupuncture and Chinese medicine, applying it all to his own healing.
Within a year, he was symptom-free. He wrote The Healing Code in 2004. It was a best-seller. He also set up his practice in Haddington Road, Dublin
4. “I’m now in even better health,” he says. “And since The Healing Code came out, it’s become clear that we control our health more than we ever understood.
“It’s been established, for example, that 80% of people with type two diabetes can be cured by a dramatic diet, in consultation with an endocrinologist.”
In The Fertility Code, he shows people how to manage cravings. For example, the revulsion technique, where you re-imagine a favourite, but banned food, as something that disgusts you; then, you no longer desire it.
“While it’s easy to say you will make a change in your lifestyle, it’s much harder to actually do it. I wanted the book to accompany a couple through the whole process,” he says.
While many of us strive for good health, we may have a skewed view of what that is.
“Most people think that fitness equals health. After a baby, a mother might be exhausted, and depleted, as they try to get themselves quickly back into shape. We consider such women as the epitome of health, yet that’s not conducive to recovery.
“Secondary infertility is very common, and Chinese medicine would understand that it could be down to the depletion that’s taken place since the first birth. In China, they look after a new mother. They pour in nourishment, and get them to rest. This system is known as ‘mother warming,’ and is seen as an investment for the future.” A typical client for O’Connor is Sarah. She had been trying to get pregnant for two years, and had been on fertility drugs for one year. No major health issues had been found.
“Western medicine is great at doing tests, but Chinese medicine is more subtle,” says O’Connor.
“Sarah felt dizzy when she stood up, the sunlight hurt her eyes, and she was allergic to certain foods. She felt tired all the time, and slept badly. She considered herself well, but clearly something wasn’t right. I looked at her diet. She didn’t need to cut things out, but she was lacking in certain nutrients.
“She was pregnant within two months.”
You can boost your fertility with the following tips from Dermot O’Connor:
¦ Work towards your optimum weight. Being over-, or under-weight can affect your fertility.
¦ Eliminate dairy and refined carbohydrates from your diet. Eat fruit and vegetables, lentils and chickpeas.
¦ Take supplements.
¦ Detox. Quit smoking, avoid alcohol and coffee, and eliminate tinned and processed food from your kitchen.
¦ Avoid stress. Practise relaxation or mindfulness to adopt a positive outlook and enhance your sleep pattern.
¦ Exercise sensibly. Walking, yoga, swimming and Chi Gong will aid weight reduction, and reduce stress.
¦ Attend a fertility clinic, if necessary.
¦ The Fertility Code applies to men and women. Following the programme will increase the effectiveness of sperm.