Best-selling author, fertility expert and regular Fertility Road magazine contributor Emma Cannon took time out of her busy schedule to talk about the inspiration for her new book FERTILE Nourish And Balance Your Body Ready For Baby Making.
What’s inside Fertile
The Fertile Cleanse: Perfect for Springtime – if you are trying for a baby right now or perhaps about to undergo IVF. A seven-day menu plan, together with unique wellbeing rituals including oil pulling, ‘fish and chips’ bath, dry skin brushing and hot and cold showers.
The Menstrual Tonic: 7 day simple self-care and eating plan for women of any stage of life to encourage engagement and awareness of the monthly cycle.
The Menstrual Optimisation Plan: 28 day plan for women with regular periods to help engage with and understand their menstrual cycle. Includes appropriate food groups that work for each stage of the cycle.
The Body-Mind-Gut Programme: 7 day menu plan for balancing digestive weakness. Ideal for IBS sufferers or general digestive disturbances that may be compromising fertility.
Planting Seeds Meditation: A lovely meditation designed to nourish and grow ideas and visions using seeds and the soil of your garden.
Fertile Eggs: Emma’s lifestyle and nutritional recommendations for women in their thirties wishing to optimise egg quality of for those having fertility treatment and wanting to improve their chances.
Miscarriage: Looking at causes and support with a ‘Self-healing exercise’.
Male Fertility: Fascinating facts about sperm with a tool box of ‘male booster’ recipes and foods.
IVF Support: How to prepare and support yourself during IVF with a soothing, nurturing menu planner, sleep tips and emotional preparation and energy improvement strategies.
Let’s get Fertile…
TONE – What led you to specialise in treating couples with fertility problems?
EMMA – It happened quite by chance about 20 years ago, women started coming to me because their friend who had got pregnant after seeing me or their GP sent them. Word spread and I got my nickname the Baby Maker.
TONE – With four books under your belt what was the inspiration for your new book Fertile?
EMMA – People who loved my other books kept asking me for more recipes so I teamed up with Victoria Wells who is a Nutritionist specialising in female and male fertility. I was getting concerned that women were taking their health and food advice from social media. The book is based on a combination of research, Chinese medicine dietary energetics and my years of experience.
TONE – How is Fertile different to your previous books?
EMMA – Quite a lot although the foundations are the same; for example the bits people really love like the self-assessment have been updated and this time I really lay things out with full menu plans.
TONE – Surely there’s only so much you can write about on this subject?
EMMA – I never run out of material. I could sit down and write another book tomorrow. I think because I have such an eclectic view of fertility and come at it from so many angles there is always something to say. There is still so much we do not fully understand about the body. Never trust anyone that has it all sewn up and acts like they are in full possession of the facts. It is very unlikely that they do.
TONE – Fertility or infertility. Which do you prefer and why?
EMMA – Fertile! I like to talk about fertile in its widest meaning. It is such a positive word and one that means so much more than just having babies. To be fertile is to be rich in resources, abundant and prolific.
But if we are talking scientifically then I think there is infertile and subfertile.
Infertility: tubal pathology, menstrual cycle disorders, severe semen abnormality.
Sub-fertility: mild/moderate semen abnormalities, ovarian ageing, infrequent or badly timed sex, mild/mod endometriosis etc.
TONE – We get a lof of emails about the benefits of complimentary therapies like acupuncture and if they actually work. What would you say to anyone who’s unsure?
EMMA – Acupuncture is part of an ancient system of medicine – Chinese Medicine – it is one of the oldest and best continuously documented forms of medicine there is. Far older than western medicine. It is also backed up by research. It can’t be compared to something like reflexology – which although can be effective lacks research and recorded documented history of efficacy. So for me the question was far to open ended.
I feel that Chinese medicine and acupuncture are in their own category and the way in which I use the in clinic is very much in an integrated way. Combining the best of western medicine, evidence based acupuncture, nutrition and other techniques like mindfulness.
Not everything can be measured using science as it’s starting point but acupuncture, at least, compared to other treatments has attempted to run trials and produce evidence. This makes it a far more plausible treatment than many others especially in the field of fertility.
I think this is a common mistake that people make “complementary therapies work” “complementary therapies don’t work”
It’s rather like saying
“all children are nice”
“all children are not nice”
Impossible to generalise.
TONE – There’s no denying that IVF works. So why would someone who’s never tried acupuncture before try it?
EMMA – Research. Word of mouth. Its long history of efficacy.
I would have to argue with you on your first point. IVF works in some people some of the time. It is NOT a fertility cure all. When it works it is nothing short of a miracle, when it doesn’t it is invasive, expensive and heart breaking.
With all these things it is not one or the other. No one is saying that you should do acupuncture instead of IVF. It is about knowing when someone needs IVF and when they may have a small window to try other things. This is what we need to get across. Acupuncture is very different from IVF and it works in an entirely different way but it can support it. Acupuncture is also just a small part of an over all approach that we offer in our clinic. It is by no means a standalone and I always use it in conjunction with good medical supervision, lifestyle advice and cutting edge diagnostics. I work with like minded medics who acknowledge that sometimes there is a window of opportunity to try other things like acupuncture before moving on to stronger medicine – surgery or drugs etc.
