“I’ve been helping couples get pregnant for 10 years”
AS a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Laura Bicker has helped hundreds of parents conceive over the past decade. To celebrate the last 10 years she recently held a photo shoot with some of her very special ‘babies’.
With clinics in Newcastle and Durham, Laura’s discusses how she became interested in complementary medicine, her own health issues and top tips for couples wanting to get pregnant.
MY interest in Chinese medicine started at a very young age when my father gave me a book with a story about acupuncture. At the age of 19 I was lucky enough to get a place on the only European Degree of its kind in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This included travelling to Beijing to study intensively at two of the capitals largest TCM hospitals for six month months.
In 2005, after completing my five-year degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, I returned home to the North-East to start my own practice. I began working at Durham Complementary Health Centre and quickly had couples visiting asking for help with conception. This lead to me completing postgraduate training to specialise in Fertility in 2006.
In 2007 I opened my first clinic in Jesmond, called Oriental Health. In 2008 I joined forces with Emma Byers to open my first complementary health centre in Durham City Centre, Ren Clinic.
I also married my amazing husband, who gave me so much support through university and setting up my business, both financially, emotionally and manually with his amazing technical and DIY skills.
It was also at this point I started thinking about starting my own family. I am so grateful to the skills I have learnt as a TCM practitioner that enabled me at such a young age to start caring for myself. Whilst at university I had developed IBS. Something which I encounter so regularly in practice, but with the help of acupuncture, Chinese herbs and some minor lifestyle changes, over the course of a year, I was able to heal my digestive system fully. This gave me the confidence to treat other aspects of my health.
After getting married in 2008 I had a moment of clarity while treating a patient. This client was 32 and had been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for five years.
I had referred her for further testing and it was discovered that natural conception was no longer an option. It was at this moment I realised for all I knew it could take me that long to conceive and so I embarked on my own fertile journey.
This gave me so much insight into what many of the women I treat go through. The symptom spotting, the constant counting days in your head, the disappointment and the all too frequent love making. Again I used the wisdom of Chinese medicine, taking herbs to support implantation and abdominal massage to increase circulation till success and the anticipated big fat positive pregnancy test!
In 2010 my daughter was born and only then did I truly understand why so many women would go to the end of the earth and back to try and conceive.
After six amazing months I returned to work, armed with so many more experiences I could pass on to my patients through conception, pregnancy and birth. In 2012 I conceived my son which led to me working with experienced acupuncture practitioner, Louise Collyer, who has been a fantastic support to me whilst I juggle so many different roles. Most recently in 2014 I expanded and rebranded my Jesmond clinic to open Jesmond Natural Health and Fertility with Louise as my partner.
To celebrate the last 10 years I wanted to meet back up with some of my old patients and have the chance to say ‘thank you’ for letting me be part of their journeys. I feel so privileged to have such a fantastic job, I meet so many amazing and interesting people.
They really let me in and share in such a special time in their lives. Some of my clients have become friends along the way and it was so lovely to see how the children were getting on.
So, I organised a party and photo shoot for the families. On the day I had children from two weeks to six-years-old and they are all growing into amazing beautiful children.
My favourite moment of the day was when one little boy I have got to know quite well over the years asked with a look of wonder and awe “Did you really help my mummy have me?”. I thought it was so sweet that he knew I’d helped.
It was also nice to share what I do with my family. My own daughter would always ask when I had to work a weekend “Are you putting a baby in a lady’s tummy or helping get it out?”
So she was able to see why mum would sometimes have to work. The children all had a ball and, with the help of photographer, Mark Jobson, I was able to give them a beautiful thank you gift.
Give yourself a fertility MOT to make sure your moving in the right direction
Menstrual Cycle Is your cycle regular? Do your periods flow well, with minimal clots and little to no pain? If you have answered no to either of these it is worth looking at you cycle in more detail. If your cycles are irregular you may find it hard to predict when you are ovulating and it may warrant a day 21 progesterone test from your GP. If your period flow is excessive, very scant or has large amounts of clots there may be other factors involved that may be worth addressing. To produce a nice healthy endometrial lining you need your old lining to come away properly.
