Webchat with Zita West

This is an edited transcript of our live webchat with Zita West on November 12 2007. Zita is a midwife, acupuncturist and nutritional adviser. She worked in the NHS for more than 20 years and then, in 2002, set up the Zita West clinic, a multidisciplinary practice for helping women to conceive.

Conception problems | Asherman's syndrome | Trying to concieve: alcohol | Trying to conceive: food | Fertility and breastfeeding | Preventing miscarriage | Preparation for childbirth

Conception problems

willow: Is there any hope for you if you've been diagnosed with premature ovarian failure?

ZitaWest: I am the eternal optimist but I'm also a realist. I have seen some women who have been diagnosed and have to say, in a few cases, they have gone on to conceive. Others have considered egg donation. You want to feel that you've done everything you can so I look at lifestyle, emotional wellbeing and counselling but of course every case is different.

yogabug: I am almost 45 years old but, that negative fact aside, I am very fit, very healthy and people say I look half my age! I have a lovely six-year-old daughter and would love to have another baby. I should tell you a little about my history. Four years ago, I found myself pregnant and my husband and I chose to have a termination. Then, two years ago, I found myself pregnant again. This time, I felt happier about the pregnancy (but my husband didn't). Sadly, I became very ill with hyperemesis gravidarium and ended up in hospital. Eventually I chose to have a termination – mainly because I was frightened of being so ill and I wasn't thinking right. Since then, I've managed to move on but I still have moments of deep sadness, regret and guilt. Last year, I got pregnant again but had a 'missed miscarriage' (no heartbeat at 11 1/2 wks). I was heartbroken. But I'm not giving up and have an inner belief that I can have another baby. I've never smoked, I've given up drink, I practise yoga and I eat very healthily. I have monthly acupuncture and I'm just about to start some hypnotherapy. Is there anything you can personally advise or suggest? I will do anything – except IVF: my husband won't spend that sort of money on something he feels should be 'natural'.  I would appreciate your help so much as I feel under so much pressure because of my age.

ZitaWest: I'm sorry to hear your history. Age is a big factor for you but, having said that, you have conceived quite recently. The terminations you've had have affected you on a deep level and I think it would be very useful for you to have some counselling or hypnotherapy to help you move on. This is not uncommon. So many women I see at the clinic have experienced the same thing but a good counsellor will help you find a way forward. IVF is not really an option for you anyway, as the success rates are very low for women your age. Your best chance is to try to get pregnant naturally. Your belief that you can get pregnant is very powerful and positive.

Coggy: I am 36 and so it my husband. We've been trying to conceive for five years. We've done three cycles of Clomid, which helped us conceive our son (sadly stillborn due to a knot in his cord). We've now been trying again for over two years. After reading your books, I started charting and discovered I have a luteal phase of only eight or nine days (which I have been told several times is not a problem or issue in our fertility problems). I have finished three more Clomids cycles, three IUI cycles and I am going to have my one and only 'allowed' (NHS) IVF next month. What natural things can we do to help us if the IVF doesn't work? Obviously I can get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy, so this is all rather frustrating and depressing now!

ZitaWest: What a sad history. In my experience, everyone deals with grief differently. I know it's five years since this happened but one of first questions I would ask a client with your history is, "Do you think the loss is effecting your ability to conceive this time?" Cycles change and vary for a number of reasons, and stress, anxiety, lifestyle and weight all have their impact as well. It might be worth looking at the whole picture of what's happening in your life and tackle the areas that are appropriate to you (grief/stress/lifestyle/emotions). It is only then that you will be able to move on and do IVF. What happened to your baby is really tragic but remember it is extremely unlikely that such a terrible event could happen again.

Luella:  Zita, just to say a big thanks to you. I had IVF after 4 years of trying to conceive, which fortunately worked first time and resulted in our beautiful dd (nearly 2). When dd was about a year old, I found myself really wanting another baby but reluctant to put myself through IVF again, so I got your book, 'Zita West's Guide to Getting Pregnant'. I found it so reassuring and so inspiring and so full of common sense that it gave me confidence in my body. So I started eating healthily, put myself and DH on vitamin supplements and, most importantly, enjoyed sex and stopped worrying about it all. I'm now nearly 38 weeks pregnant with no2. So thank you!

ZitaWest: What wonderful feedback – thank you! There are so many elements to getting pregnant but often it is an unconscious thing and the more conscious you make it, the harder it becomes. Have a great birth!

What will help me conceive again after Asherman's syndrome

Hulababy: I am 34 and have one child (who's five and a half) already. I had some problems before she was conceived her: 15 months of trying to conceive, early miscarriage, and then another 15 months of trying to conceive. I am currently having treatment for Asherman's syndrome, adhesions on the uterus, caused by my emergency C-section back in April 2002. I have had one hysteroscopy with laser removal two months ago, and am due to have a second to remove the remaining adhesions soon. I would really like to have a second child, if the consultant can give me the go-ahead following my treatment. Can you recommend any therapies or advice to help increase my chances of conceiving again once my treatment is complete?