TONE – When couples come into to see you what support if any do you offer their male partners?
EMMA – We offer diagnostic testing; semen analysis, DNA fragmentation testing and referral on to a specialist where needed. We also offer nutritional support and of course acupuncture.
TONE – Would you consider writing a book about male infertility in future?
EMMA – Yes but publishers always tell me men wont buy it. Maybe women would buy it?
TONE – Secondary infertility is on the rise what do you put that down to?
EMMA – Age, complications caused by birth, lack of sex.
TONE – What are your views on IVF being offered as a first solution to the problem?
EMMA – What problem – for the whole of infertility and subfertility – no that is not how it works. IVF should be used when it is the most likely treatment to solve the problem, not just as a matter of course. Even the most ardent IVF supporter would say the same thing.
TONE – Fertility is still a taboo subject. Do you encourage your clients to be open and discuss this as part of their treatment with family and friends?
EMMA – That is personal. Some people are very open about it which is great. Some are much more private. That is a matter for them; I encourage them to be open with me, after that its up to them who, how and what they wish to discuss.
TONE – We hear it a lot.. Stop trying and it will happen. Do you subscribe to that thought or believe it’s insensitive to tell a women to stop trying?
EMMA – I would never be so glib – but there is some truth that for some couples when they relax or let go of the obsession and anxiety then they conceive. Anxiety is a fertility killer. Make no mistake about it. I don’t tell women to stop trying I help them find ways to manage anxiety and sometimes this involves focusing on other things and yes sometimes in some people this works. But not if anxiety wasn’t the issues in the first place.
TONE – We’ve seen couples who have had numerous IVF cycles which have failed only to fall pregnant naturally at a later stage. Some say it’s because of the fertility drugs they’ve taken which ultimately have helped. Is this something you’ve come across and what are you thoughts on it?
EMMA – Of course this happens all the time. We will never really know why this is. Perhaps the IVF drugs stimulate the system. Perhaps its mental/emotional as above – letting go. Perhaps its just coincidence.
Many people who have IVF are not infertile they are sub-fertile (or perhaps impatient) so perhaps they never needed IVF at all. But we see this all the time in clinic.
TONE – If you could offer one piece of advice to anyone struggling to get pregnant. What would it be?
EMMA – Take time out to rest and nourish yourself. So many people are overworked and strung out. Don’t let go of life in pursuit of a baby; it is important to live a life of enjoyment and full of joy.
TONE – Many CCG’s are cutting back on fertility treatments. Do you think couples will turn to more alternative treatments if they cannot afford IVF?
EMMA – Quite possibly.
TONE – Do you treat fertility as a disease?
EMMA – Infertility is often classed as a disease. Sub-fertility is not, but just because people are not ill it does not mean they do not suffer.
TONE – Do you think fertility apps are helpful to people trying to get pregnant?
EMMA – Like anything, it can go both ways. I think it can make women too fixated and cause anxiety but equally, it can help women understand their cycle. Often women who use these apps have less sex as they think they can pinpoint ovulation and by doing so reduce their sex lives to 2-3 times a month. This is not helpful as it is far better to have regular sex throughout the month.
TONE – Do you think couples have lost the art of making babies naturally? For example taking time as a couple, having date nights and so on?
EMMA – Yes, in some not all case this is true. I tell couples all the time ‘if you want to have a baby you need to prioritise sex’. People will change their diet, do yoga, go for treatment, do exercise. But sometimes doing all these things just add to the problem as there is no time to fit in sex as they are spending so much time trying to be healthy. It’s ironic.
TONE – On my wedding day someone approached me and said ‘When are you having kids!’ Do you think there is a lot of pressure for couples to start a family as soon as they are married?
EMMA – I’m sure this varies enormously depending on age, culture etc. People can be incredibly insensitive though.
TONE – What are your thoughts about couples who decide they don’t want any children.
EMMA – Good for them – the world is overpopulated and it’s a serious business bringing up children.
TONE – What are your thoughts on egg freezing?
EMMA – Great do it – if you do it early enough it can be part of a fertility preservation policy but I also think it can offer false hope. So address lifestyle issues and take care of your health as well. Putting off parenting may help us build a career but having children younger in life can have its benefits (if the opportunity is there of course).
TONE – What do you do to relax and unwind?
EMMA – Yoga, watch movies with my family, go to our caravan in South of France. I love to ski and of course, cook lovely food and share it with friends and family.
TONE – What’s one thing no one knows about you?
EMMA – I hate broccoli!
TONE – What was the last book you read?
EMMA – I recently re-read A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It’s a great book and I love the title – the title sums up fertility for me: A FINE BALANCE and as an acupuncturist, I am all about helping my patients find the right balance for them. Sometimes this is enough and sometimes they need stronger medicine. I am a realist.
Thank so much Emma for your inspiring and sometimes unique insights into fertility issues and I’m sure our readers will appreciate your honest and thoughtful outlook on fertility, food and body in your new book Fertile.