Ovulation Do you know when you are ovulating? Your body has a number of natural changes that should signal to you when you are about to ovulate, learning to recognise these in your self is important, cheaper and less stressful then using ovulation sticks. The most common signs are: egg white cervical mucus, ovulation pain, bloating and a peak in libido. As a rough guide ovulation occurs around 14 days before your period. If however your cycles are erratic in length, outside the normal range of 26-34 days or have any unusual symptoms around that time you may want to investigate further.
Energy How do you feel? Are you bursting with energy full of life ready to share some of that with your future child? If you are fatigued, over worked, burnt out or stressed out have you got enough energy left over to start the amazing process of turning a few cells into a complete being? So before you start focusing all your energy on conception start looking after yourself.
Sleep Make sure your getting plenty of good quality sleep. Everyone has heard the saying 1hr before midnight is worth 2 after, well it’s true. It’s also the time when your body gets a chance to run its maintenance checks like filtering your blood, as well as recharging your batteries ready for the next day. It is also the first thing all new parents miss and if you’re lucky enough to produce sleep haters like me it may be a number of years (yes sorry I did say years!) before you get a full night again.
Nutrition To function well your body needs good nutrition. This is one of the easiest factors you can control. When I meet a patient for the first time they often describe feeling stressed and anxious about trying to conceive. The pressure of the ticking clock. The frustration of not being in control and the struggle with conception being their sole focus in life.
My advice is to channel all that energy in to focusing on their diet and lifestyle as this is something you can control and is so important. The simplest approach to nutrition in general is as often as possible eat foods in their natural state, cook from scratch and avoiding processed food.
Don’t forget folic acid is important in foetal development. The NHS recommend taking 400mcg daily and where possible starting at least 3 months before trying to conceive. This can be taken alone or as part of conception multivitamin.
Relaxation I almost feel in today’s society relaxation is a forgotten art. I get immense satisfaction from the response of patients after a treatment where they have truly relaxed.
Many say things like “I can’t remember the last time I felt that relaxed” or “I don’t think I have ever been that relaxed before”. So when was the last time you really relaxed? And I don’t mean watched tv, read a book, surfed the internet, went for a run or any other stimulating activity that is now considered relaxation.
My top tip for relaxation is finding somewhere away from it all, somewhere you can’t think about the ironing or any other item on your endless to do list. Find this place, close your eyes, lie back and relax.
Hydration Are you getting enough fluid? Many patients are relying too much on caffeine to get them through the day. Get you sleep in order, stop relying on caffeine and your energy will improve greatly. Then focus on getting plenty fluids into your body.
Imagine your kidneys are like a Brita filter and help make their life easier by drinking plenty of water. I know a lot of people dislike the taste of water but this is more due to the high sugar in our diets.
Persevere and you will discover your taste for water will return. Also if you find you start urinating a lot as you increase your water intake or just never feel thirsty, this may just be down to your body not being used to having so much fluid.
Many people find their body has stopped signalling they are thirsty but once they drinking more water the body starts asking for more.
Love Try and bring back the love. It you have been trying for a while sex may start to feel like a means to an end. Remember you want to feel relaxed and receptive to conception.
Make it a date night, cuddle, hell have a little glass of Prosecco if it will help relax and bring the romance back a bit. One issue many couples have is getting in the mood when they are so fatigued from work, looking after a home and so on.
One mistake often made is waiting till bed time to make love. Try working up an appetite when you get home from work instead of eating first and you will find your body is more responsive when it isn’t trying to digest your evening meal.
Sex It may seem basic but if you don’t have sex and ensure the sperm are on board waiting for that precious egg it’s never going to happen. Most sperm can last for around 72hrs so the recommendation is to have sex every other day. However, most couples who have been trying for a while find this hard to sustain.
My best advice is to get an idea of when you are ovulating so you can target the fertile days of your cycle, but also learn your natural signs and if you see that amazing egg white cervical mucus you don’t want to miss out.
Men Make sure your partner is looking after themselves. Are they stressed out? Sleeping well? Eating well? Do they show any signs of poor health? Are they keeping the family jewels cool? Don’t forget it takes two to tango.
Jesmond Natural Health and Fertility – 1 Osborne Road, Jesmond, Newcastle, NE2 2AA Email: email@example.com Tel: 07434-240652
Ren Clinic, 6 Old Elvet, Durham, DH1 3HL
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0191-3865699