ZitaWest: I have treated many women with Ashermans Syndrome and do acupuncture treatment to increase blood flow to the area. Plus, we recommend nutritional therapy aimed at building up the uterine lining. But everyone is different and has different nutritional requirements. I hope this helps.

Do you have give up alcohol when you're trying to conceive?
twixfits: We've been trying to conceive for ten months now and doing all the "right things": folic acid for me, zinc and boxers for my partner, and I've worked really hard to lose some weight so my BMI is now in the normal range (though I'm still no size 10!). What I want to know is what's the best thing to do about alcohol? We're not drinking but there's so much conflicting advice. Trying to conceive makes us both so tense. Sometimes, I think a glass of wine would help us unwind. I don't want to harm our chances but I miss the days when we used to have a takeaway and some wine and fall into bed and sex was fun. Is it better to have stress-free sex or to stay off the booze? I'd love to hear your views. (I'm 28, by the way, and my partner is 30.)

ZitaWest: When you are pregnant, all alcohol should stop (whatever the research says). But the odd glass of good wine when you are trying is not going to affect your chances. However, I would stay off he alcohol around ovulation. Without a doubt, sex does become mechanical when you are trying for a baby. I hate to say this, ladies, but don't tell your partner every minute detail of what's going in your body. He doesn't need to know what your secretions are like! It can be a complete turn-off which can cause a lot of pressure.

And is organic food really necessary?

deenymcqueenygoreandguts: Do I have to go organic when we're trying to conceive? Can't I just eat normal stuff?

ZitaWest: You don't have to eat all organic to conceive. It's so expensive and not everyone can afford it. And I often wonder whether some of the organic produce you buy is actually organic! The best thing is to eat fresh food without additives: buy it locally and frequently. So many of the women I see worry that, if they've eaten a non-organic pea, that's the reason they're not conceiving! It's all about moderation and I believe that a little of what you fancy does you good, so don't deny yourself everything.

Does breastfeeding really stop you getting pregnant?

julesd2808: I am almost 35, and really want to get pregnant again soon, but I am still breastfeeding my little boy (12 months) twice a day at 7am and 7pm, and my periods have not returned. Is it because I am still breastfeeding that my periods have not returned? Could it be another reason? Does it mean that I am definitely not ovulating if I am not having periods? Is the best course of action to reduce my feeding even further to one and then no feeds over the next few months, so that hopefully my periods return as soon as possible? Are you most fertile when your periods first return?

ZitaWest: Fertility is greatly reduced during breastfeeding. The breastfeeding hormone prolactin keeps the ovaries suppressed, preventing ovulation. As the number of breastfeeds is reduced, however, the ovaries will, over time, become more active again, allowing ovulation to happen and fertility to return. Although it is possible to get pregnant while you're still breastfeeding, many women find fertility does not return until after breastfeeding has been stopped completely – and often not for a month or so after that. Breastfeeding twice a day is quite likely to mean that you are still producing enough of the breastfeeding hormone to be suppressing your ovulation. Some women will ovulate before they have their first period after breastfeeding but it is quite possible to have a period without ovulating. So the answer is: if you want to conceive as soon as possible, you may need to reduce your breastfeeds further. Try cutting down to one feed per day. This may be enough to allow return of fertility. If not, then cut out the final feed. It may still take several months to conceive after stopping breastfeeding – again, this is completely normal. Check that your weight is within normal limits (not significantly higher or lower than when you conceived before) as this can be another reason for delayed fertility after breastfeeding. If you are concerned, then do talk things through with your doctor.

Is there any way to prevent another miscarriage?

myboyjack: I have a wonderful DS who's nearly two but I've had miscarriages in the past and I'm almost scared of trying again. I don't want to go into the long details but I've found it hard to get pregnant. The rollercoaster of emotions from the delight at falling pregnant to the grief of discovering that the little bean has not held on is just too much to bear. Is there anything I can do to prevent miscarriage and help myself carry a much-wanted second baby to term?

ZitaWest: Miscarriages are really tough to go through. Many of the women I see in my miscarriage clinic have lost confidence and feel their lives are on hold. They are very anxious and need a lot of support. You need to be properly investigated: the science in this area has improved greatly but, sadly, the options available vary from hospital trust to hospital trust so this can be out of your control which is frustrating. What is in control is your diet, your lifestyle and to keep trying and staying positive.

How can you prepare yourself for childbirth?

CathKidston: I'm four months pregnant with my first and am very anxious about the birth. I know from what I've read that, if I'm stressed and anxious, it is only going to make things worse. How can I best prepare myself for this? Any advice gratefully received.

ZitaWest: First pregnancies are an anxious time for many women. Especially when you hear everyone else's horror stories. The best way to help with anxiety is to be able to talk. So it's important that you make contact with your midwife and talk through your fears. If that's not available for you. then consider counselling via your GP or privately. Being prepared and understanding the process is also important, so good antenatal classes will help you with this. You could also try relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation or hypnosis, which is used a lot for birth preparation these days.

Last updated: 8 months ago