Fertility to family

Fertility expert Emma Cannon chats to us about her latest book Fertility to Family and explains how it could help couples going through IVF.

Fertility can be both physically and emotionally demanding on a couple. There are lifestyle changes you and your partner can make that will help reduce your stress, improve your health and, in some cases, have been shown to improve your chances of IVF success. Fertility expert and acupuncturist Emma Cannon’s latest book Fertility to Family – Food and Thought for Soulful Living is a guide for couples going through IVF. It contains over 50 recipes in a week-by-week plan, together with fertility boosting tips and easy-to-follow lifestyle advice.


Emma believes that diet is just one of the ways couples can help themselves through the process of IVF and to prepare for the treatment. “Nourishment through food can bring substantial improvements to health and fertility and it provides a useful focus while going through IVF and a sense of taking care of oneself.
“There is increasing evidence that fertility can be improved through good nutrition; of particular note are omega-3, antioxidants and plant sources of protein. Stress is increasingly an issue and particularly during IVF, which some find emotionally challenging. Helping couples manage stress through treatments such as acupuncture can bring great benefits.”

Managing stress

There is stress we cannot avoid and stress of our own making according to Emma. “Much of what humans suffer from is created internally through our own responses and reactions to situations. Perhaps this comes from past experiences even as far back as childhood. When we are stressed, have obsessive thoughts or suffer from anxiety, our bodies create cortisol, which is part of the fight or flight response and is designed to help us flee from danger.
“Excess or prolonged exposure to stress impacts on the body’s hormonal system. Fertility is a peripheral need for the body; essential for the species but not for the individual. If the brain receives the message that it is in danger, fertility will be ‘suspended’ in favour of other systems more essential to survival.”
This is why, as Emma explains in the book, stress and anxiety can have a negative effect on fertility. “Relaxation tools will not only help you through the IVF process, but are essential for parenthood, and life! When we are in a state of stress, our bodies secrete cortisol and adrenaline; if we are then able to relax, our bodies can return to a normal state, but if we stay stressed out for most of the time, these stress hormones remain too high, which can affect our reproductive hormones and result in adrenal exhaustion. Whether you recognise the signs of stress below or not right now, developing your own relaxation techniques will help you to manage your own stress levels and calm the mind as you prepare and go through IVF and beyond.

Emma’s favourite recommendations for relaxation include:

  • yoga
  • qi gong
  • aromatherapy massage and baths
  • meditation
  • deep breathing
  • swimming
  • walking

What is IVF?

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is just one of several techniques available to help couples with fertility problems to have a baby. It involves surgically removing an egg from the woman’s ovaries and fertilising it with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg, or embryo, is then placed back into the woman’s womb to grow and develop.

About Emma

Emma Cannon is a fertility, pregnancy and integrated women’s health expert, registered acupuncturist and author of The Baby-Making Bible, Total Fertility and Fertility to Family. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Westminster University, where she received a first class honours in clinical work, and is a member of the British Acupuncture Council and The College of Medicine. She has completed post graduate training with The Royal College Of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the management and treatment of infertility.

Emma specialises in fertility, but she also treats pregnancy, pre-birth, post-partum and the menopause. Her special interests are: the immune system and how that impacts on our fertility, how the mind affects the body and helping people through difficult life challenges and ultimately giving them a fuller, healthier more balanced life.


More like this:

Top tips to boost your fertility
All you need to know about fertility
IVF: going it alone


Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.