Moving from contraceptives to pregnancy – a holistic case-study

All of this produced a very happy result – three months later she rang me, and it was confirmed that she was six weeks pregnant …

These days there is an increasing incidence of couples having difficulty conceiving a baby. One of my patients was having this problem. She was 38 years old, had been working and living overseas for many years and had been married about 15 months previously. As she was concerned about her age and the potential for decreasing fertility, she and her husband decided to try and conceive as quickly as possible, but this had not happened as yet.

Medically it is generally suggested to try and conceive for 12 months after ceasing the contraceptive pill or contraceptive devices, and if this is not successful to then seek medical assistance.

Words Dr. Karen Bridgman

The case

Over the previous six months she and her husband had been attending a clinic for potential infertility and had been thoroughly tested. Her husband’s sperm count and motility were excellent. Today this can often be a problem as fertility issues are about equally shared between males and females, 45 per cent and 55 per cent respectively.

Her testing also did not come up with any major abnormality, only a couple of smaller changes that I felt were not major issues. She tested negative for human papillomavirus and she had been charting her cycles for 12 months. As the medical teams had not found any specific abnormalities, the couple had been signed up for IVF treatments. However, she wanted to try complementary medicines before she went down the IVF route, as she was interested in potentially healthier options.

Her overall health was very good, and although she was slightly low in iron her energy levels were good. She was fit, exercised regularly and ate a predominantly vegetarian diet. Symptom-wise, she was experiencing wind and bloating most days, indicating a digestive problem, but bowel function was normal. She and her husband ate mainly organic food and she had a diet well balanced for her blood group.

Checking her cycle charts showed normal temperature at 36.6 degrees, indicating her thyroid function was normal, but her temperature did not change mid-cycle (a rise in temperature being an indicator of ovulation), and her cycles were shorter than “normal” at 24 days, indicating slightly low oestrogen in the follicular phase, with the pattern indicating ovulation was low or absent.

Our testing also showed protein digestion problems which could have partly been the result of a stressful job (and stressing about not conceiving), some liver detoxification issues (which can be related to oestrogen metabolism) and slight ovarian dysfunction. She also had colon toxicity and some issues with candida.

She was already taking a range of supplements including zinc, vitamins C, D3 and K2, activated B12, iron and some herbs for stress management.

The strategy

With all this information, we discussed the issues of stress, since being stressed about not conceiving is a major issue in causing the problem. Moreover, she had a stressful job from which she had already resigned and would be leaving in a few weeks.

Apart from correcting any deficiencies, which ideally should be corrected in a preconceptional care program, generally a woman who is trying to conceive does not want or need to take many supplements — quite often just a general pregnancy multivitamin is a good idea as long as there are no major nutrient deficiencies. I also usually recommend a high-DHA fish oil along with zinc for the correct development of the foetal nervous system.

With this information, the main areas we discussed were stress management, such as getting a pet (to take her mind off worrying about it), stopping the daily chart monitoring for a while and enjoying her married life. Charting the cycles on a daily basis, while providing useful information, can increase stress levels significantly so are best done for only a few months. Meditation or yoga can also be useful.

As supplements I recommended vitamin E and zinc to improve fertility, dandelion “coffee” to improve liver function and protein-digesting enzymes. I suggested she eat more slowly to improve digestion, although her digestive issues would have been exacerbated by the stress response.

I also recommended magnesium in alkaline water for stress management, and slippery elm powder and bentonite clay (one teaspoon of each) added to her breakfast for improved digestive function and to reduce colon toxicity.

I prescribed a herb mixture with ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng for adrenal function, pau d’arco as a digestive, St Mary’s thistle for liver function, liquorice root, paeonia for ovarian function, red clover for its phytoestrogenic properties and astragalus for immunity, to be taken daily but ceased if she became pregnant.

Dietary measures I recommended were to increase phytoestrogenic foods such as flaxseeds and non-GMO soy products such as tofu and tempeh to increase oestrogens in the first two weeks of her cycle. I prescribed a chaste tree supplement for the last two weeks of her menstrual cycle for hormonal balancing.

If she did become pregnant, I recommended she stop the herbs, the chaste tree and the higher intake of phytoestrogenic foods and stay on a basic pregnancy multivitamin with the essential fatty acids and zinc. She could continue with the slippery elm and bentonite clay as maintaining good digestive function was important.

All of this produced a very happy result: three months later she rang me with confirmation that she was six weeks pregnant, and told me she was feeling exceptionally well apart from a little morning sickness. I recommended fresh ginger root or peppermint leaf tea to deal with the morning sickness, which proved to be very effective in her case. We discussed having one cup of raspberry leaf tea daily after 12 weeks to improve birth outcomes, which she was very happy to do.


Karen Bridgman is a holistic practitioner at Lotus Health and Lotus Dental in Neutral Bay.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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