Talking Fertility: Naturopath Jade Walker X Fertile You

Tell us a bit about your fertility journey/IVF experience so far?

My husband and I started trying to conceive in September 2019 while on holidays in Greece. When we returned I thought I was pregnant. I had spotting around day 23/24 of my cycle and was convinced it was implantation bleeding. But by the end of the day that spotting turned into heavy bleeding and intense cramping. After a trip to the doctor, it made me realise I needed to revisit my journey to a diagnosis with endometriosis, having experienced extreme dysmenorrhoea ever since I got my period. 

After having excision surgery in January, everything looking good inside, regular periods and doing all of the right things, we continued our TTC journey with high hopes. Months went by and still no positive pregnancy test. Knowing the importance of ensuring the male is also checked I told my husband to get a semenalysis. Unfortunately all of his parameters were poor including low concentration and poor morphology. So I threw the book at him with supplements, herbs, dietary strategies, cutting back on alcohol etc. Once again we remained hopeful that it would happen in a few months. Come July 2020 I took a visit back to my endo surgeon/fertility specialist to discuss further options. At this point my husband and I were getting ready to consider IVF. We just really didn't want to wait, and the idea of IVF didn't scare us. 
Once my FS looked at my husband's sperm he said we had to move to IVF immediately as it was very unlikely we would fall pregnant naturally. We were relieved.
2 months later we started the egg retrieval process, which we got 6 eggs. All 6 fertilised, 4 made it to day 3, but only one viable embryo made it blastocyst on day 5.  But much to our delight our one and only lucky frozen embryo transfer, led to an even greater surprise; splitting into identical twins.

Tell us a bit about your endometriosis story, how did you know you had the condition/what were your symptoms? What are some natural methods that have helped you navigate through the condition?
I got my period at 11 years old. Not long after I was met with debilitating period pain every month thereafter. Back then the solutions were Ponstan or the pill. Both of which I tried, which were only band-aid fixes. My periods were always coupled with taking pain killers and needing time off school or work. When I was 21yo I had my first laparoscopy after demanding investigations and being met by a reluctant GP and gynecologist. Much to my disappointment, no endo was found, but they dilated the os to see if it would help the pain. It didn't help at all. That experience led me to a false dead end, thinking this is just me, there's nothing else I can do. 
Fast track to 24yo, I started studying a bachelor of health science in Naturopathy. Very quickly it occurred to me that 1: period pain is not normal, and 2: it could still be endo. I tried all the usual Naturopathic principles for period pain that works for primary dysmenorrhoea (not associated with a condition) such as an anti-inflammatory diet, increasing omega 3, taking anti-inflammatory and analgesic herbs, oestrogen detoxification, exercise, acupuncture etc. Whilst some things may have helped slightly, I still couldn't endure a period without resorting to Naprogesic. So much so I still had two hospital visits after being in so much pain. In turn, the regular consumption of NSAIDs also damaged my gut. Along with the period pain I also experienced painful sex, ovulation pain and regular bloating. 
As the years went on I was almost certain I had endo, but I didn't know enough just yet on how to source the right surgeon, and I was also daunted by the idea that it would cost me an arm and a leg. Being a uni student, I figured I wouldn't be able to afford quality surgery as I didn't have private health (which I have since discovered is not the case for all advanced trained surgeons and can be affordable). 
Fast track to graduating and seeing many endo patients, I knew this was something I needed to finally revisit. After luckily stumbling across an endometriosis Australia Support Group and finding an advanced trained excision surgeon who performed surgery in the public system, I finally got my diagnosis. Initially he performed a transvaginal ultrasound which already picked up some endo on the uterosacral ligaments. He then booked me in for surgery just over a month later. I remember crying with such tears of relief and joy that I'd finally been heard and validated. The surgery removed endo, a large pedunculated fibroid, and also freed up some adhesions as a result of an appendectomy when I was 15yo which was sticking some of my bowels together.
This set my wheels in motion to become a Naturopath with a strong focus on endometriosis. I researched everything I could on its drivers and treatments. Very quickly patients booked in after hearing my story. And very quickly I too realised just how different every endo case is, and their varying responses to treatments.
For me, I tried absolutely everything I came across in the research. From NAC and PEA to high dose fish oil and curcumin. I had regular acupuncture, removed dairy and gluten, corrected my gut (I discovered I had methane-dominant SIBO) and so much more. This in depth approach helped me gain a better quality of life, around my period such as more energy, less bloating, and no pain outside of my period. However I was never able to fully escape dysmenorrhoea on day 1 of my period. Which again highlights just how diverse everyone's experience is. However I never fully finished my personal discovery before falling pregnant, and look forward to continuing that at a later time. I truly believe there is always a missing link.
How important is it to consume the right nutrients in order to optimise fertility?
 
It's THE most important thing any couple needs to do at least 4 months before even trying to conceive. It takes around 100 days for the follicle to reach full maturation to ovulation. It also takes 2-3 months for sperm to regenerate. So anything you do across that time will impact the outcome of the egg and sperm in 3-4 months time. Taking methylated folate before conception is also just as important, if not more important, than taking it once you find out you're pregnant. The neural tube closes 28 days after conception. And given folate is essential for preventing neural tube defects, prevention is absolutely essential as you can't make a difference once that neural tube closes. I also highlight methylated folate as opposed to folic acid as some people have an MTHFR gene polymorphism which affects their ability to convert folic acid (which is synthetic).
But this is all just the basics. This doesn't take into account everyone's unique presentations and some things may even require 6-12 months of solid pre-conception care and health correction before conceiving a healthy baby. This equally applies to both the male and female. 
Words of wisdom/strength: If you could give one piece of advice to those who are on their own personal fertility journeys what would it be?

Everyone's journey is completely unique. It can be hard comparing your journey to conception to someone else, but there will also be someone further ahead or further behind. Speak to as many people as you can about what you're going through. It can be a very lonely journey when going through fertility challenges or IVF. Never keep this to yourself. You'll be amazed at how many people are going through the same thing once you open up about it. 
Don't be afraid to start the IVF process sooner than later if you've been trying for some time. It really is better to start sooner than later. But always get the support of a fertility naturopath to increase your outcomes, and perhaps also assess if there is anything that can be corrected that may have been missed. I'm often shocked how many patients I now see who've been told to go to IVF, and really there were just a few basic things that hadn't been considered. With a few months of corrections we can often achieve conceptions without going to IVF.